Gated Community

Written for CU Worship Arts Conference Blog

“Community” is all the buzz among progressive church leaders and Millennials these days.  It seems that everyone is screaming for biblical, authentic, transparent, vulnerable community.  I could not agree more with the need for healthy relationships within a loving and faithful environment.  So much in the Christian life is gained through doing life together.

But I have a question for those seeking community above all else in this postmodern age.  Are there unstated restrictions for entrance into your community?  Could it be that your community, much like the Del Boca Vista resort villages of south Florida, is gated?

What about entrance restrictions such as race or ethnicity.  Are there intentional steps taken to make the community interracial?  We seek the ministry of reconciliation but at what cost.  Will you invite people of a different race or ethnicity into your personal life?  Will you cross the tracks into “their” neighborhoods, not to deliver sacks of can goods, but to fellowship around the same table?

What about age restrictions.  Is your community being formed to bridge the gaps between generations?  Does your group have both the young and the old; the single, the married, and the widowed?  Will they even talk to each other?

What about socio-economic restrictions.  Does your community bring the super rich and the super poor together in the same living room?  Will the six-figure family drive to a trailer park to have their small group meeting?   Will the welfare-receiving family drive their rusted-out ’88 Ford Aerostar van to the uppity neighborhood and feel welcomed and wanted?

Let me be clear, I, too, seek to create and foster healthy community among believers in Christ.  But I think it is a lot easier said than done.  It takes intentional and persistent vision-casting to sell the idea that we must associate with others who are different from us.  

The Homogeneous Unit Principle is alive and well, even among the small group movement and those seeking more community-oriented churches.  For true community to be a viable reality in American churches, we must face our prejudices, our biases, our racial bigotry, and our belief that some are better than others. 

We must take on the banner of Romans 12: 3, 16,  “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned… Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.” 

Only then do the community gates swing wide open.

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One thought on “Gated Community

  1. Shane,

    I love Acts 16 and the founding of the church at Philippi. First converts? A wealthy Jewish business-woman (Lydia); a teenage girl with a background in the occult; and a Gentile prison guard. Blows the homogeneous unit principle out of the water. I sometimes wonder if “Harry and Mary” or Saddleback Sam would have made it in Philippi.

    Great post.

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