A friend said this to me over dinner last Thursday. Playing off the always-controversial home-school option, he was describing his distaste with his current church’s programming and missiology.
He went on to elaborate about the importance of his children to be part of a larger community and to take part in something bigger than themselves. There is something valuable, he feels, about being a part of a growing and vibrant community that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus to feed the hungry, give to the poor and love your neighbor.
But he wasn’t finding it in the church he has called home for the last few years. Somewhere along the path to fatter membership rolls, the church began to embrace circus-like sensationalism and has lost its focus on being a refuge to the broken. In place of sacrifice is now a gospel of entertainment, an ethic of power, and a mentality of isolation. And it was no place he wanted to raise his kids.
Lost in this sea are countless others – individuals, families, teenagers, the elderly. Some have been Christians all their lives, and others are too nervous to explore what a life of discipleship might really look like. But, all may identify with the value of planting trees they will never sit under, and giving to something that only can be birthed by collective action.
And it’s always easier to sit and watch. It’s easier to not go to church than it is to go; it’s easier to not call that person you wish you knew better than it is to pick up the phone and ask the questions that lead to deeper friendship; and it’s always easier to shout from the sidelines than to get in the game. But deep down inside, we all want to play. We all long for real community – the kind that says, “You’re going through that? Me, too. But hey, if we walk through this together, we just might make it.” They, we, I – all of us – long for authenticity. We yearn for people we can be ourselves around. We desperately want people to look at our faults and not cover their eyes in pity. We want other broken souls to eat with, to dance with, to bitch with, to cry with, and to laugh with.
But it’s still so hard. My brilliant wife told me soon after we met that the price of intimacy is reckless abandonment. In our culture that rarely prizes vulnerability, community – true and lasting community – is only birthed through deliberate risk.
How do we create this?
We’ve got to value the baby steps. We’ve got to cheer on those among us willing to open their homes, their wallets, their hearts and their ears in the name of community. We’ve got to commit, little by little, to the rising tide that comes with repeated interaction. We’ve got to grab our surfboard and ride that wave until it crashes on the shore of deep communion. And then we’ll sit in the sand and build castles with our friends until it’s time to splash in the scary surf once more.
Walking hand in hand, we all arrive at the destination of meaningful community together. And there will be no distinction between home-churching and churching our kids, for we will BE the church. We will have freed the old institution from its oft thought of role as a place and we will be the ones we have been waiting for.