Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Dangers of Community (and blogging)

Years ago I proposed a theory about community in the house church model.  At that time, I had a good friend who was working as a Church Plant Movement Missionary, his job was to start a home church movement, not a small task.  One of the things that we realized is how hard it is to get people to come to a strangers house for Bible Study.

It's a really straight forward concept, the willingness of an individual to be open to a group is dependent upon that individuals desire to belong to that group.  If I want to be part of a group, I am more willing to be open and at risk in that group.  I will share about myself, I will risk involvement and I will open my self up to possible hurt.  One of the things we have discovered in the house church moment is it's difficult to get people who are not at some level in relationship with the hosts.  People don't seem to want to attend a house church if they are unchurched.  The unchurched don't have a strong desire to attend a church, otherwise they would.  We, unlike China, have ample opportunities for people to attend a church, and those who want to go to church, they do.

All community carries this risk.  When you open yourself up to belong to a community, you put yourself at risk, are the individuals in that community going to support you, or are they going to reject or even attack you.  For example, I shared some information on a blog and instead of the ensuing conversation being about the topic, I was attacked for the information I shared.  I have not been inclined to go back and write anything for that blog since that experience.  People have the same things happen at church, clubs, social events, even in groups of peers.  When we become open and our desire to belong increases yet we experience negative feedback, our desire to belong decreases.  When it does, our willingness to be open decreases and we pull away from that group.

I believe that is the trend we have seen with many of our Christian organizations, and with church.  When we as individuals are open in a Christian context about struggles, hurts or failures, often we are attacked, hurts and abused by those we attempted to connect with.  This causes a huge decrease in our desire to be part of that group, and therefore our willingness to be open.  In the church today, we see people who marginally want to be part of the church, they attend, but they are not open, they do not fellowship or connect.  These people are not inclined to join a small group, Sunday School and wouldn't attend a house church.

To make things harder, we often attempt to reach those who have had a negative church experience with a house church model.  We have not done real well at doing this, because those individuals have no desire to belong to a church.  There is hope however, and there are several house and cell churches who have discovered the secret.

In order to increase an individual's desire to be open, and therefore attend a small gathering, we must find to increase their desire to belong.  We have to be the kind of people that others want to spend time with.  We need to be friendly, loving and compassionate.  The small group that meets in my home is composed of people who I have a great relationship with.  I am not meeting with people who I barely know, and the people who don't care for me, they don't attend my small group.

In many ways, we have driven people away from the living water, because they don't want to have to stand next to us.  We have to get rid of the model of standing around in our group and waiting for people to show up.  We can't expect people to come because we are having church.  If they wanted to come to church, they would have shown up by now.  We have to go out and build relationships and share and be open with people.  When they see they can trust us, they will be more open and have a desire to belong.  That gives us the opportunity to share, to care and to disciple.

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