I stumbled upon a great blog entry by Chris Spinks (via Tyler Watson) that contained what I found to be a provocative analogy. He likens churches to planned suburban developments: places where form and structure and character are all prescribed before anyone actually ever dwells there.
Too often, as I see it, suburbs and suburban-like churches lay all of the well-designed streets, create beautiful green spaces in among the cookie-cutter homes and establish neighborhood regulations to keep everything in order.
He then talks about what continues to attract him to his church which he feels operates in a manner quite contrary to this: in his words, “community comes before construction.”
At [our church], we seem to move forward, mess up, back up and try again. Or we proceed knowing that we will flesh out all the details as we go. We have some basic structure in place, but it never preempts the primacy of community. Sometimes we design the structure as we move along…This could be misread to mean that I think planning is nonsense. That is not the case. It is rather a case of WHO does the planning. Does the community itself do the planning or does some oxymoronic â€œcommunityâ€ developer draw up the plans before a community even exists?
We are church-planting here in our community (yes, even though it has already been four years, I definitely would still describe us as a church-plant). My husband is our worship pastor and we talk all the time about the nature and purpose of Sunday worship. And I find Spinks’ analogy a helpful illustration in explaining the tensions that we sometimes feel.
Doug and I long for our church to be a place where our corporate worship is genuinely a “work of the people” and not, using Spinks’ analogy, a vacant, attractive gated community of homes constructed by careful “developers”. What we long for is something much more corporate and organic. But corporate and organic translates to slow and messy, which almost always run counter to the impulses for quick, Sunday-driven growth (a special pitfall for a new church).
As we like to remind ourselves often, there is nowhere else we would rather be. We are grateful for the conversation partners God has given us here. And grappling with these issues alongside those we call family is what we believe the life of a Christ-followers is all about.
If you have a minute, take a look at Chris’ full post and share your thoughts.