Sunday, August 26, 2007

connecting to others in a large church

From a training session for lay-leaders at Southeast yesterday...

Dave Stone talked about the purpose of groups by size:
-large for inspiration (have you attended worship at a large church?)
-medium for information (Sunday School classes of 30-150 within a medium or large church)
-small for involvement (where you serve &/or study and get to know people intimately)

Of course, there is overlap between the categories: one gains information in a large worship service and may form the occasional relationship before or after a service, one can get quite "involved" in a medium-sized group, etc. But in general, the categories hold. Southeast is, by far, most famous for its large building, huge budget, and worship attendance. But the heart of Southeast is its medium and smaller groups.

Often, people talk about being "religious" or even Christian without being involved in a religious community. The usual reasons (or smoke screen) are hypocrisy and not having time.

Hypocrisy is a reasonable critique if extensive, but ridiculous if modest. To note, all of us are hypocrites. So, the mere existence of hypocrisy cannot be a coherent reason to reject community. Moreover, if the church is attracting "sinners", then a (large) gap between stated beliefs and observed actions is to be expected.

"Not having time" is simply a matter of priorities-- and in this case, believing that time spent in religious community is better spent outside such a community. But at least within Christian theology, this is highly misguided. In Genesis 1:26, we're introduced to the Trinitarian God of the Bible: "let us make man in our image...". The Christian God is its own community. And after a chapter full of "it is good" in Genesis 1, we're told in 2:18 that it was "not good for man to be alone". Likewise, it is not good for people to be Lone Rangers-- in terms of family, community, or religious community. As the writer of Hebrews exhorts his readers in 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another..." It is easier in some ways to avoid community-- for a variety of reasons. But as everything else with a benevolent and omniscient God, when He commands something, it is in our best interests to go His way.

If you haven't been involved in a strong Christian community (and lack vision for what that would look like)-- or have been burned in the past by a religious experience (and have baggage)-- I'd en-courage you to try again, if not at Southeast, then somewhere else.


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