One thing that has always intrigued me about the Church is the apparent need to organize friendships. In every other area of our lives, people find their own friends. But, for whatever reason when it comes to church, we think the church needs to find us a friend.
For good or bad, churches have taken it upon themselves to do just that. We have created all kinds of ministry programs to bring people together who I guess are unable to meet friends on their own once they step in the doors of the church. We organize Sunday school classes and small groups and men’s and women’s ministry programs. We create events and weekly gatherings to help Christians meet fellow Christians. By the time it’s all said and done, people eat, sleep, parent, work and meet with other Christians multiple times during the week. And that ends up being the model for how we’re supposed to live out our faith.
It makes me wonder, though, if we’ve unintentionally done a few things:
- Have we made people too reliant on the church for putting them in relationship with other people?
- Have we made people too reliant on the church for “growing them” in their faith?
- Have we pulled people into relationship with other Christians at the expense of their relationships with people who need Jesus?
It just strikes me as odd that people seem to be very capable of finding friends outside the church. In fact, the social networking craze has made it even easier to connect with people both face-to-face and virtually. I wonder if social networking has any clues for the Church when it comes to biblical community. If we create the right framework for relationships to happen, will people find their own friends? If we create the right environments, will people take that step on their own?
What would happen if we put less attention on organizing relationships and more attention on giving people something to organize around? For example, what if we focused on serving opportunities? Would people naturally gather around those initiatives to serve others? What if we focused on the content we were generating to help people better understand the Bible and its application to our daily lives? Would people naturally organize around that content for conversations together? And what if we embraced social networking to encourage people to find their own friends…like they’re already doing? Would people initiate their own relational connections?
It seems that there must be a way to decentralize the way people connect relationally while keeping the Gospel and a biblical leadership structure central to how we organize as churches. When people have the freedom to gather in community without relying on the church to place them with other people, that’s when the Gospel will spread like a virus. When people start focusing less on how the church needs to serve them and more on how they need to be the church, that’s when dramatic transformation will take place in people’s lives and in our communities.
Until that happens, we will continue to rely on the church to find our friends for us. And that’s another reason why we are the new traditional church.
Other posts in this series: