A community is a group of people who care about each other more than they should.

This quote is from a significant business book of 2000, The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. I’ve been reflecting on that quote and have come to like it on multiple levels. When you place it within the context of Christian community it becomes especially interesting.

Have you ever been part of a group of people where things have just clicked? You loved being together. You’d do anything for each other. You looked for excuses to spend time with each other, and when you were together the conversation flowed effortlessly. By all outward appearances you cared about each other more than you should – at least that’s what some were maybe thinking.

I believe this is the kind of community Jesus speaks of, and longs for us to experience. The Acts 2 kind of daily gatherings where people just did life with each other. From the outside looking in I imagine there were many people who thought they cared about each other more than they should. But that’s part of what happens when there’s a supernatural kind of connection between people. You can’t explain all of the reasons why you just love being together.

I’m not talking about some kind of exclusive group that keeps others out; that’s not Acts 2 (the Lord added to their number daily). I’m speaking of true community where people join together largely because of shared experience, shared purpose and goals. A community where God is really at the center and life is truly a shared experience. You can call it whatever you like: Small Group, Sunday School, Church, Affinity Group, Organic Church, Body of Christ, Community.

No huge point here, just a reminder that God flows through community; the body of Christ.

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Recently I sat in a room with about fifty pastors (which is an interesting thing in itself and should probably be its own post) to hear a presenter talk about the Organic Church — this particular presenter’s label for house churches (not to be confused with the Neil Cole book by the same name). I went not knowing what to expect really, although since it was a denominationally sponsored meeting I had some pre-conceived assumptions. In simplistic terms the concept he presented was one of taking the church to neighborhoods and gathering in small groups of people as opposed to the large singular gathering each week. 

The presenter was very quick to point out that this was not a replacement for church as we know it but rather a new form, or a new alternative to traditional churches or church planting. Some of the people in attendance weren’t tracking too well with his presentation but most were in agreement with him. That was until he began talking in terms that made it sound like this organic movement somehow needed to be harnessed, strategized, systematized and institutionalized so the denomination could support it and be able to jump on the house church bandwagon.

The presenter spoke in terms of a system for training, accountability, reporting and multiplying. In short, he seemed to be taking something organic (his word) and turn it into a church growth strategy. In the meeting I voiced a concern that should we try and denominationalize house churches we might kill them before they ever got started. I believe in the concept of house churches and believe they will be a significant part of the church fabric of the future. I even applaud the denomination’s desire to understand them and give blessing to those people who prefer to gather in that type of setting. However, if they’re going to truly be organic then let them evolve organically and not strategically.

Although my thoughts on the subject haven’t fully crystallized, here’s my take on things right now. I like the concept of house churches and believe having a small group of people extending the love of God to others around them (and even around the world) can be a very powerful thing. I also believe it’s a very Biblical concept and should the Holy Spirit choose to bless it through multiplication that’s fine, but I don’t see that as the goal. While I think it’s fine for house churches to affiliate with a denomination I’m not sure it’s all that beneficial. 

It seems to me that house churches have the opportunity to “be the church” without having the requirement of keeping church machinery grinding forward. House churches don’t need to focus on increasing their numbers and can instead focus on increasing their love for God, each other and the world around them. I believe there is a place for the traditional church and the house church, and believe they can even co-exist within a denominational framework if people so choose. 

So having said all that, what’s your take? What’s your preference?