Creativity

I’m Getting Over the Word “Community”

I’m getting over the word “community.”   Sure I like the concept, and I’m the outgoing guy  – the life of the party.  I love being around people.   But it’s so overdone, it’s losing it’s meaning entirely.  Starbucks based a big part of it’s brand on being a “3rd Place” where people can meet and experience “community.”  CEO Howard Schultz says, “I think we’ve managed to, with a simple cup of coffee and a unique experience, enhance the lives of millions by recreating a sense of community, by bringing people together and recognizing the importance of PLACE in people’s lives.”

Community?  When was the last time you went to Starbucks to actually MEET people?  Ever talk to strangers while you’re there?  Next time you visit look around.  Any powerful sense of community?  Nope.  Everyone’s drinking coffee with earplugs and working on a computer.  No community there.

And mega or multi-site churches are the same way.  Community?  Who meets anyone in a 3,000+ person venue?  Hey – the pastor doesn’t even show up. He’s on the video screen.  Apparently “community” isn’t a priority for him.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not ragging on mega or multi-site churches.  But let’s just stop the harping about “community.”  It’s not happening.  So let’s just face it, be honest, and move on.

Time to find another trendy word….

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22 Comments

  1. Phil,

    I’ve been reading your posts for a while, usually nodding my head and saying “yep” but I just had to comment here. You made me laugh out loud. So true! Keep up the great work.

  2. Just because the church isn’t doing community right doesn’t mean we should abandon the idea. That’s crazy talk. You might as well propose we abandon love because we’re not doing it right, either.

  3. People, this whole discipleship/”be like Jesus” thing just isn’t working out.

    I mean we tried, we had the book made (Imitation of Christ), we got some bracelets done up, heck we even had some crazy dude grow a beard and vote for Obama trying to do it. Clearly this was a failure. Let’s just move on. Our modern churches just aren’t fostering environments where discipleship/”being like Jesus” is happening, so we’re just gonna have to quit trying to do that.

    Or maybe we can call discipleship/”being like Jesus” something else, something snazzier.

  4. Phil I’m with you.

    In many ways I find community meaningless. I’m part of the “community” in the neighborhood I live in, but it’s opt-out, not opt-in.

    Further, a community doesn’t create connections. It’s too easy to be part of a community (like Twitter, for instance), where I listen and talk, but don’t create deep connections that move things forward.

    I’m far more interested in the depth of connection than the width of community…

  5. I am sitting at starbucks on my computer with my headphones in right now. I totally understand what you are saying. I am just as guilty. Actually, my goal of coming here is to have access to the “outside” world being that I work at one of the largest churches in the country and I am so busy, it is hard to make my life accessible to those who don’t walk into the doors of our church… yet at this moment, I am in “my” cocoon. Sorry, just a moment of confession.

    Instead of finding a new word, I would say that we would be better served to redefine how we as believers live out our faith and define church. I think “community” would happen naturally if we lived as the invisible church as opposed to the visible. I don’t mean that we are covert but that the emphasis is on the incarnational nature of the Holy Spirit in us and God’s truth and love being lived out through us.

    I totally appreciate your heart and pray that we as Christ followers would stop trying to facilitate “community” and simply live our lives in it. We must make our lives open/ available to those around us and seek to meet the needs of those in our lives as God leads and provides.

    Be blessed and keep the thoughts coming. Thanks for the challenge.

  6. Brent is right on. You can’t throw out the concept of community because people are doing it wrong or ineffectively. That’s just asinine.

    Community is possible but it has to be a small group of people that are willing to get real with each other and allow others into their lives. Being together with people is not the same as community. If not everyone is on the same page, its not going to happen.

    But it is possible. We just need the people that are walking it out authentically to speak on it. It’s got to be more than theory.

  7. I think Phil’s just talking about getting rid of “community” as the over-used buzzword for churches. And not true biblical community. I, also, am worn on the buzzword of “community.” Just because we branded it “community” and gave it a nice web 2.0, rounded edge logo; doesn’t mean it is community. Brethren let us not love in word only but in deed too.

  8. Yep, Bo’s Cafe… a good read, especially for guys… classic cars, cigars and dealing with community on a deep level.

    Having attended a few mega churches, the opportunity for community for me has been in smaller groups or bible studies, but that doesn’t always work.

    I wonder if selfishly we’re just too consumed as a culture with our own “stuff” and personal time constraints to really want to do community well?

  9. “Time to find another trendy word….”

    Already happened: missional. Just like community, it’s actually a really important aspect of the church, but it usually gets boiled down to nothing more than volunteerism.

  10. I have a fondness for Ray Oldenburg’s views and believe the 3rd place is not an elusive, utopian ideal of the modern church—however, I suspect we’d both agree that it won’t be in the form of recreation centers of the early 80s or the small groups or remote-campuses of recent years.

    I’d suggest we have at least two avenues to consider: re-establishing church as the “great, good place” or inserting ourselves into existing models of community. The latter would be my choice, asserting that this could be in the form of a traditional liturgical locale or even an online environment.

    But for me, I cannot divorce our calling from the word “community.” It’s rather central to the idea of church and modeled in the Trinity. I’d side with Brent and Tony in defending the word and doing our best to canonize its Christian conception.

    As for Starbucks, I have to admit that it’s a place where everyone knows my name. That’s a decent start toward community as compared to a number of my church experiences.

  11. Phil, It’s funny you said that about Starbucks because I was just sitting in one that I frequent the other day when it occurred to me how different that particular store was amidst others I’ve been to. This one that I go to (one of dozens in the Memphis area) sticks out for me because when you ask all the questions that you did, the answer is yes! I don’t know what it is but the SAME people are in there every day. No matter which day I go, it’s always the same 12-15 people that seem to hob-knob and mingle with each other as well as everyone else that walks in. Most of them appear Arab or Indian of some sort. But they’re very close with several other Whites and Blacks that come in. And they move from group to group. It’s more than just “hey good to see you”. They walk around and talk to each other for long periods of time.

    I’ll admit I’m almost always the one with the earbuds in, just watching their interactions. But I am intrigued at the “community-ness” they display.

    So just to get it on your radar… there are some(though few) exceptions. And it leads me to wonder if we do indeed abandon our efforts due to lack of majority impact. One question that comes to mind is if churches were really successfully practicing “community”, would we hear about it? Real community to me is very private and personal and small. And some of the churches I think about that seem to be having success in that area are just that.

  12. Bo’s Cafe takes the “small group” and turns it into a real group. Real people, real issues, real Truth. The Bible study groups may not allow people to…. Love one another

  13. Phil, I agree that the word is over-used; it’s become too much of a catch-all word for any attempt to get people together. I’ve seen this happening at big Christian conferences too. Just because you gather thousands of people together and do similar things for two days doesn’t mean that a real community has been established. To me, real community means being united in purpose…. doing real life together.

     

    The truth is that real community doesn’t happen without intent. No one becomes a real part of a community by just showing up; it means opening yourself up and stepping out of your comfort zone.

  14. I agree with your assessment, Phil, however from what you’ve written, I respectfully ask… are you in community? You write of “being the outgoing guy who is the life of the party” and “one who loves being around people” as evidence of your understanding of “the concept.” What do you believe authentic community looks like? You seem to speak as an outside observer an ideal rather than as one who has experienced the enormous joy and challenges of living in community. Just wondering.

  15. Community; an experience taking place in real time, with real people, yourself being one of them.

    Problem; how to take the contents/lessons of a book and apply them to your life so that you actually experience something akin to what is written in the book.

    Solution; invite people to join you in your quest for fulfillment of your mutual thirst for honest relationship. Some will gladly take you up on it. Some will shy away in fear. Still others will show up, then leave after finding out that pretense and masks have to be left at the door. And then some will feel right at home in a place where flaws, past history and current problems are indicators that one is indeed alive and not necessarily the mark of some fallen, wayward recalcitrant.

  16. Bo’s Cafe; a book detailing an experince of community.

    Community; an experience taking place in real time, with real people, yourself being one of them.

    Problem; how to take the contents/lessons of a book and apply them to your life so that you actually experience something akin to what is written in the book.

    Solution; invite people to join you in your quest for fulfillment of your mutual thirst for honest relationship. Some will gladly take you up on it. Some will shy away in fear. Still others will show up, then leave after finding out that pretense and masks have to be left at the door. And then some will feel right at home in a place where flaws, past history and current problems are indicators that one is indeed alive and not necessarily the mark of some fallen, wayward recalcitrant.

  17. Phil,

    You’re RIGHT!  We use the word because we’re hungry for connection and Starbucks believes that because we are, people will hear the word and come buy some coffee.  But that hunger is NOT satisfied by a flippant use of the word.  It will only be satisfied by people who actually take the ACTION to create a real community and not the cheap way of using the WORD to discuss something that isn’t true.

    So, keep ranting.  You’re telling the truth…….
    Oh, the life of a prophet…..

  18. Community isn’t community until people actually live, engage and serve each other….

    I completely agree that there are churches that misuse the word “community” but recently there haven’t been very many tools to help churches do this effectively. Recently my church has adopted The City by Zondervan. It’s a community building software. You all should check it out. http://www.onthecity.org

     

    JJ

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