The Necessity of Re-establishing Community
With the ease of lockdown and many churches re-initiating corporate gatherings, the primary task that lies before the church, and particularly her leadership, is the necessity of re-establishing community.
What do I mean by the phrase ‘re-establishing community?’ I think churches have largely taken ‘together being-together’ for granted. Oh, yes, we congregants knew it was important, but I’m not sure we thought that it was that big a deal. That is, until COVID-19 came along.
It seems to me that churches have assumed community and our theology has underpinned that assumption. Allow me to demonstrate… A typical theological definition of the local church is historically defined as, “a place where the word of God is preached, the ordinances (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism) are practiced and church discipline is exercised.” That’s been the standard definition for a few centuries now. But where’s the ‘community bit’ in that definition? It’s assumed. It’s assumed in the preaching, that there is an ‘in-the-same-location’ congregation to preach to. It’s assumed in the ordinances, that there are those in the same location that eat and drink together and witness first-hand the dramatisation of a death and resurrection in baptism. It’s assumed in the process of a biblical, Matthew18:15-20 discipline.
And the lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 has shown us that we’ve taken a necessary and crucial togetherness for granted. And in the last year, we’ve missed and mourned the loss of community, of just being together and hanging out and eating after service eats and drinking coffee together during ministry meetings. And this locked-down pause in church gathering has been long enough to almost destroy community altogether.
This apart-time has shown me with new clarity how much Jesus valued being with his disciples and with people, eating with Zacchaeus, having breakfast with the disciples on the beach, breaking bread in the upper room. As George Whitefield says it, “the religion of Jesus is a social religion.” There is little doubt that eating and drinking with others was a big deal for Jesus. And it should be for us too.
And how does the church try and build community again? How do we hangout and do family stuff together under the still limiting restrictions? Tentatively. Digitally. Intentionally. Crucially.