Read the quotes below.
- Networks are large and anonymous: Communities are small and intimate.
- Networks are artificial, top-down: Communities are organic, bottom up.
- Networks encourage passivity and consumption: Communities require action and contribution.
- Networks can be location independent: Communities are attached to a place.
- Networks divide a person into parts: Communities nurture the whole person.
I bet you think the quotes above came from some book about ministry, or a blog on small groups. You’d be wrong. I follow a blog called “The Art of Manliness“. I was first made aware of this site because of my affinity to old school shaving techniques. What I read today was astonishing.
Our culture is drawn to low-commitment, minimal cost, artificial relationship. We’re drawn to those things because they’re easy and rarely endanger our fragile egos. We don’t like putting ourselves on the line. We don’t like depending on others, and we especially don’t like others depending on us. That is not how we were designed to live. Even a blog without any spiritual intent confirms this truth.
Here are some helpful questions to determine if you’re in a network or an actual community:
- Do the rules, regulations, and culture of my group come from top leaders that I have never met personally, or do they originate from the group itself?
- Do I know the names of every person in my group and interact with them face-to-face?
- Does my group have a physical meeting place?
- If I left the group, would anyone know I was gone? Would there be any repercussions for doing so?
- If I got sick, or needed a favor, how many members of my group could I count on for visits and assistance?
- Am I required to contribute to the communal pot, or can I utilize the benefits of the group without making any contributions beyond dues/fees/taxes?
I’ve been a part of many networks and only a handful of communities. One of the most frustrating situations is to be a person or one of a few persons who desire community inside a network. This happens a lot. Pete Wilson once said “Community without honesty is just artificial harmony.” So what do you do about it? How do you create authentic community?
Ultimately it requires a conscience effort from everyone involved; a willingness to be vulnerable and a willingness to patiently walk with others in their vulnerability. But here are some tips and suggestions from The Art of Manliness.
Learning to Live in Community Again:
- Shoot for small
- Break larger groups into smaller ones
- Create your own tribes
- Get involved
- Meet physically
- Share your whole self
- Be prepared to sacrifice
- Live by family
- Don’t move very frequently
I’m very thankful for the people who are willing to stand with me in the midst of my crisis and are there to celebrate the joys of my life. My hope is that each of you reading this blog will find true community. When it comes to church, it’s far to easy to belong to a network of people who sit in rows together each week. If you want to truly experience all that God intended the church to be you need to find a circle of community. It’s like Andy Stanley says, “Circles are better than rows.”