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Defective Church: A Community of Convenience

February 9, 2009

Many people in America approach “church” as a community of convenience. The Bible, however, holds out a very different concept of church, a community of grace. The community of convenience stands in the way of a community of grace. Consider some of the differences:

Community of Grace

Community of Convenience

  • Assumes Imperfection
  • Begins with Forbearance
  • Moves to Forgiveness
  • Characterized by Grace & Love
  • Assumes Perfection
  • Begins with Consumerism
  • Moves to another “Church”
  • Characterized by Convenience & Selfishness

Community of Convenience

The community of convenience assumes perfection. It confuses the church with a product or service, demanding perfect customer service from the community. This person approaches “church” as something that exists to service their personal, familial, and spiritual needs, not as a community love and serve. The COC begins with consumerism and expects to be served. It believes that the church exists for their spiritual, relational convenience. People who approach church as a COC get upset, angry, and gripe when they don’t get their spiritual or personal needs serviced. When conflict emerges the COC simply withdraws or moves on. If the spiritual customer doesn’t receive his service, get his needs met, or get the precise theological package they are looking for, they criticize the leadership, complain to others about the community, and often move down the street to another church to get their needs serviced. No wonder people aren’t “going to church.”

Community of Grace

A community of grace, however, assumes imperfection. It understands that the church is people, people who are broken, imperfect, sinful, people who will complain and hurt one another. A COG begins with forbearance, “bearing with one another in love.” It is others-oriented. It puts up with others that are different, embraces inconvenience. When conflict arises, the COG responds very differently. The COG doesn’t remain at a place of forbearance but moves to forgiveness. The COG doesn’t hold grudges but extends genuine forgiveness towards those who have hurt them.

The COG is characterized by love and grace, but the COC is characterized by selfishness and consumerism. The Church is not a community of conveniences. It does not exist for you to get served. The church is a community of grace that exists to serve one another, to bear with one another, to forgive one another, to love one another! The church is not a perfect product or service with a money back guarantee; it is a community of imperfect people clinging to a perfect Christ who are being perfected by grace.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Emmanuel Chang permalink
    February 9, 2009 9:04 pm

    Amen brother. We are struggling with this a great deal right now at CC. We are broken and imperfect, in desperate need of grace and gospel-centered community.

  2. February 10, 2009 8:43 am

    Why do you have to keep writing such insightful, challenging stuff? Can’t you leave us alone and let us ‘do church’?!

    I’ve been delighting in God’s grace recently with your phrase ‘we are an imperfect people clinging to a perfected Christ’. Now I’ll add ‘who are being perfected by grace.’

    Convenience and consumerism are to our soul like Taco Bell is to our bodies: immediately tasty, but dissatisfying in so many ways later on. Abiding in and extending God’s love is like preparing and enjoying a Thanksgiving dinner. A long process that in the end is satisfying and never meant to be enjoyed alone.

    Very encouraging. thanks.

  3. February 10, 2009 4:17 pm

    Funny, Josh! Glad to hear this stuff has been enriching. So true about Taco Bell…I can’t stand that stuff!

    With you…. JD

  4. February 11, 2009 3:59 am

    Though obviously programs, systems, and models are not the answer, I believe that they have contributed to the problem. Especially in the case of “communities of convenience/consumerism”.

    Several years ago, I was on staff at a church that used the “seeker sensitive” model. For a short while it flourished. Eventually though, the novelty wore off, and the leadership started asking members to make deeper commitments. Things began to get sticky. When the leadership decided to can the seeker model altogether (which had involved an array of spectator–key word, here–elements, such as the performance of secular songs, extended movie clips, etc.) and move to a more “traditional” model (in which we sang to God, took the Lord’s Supper, etc.) the church had practically split, having lost about half its members. There were some other factors involved, but I’m convinced that the “seeker sensitive” model played a major role in the cultivation of the consumer mentality that almost sank that church.

    Contrary to what many 21st century evangelicals believe, form, appearance, and presentation can be just as important as function and content. Sometimes how we say something can communicate more about our attitudes and values regarding a subject than what we actually say. In many cases a lack of commitment and community in the local church is often due to the spectator-inducing forms and strategies we employ.

    The sad thing is that America has exported some of its “hottest” strategies to the developing Christian world. The “seeker sensitive” model is now in Argentina where I live, and I am bracing myself for the results.

  5. Emmanuel Chang permalink
    February 12, 2009 12:39 pm

    Churches are employing a customer service approach to their ministries where catering to the people’s needs and interests is the top priority and that those needs should be met and fulfilled by what the church can offer, whether from events, programs, or even sermons and “the right” worship experience rather than teaching that everyone’s needs are met in Christ and that the Gospel then allows us to put others’ needs before our own.

    In such an individualistic society, where “my” needs and “my” desires and “my” passions are top priority, those of us in leadership/teacher/pastor roles need to remind people of what God desires and what God’s passions are. It is a struggle though. I often wonder how a country (and a society) founded upon the rights of the individual can embrace our imperfections, move to forbearance and forgiveness and ultimately live in grace and love…

Trackbacks

  1. Community of Grace or Convenience? « Life Together
  2. Defective Church: A Community of Convenience « Creation Project | Thoughts in Summary
  3. Defective Church: A Community of Convenience « Creation Project | thecripps.net
  4. State of the church « Outside The Gates
  5. Are We a Defective Church? « Windham Baptist Church’s Blog

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