In their book on community Dever and Dunlop pose a tough question, have we in our churches created communities that would exist even if God didn’t?
Stop a second to think about that. What draws the people of a given congregation together? Do they share similar ethnic identities or ages? Similar educations or income brackets? Do they identify as artists or athletes? Are they nuclear families or single parents? Old hymns or praise music, guitars or organs? Bikers or cowboys? When they get together is it obvious that they are brought together by Christ above all else? If someone outside, someone reasonably astute at evaluating groups, saw them would they say they only way that group could exist is if God brought them together?
We all want the answer to be yes, but most of us know the real answer to that question. Which is why the book is so compelling.
D&D argue that the hard part about this question is that we know that we can fill our pews by playing up our worldly similarities, at least for a little while. Yes, if all we want are bums in seats (as they say) then all we need to do is find a niche, gather a group of like-minded people, and add the gospel to the mix.
The problem with this is that it makes a poor witness to the community the church is in. It looks like those folks in that there church ought to just join Greenpeace or the Parents association, or the boy scout movement or the community arts school…you get the point. It is all too easy for us to point towards whatever brings us together and if it isn’t Christ that will be obvious.
This book is worth the time of anyone in church leadership. It is a needed warning against the creation of ministry silos and the use of identity politics (in the broadest sense) within the church community. They offer some advice, a solution or two, but more important they help you to evaluate your current barn and honestly decide if your church looks like a supernatural community, and if not, what are going to do about it?