Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Recovering Community"

Folks who know me around here know I am part of a church plant. The church lost one its founding pastors on just about its first anniversary.

The pastor we lost had primary responsibility for small groups, internal community, and external community outreach. These were definitely his skill sets.

Our church has been searching for a new Community Pastor - and the message I am going to link for you to download and listen is by one of the short list candidates for that job.

I am not going to say much about the sermon, other than it was one of the best I have heard on the need for, and God's desire for, community and relationship. In a place like Street Prophets [where this is crossposted] the idea of community is a core element of their identity - and the folks that share that will find something in this message to resonate with even if they are not Christian.

I should mention that the references to underwear, bras, men in spandex and speedos, and nakedness were not amusing to my 85 year old Catholic MIL that happened to visit the church that day. You have been warned :-).

Our church places great important on community - notice its emphasis in the core values here:

  • Transformational Community: We are a people of authentic spiritual transformation – demonstrating love, purity, humility, hospitality, generosity and servant leadership. We value gatherings for worship, fellowship, learning and serving together.
  • Team Leadership: We value leaders who value each other. All leadership roles are designed to function within the framework of a team. This includes our teaching pastors, elders, ministry leaders and members.
  • Creative Ministry: We value the diversity and creativity that God has given each of us. Within the context of our passion, resources and gifts, we will explore and act upon opportunities to creatively do ministry together.
  • Community Service: As transformed people, we have been given a spiritual desire to serve the body of Christ, as well as our community at large. We value building bridges to our community through acts of service.
Obviously, in a church so concerned about creating authentic community, the Community Pastor is no small position.

Christopher Coffman: "Recovering Community".

Actually, it turns out that I had not noticed that when these these candidates spoke their messages have only been left up a couple of days to let folks who missed church listen - and then they are pulled. And, I got lazy and didn't outline the sermon.

There were some things that struck me enough that I remember them without the notes. Christopher has been reading through the Gospel of John for the last year and talked about John's emphasis throughout that Gospel, his epistles, and Revelations on the relationship saving nature of Christ's incarnation - both in our relationship with God and with each other.

Even though God is a personal God with whom we can have a personal relationship - life is not a movie in which we are the star. Even though, from our perspective, we are indeed in every scene - it is not about us; and God is not our own iGod. Christ was not incarnated and crucified just so we can have a "personal Lord and Savior" - a phrase (and concept) he said you could find nowhere in scripture. We have been saved not just for our relationship with God - but for community.

Indeed, he cited the parallel nature of the Gospel of John and Genesis - and presented the Gospel as the one in which God presents His creation, or re-creation, of relationship with man. Some interesting points from Genesis:
  • What many have mentioned - that the only thing God created in the Garden that wasn't good was man alone. In creating woman, God wasn't just creating marriage - he was creating community. This wasn't just about sex - it was about the human need for human relationship
  • He mentioned, which also wasn't new, that we not only have a God-shaped hole that only He can fill - we have a human-shaped hole only humans can fill: we were created for relationship with each other as well as God
  • The two trees:
    • the tree of life (חיּים); and
    • the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (רע- ra): the root of ra is רעע- raa - which can mean to spoil (literally, by breaking to pieces)
    • he pointed out that the first thing Adam and Eve did once they ate from the tree (after feeling shame because they were naked) was to make a covering for themselves - not for the other person: the became self-focused
He presented this as the first religious act - realizing our shame before God and others and seeking to cover and hide ourselves.

For me (he didnt say this explicitly), I can see that most of the evil in the world comes from humanity breaking itself into smaller pieces - Christianity alone has 68,000 denominations (I think that was the number) - and we desire as humans, despite our desperate need to not be alone, to wall ourselves off from others and not let them into that gaping hole. We hide behind our masks and fig leaves.

In John, we see through the work of Christ that we no longer need to feel shame before God or others - and that we have the ability, in Christ, to build authentic community were we can be transparent and open before God and others.

However, it is rare when our churches can build the kind of authentic community where people can be open and transparent without fear. What people are desperately seeking in many ways is the ability to be themselves and be loved - and that is what our churches must provide.


  1. So, did you hire him?
    Changing leadership is tough, regardless of the circumstances of the departure. We've just lost our "Lead Pastor" and all on staff are feeling a little lost. I wish you well in your hunt.

  2. No - and he actually withdrew his application.

    With all the focus on "men in spandex" I would have been surprised if we had.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly