Community is a big deal in our day. In the modern era, community was important but not as important as the individual quest for truth. Now in the post-modern era the communities quest for truth is more important than the individual quest. It is no longer important to know what you believe, but rather, the important thing today is what we believe. We love to believe things along with other people, so we define ourselves by all kinds of sub-groups.
This emphasis on community within post-modernism isn’t a bad thing, and even within the Church we should seek to foster and build community. We should seek to give people a place where they belong, and a people they can do life with. But this quest for Christian community can turn bad very quickly if we build our communities on something other than the gospel.
Let me explain. Every year in our city (New Port Richey, Florida) there is a Bike-Week where motorcycles from all over stream into town. The city if filled with leather, loud exhaust, tattoos, and you guessed it – motorcycle ministries. Motorcycle ministries? Yes. You’ve seen them before right? These are ministries that exist for the sole purpose of reaching bikers. This is a good idea, and I fully back my brothers and sisters who have a heart to reach into these communities with the gospel. But sometimes these kind of ministries, when they grow large enough, become churches. A motorcycle ministry could become a motorcycle church.
I think this is bad.
Don’t hear me wrong. We should seek to bring bikers into the Church, we should seek to bring all kinds of people into the Church so the witness of the local church worshiping God can show all peoples what life is truly about. But a biker church is a bad idea because it’s based on a community that would still exist if the gospel didn’t. Bikers would still gather together and create community regardless if God existed or not. The difference about the community that’s to exist within the Church is that if God didn’t exist, the community of the Church wouldn’t exist either. But because God does exist, and because the gospel is good news for all peoples, the gospel and only the gospel is to be the very thing the Church builds it’s community on and around. A local church should gather together for worship only because of their commonality of belief in and love for the gospel. If certain kinds of Christians gather together in church to worship for any other reason the gospel – you don’t have a church, you have a club built around common interest.
Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop once said, “When Christians unite around something other than the gospel, they create community that would likely exist even if God didn’t.” Lesson? A community formed by the gospel should look unlike anything else in the world. This is why the local church itself in its worship and work is to be a compelling community witnessing to all other communities of what true community is to be built upon. God’s people are called to a togetherness and community commitment that transcends all other natural boundaries – ethnic, generational, or economic.
Not age, stage, or common interests, but only the gospel.