Not To Be

I read it in a book last week that the church’s mission is to “be a community.” It reminded me of the introduction my friend Chris, a blond-haired, blue-eyed YoungLife staffer, used to give to all the 20 somethings crowding the pews at our startup church’s Sunday night service. With his arms earnestly outstretched and his head cocked to the side and sweetly smiling, he would report, “We want to be an authentic Biblical community,” and we all nodded in equally earnest agreement.

Leaving aside the dangerous vagueness of what a “Biblical” community might be (one that stones adulterers?), “be” feels like too weak a verb for what a community strives to do. Meaningful communities do more than “be.” They practice certain habits and perform certain virtues. They invite members in and nurture one another. They share time and expertise, and they pursue learning. They commit to important work. Communities do a lot of things, none of which can be captured by the verb “be.”

If our aim is merely to be a community, our aim is too low.

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