Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good doctrine is not enough

Alan linked and posted about an interesting survey from Crosswalk that fits into what I just posted a yesterday about community. The survey is found in a post, Lack of Connection Biggest Reason Christians Leave Church, and tells us something very important. It turns out that people really want relationships in the church! I think the common response to that in my circles is always suspicion when you talk about what people want. Church is treated like veggies at dinner. You may not like it but you have to have some 'cause it is good for you! Likewise the gathered church is something where the pastor tells you what he thinks you need to hear for your own good. Left to their own devices, Christians will wander off into fluff so they need to be corralled.

Now that doesn't mean doctrine is unimportant. A church with great relationships but faulty doctrine is even worse than a church with the opposite problem but here is the thing. Having a church with real relationships is good doctrine! If your church gathering lacks fellowship and real relationships among believers it is necessarily faulty no matter how solid the theology might be.

A lot of people are "leaving churches" and I think much of that is because they were religious Americans, not Christians, and the societal incentive for church attendance has largely evaporated. There is a sizable population of actual Christians who are leaving and that number grows every year and I think that is attributable to what this survey shows, i.e. that people and especially Christians are desirous of real relationships, not phony smiles and suits on Sunday.

There is more to the church than weekly meetings and doctrinal lectures. There is a need for solid teaching and there is a need for regular gatherings but without relationships the church is only a shadow of what it was created to be. How do we get from mute attendance to real relationships? That is the bigger question and that is what I am working through right now.

(HT: Alan Knox)


Bean said...

Very good post, and so true.
We attended a church for 12 years, we left about 3 years ago, why? Because in 12 years we had no more relationship with anyone there than we had the first day we attended, except that we new the names of a number of people. During the 12 years I volunteered for numerous activities, assisting with the planning of and working of the parish picnic (as a newbie I was assigned kitchen clean up, and ended up being the only person to do it, so I was isolated from the picnic and my family, so so much for getting to know anyone), I volunteered for vacation bible school, I did this several times, help with planning and led classes, did the book club for a number of years, participated in various programs, and after 12 years still really didn't "know" anyone - except names. It is really quite pathetic, we moved and the same experience is repeating at this church, we have attended events, volunteered, etc. but we never seem to get to know anyone, if there is fellowship after mass everyone sits with their own group, no one mixes, it is sad.
Our society hungers for communtity, there are many lonely people out there, but making true connections with people seems very difficult. Perhaps it is partly the way our society is structured, people come and go, people are independent, people are busy, people are more activity focused than relationship focused, it is sad. I think we all have to work at community, we have to step out of our comfort zone, and we have to accept that sometimes (many times) our offers may be rejected.
Authentic friendships are rare, and should be treasured when they occur.
The church, meaning Christians across all denominations, really need to start creating "intentional community" we need it, it is good for us, it is good for our spiritual growth, it is what God intended.

Arthur Sido said...


You hit the nail on the head. Community must be "intentional". It takes commitment and it takes effort. Simply being active in a local Body doesn't create community, it goes far beyond that.

Ur Man CD said...

Good piece, again, sir for which I thank you.

It just occurred to me, though oh King Arthur, that in a real way good doctrine IS enough, because on the most basic understanding of the two crucial commandments Jesus outlines and as we see it fleshed out in the lives of the apostles and early church - we cannot do this without intentional community and everything else is at best shallow and superficial doctrine.

Or am I going batty?