Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Good Test of Community

Here's the simple test:

Can you name everyone in your church family?  Write down their names.

Please let me say a few things about this:

First, I'm not referring to the universal church; instead, I'm talking about the group of Christians you regularly gather with.

Second, just because you may know the names of all the people you normally get together with, this does not ensure community.

Third, you may actually be in community with some but not all of the people who normally go to the same building you do on Sundays.

Back to the test - can you name all the people you usually gather with?

This is an important question that is worth asking. The reason is that, quite obviously, you have to know someone in order to experience community with him. This includes knowing his name. If you can't name him, then you don't really know him and therefore are not part of community life with him.

For many Christians, the people who they truly experience Christian community with are those they meet with in a small group. This may take place in a Sunday School class, a small group, a house fellowship, or something else with a small number. These Christians may also attend a much larger gathering where there is preaching, singing, etc.

If one of the key aspects of church life is community, then true local bodies are those that know one another well. This is the small gatherings. It is not the large groups.

My point in this post is not to say what a church is or isn't. Instead, my hope is to get us thinking (more) about community life in Christ. It helps to know what this looks like. Basic common denominators must be that we are Christians and that we actually know one another. This means knowing names.

If you gather with a large group, many of whom you don't know or barely know, then you really aren't part of the same local body. Instead, you may be part of a group of local bodies within a larger organization.

What should we do about all this? We can all, myself certainly included, put a little more effort into getting to know one another and sharing life together. This should clearly take place in whatever your small group looks like. We can also expand this to include other Christians in our midst.

As a bonus, community seems to attract lost people. I know, as you probably do as well, that lost folks don't care at all what happens in big church buildings on Sundays. However, they do tend to respond positively to friendly, serving people. Most non-Christians are lonely. If they see Christians joyfully sharing their lives together, they may desire to know why this is the case.

Back to the main topic. You simply cannot be in community with someone whose name you don't even know. Your church family is more likely composed of those Christians that you know well. You know their names, you know what they care about, you know their preferences, you know their hopes, you know their struggles, etc.

How did you do on the test?


Joe G. said...

"If you gather with a large group, many of whom you don't know or barely know, then you really aren't part of the same local body."

So, all the big churches are fraudulent? No need to beat around the bush -- if this is your viewpoint, say so.

Eric said...


Thanks for commenting.

"Fraudulent" is a fairly strong word. I wouldn't go that far.

I would say that the biblical model shows us Christians in local bodies who seem to have known one another. If a modern church is so large that most of the people do not know each other, then this has strayed far from the biblical model.

Joe G. said...

"If a modern church is so large... people do not know each other...."

Good point

Arthur Sido said...

Great post Eric.

If I can jump in, I would agree that fraudulent might be too strong of a word but I wouldn't hesitate that say that "big" churches where "members" don't even know the names of people a few pews over are terribly misguided, based on erroneous views of the church and in many ways an impediment to the very Gospel they are called to proclaim.

Alan Knox said...


Yes, knowing each other's name is certainly a good start at building community. I don't see how we can claim to live in community with one another if we don't know each other's name.

It would be interesting to continue. What else is necessary? I mean, obviously, we have to know more than names in order to truly be in community with one another... What do we have to know... do... etc.?


Eric said...


I agree completely. The definition of church for many people is far different from what we see in scripture. This leads, predictably, to all sorts of problems.

Eric said...


Those are excellent questions. I haven't given this topic too much systematic thought. Maybe some day.

Alan Knox said...


I decided to ask the same questions on my blog: "Community Checklist."


Eric said...


I'm interested to see what people say.