I started taking God seriously whilst at university. There were plenty of questions about faith that were going around in my head at the time, such as how do we relate to God, etc. But the thing that made a difference in my faith was finding a community (in the form of a student group) in which I could ask these questions. Since then, I have been drawn to churches where there has been this sense of community in some way, be it in the whole congregation or in small groups.
Tim Chester and Steve Timmis address this issue of community in the second chapter of Total Church. They claim that community was at the heart of God’s covenantal dealings with us and his mission in the world – from the law that governed the community given by Moses at Mount Sinai, the nation that was to be a kingdom of priests to the surrounding world, to the small community that Jesus drew around himself to redirect the mission of God.. This community was centred around Jerusalem to draw people in, now it is centred around Jesus a goes out. But community is still key. As the early apostles went out they planted communities in each city, not just a place where individuals could come and perform acts of worship. The church (that is, the community of believers) is still at the heart of God’s dealing with the world
Chester and Timmis also claim that too often church has been seen as just that place to come to deal with an individual’s worship needs. It is seen as one more thing to juggle in a busy life, alongside work, family, social activities and the like., So, when something else, say, a new born baby comes along to make life even more busier, church is often the thing that gets dropped.
What is the alternative? Well, in a truly supportive loving Christian community, the Jesus-centred community is the focus, not the individual. So when one person suddenly has more responsibility or less time, the rest of the community gather round to support. Similarly, when more time is gained, it can be offered to the community. So when, say, church members Bob and Mary have twins:
When babies are born [or anything else] it is an issue for the whole church. The congregation takes on some of the responsibility because their identity and life is that of persons-in-community. So, perhaps a couple of people go round early each morning to bath the babies so Bob and Mary can have time together over breakfast. Or someone offers to take Bob to work for a few months so that on the way he can sleep… Bob and Mary may not be as involved in the church meetings, but they are more involves than ever in the life of the community.
That sounds like an attractive vision to me.