The term “Local Church” is used and abused lately. Pastors talk about being dedicated to the local church but we are using the term wrongly in my opinion and I want to attempt to brand a new concept for the church and what it is called to be.
This week I had a great but for some reason disconcerting conversation with a mentor about what “community” is and how it is no longer the same as we see in Biblical times. I agreed that in fact culture had changed and neighbors no longer know each other and “community” as defined by affinity or shared liking of something. The suggestion was that even if a neighbor was a Christian and a member of his church he didn’t have to be in community with them because he didn’t necessarily like them or at least the same things they like. And he had experiential proof that attempting anything else, like instituting neighborhood only small group, was a failure and would drive people away from community instead of into it.
But the church is called to affinity in Christ and nothing else. I think when we seek non-gospel affinity (shared liking of anything other than our faith) we end up with white-only churches and no concept for Biblical community. We become exactly what our culture is, disconnected and distant.
I think this is one of the great lies of Satan and it works in his favor when Christians are distributed without shared mission. A church might attract 5,000 people but their neighborhood is no different because none of the members live there. And no community is different for that matter because this destination church becomes a routine stop on a busy schedule instead of a way of doing life.
What if we instead built hyperlocal churches. Churches where the congregation actually lived together in the same community and interacted more than once a week during the greeting time at church. People desiring to be part of the church would relocate on purpose to be part of the church and their affinity would be the gospel making all other concerns something less and not as weighted.
The church would be smaller because once the numbers reflected movement outside the neighborhood you would plant another church with the same mission just in another part of town. Community groups would actually be in the community and about more than a shared study but living life with people.
Others would be welcome of course but the DNA of the church would be hyper-local and that would be the focus. There are plenty of churches doing things like this to an extreme but there must be a middle way that functions well and makes true Biblical community the goal.
This post is full of potential and I realize my thoughts are not fully formed. But I think I lean toward a hyper-local model for church and community. I am determined to continue thinking and talking about how to do this well in a large city.