Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

The Church and Communitas

I’m wondering what it is that makes some books “readable” while you struggle through others. I’ve been busy with Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Ways, for ages. It’s good. He really challenges many popular beliefs in church. But I just can’t sit down and finish the book.
I’ve been reading his chapter on Communitas yesterday and today. I’m not sure whether he has a specific definition for the term (he describes it more than defining it), but it boils down to the fact that the early church was forever stretching itself through it’s involvement in the community. Communitas happens when a group of people are united around a vision or a mission where they want to make a difference. It happens during short-term mission outreaches, where a group of people leave their comfort zone and spend time in situations which they are not used to. It also happens in times of tragedy (he uses the examples of 9/11 and the tsunami) where people are united in a common cause to help others.
This is all a bit philosophical, but what he says is that this attitude is (and has always been) normative for the church of Christ. But somewhere along the line we lost it. I was in a meeting some time ago where a pastor of a church tried to make me understand that not all people are gifted towards caring for others and reaching out in love towards those in need. Obviously I don’t agree. Some people are especially gifted towards serving others. I know people like this, who are forever looking for ways in which they can help others. (I don’t like them – they make me feel guilty!) But the church cannot shrug its shoulders when confronted by the tragedies surrounding us.
If we want to make Hirsch’s term practical and relevant, then it means that the church has to have a vision for the world’s needs, whatever it may be. In the majority of churches I know, the church exists for its members and pastors are there to entertain the church members on a Sunday morning. Someone used the argument some time ago: I work long hours everyday and I don’t need to be reminded on a Sunday that I need to do even more. On a Sunday I want to relax in church!
Hirsch was in trouble for saying that the church needs to exist for the world. But he believes, and I believe, that the church only finds it’s true meaning once we move outside the walls of the church into the community, bringing the love of Christ, in whatever way is necessary, into that community.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009 - Posted by | Church, Comfort Zone, Mission, Short-term outreaches, Social issues, Unity, Vision


  1. I’m very particular about the tone of things I read. If it’s not written well (I haven’t sat down to figure out what makes something “well” or otherwise in my own opinion) I rarely finish it. I was excited to start a biography of Lilias Trotter a couple years ago. The subject matter was right up my alley, supposedly. But I haven’t finished it. The writing just didn’t hold my interest.

    So I can relate.

    Comment by pNielsen | Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. I think you may be right. It has to do with the style in which it is written.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, January 21, 2009 | Reply

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