Church or Community: Which Comes First?


That age old dilemma!

Fellow blogger, local church leader and provocateur Miguel Labrador loves to post challenging questions on Facebook.

This morning he posted this:

Does the local church root people in community, or does community root people in the local church?

Here was my response:

A church planted in existing community is much more likely to take root and thrive than trying to create community from church. The later seldom actually succeeds, and you end up with more of an organization than authentic community.

Jesus said to go and transform (make disciples) the nations (i.e., cultures) of the world, not come and gather around us and our church and its culture.

This is a huge shift in perspective that needs to happen in both the missional and the organic/simple church communities. They want folks to come and become part of fellowships in order to create community, when in fact that hasn’t really worked out too well.

In our area, we are going and letting Christ take root in existing communities, and churches then arise indigenously with community already in place.

What say you?

~ Jim


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8 responses

  1. Good post! However having been accused of being a provocateur my self, I would like to share a couple of thoughts. First of all if we give any credence to the creation account, God created birds who proceeded to lay eggs. The problem in this case is that we have misidentified the bird. What we today call church bears little resemblance to the thing Jesus created. “Making disciples” means growing the ekklesia. The thing we call “our church and its culture” all to often is not a creation of our king, but is simply our club. Jesus created His “church.” Whatever that means, it clearly contains the idea of both community, and being corporate it carries and develops a culture of its own. This culture can certainly borrow from and incorporate that of the surrounding ethnoi, but if it is not distinctly reflective of our king and His culture, it has no business being called “church.”

    Keep up the good work, and may God bless your efforts in His cause.

    For the king–Chris Gorton


    • I agree. Although Jesus takes root in existing cultures, and we are to go and bring Him into existing cultures, He also transforms those cultures.

      However, the idea of creating culture from scratch by starting a “church”, I think is flawed. At least, that’s been our experience here as we’ve seen a number of fellowships take root in existing sub-cultures in our county as we’ve been faithful to go and introduce Jesus into their own, existing communities.

      Furthermore, when we let Jesus emerge within the fertile soil of existing community, the church that emerges will look very different than the traditional concept of “church”.

      Here’s something I wrote several years ago on this:


  2. This has been our experience as well. The difficulty is finding people in our community that want to be the church.

    When we are spreading the seed of the Kingdom we will find those who are interested but rarely will the new believer find others in their community who will want to become followers of Jesus.

    Perhaps our area is just particularly tough.


        • There are big challenges in going into different cultures within your own area, especially if they are on the “margins” of society. But we have found a great hunger for the Lord and fertile ground for the gospel. Most of our fellowships have sprung up there.


          • I totally agree Jim. Almost all of the positive responses we have to the Gospel has been with people who are not from America. However even among these people the Kingdom has yet to multiply. It is one in a family and the rest of the family is not interested. Our current church has a highly functioning autistic 18 yo girl with a lesbian mom, a Costa Rican mom and her daughter, a Mexican woman (rest of her family is not following) and a woman from Uganda.

            I am confident that in time we will get to those fields that are ripe. So we just keep following where the chief shepherd leads.


  3. nowadays there is something is really annoying me so much.our church have started forming welfare that if you do not join the church will not help you when you is it biblical????


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