If you've not read the little post I wrote on Christian community yesterday, do check it out. Following that discussion, I've been thinking about just what witness my own community of Vine and Branches offers the wider church and the culture at large.
I think it offers a witness for the community of Christ, and against religiosity. We meet in a living room. We involve ourselves in one anothers' lives and learn to care for one another, and to be a blessing to our neighbors. We don't have big religious events. We don't offer free turkeys to the first 200 families, or whatever. We seek to be a cohesive Christian community that steadily offers the gift of presence and care to the people around us as well to each other. No big worship services or pep rallies for Jesus. And there is absolutely no chance that 150 new people are going to come to our liturgy next week to "get excited about the Lord" in some vague way. But what we are - and I think this is far more important, or else we wouldn't be this - is a group of people that will know your name. When people visit, they're going to be spoken with. Folks get to know us a little, and we get to know them. There can be no slipping in to for the dispensing of religious goods and services, and then slipping out again anonymously. It's a big risk, and it's very deeply real. I think that's one of the reason what we are actually intimidates many Christians, whether they're lapsed or not. It's not the "big things for God" that make or break churches or the Christian life as a whole: it's the little ways that we dedicate ourselves to our common discipleship and God's ongoing redemption of his world. The little things are an every day thing, not special occasions - that's why it's a real transforming experience, and not merely a religious high.
As for the wider culture, we are a Christian community that seeks to love others well. It's important to me that folks who are not Christians (or who are lapsed Christians) to see us as a blessing to the world around us. I'm not sure if we've got that wired, or if we ever will, but it's a matter of process.
Do come back at me on this; I'm interested to know what you think. Also, you might talk to me about your own church experience, and even introduce yourself if you've not done so before. Are you involved with a Christian community? What's the biggest reason you're involved with the community you are? If you aren't, what's the primary reason you aren't? And no, I'm not going to harass you, but I'm curious.
I'm a library paraprofessional and occasional theology instructor at a liberal arts college. I teach folks how to do academic research efficiently and throughly, and I teach Christian theology at the college level and in churches. I hold the Master of Applied Theology from the University of Oxford.