"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Community or Christ?

I was recently  searching online for some religious images for an upcoming presentation, and saw this picture from the website of a Catholic Church :

Before I add my commentary, I want to make sure to say that I am in no way opposed to parish community. Community is very important to a parish. My wife and I have recently been trying to get more connected with the community in our own parish where we have been going since I moved to St. Louis. We've gone from knowing basically no one in the parish, to feeling much more comfortable on Sunday morning knowing more and more people at coffee hour. I've joined the Knights of Columbus, and we're starting to get to know some of the younger families. The sense of community we feel is growing, but still in its early phases.

However, that is not the thing that keeps us coming back. Community is a part of why we like the parish now, but has very little to do with why we go to church in the first place. It made no difference to me when we first started going and didn't know a single person. Nor would it make a difference to me if I went to church on Sunday and knew every single person the the pews. I'm not there for community; I'm there for Christ.

The thing that brings me back to church week after week, day after day is beautiful liturgy, reverence for Our Lord, and above all, knowing that Christ is there.

Sadly, I don't think that's why everyone goes to church on Sunday. Many people don't go there to spend some quality time with Our Lord and Savior. They go to spend time with their friends, or the pastor, or to hear some "cool" music. No, Christ isn't quite as important as he should be.

I heard an experience pastor once admonish a group:
"Don't waste time developing a parish mission statement. You already have one. It is to 'go and make disciples of all nations.'"
There is the crux of the matter. We must do everything for Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Making friends is one thing; making disciples is another. That's not to say they can't work together; the two are similar, and sometimes mutually beneficial. However, if we do anything without Christ as the ultimate goal, aim, and purpose, then we become, as Pope Francis said, merely a "charitable NGO."

Bottom line: I think putting "community" on your church website as if your community is the BEST THING EHVA! is frankly just silly. Unless you go to church in your basement, there's going to be a community. Community shouldn't be a selling point. Christ should be.

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