Tuesday, 4 November 2008

What kind of community?

Something particularly for those of you who're church folk, or who've been put off church by church as you've had the misfortune to experience it. I think it's a fab piece, and hat tip to That Hideous Man - who's not really hideous - for pointing me in its direction. It's from Tim Chester, who says:

"Is your community a community of performance or a community of grace? Try these diagnostic tests …

Communities of Performance:
the leaders appear sorted
the community appears respectable
meetings must be a polished performance
identity is found in ministry
failure is devastating
actions are driven by duty
conflict is suppressed or ignored
the focus is on orthodoxy and behaviour (allowing people to think they're sorted)
talk about grace, but communicate legalism
unbelievers can’t imagine themselves as Christians
don’t attract broken people
the world is seen as threatening and ‘other’
conversion is superficial (people are called to respectable behaviour)
people are secretly hurting
people see faith and repentance as actions that took place at conversion
the gospel is for unbelievers

Communities of Grace:
the leaders are vulnerable
the community is messy
meetings are just one part of community life
identity is found in Christ
failure is disappointing, but not devastating
actions are driven by joy
conflict is addressed in the open
the focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)
people can see grace in action
unbelievers feel like they can belong
attract broken people
people are loved as fellow-sinners in need of grace
conversion is radical (people are called to transformed affections)
people are open about their problems
people see faith and repentance as daily activities
the gospel is for both unbelievers and believers".

I've not, fortunately for me, experienced in any way in many years what Tim Chester describes in the Communities of Performance category. I'm very thankful that my experience now is entirely in the Communities of Grace category, and that's why I'm an enthusiast for Church. But I know that Tim's not wrong, and church in some of its manifestations can be grim sometimes, and if I'd been on the receiving end for too long in a Community of Performance, I'd have a jaded outlook I'm sure. The wonderful thing, though, about doing church in a prison context is that in my opinion and experience it's the Communities of Grace thing that fits and works and happens naturally.


laughing pastor said...

oh bless you for sharing this in this space. I so needed these words of wisdom.

I will be sharing this wisdom with the church I serve! It will be in our next newsletter!!!!


I will give credit and reference as to where I read this.

AnneDroid said...

Thanks, laughing pastor. I liked it too.