Jack and Jesus

Brain
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When I think of seminary, some of my favorite memories have to do with my three closest classmates and I having a drink together at The Pub. The Pub was technically a gastropub, meaning they have a huge high-end beer menu and a slightly smaller, but quality food menu. You could get beers from all over Europe and the United States, but they were modeled after a British tavern, so the better beer and food selections were like fish and chips served with a pint of bitter. We usually got together during the week (we’re kind of busy on weekends in my line of work) and had a bite and a beer while watching whatever sporting event was on the tube and commiserating about course loads and church work. Unfortunately, as of this December, they closed, rather unexpectedly.

Of all the things I learned in seminary, The Pub taught me as much as anything, but mostly it taught me about community. Community can be defined in a very technical, social sense (n. a unified body of individuals: such as the people with common interests living in a particular area; broadly, the area itself) but personally, I think the idea of community has more in common the organic nature of the biological definition (n. A group of interdependent plants or animals growing or living together in natural conditions or occupying a specified habitat). When we come together as groups of people, there is usually a sense of interdependence created by common needs that revolve around a certain set of goals and interests, in a particular locale.

I believe this is what the earliest followers of Jesus found as they gathered in Jerusalem and began to spread out across the Roman world. They became dependent on one another to provide spiritual, emotional, and many cases, financial and subsistence support, especially given that most converts to the early Jesus movement came from the lower socio-economic classes. Their common needs were survival needs, again, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. This commonality, centered around these needs opened the door for the Holy Spirit to create a community founded in the teachings of Jesus, living a way of life that reflected that, together.

Even today, people are looking for this kind of community but not finding it in the local church. Much ado has been made about the ‘nones’ and ‘dones’ leaving or never entering the church and I believe there is validity to their reasons for staying away. In many cases, churches are preaching community and togetherness while practicing cliquishness and isolationism. Jerry Herships, founder of AfterHours Denver wrote in his memoir Last Call: From Serving Drinks to Serving Jesus, “Most people I know who don’t go to church aren’t looking for a lot. They want community, they want to do good— maybe help make the world a better place. That’s kind of it.”[1] People want to connect with people who want to connect with them. People will not waste their time trying to connect to a closed community and rightly so, why should they?

Our responsibility/opportunity as the embodiment of Jesus ministry in this time and place is to find ways to bring the message to those who won’t come to us to hear it. In the early church, no one expected the people to come to the synagogue, they went out to the people to share the message rather than wait for the people to show up at one of their gatherings. This is where things like Fresh Expressions and things like that come in to play. These types of ministries show up in bars, restaurants, hiking clubs, house churches, movie groups, and any other place where people gather around an idea, an interest, or simply a location. They are usually smaller groups, but they are connected groups, bound by a sense of those communal ideals: interdependence created by common needs that revolve around a certain set of goals and interests, in a particular locale. I think it is our responsibility in the established church community to make space for and support these efforts, seeing in them a future for the church in places where the church needs to be most.


[1] (Herships 2015, Kindle Loc. 1223-1224)

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