The artificiality of ‘gospel communities’

In a fun section of Center Church Keller points out that a lot of modern attempts at creating ‘missional communities’ are desperately artificial. They are trying to create a mode of living that was quite natural in the first century… but best found today in small towns.

If you really wanna ‘do life together’ then rural ministry is for you:

I pastored a small church in a small, working-class town for nearly ten years. My church naturally had the kind of characteristics that house churches are seeking to create through intentional planning. Missional communities seek to re-create the oikos - the large, extended family of children, grandchildren, relatives, business associates, and neighbours that constituted most churches in the New Testament - and insist that ministry should be informal, relational and organic.

However, the midsized groups that are gathered into missional communities are not truly oikoi. They are usually not related to each other by a variety of blood ties, do not work in the same shops and plants, have not gone to the same clubs and civic organizations - which is how people in a small town know each other. The Christians in my church did not have to find ways to know their geographic neighbours; they were already deeply enmeshed with them. All the believers lived within a few miles of one another and rarely moved out of the area. We ate together, spent lots of time in each other’s homes, and were deeply involved in each other’s lives apart from Sunday services. And because of these durable and multivalent relationships, a great deal of outreach, pastoral care, fellowship, and community service did indeed happen organically through relationships. In short, small churches in small towns have, in general, the kind of relationships with each other and the surrounding community that missional communities seek to forge.

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