A blog post by David Fitch a few days ago provoked some thoughts for me on the way we bandy the word "community" about.
Everyone loves the idea of community. It’s used to market all kinds of things (including churches!), and it works because people are lonely. We’ve spent the last 200 years asserting our individual right to privacy, and now we find that we’re starved for community (coincidence?).
But while everyone loves the idea of community, we also tend to think that it is something we can get the same way we get breakfast cereal. We want community as a commodity: something we can go pick up at the
church store when we feel like it. But then if things get too serious or "heavy," we can always go back to asserting our right to privacy.
The problem is that community is not a commodity. We can’t just grab some community when we feel like it, like a hamburger. We can’t just walk into a church and expect that "community" will happen automatically because we’d like it to. True community takes a lot of time and effort, and it can’t be condensed into a convenient package that fits your lifestyle. Community requires deep commitment. True community means that others have a "say" about how you live your life and spend your time. It means people will be relying on you to fulfill your responsibilities, and will probably be upset if you don’t. It means laying down your "right" to privacy and realizing that others are going to know the real you. It means taking the huge risk of being known.
Community isn’t just one more thing we can consume when it suits our fancy. It’s not a commodity. It entails huge commitment and breathtaking risk. But the rewards are greater than the risks.