"Community" has been a buzzword in churches for quite some time. What hasn't really been agreed upon is exactly what "community" means. Many of us probably have a more nostalgic perception when it comes to community. Maybe we sort of develop a mental image of June Cleaver leaning over the white picket fence taking a break from hanging the family clothes on the line on a breezy summer day to chat and catch up with the neighbor.
In effect, "community" has become complicated. We, in our fallen, human nature, have attempted to develop endless strategies to achieve a goal by incorporating the wrong plans. We have strived for this by running full tilt in the exact wrong direction. We have been "trying" and "plotting" and "scheming." And, it all comes up radically short. We become frustrated and disillusioned. Why? Because, as Frazee demonstrates for us, it was never meant to be some sort of a Mount Kilimanjaro to be conquered. Community is much more about the community than it is about us.
Frazee contends that for the most part, community, in the modern sense of the word has undergone an identity crisis. It has morphed into a place where people's insecurity and sin can go and hide and receive enablement without being challenged. It is a safe place to go and receive fuel for your codependency. There is no fear of legitimate rebuke. That is starkly contrasted with the biblical sense of community where Paul took it as his personal responsibility to admonish the apostle Peter when he was clearly behaving improperly (Gal. 2:11-14). Community is to instead be a place where we need one another; where we depend upon one another; where we genuinely care and love one another. It should be a place were we each feel comfortable in our own skin.
Today's independent, consumerist mentality has all but destroyed community according to Frazee. We have a sense that we don't really need each other. And when that happens, we fail to communicate to each other. And when that occurs, we built up impenetrable walls, which separate us and isolate us from our neighbors.
While not everyone will necessarily agree with Frazee about how possible it is to develop community in our day by reversing the trajectory of a decades long mass exodus to the suburbs from the urban areas, but one thing is certain, he makes you really think and re-think our motivations and attitudes. And, that to me is worthwhile. Even if it really isn't possible to latch on to every point that he makes in how to develop authentic community, that doesn't necessarily mean that we cannot attempt many of the helpful insights that he offers to help us develop better fellowship amongst one another and help us grow closer to Christ together.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as well as Zondervan Publishing.
Are people really connecting at our churches? Or are they lonely and unfulfilled? Nationwide attendance numbers tell us something is wrong. Here's a book that makes sense of what is really going on in our society today. There's real help here too to go with his persuasive analysis in terms of what needs to happen in our churches to stem the raging tide.
Mr. Frazee has had over 10 years to work out his ideas since the first edition of this book was released (hence the 2.0). He is only more convinced. We are missing the unity of the early church. Who could disagree with that statement? We lack the community that characterized them. He is also particularly candid in the methods of modern churches, even what I would find fault with-I didn't expect that!
American culture has been high-jacked by individualism. In other words, individual rights trump community, even the Christian community called the local church. Small groups became the rage a few years ago because someone figured this fact out. Individualism has even, says Mr. Frazee, robbed small groups of their real value because we are groups of individuals. The group knows we will hit the road if anything is said, so they say little. Community, then, fails at what it was designed to do.
What's the answer? He says we must shift thinking back to a real understanding of community. There's a common purpose there that we can all rally around and serve the Lord. After he explains just how lonely and isolated we really are. the balance of the book tells us how to implement in our churches.
He speaks so much of a neighborhood approach, called a starfish model, that quite frankly is far beyond our comfort zone. Can it work? Read and decide for yourself. My thoughts-we can glean some real ideas from him without becoming a congregation of multiple house churches. I could never follow him fully, but did he ever give me much to think about. For that, I thank you Mr. Frazee. As a pastor, after reading your book, I feel obligated for Christ's sake and the multitudes of the unconnected to work at community again.
I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.
What can I say about The Connecting Church 2.0? First, I would observe that the "2.0" is not done as a hype statement but as evidence that Randy Frazee has updated and modified his book The Connecting Church. I will confess to this: I never read that one. In all honesty, I had never heard of Randy Frazee before I was emailed this potential book tour.
So, first, who is Randy Frazee? He is the senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. That role was initially Max Lucado's, and now Lucado and Frazee work together, although the general indication is that Frazee handles most of the work. That being said, sometimes old trees produce strong branches and sometimes they rot, so Frazee must of course stand on his own.
I think he does a good job of doing so in The Connecting Church 2.0. The essence of the work is an emphasis on moving back from our over-corporate mentality in American churches and moving back toward a mentality that connects people to people, and people to Jesus.
His effort is excellent. The problem is well-diagnosed: the American Dream leads to a level of individualism that is absolutely foreign to Biblical Christianity. There must be a definite effort to kick back against that result.
The challenge here is finding the right implementation: it could easily become a program for community to help balance the programs that have substituted for it. At which point we'll need another program. The loop will not stop.
However, Frazee's book is a needed corrective on some of our over-building in the American church. While it's not the magic wand for all issues, it's a good start, and would be a good discussion starter among Christians.
I think it is safe to say that we all long for community.
We long for fellow soldiers who know the wounds of war.
We long for family with whom share God's Holy Spirit.
We long for friends who know us, and whom we can know.
We long to be with people who can help us grow, can pray with us, and whom we can serve and help to follow Christ more closely.
We are longing to live within a community of brethren. Think about the word for a moment. Brethren: a lovely term that speaks of a close and brotherly bond. We have fellow church members, family, and neighbors, and yet we are still longing for there to be community. Why, we ask ourselves, does we feel like we are not connecting with them? Why don't we have that community we long for?
The Church in Acts lived out this brethren relationship. And when we read Acts, we want what they have. That is why so many Churches began small groups. It is clear that anonymity of large, modern churches, the lack of relationship between members, the "How dare the Pastor suggest that I don't do that?" are not Christian fruits.
Small groups promised accountability, closeness between people, and shared life. They were a good idea, but small groups are not the ultimate solution. Authentic Community is the answer, community lived out.
This book is about so much....
This book is about our loss of community in our world. Do you have a circle of friends- real friends? When was the last time you shared a meal? Having just read Randy Alcorn's Ollie Chandler series, I can see the importance of friends sharing meals. Most good talk between the characters happened over lunch or dinner. Good friends, nourishing each other with talk and a meal. Simple, but honestly important.
Did you know the suburbs are designed in a way that limits community- and the people in them are designed to need community? Yet everyone comes home, walks into their private yard, and locks the door. You can live beside some one, wave at them while they mow their lawn, and never know them. I have neighbor's on all sides I don't know!
When was the last time you borrowed a cup of sugar? Never? How odd. Yet I would go without or drive to the store rather than ask for a favor.
This book is also about restoring that community with real relationships. As usual, the answers to this longing for community are rather simple, but not easy. Relationships are built and sustained by simple actions that cost a great deal from the one who takes the action.
Have you ever thought that maybe the community we need is right here in our neighborhood among Christian neighbors and those who are not yet believers. I am not surprised to see that the same actions that nurture our families will build community, Be available. Be willing to listen. Be willing to talk. Learn how to be corrected by wiser people when you stray. Learn how to lovingly correct a straying sheep. Share meals. Pray together. Read the word together. Become a people of Growth, Belonging and Serving.
These quiet steps of getting to know our brethren will build up the Body, and we Christians can build a flourishing community with a shared Mission: the Gospel, shared Authority, Traditions, Creeds, and Standards. Those will hold our friendships together and give them Gospel purpose. We will pass these on through making disciples and raising our children to walk in God's ways. When you think of it this way, the early Church was a connecting Church.
The principles here in The Connecting Church are the principles of community.
I am glad I have this book from Cross Focused Reviews.