Monday, April 17, 2006


The difference between a community and a crowd is connection. If you get a bunch of people in the same room who have no connection to each other, you have a crowd. If you get a bunch of people in the same room, who are connected to each other, you have a community. It is through community that we have our needs met and are able to meet the needs of others. It is through community that the church can be the church.

Building a community that effectively reaches out is a delicate balancing act between familiar and new relationships . There are chasms on either side of a narrow path. On one side, there is the danger of becoming a club; on the other the danger of becoming a crowd.

Danger: Club. Ministries that do not engage in making more disciples of Jesus Christ can become inward focused, resembling a club more than a church. If a church is not intentional about reaching out, a Christian community can easily become an end in itself, instead of a means to an end.

Danger: Crowd. When a ministry reaches out to lost people, but does not maintain an authentic Christian core, it can become a crowd instead of a church. It’s possible to be effective in reaching out to large numbers of unchurched people, but without a sufficient Christian community to assimilate them into, in effect, you’ve just gathered together a greater concentration of darkness, instead of drawing people out of darkness and into the light.

At CTK our mission is to create an authentic Christian community that effectively reaches out. This involves maintaining a healthy balance between “community” and “reaches.” An “authentic Christian community” is what we want to be. “Effectively reaching out” is what we want to do.

A young adult group at one of our Worship Centers had a campout recently that didn’t turn out as planned. As we would hope, these CTKers wanted to make this campout an outreach opportunity (an event with “that”), so they invited unsaved, unchurched friends to join them. One night, several of the invited guests on the trip began drinking alcohol that they had brought with them. Much to the consternation of the retreat organizers, shortly thereafter the tone of the event shifted away from the spiritual conversations that they had planned. The leaders came back very disappointed, but I believe that they learned a couple valuable lessons about outreach events:

• The need for overwhelming force. This is extremely politically incorrect to say, but effectively reaching out requires that there be more cowboys than Indians. The goal is to get “them” on “our” turf, not the other way around. As an example, it may be wiser for a youth group of 5 kids, to try to reach out to a couple unchurched kids, instead of ten. If the group of 5 becomes 15, and now two-thirds of the group are unbelievers, you run the risk of no longer being an authentic Christian community, but instead becoming an unchristian crowd. The time to reach out to ten kids at a time is when you have twenty kids already on board. I personally like at least a 2:1 ratio. Unfortunately for the young adults on this camping trip, they had more like a 1:1 ratio, and things tipped backwards on them. The greater the concentration of darkness, the brighter the light needs to be to dispell it.

• The need for clear boundaries. Effectively reaching out to lost people requires anticipating challenges that can arise “lostness.” Lost people swear, drink, smoke, sleep around, etc. Lost people cannot be expected to behave in a Christian manner. Good leadership anticipates these possibilities and their potential adverse impact on the Christian community. Clear boundaries and expectations for the event (not for their lives necessarily) is one way in which we can continue to maintain an authentic Christian community while reaching out. We don’t keep from reaching out, but we reach out in a “boundaried” way. For instance, when I did youth work in the inner city, we had some very cool events for teenagers to attend (some drew as many at 500 kids at a time). But because of the gang lives that many of them knew we had very clear rules regarding language, dress, weapons, drugs, alcohol and physical contact. While they were on our “turf” they were expected to behave in a way that would not be detrimental to what we were trying to accomplish.

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