More from my talk to the Evangelist’s Conference.
Is your community a community of performance or a community of grace? Try these diagnostic tests …
|Communities of Performance||Communities of Grace|
|the leaders appear sorted||the leaders are vulnerable|
|the community appears respectable||the community is messy|
|meetings must be a polished performance||meetings are just one part of community life|
|identity is found in ministry||identity is found in Christ|
|failure is devastating||failure is disappointing, but not devastating|
|actions are driven by duty||actions are driven by joy|
|conflict is suppressed or ignored||conflict is addressed in the open|
|the focus is on orthodoxy and behaviour (allowing people to think they’re sorted)||the focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)|
In performance-oriented churches people pretend to be okay because their standing within the church depends on it. A ‘sorted’ person is seen as the standard or the norm, and anyone who is struggling is seen as sub-standard or sub-Christian. In this kind of environment to acknowledge that you’re struggling with sin is difficult and distressing.
But this is the opposite of grace. Grace acknowledges that we are all sinners, we are all messed up people, all struggling, all doubting at a functional level. But grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome, all are Christians (there are no lesser Christians).
Imagine such a church for a moment. Here is Andrew: he sometimes uses po rn because he struggles to find refuge in God. Here’s Pauline: she sometimes has panic attacks because she struggles to believe in the care of her heavenly Father. Here’s Abdul: he sometimes looses his temper because he struggles to believe that God is in control. Here’s Georgina: she sometimes has bouts of depression because she struggles to believe God’s grace. When they come together they accept one another and celebrate God’s grace towards each other. They rejoice that they are all children of God through the work of Christ. And they remind one another of the truths each of them needs to keep going and to change. It’s a community of grace, a community of hope, a community of change.