Church Structures in lieu of Community

plate_xl.jpgI spent the morning with Eugene, who heads up our missional communities at Kaleo.  One of the challenges we've faced as a church centers on discipling people and seeing leaders emerge to give their life to be on mission.  The following idea struck me from our conversation:

We often need structures to overcome our lack of community. 

How can any person's life be changed by attending weekly programs?  Isn't this just a portion of what Willow Creek 'Revealed' in their failure to create meaningful disciples?  And they were THE model for the typical evangelical church.  Kaleo is diving headlong deeper into life-on-life mission to San Diego.  Recently a sermon was preached where we outlined part of what this may look like:  (This is a summary of the message preached 11/4)

Kaleo Community Covenant

We promise to honor one another, be members of one another, live in harmony with one another, build one another up, be like-minded towards one another, accept one another, care for one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind to one another, forgive one another, abound in love towards one another, comfort one another, encourage one another, stir one another up to love and good deeds, confess our sins to one another, be hospitable to one another, greet one another, fellowship with one another, submit to one another while not passing judgment on one another, not provoking one another, not envying one another, not hating one another, not slandering one another, and not bearing grudges against one another.

We do all this because Christ has loved us in each of these ways and this frees our hearts to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34).

Again, this requires that we re-think a lot of things such as where we live, our patterns of life, how 'ministry' is done.  But all of us long for this type of community. 

  • Keith Watson

    November 29, 2007, 5:48 pm

    Good stuff, Drew. We are headed there, but as a chuch plant who hasn’t even started weekly we are miles behind you – good for us, we’ll be watching you!

  • Darby Livingston

    November 30, 2007, 10:09 am


    I’ve wrestled with the same issues as you addressed here. When we planted Come As You are Fellowship, we expected that community would flow from the gospel. As we created our cell group leader training material, I argued that though community is created by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, and is overseen and served by elders and deacons, there is a need to structure community on earth that we will not need in Heaven. Here are my reasons:

    1. The church is missional – yet to enjoy the fullness of the age to come
    2. The church is immature – yet to understand the nature & fullness of true love
    3. The church is militant – yet to finish its struggle against Satan & sin
    4. The church is mixed – yet to be cleansed of false professors

    Those concerns are what led us to refine and nurture our cell group/ celebration structure. While I can only imagine how natural community will flow in Heaven, we simply cannot enjoy it that way on fallen earth. Structure is required, and therefore should be part of any church’s expectations. Just my two cents.

  • D. Goodmanson

    November 30, 2007, 10:29 am

    Darby – Agreed. I’m not saying we should not have ANY structure, just much of church structure/programs is to overcome a lack of community, particularly in the discipling/development areas. I’m working on my next post which will outline the structure we are moving toward.

  • Darby Livingston

    November 30, 2007, 10:40 am

    I agree with your last statement as well and look forward to your next post. I am encouraged by all the thinking in this area.

  • Keith Watson

    November 30, 2007, 12:13 pm

    Drew, I agree. Programs have not only replaced community, but also process. Discipling is a process. And the best place for the process to take place is in community. It seems that was the way Jesus built disciples and in turn it seems to be the way that the 1st disciples multiplied.

  • Brian T

    December 3, 2007, 3:51 pm

    Drew et al,
    Something that is clear from the Willow Creek “Reveal” study that is never mentioned is that they found their congregants unable to “feed” themselves spiritually. While I agree that adding programs is not a solution and that 1st century practice suggests organic community and discipleship as process, part of the limited structure or leadership or discipleship process (whatever name we want to give it) should include things like: how to pray, how to read the bible yourself, etc. (basic Cx disciplines that seem to have gone the way of the buffalo). And this could/should be done in community so that we learn from one another’s experiences.

  • Jeremy Pryor

    December 4, 2007, 6:58 pm

    One of the reasons we’ve failed so badly at discipleship is that mis-categorize it.

    We think –

    – Discipleship is Teaching (sermons and sunday school classes)
    – Discipleship is Mentoring (one-on-one pairing up)
    – Discipleship is Support (community)

    Our success with discipleship increased exponentially when we realized simply that discipleship is training.

    It sounds simple but I’ve never seen a church actually treat discipleship in that manner. There are elements that are always true of training –

    1. There’s a clearly defined process
    2. There’s a defined outcome
    3. It’s repeatable
    4. It’s personal
    5. It’s hands on
    6. It requires practice on the learners part
    7. Its best done in a defined group
    8. The trainer is skilled and prepared

    When we ask people to describe a training experience they’ve had that was effective we list lots of elements that everyone knows and has experienced but NOT in the church.