In the past, wherever I have attended church, I have noticed visitors who come and go. They come to check out the church and the people, perhaps return for a few visits, and then never come back. What’s going on?
When unchurched or de-churched people visit a church, they are privately, and even, subconsciously assessing whether an authentic community is present. People want to be a part of a community where they can fit in. If they can’t find this, they will look elsewhere. This is why there are so many Christians today who are un-churched or are de-churched.
Perhaps they would rather stay at home and find personal and private ways to express their Christian faith and spirituality; but deep inside, most people long to be part of an authentic community. People need other people to journey together in some manner. The sad thing is that most churches lack a conducive environment that allows for a creation of authentic community. When people do visit a church to check it out, if in their self-assessment there is not much potential for him/her to experience authentic community for themselves, it’s not likely they will return. Even if the worship music, Christian education, or the coffee before/after the service are excellent, it will still not be enough to keep them attending church. These things are great to have going in a church, but they are not what attracts people to commune together. It is authentic community that human beings are drawn to.
We talk about community but what is this thing we call “authentic community”? To me, authentic community is:
- having real friendships where you have things and interests in common;
- a feeling of being a part of something bigger than who you are;
- a feeling of being accepted for who you are;
- a feeling of having a common belief and mission or purpose that they can personally contribute to.