A Community Is Not a Club

For this morning’s exhortation I want to remind us that there is a difference between a club and a community. A club and a community are not the same. 

Now, I should say, there’s a pastor in New York named Tim Keller and he’s the one who first helped me understand the difference here. He got my wheels turning on this. And then this past Thursday I was with some college students from Campus Outreach discussing the topic of the local church, and this part came up, and since then I’ve become convinced that we as a church need to be reminded of this — the difference between a club and a community. 

A club is a group of people who have one thing in common, but the one thing does not (and should not) impact other areas of life. The one thing that clubs have in common are what we call affinities or hobbies. The college students I was talking with could name several examples: Stamp collector’s club, Spanish club, history club, rock-climbing club, book club, model-railroading club. It’s when one thing is held in common by everyone involved, but that one thing does not (and should not) impact other areas of life. 

A community though, is a group of people who have one thing in common, and that one thing does (and should) impact other areas of life. It’s meant to have a bigger personal impact. And the truest of communities is when the one thing held in common impacts not just other areas of life, but it impacts every area of life. In fact, when we’re talking about true community, there is no area in your life that it does not touch. In true community everything is affected by the one thing held in common by the group of people. Which says something pretty amazing about the one thing held in common. 

For one thing to impact every area of life for a whole group of people means that the one thing has remarkable authority. And ultimately then, the community exists to say less about themselves and more about the remarkable thing that brings them all together. 

Okay, so the truest of communities happen when Jesus is that thing. Because really, only Jesus has that kind of authority. Only Jesus has the right and the goodness to reach through and change every part of who we are. And he does that to us through us. 

To the extent that we don’t let that happen, we treat this thing more like a club than a community. And for that, we should repent. Let’s pray.

Prayer of Confession

Father, we confess that too often we have treated the gospel of your Son more like a hobby than the source of life-changing power. You have given us grace to change all of who we are, but we have boxed it up like a board-game and stuck it on a shelf. We have oriented toward your church as if she were a preference, or a menu item, or an accessory to our already busy lives. And for that, Father, we repent. Forgive us, please, for how we have dishonored Jesus by belittling his church. And change us, please. We confess that Christian community is meant to say less about the Christians who are joined, and more about the Jesus who joins us. So do that in us, we pray, by your Spirit, and leads us now as we confess our sins to you in silence.