Wednesday, March 19, 2003

I read this post from Todd Hunter's blog the other day and have been chewing on it ever since.

“We keep trying to make Sunday church into “community” with people driving to these meetings from 20-30 minutes away. We then try to fix this obvious lack of community by adding some form of ‘home group”. Now people drive 20-30 minutes to a second meeting and we fool ourselves into thinking we have created community. [read more]

That, along with some other discussions I've read and been a part of seem to suggest that community is improbable without proximity. That's a strugle for me. Now, I am very open to the thought that I haven't matured to that level yet, but I've got some questions/issues. I'll admit that community along with proximity is highly advantageous because of the unplanned contact that people have with one another, but I don't think that's the whole picture. It seems to me that proximity is being held out as an ideal, but the definition of proximity is in need of attention. Awhile back I read Randy Frazee's book, The Connecting Church, which points in some of the same directions as the "community enhanced by proximity" stream. Frazee, though, idealizes relationships based on proximity in large part as a lost virtue of an earlier time in American life - i.e. "the good 'ol days when people would sit on their front porch, drink lemonade, and talk to the neighbors passing by." I really don't have a problem with that as ideal or even as a model to try to recreate, as Frazee's church in Texas does.

However, I believe that proximity has changed since those days. In the good 'ol days, transportation, entertainment, and communication technologies were not what they are now. Now people don't spend nearly as much time within the zones of the older definition of proximity. But that doesn't necessarily mean that there is no proximity. Cell phones, e-mail, IM, blogs, etc. are newer applications of proximity. The fact that I'm writing these words in Southern California, and someone in Ohio or Canada or South Africa or next door to me will read them is testimony to a new form of proximity. Quite honestly, I've "accidentally run into" people on the internet many miles away and had conversation with them the same way I've "accidentally run into" people in the grocery store. It doesn't mean that this is superior, but it's not necessarily inferior either. Proximity absolutely helps when it comes to community, but we need to be wise to what the changing nature of proximity is. I do recognize that without actual physical proximity, there's a need for more intentionality. But maybe that's just another element of our new reality that we need to accept and deal with creatively, the same way we have to accept and creatively deal with spam in our in-boxes.

To me it boils down to this: I stopped think along the lines of "modernity bad/postmodernity good" or vice-versa a long time ago. It doesn't matter whether postmodernity is good or bad, it just IS and the sooner I figure out how to approach life and taking the gospel to the world that postmodernity has changed, the more effective I'll be at following Jesus. Similarly, whether proximity means living on the same block or across town, people live their lives in a new way. Maybe we need to creatively approach concepts of community with this in mind.

I'm still chewing on this, and I'll be happy to be enlightened by anyone out there who can help sharpen my thinking a bit.

posted by Steve at 9:15 AM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
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victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
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ryan bolger
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sings in the sunshine
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generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
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readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

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