I totally understand the need for authentic relationships, accountability, spiritual growth, and the need to do life with other people. It’s a high personal value for me and I live it myself.
There are books, seminars, conferences, blogs, and tons of material devoted to the subject. However, most of the concepts don't work as well as promised. Years in the field using the material has given this insight. The reason is simple: community cannot be forced upon people by the organizational efforts of the church – no matter how good our intentions are, and no matter what program we use. You can push the program, pattern your ministry after a certain model, preach it, teach it, raise it as a high value in the church, hire staff to run it, and follow all the steps, but it doesn’t guarantee community will occur. Or discipleship for that matter. What usually happens is that you’ll start off with a big bang, a large number of people will be excited, and eventually attendance slips and participation stops.
In the fourteen years I have served as the senior pastor of PCC I have looked at everything with a discerning eye. I evaluate everything we do with close scrutiny. I listen to other pastors who talk about similar issues in their own churches. That’s my job as an overseer. I know what has worked at PCC and what has not. If there is one thing I have absolutely learned it is this: You cannot force community upon people. When the church attempts to force fellowship (or connections) what you most often end up with is manufactured: faked intimacy, and shallow friends.
Community is birthed organically. It can’t be organized. We must allow it to happen on its own.
The church doesn’t have to continuously provide programs to help people form friendships, experience fellowship (koinonia), and get better connected; they are already doing it on their own. When left alone, people form friendship networks naturally and organically. What the church SHOULD do, however, is to find ways to assimilate itself into these networks that people already have and guide people towards living healthy, whole lives.
I think we get it backwards. We’re trying to assimilate people into the church (through programs) when maybe the church should be assimilating itself into people lives…. right where they live.
I wonder what would happen if we relied less on programs, and in their place taught the value of discipleship and community, and then simply let the Holy Spirit do His work in people's lives… like He as been doing for the last two millennia?