This weekend, the community of faith I am a part of had a community garage sale to raise money for a friend of ours in need. It was a LONG weekend, but a really good one. In fact one of the best in the six+ months our little band of friends has been gathering. It was a good one because the garage sale was a beautiful glimpse into what the early church must have been like. Here we were, a group of friends committed to each other, hawking our junk for a small profit all in the names of compassion and generosity. It wasn't easy – we must have spent at least 15 hours or so together (most of that in the 100-degree heat). But it was good. In fact it was probably more fulfilling that any other church experience I have ever had. And for the past 24 hours I have been trying to figure out why.
The best answer I can come up with is that I experienced a deeper committment than I have ever experienced before from those I "church with". See, I have seen a deep committment to each other before inchurches I have been a part of, but usually that committment was really to the institution of the church. People committed themselves to the organization, much like they would a country club, a home owner's association, a political party, or a fraternity. In our community, there is no formal organization to commit ourselves to – no institution to make sure "survives" year-after-year, no "we-will-do-anything-to-make-sure-we-succeed" organization to buy into. Our community is a bunch of friendships connected to each other by a collective interest in the ways of Jesus. Our committment is to Jesus and to each other. We are discovering the beauty of such a thing.
I wonder if that is a major reason that the church seems to be impotent in America. I wonder if we are leading people to commit themselves – their finances, their talents, their time – to an organization. I wonder how the average American must view that. I wonder if the average American misses Jesus in the church because he's clouded by organization. I wonder if giving is perceived as dues. I wonder if "congregational meetings" are seen as council meetings. I wonder if evangelism is seen as recruitment. I wonder if meeting community needs are seen as dutiful philanthropy.
We wonder why Americans have trouble finding passion about their faith.