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Christian Community: Theology, not a Pragmatic Structure

I live in two worlds. On the one hand, I read theologians who ask big sweeping questions about God, what God is doing in our world and the call to be God’s people. On the other, I’m always wrestling with what it means to be the church in this day and how do we actually do that? I get concerned because it seems that most of the energy in the church is spent on the pragmatic questions of what we do we as church leaders. We talk a lot about How do we get people connected? What is the latest strategy for closing the back door? How do we mobilize people for outreach? These are important questions. Don’t get me wrong.

But are we so focused on the pragmatics of ministry that we fail to think much about what we are doing?

The focus on pragmatics seems to be at center stage in small group talk. Yes there are the introductory chapters in the primary small group vision texts that speak to why we should be doing community. But then 75% of the books focus on pragmatics. We all need to here the challenge to think theologically about not just why we do groups but also how we do them. Recently, Bill Search, author of Simple Small Groups told me how we need new conversations about the theology of community. I agree. Community 101 by Gilbert Bilezikian helps, but we need to help our people see a way of thinking about community so that it might penetrate how we live. It’s got to move beyond just another strategy for doing church.

In other words, we need to go deeper than the question: What is working? That question reveals that we are basing our ministry on a theology of pragmatism. There are a lot of things that can and do work in the church that have no foundation based in good theology. This is the reason I write. (Click here for a little background on why I wrote each of the books I have.) I am called to ask questions beyond that of what works, while at the same time not ignoring the practical questions either.

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M. Scott Boren is a Teaching Pastor at Woodland Hills Church in Saint Paul, MN and consultant who partners with The Missional Network (www.themissionalnetwork.com). He has written and co-written eight books, including Introducing the Missional Church, Missional Small Groups and MissioRelate. He share life with his bride, Shawna, and their four children, all under the age of eight. He can be reached at his website: www.mscottboren.com.