Caricaturing the church is easy. Thinking up five is so easy you could do it without even so much as a beed of perspiration crossing your forehead. One of the most popular caricatures is to refer to the church as merely one more country club.
To be sure, the country club mentality has harmed a great deal of churches from embracing their part of the kingdom of God. Exclusivity tailored for individual or even group tastes over the call of the gospel is sinful and requires repentance – especially when those tastes become socio-economic barriers to forming a new community in Christ.
Take a step back from the extreme of exclusivity and barrier creation and we can see something entirely different.
You see churches are social groups. They are networks of friends – hopefully on the basis of Christ, but not all start there. The thing about friendship is that it forms with people who either share similar interests or experiences or values. Combinations of one or two or all three can form as well. One more observation on human friendships: we can only have so many connections per person.
Without a doubt churches will become somewhat exclusive just based on the people that are already there because they are already in relationship with one another.
But now we’ve hit a snag with design plan for a church. You see this relationship building worked great when people were born and raised in one community – going off to college and coming back. That’s just now how we do things any more. People move at the drop of a hat and the church is left without whole segments of a generation because of work and play. It’s a very different world.
Now churches that were not really accustomed to evangelism except as a courtesy to new folks in town have to rethink what goes into human relationships. And we aren’t very good at it. At least I’m not. But I am trying to learn.
Currently, I want to rethink the idea of church as a social club or country club, and say yes, we can be a group of friends with a certain degree of exclusivity as long as we have two things: 1) a plan and a practice of making new relationships that last; 2) a plan and a practice for moving people from relationships based on shared interest and experience rooted in hobbies, work, or play to relationships rooted in shared interest and experience rooted in the grace received from a resurrected Lord.