Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Path to Community

Believe - Behave - Belong

For a long time, churches have operated with this process to assimilate new members. To be a part of a church, the first step a person had to take was to subscribe to believing the doctrinal statement of that church. If a person had doubts or differences on various things, large or small, it would cause a huge hurdle to belonging. An elder or deacon board could even deny a person membership to a church for not believing the right things. As a result, people learned that to belong, they would have to cross all the right belief T's ... or at least pretend like they did.

Once a person consented to believing the right things, then they would have to behave a certain way to achieve belonging. In some cases, they would have to renounce movies or alcohol or wearing jeans on Sundays or swearing or smoking. At one church I am familiar with, a man had to quit his job as a casino security guard before he was allowed to join the church. Once again, people had to act a certain way ... often faking it ... so that they could be a part of the church.

The result of this approach is inauthenticity and judgmentalism. The people on the outside wanting to get in are guilted into hypocrisy by putting on their Sunday best and pretending like they've got it all together and have all the answers. The people on the inside get to pass judgment on who is or is not worthy of membership based on people's ability to conform to some external standards or their ability to articulate an approved belief system. Either way, the path to belonging is easy thwarted.

Belong - Behave - Believe

At Vintage, we are trying to invert this order. While we are not the church for everyone, we are a church for anyone. A person doesn't have to agree with everything the pastor says to be a part of our community. Nor does a person have to be free of doubts and questions to be accepted, loved, and included. For us, it's not about who is in and who is out. We see ourselves as a community of people on a journey, trying our best to follow Jesus together. We want to affirm anyone who is on that path, regardless of how far down the trail she may be.

Don't take this to mean that we don't think theology or discipleship is important. Quite the contrary. We think it is very, very important to understand and clearly articulate what we believe. We are trying to help people wrestle with their doubts and grow in their faith. And we think it's very important that people live according to the example of Jesus - with love, grace, justice, and truth. We are trying to give people the tools and opportunities to walk in Jesus' steps.

We know that our approach makes things messier sometimes. But we're ok with that. We're convinced that when people find a community of friends to live life with, a church to belong to, they will be able to best experience the grace and truth that will develop them into the people God wants them to be.

The Vision of Vintage Fellowship:
Because of Jesus’ grace in our lives, we at Vintage Fellowship belong to him and each other, becoming more like him, so that we can behave like he would, helping others to believe in him too.

Vintage Fellowship is an emerging church in Fayetteville AR.
visit Vintage online



Jasmine said...

Well said Robb.
I am happy to know you!

Annie said...


Brooks Morris said...

The very reason I attend Vintage! Well said sir!

klasieprof said...

Geat post. Some reason though I just want to shit....and why did it take so long for people to get this.
Warts and all dude, warts and all.

whew. good stuff.