The Paradox of Community

The Paradox of Community

Why church members often run from community despite their attraction to it

In a book called The Different Drum, M. Scott Peck suggests that while we want intimacy, we often run from it. Perplexing, isn't it? We want to be honest and open, but we are not willing to risk being ourselves in a group of sisters and brothers.

As an example, let's say that Greg is upset over his teenager's recent experimentation with smoking pot. He wants help to sort out his feelings but is reluctant to say so. Brandy notices Greg's ambivalence when he tells the group he had a "routine week." But when Brandy inquires, "You sure you feel okay today, Greg? You seem a little down to me," Greg answers, "No, everything is going fine, really!" Unable to be honest, Greg fools only himself and agonizes in his own silent world.

If and when we are honest with ourselves, we know we need other people. While the rugged individualism of our time surely runs counter to this reality, there are additional issues that we often overlook. Here are four factors that influence our paradoxical need for, and fear of, community.

The Issue of Confidentiality

Lack of trustor the issue of confidentiality—is one factor that helps us explain this push/pull paradox. Fear of exposure can prevent people, particularly those who live in small towns and rural areas, from joining koinonia groups in the first place. Grapevine communication is so pervasive in many small communities and rural areas that people guard themselves against revealing personal information with virtually anyone. Why should we in the church expect to be any different from the community at large in risking self-disclosure?

Overcoming such a deeply ingrained and often well-founded fear is not an easy accomplishment ...

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