Below is a post from Tim Chester that was originally posted over at the Resurgence blog. Thought-provoking stuff.
I was recently asked to speak on communities of grace. So I got to thinking: What is the opposite of a community of grace? And I came to the conclusion that it's a community of performance. Communities of performance may talk a lot about grace, but they value performance—Christians who have it all figured out, churches that run smoothly, meetings that are accomplished. And so they communicate that what matters is that you perform well.
So is your community a community of performance or a community of grace? Try these diagnostic tests:
Communities of Performance
* The leaders appear to have it all figured out * The community appears respectable * Meetings must be a polished performance * Failure is devastating, because identity is found in ministry * Actions are driven by duty * Conflict is suppressed or ignored * The focus is on orthodox behavior (letting people think they have it all figured out)
Communities of Grace
* The leaders are vulnerable * The community is messy * Meetings are just one part of community life * Failure is disappointing but not devastating, because identity is found in Christ * Actions are driven by joy * Conflict is addressed in the open * The focus is on the affections of the heart (with a strong view of sin and grace)
In performance-oriented churches, people pretend to be okay because their standing within the church depends on it. But this is the opposite of grace. Grace acknowledges that we're all sinners, all messed up, all struggling. And grace also affirms that in Christ we all belong, all make the grade, all are welcome. What Does a Community of Grace Look Like?
Imagine such a church for a moment. Here's Andrew: he sometimes uses porn because he struggles to find refuge in God. Here's Pauline: she sometimes has panic attacks because she struggles to believe in the care of her heavenly Father. Here's Abdul: he sometimes loses his temper because he struggles to believe that God is in control. Here's Georgina: she sometimes has bouts of depression because she struggles to believe God's grace. When they come together, they accept one another and celebrate God's grace towards each other. They rejoice that they are all children of God through the work of Christ. And they remind one another of the truths each of them needs to keep going and to change. It's a community of grace, a community of hope, a community of change.