The Secret Ingredient

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
African kitchen 300x225

I was on a community prayer walk recently, and I noticed something funny. Not "ha ha" funny, but the kind of funny that really makes you think. What I noticed was a bunch of individuals walking down the street. Even though there were lots of people walking around, there were very few people who acknowledged that they were in any sort of community with other people. As I tried to make eye contact with people so that I could give them the nod (which has replaced the need to actually say "hello" to each other), I found very few of them that would even look in my direction. I know what you're probably thinking... since I was on a prayer walk, it was probably my vocal prayers for the heathens and the stack of tracts in my hands that made people turn away from me. But that wasn't the case! It was the kind prayer walk where we walked in two's and three's and prayed quietly under our breath. To other people also walking down the street, I would have been just some other guy walking down the street too. I didn't expect people to stop and start random conversations with me, but it was clear to me that there is little sense of true community in our communities today. Unfortunately, this is also true of many of our church communities today. While we meet on Sundays and do our little nods at each other, and tell each other how 'blessed' our lives are, we still lack the kind of connections that Jesus talked about in John 13:34-35...

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Blake Coffee of Church Whisperer shared on this topic recently in his post The Fabric of Your Church, pointing out churches that lack teaching on this subject often lack a sense of community. He continues by stating that breaks in churches happen where there is a lack of relationships.

For example, if there are no relationships between generations in your church (i.e., the older generation and the younger generation don’t mix much), then a generation-oriented issue (such as music in worship) could easily divide that church.

Blake discusses how important strong relationships are the key to building a strong church...

The church is much more than just a collection of people. It is the relationships among those people. Those relationships will dictate the effectiveness of that church and its mission.

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of going on a mission trip to Kenya and Uganda. On this trip, one pastor showed me what he referred to as a typical African kitchen (pictured above) while we were visiting the homes of some of the people in his congregation. This kitchen was nothing like the fancy, appliance-stocked kitchens that I was used to back home. It was a simple metal shack with three stones for the pot to rest on over the fire. I certainly was simple, but this place was much more than a luxury-free place to cook food. This pastor told me that in the evenings the entire family (and often other neighbors) would come sit around the fire together, throw some food in the pot to cook, and talk. That's right... talk... I couldn't help but to think about how this contrasts the dinner time routines of most families back here in the much more 'advanced' Western world. More often than not, we seem to miss this element (or secret ingredient) even in our own families, let alone in our churches and communities. Is this what is missing in our society? Has our individualized, microwave-fast culture led us into a lack of relationship with each other? Our family tries to make a point of simply sitting at the table together at least a couple of times each week (we often fail at meeting this goal). But even when we do, we still seem to lack the kind of relationship-building time that I witnessed in a place that literally has nothing. How can the church lead the way in changing the culture from an individualistic society by being the example that Jesus called us to be? Are building strong (and real) relationships that important to you in your Christian walk? Why (or why not)? What can and should we be doing different?

Artwork and post by Dan King of