A Field Guide to Genuine Community • Ben Connelly

25 Days & 101 Ways to Move from Façade to Family

July 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-2279-8

I’m surrounded by people at church . . . so why do I feel so alone?

You show up at church every Sunday. You see people you know. You listen to a sermon together. And then you go home feeling just as isolated as you did before. What’s going on?

We all know that a church is supposed to be a community. The trick is to actually make it one. Communities don’t happen by chance—certainly not in our Lone Ranger culture that values independence and individualism. A truly Christian community must be built by intentional practices that allow for deeper connections, centered on the unity that can only be found in Christ.

In A Field Guide for Genuine Community, longtime pastor and discipleship trainer Ben Connelly shows you that the biblical model for community is the family of God. In twenty-five short, practical readings, he takes you beyond the surface and helps you learn to connect with your brothers and sisters as true family members. The church isn’t meant to be a collection of strangers. God intends for you to find a unified and purposeful household where you truly belong.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ben Connelly is Director of Equipping & Planting for the Soma Family of Churches and Saturate, and is currently co-planting Salt+Light Community. In addition to local shepherding, he gets to train everyday disciples, encourage churches and denominations, and help them plant churches. He has co-authored several books, including A Field Guide for Everyday Missions, The Saturate Field Guide, and The Gospel Fluency Handbook. Ben has taught university and seminary classes, and holds degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and Baylor University. He lives in Fort Worth, TX, with his wife, Jessica, and their three elementary-age kids, and at times, short-term foster children as well. www.benconnelly.net.

ENDORSEMENTS

Ben Connelly draws on years of study, practice, and leadership to help church leaders evaluate and reconfigure ministry around distinctly Christian community. Churches are intended to be home in the deepest sense of the word. This book helps us be that.
– Lee Eclov
Veteran pastor, columnist for PreachingToday.com, and author of Feels Like Home: How Rediscovering the Church as Family Changes Everything

For years, I’ve recommended Ben’s writings and resources on missional community to church planters. He’s lived it and has developed some of the best training to help others figure it out in their own context. As someone who works with church planting organizations but also is helping to lead a network of missional communities, this Field Guide is exactly what I need to help everyday Christians experience extraordinary community. It will be the same for you.
– Daniel Yang
Director of the Send Institute

I’m thankful for this book – it demystifies the purpose of Christian community while doing honor to the complexities of it, and centers the grace of God as the unifying and liberating power we need to know it is real. Full of biblical insight and experiential wisdom, Ben Connelly’s Field Guide will help you pastorally understand and pratically implement stronger and more relational closeness in your ministry context.
– Jared C. Wilson
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Midwestern Seminary; author of Gospel-Driven Ministry

CONTENT PREVIEW

In many churches, “community” looks like a small group of people with varying levels of friendship, eating, praying, learning, or laughing together in a living room or classroom. This “community” occurs once a week, for a couple hours at a time. Only 30 percent of American Christians said they were involved in even this type of midweek community that come to people’s minds. The problem with the term “community” is that it can bring to mind almost anything!

Simply put, most people – Christian or not – are involved in multiple forms of community. People connect over their shared love for specific sports teams or events. When a Star Wars movie opens, costumed Chewbaccas and Stormtroopers fill theaters across the world, mutually obsessed with the series. Neighbors come together for the benefit of their kids’ school; fans follow bands on nationwide tours. Book clubs form and dissolve. Bird-watching or train-spotting clubs meet globally.

A recent commercial for a new Facebook group showed a man at a dog park, discouraged by too broad a variety of canines. He receives a “beacon of hope” (said the ad) via Facebook, discovering a community specifically for basset hound owners, which a voice-over declares “more glorious than a million sunsets.”

The examples above are examples of “community” according to our culture. If that’s true, a church is merely one option for “community” among many. And any group within a church – Sunday class, Bible study, missional community, prayer group, or ministry team – is simply another option for “community” within the larger “community.” You get the point. As we bring culture’s view of community into God’s Church, we risk treating God’s people with the same (or sometimes lower) priority as we would a Star Wars premier or a basset hound meet-up. Below are some examples of cultural community that have inched into the church:

  • Affinity-based community: “I choose church community based on a common interest: maybe people I like or live close to, or any number of other shared preferences.”
  • Comfort-based community: “I give myself to others only if the ‘cost-benefit’ ratio stays in my favor. If someone becomes too needy or takes too much time, I opt out, always ‘just for a season.'”
  • Convenience-based community: “I can easily leave one community for another. If someone keeps badgering me about a sin issue I confessed, or if there’s a ‘cooler’ group forming, I’m out.”
  • Stage-based community: “Many churches change my ‘community’ every time life changes. If ‘community’ is formed around being single, I am kicked out and forced to start over with a new community if God blesses me with a marriage. I start over again if God further blesses me with a child. And so forth.”

While affinity-, comfort-, convenience-, or stage-based community are fine in our broader society, they fight the primary image God uses to describe the Church: His family! Think of your own actual family; you do not like the same things as each of your siblings. But you cannot trade your family for another you think is “cooler.” Outside of unhealthy scenarios, you would not walk away from family members in need. And it’s literally impossible for a family to be comprised of a single generation! The family of God described in the Bible is diverse in all these ways. Local churches – expressions of that family – should be too.