Jonathan Dodson at the Creation Project blog has some very helpful thoughts on the type of church communities to which we belong: those whose pattern of church is materialist Western culture, or those whose ecclesiastical pattern is Scripture.
Community of Convenience
The community of convenience assumes perfection. It confuses the church with a product or service, demanding perfect customer service from the community. This person approaches “church” as something that exists to service their personal, familial, and spiritual needs, not as a community love and serve.
The COC begins with consumerism and expects to be served. It believes that the church exists for their spiritual, relational convenience. People who approach church as a COC get upset, angry, and gripe when they don’t get their spiritual or personal needs serviced.
When conflict emerges the COC, on the other hand, simply withdraws or moves on. If the spiritual customer doesn’t receive his service, get his needs met, or get the precise theological package they are looking for, they criticize the leadership, complain to others about the community, and often move down the street to another church to get their needs serviced.
Community of Grace
A community of grace assumes imperfection. It understands that the church is people, people who are broken, imperfect, sinful, people who will complain and hurt one another. A COG begins with forbearance, “bear with one another.” It is others-oriented. It puts up with others that are different, embraces inconvenience. When conflict arises, the COG responds very differently. The COG doesn’t remain at a place of forbearance but moves to forgiveness. The COG doesn’t hold grudges but extends genuine forgiveness towards those who have hurt them.
The COG is characterized by love and grace, but the COC is characterized by selfishness and consumerism. The Church is not a community of conveniences. It does not exist for you to get served. The church is a community of grace that exists to serve one another, to bear with one another, to forgive one another, to love one another! The church is not a perfect product or service with a money back guarantee; it is a community of imperfect people clinging to a perfect Christ who are being perfected by grace.