Community Idolatry

Will Walker and I are hard at work on a follow-up study to The Gospel-Centered Life which will be published next year by our friends at New Growth Press. This new study looks at how the gospel reshapes our involvement in community. Below is a chart from one of the lessons, exploring how our heart idolatry gets expressed in the context of community. Maybe you’ve heard (or said) some of these things before? (Walker posted this chart on the Providence blog last week).

The reason our attempts at community are often shallow, stale, and unfulfilling is that we have made community about ourselves. Perhaps we could call this “community idolatry.” Instead of worshiping God, we worship idols. We jump into the vehicle of community and use it to chase our own false gods. The chart below outlines some of the ways our idolatry plays out in community.

Heart Idol Underlying Desire

What it often sounds like in a “Christianized” or church setting…


I want a community that always approves of me and never challenges my opinions or preferences “Can’t we all just get along? Why do we have to talk about issues that bring disagreement or conflict?”


I want a community that meets on my schedule, fits my priorities, and doesn’t make demands “I’d love to be in community, but I’m really busy, and nothing really works with my schedule…”


I want a community that thinks highly of me “I DO repent of sin, in my own personal life; I just don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about it in a group setting.”


I want a community that’s successful – where we’re making progress and ‘getting stuff done’ (according to my criteria) “This community feels like a waste of time. We’re not accomplishing anything!”


I want a community where I am safe, secure, and never threatened

“We need to spend more time together, so we can really grow deep and feel safe with each other…”


I want a community that’s always fun and enjoyable and doesn’t take any work “Meeting every Tuesday night seems really forced. Why can’t we just hang out spontaneously?”


I want a community that gives me a platform to share everything I know “We don’t study the Bible enough in this group; we should talk less about people’s lives and more about Scripture.”


I want a community where I can ‘stand out from the crowd’ and be recognized for the awesome person that I am “I’ve led groups like this before… would you like me to lead this one?”


I want a community made up of my already-existing friends, where I don’t have to work to get to know anyone “I tried to join a community group, but the relationships just weren’t natural; we didn’t have much in common…”

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