My in-laws used to say they didn’t want to go to a church that required them to get on a freeway to get to. It was important to them that their church be a part of their community. I used to think this was a little silly, but now I’m not as sure.
I could get up and walk to the homes of at least seven families from our church right now. I imagine there are several more within walking distance, and I just don’t know it. We could drive to the homes of several more families within 15 minutes. If we were ever in need, help could and would be here within minutes.
Plenty of families in our church live a little bit farther away. Several travel about 30 minutes to get to our church on Sunday. Most of them, however, could say the same as me–several families are within walking distance, and help would come within minutes if needed.
So does this mean that we need to be in a church that is physically within our community? Does the answer change if we have community with several other members close by even if we have to drive a bit to get to the weekly worship gathering? Should you be able to walk to church? I don’t know. I’ve heard it said that the way to pick a church is to find the one closest to your home that preaches sound doctrine. I understand that thought, but I don’t know if it’s necessary.
For our first year here in Boulder, we commuted about 40 minutes to a mega-church. Constituency for this particular church comes from everywhere. People drive over an hour each week. Others walk. We left because we just couldn’t find community there either on Sundays or during the week. I don’t have anything against that church. I think good things are happening there and they preach the Gospel. Lots of people who go there find great community. Mega churches reach a different group of people than small churches.
At a business meeting a couple of weeks ago, our pastor made the comment “We’re not afraid to send our best people.” He said this in reference to planting new churches. Our church is a church plant, and part of the church’s vision is to plant more churches. One part of that vision, is to plant a church so that those people driving 30 minutes to get to church on Sunday would have an experience more like ours–minutes away from the church meeting place as well as homes of its members. I’ve not been a part of a church that made this a priority before. It blesses me.
Our church encourages us to be a part of a missional community. We are to live life together, spend time together, be an authentic community that is purposefully missional. While I don’t in any way think there is anything wrong with commuting to church, I think having a missional community within your physical neighborhood makes it easier to live the Gospel. I think in a world where the church is doing what it’s supposed to, everyone has the option of a Gospel community close to their homes. It seems to me that commuting to church may often happen because churches are hesitant to let go of people go plant new churches. I hope to always be part of a church that is willing to give its “best” people away so that more people experience community close to home.