As I read chapter 1, I found Will McRaney’s seperation of “relationship” and “community” a new and somewhat refreshing point of view. It is true, as he points out so well, that all of Scripture demonstrates God’s desire for relationship. In comparing world religions, Christianity is the only one that shows deity pursuing mankind. That is a significant point that provides a framework for understanding God’s character.
Then, by identifying community as the place where those in relationship with God gather, McRaney makes a distinction I had not heard before. I had always viewed it as though man was in community with God but McRaney is right, man is in relationship with God and community with fellow believers.
Relationship brings strength and character to community. It is the reason we can take such a diverse group of people and see them experience true bonds of community. It is their relationship with God that enables them to develop strong relationships with one another and a community that demonstrates His love to a world searching for meaning.
How does this effect the way we do evangelism? I think it gives us focus and perspective. While we certainly need to welcome and accept everyone, we need to remember that providing a warm and friendly place to belong does not signal an end to our responsibility. We have to make sure that we follow through and focus on every person in our midst having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.