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I found this book to be... um... lacking in a few major areas, but you do a good job of pulling out some of the best ideas that can be useful. Mostly, though, I found it to be a polemic against small groups and a defense for a desire to avoid intimacy. That said, I do appreciate your ability to see and explain the best features - the descriptions of different spaces of community. Unlike our previous experiences with The Village, we're now facing a very different issue - the fact that we have a group of people starting a new church that are already very connected to other community spaces. Same problem, different side of the equation. Maybe I need to rediscover this book and rethink some of the issues we're facing. Thanks, Duane.


Maybe the polemic against small groups hit home with me because I have never liked small groups and have been ashamed to admit it! To me, small groups always felt forced, and never fostered "intimacy" in the christian-small-group sense. I was much more willing to go deeply into relationship with someone I CHOSE to relate to, which happened on my own terms, in my personal space. The best groups I've been part of, looking back, created a social space where natural relationships could blossom on their own. The other issue related to The Village that caught me was that we "traded spaces" inappropriately. Folks who came to The Gathering were expecting public space...we forced them into social space and perhaps turned some away by doing so. Anyway, I agree that it is sketchy at best, but the core ideas I found very intriguing. Thanks, Steven!


Interesting topic. I just finished leading an 8 week session in Sunday School about community and the "spaces" you describe mesh very well with the "relational spheres" that we discussed. I think that people would be lying if they said that they didn't need other people, however our society is geared toward pursuing independence. My current view of community is a mix of my experiences (good and bad) along with the many discussions we had Duane. There are too many of us "Christians" who talk about church and family and never really know what true community is or intend to discover it. We are so hung up on trying to get to a point that we don't need anyone that we eventually get to the point we think we don't need God either. When was the last time you felt good about borrowing something from your neighbor or friend? No, instead of borrowing the chop saw my friend has I have to go and buy my own. (I usually look at that as a benefit for starting a new project). It's not about the saw though, it's about not wanting to seem vulnerable and weak to my friend (even though that's what I really am). The more I don't need people, the more I distance myself away from community. How do we work against what society teaches and let people know it is ok to need people?

Sean McMains

Duane! Hey, I just came across your weblog via Barry Brake's, and have added you to my Internet reading list. I've further added The Search to Belong to my Real World reading list -- thanks for the suggestion! Issues of community are ones that fascinate and engage me as well, so I'm looking forward to reading through this (even with Steven's more tepid take on it).

Glad to have this channel for keeping up with you.


thanks, sean! good to hear from you, and i look forward to keeping up with you, as well.


Todd -- I really liked what you had to say a month ago about community. (What can I say? Not much time to blog with kids around.)

I've always thought that our American inclination towards individual independence comes from our immigrant roots. You know, "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" kind of thing. This worked well for a lot of immigrant families (mine included). However, most of these families also lived in neighborhoods with people from their own country of origin, and I know (because of stories that have been told in my family) that new immigrants, while pursuing independence, relied heavily on others. We seem to have kept one of these things and lost the other. And like the chop saw you mentioned, I think it correlates with financial independence. For the last two generations, my family has grown more and more financially secure. When your car never breaks down because you can always afford to drive a new one, you don't need help. And if by some off chance your car does break down, there's roadside assitance through your insurance company or AAA. When you can always afford to buy groceries, you don't need help from other people. There's a back up plan for that, too. If you run into trouble you can get food from the government or a food pantry.

As we eliminate the need for others, I think there is a direct connection to eliminating the need for God, too. Afterall, God uses his people to do his work. If we don't need his people, then ultimately we don't need him.

paul soupiset

I really like Joe Meyers. This book is on my side table, ready to read, after I wade through Beyond Foundationalism. Thanks for the words herein.

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