From Community to Commodity

“Expectations of community and true community are never the same thing. You have to get rid of the first to find the second.”

I ran across this quote the other day and for some reason it really convicted me.  It made me consider what it means to practice true community.  As a youth worker, I strive to create a nurturing atmosphere for these types of relationships but somehow it always seems to get watered down into the same consumer-driven programming crud in which most churches find themselves.

For some reason, I always catch myself in leadership team meetings asking things like, “What will youth really enjoy?”  or “How can we be more attractive to today’s teenagers?”

Then it hits me.  I’m no longer talking about a community of faith that requires commitment and sacrifice.  I’m no longer talking about a community of faith that brings life and promises redemption.  Instead, I cease to be a minister and slowly become a salesman…and a bad one at that.  The community that I have been busting my hind quarters to create has been cheapened into a product to sale…and not one of those shiny ones on the shelves at eye-level either.

I’ve allowed the Kingdom of God to slip from community to commodity.

What lessons can we learn from the early church?

Acts 2:42-47

42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

True community happens when each person is out for the better of the other.  When each person is concerned with themselves, “community” becomes a consumable.  Our default in this culture is to be consumers.  We make community into a commodity just as we’ve done with  our Sunday-church-experiences.

43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 

True community is active and demands participation.  When was the last time that the community surrounding your church stood in awe of the ministry you do?  One of the most attractive things about the early church was the passion and purpose with which they served.  True community bears the fruit of the Gospel.

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 

True community involves wholehearted devotion to one another.  Nothing, not even our personal belongings or well-being, gets in the way of our care and support for the Body.  True community becomes less and less about comfort and security and more and more about sacrifice and service.

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 

True community takes practice.  It is not something that magically happens…it’s something that we all must be disciplined to work toward.  As youth workers it is something we must program for.  True community enjoys each others company whenever possible.  There is an authentic atmosphere of anticipation and longing to reunite with the community when members are away.

47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

True community is characterized by a spirit of worship.  There is value found in the communal worship of God.  Heartfelt worship is pursued with reckless abandon.  With the eyes of the community focused on the worship of God, the Lord adds to their number daily those who are being saved.

When have you experienced true community?

What obstacles do we as youth workers have to create true community?

What resources do we as youth workers have to create true community?



  1. Todd,
    Thanks so much for your words. I work in a large church in the suburbs of Richmond VA, where our folks are blessed to have lots of stuff, the one thing they do not have is community. And they all long for it , they desire it and crave it but it is wrapped in words like we want to play more fun games or youth group was more fun when …. The truth is I want to give them a community that is like an Acts 2 community but I do not know how to get pass their understanding of what community is, and get to a true sense of what community is. True community looks like sacrifice for one another but we live in a consumer driven context where we just consume or I feel forced to entertain. I want to give them what they need not what they want, and it just leads to battle after battle. The bottom line is that I feel beat down and frustrated and not real sure what to do next . I believe in my soul I am doing the right thing but I am not real sure what else to do. Any thoughts?

  2. Thanks so much for your comments, Joe!

    I can tell this is a topic close to your heart and it’s a struggle to make forward progress toward true community. Though I do think the principles of the early church community can be carried forward to our context, I hesitate to push the text any further than that. The more I’m in youth ministry, the more I realize there are no magic answers. It’s not as simple as just “doing what the early church did”. Each ministry functions in its own context which is determined by the community characteristics (political, racial, economic, moral, material).

    I suppose for me it helps to think back on experiences when I came into contact with true community. I take those experiences and try to somehow get my youth to experience the same thing (not by doing the same thing but by feeling the same thing). Some of the most intimate times of worship have been in communities when they had nothing, the guitars were out of tune, the drums were off beat, and the service was even in another language!

    Why is that?!

    I think there is something inherently and intensely spiritual about true community. The million dollar question (which we are getting paid far less to answer) is what does that type of community look like in your context.

    Blessings on you and your ministry,

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