If there’s one thing that the doctrine of the incarnation makes abundantly clear, it’s that location matters.
This past Sunday, I was at a meeting with some homegroup leaders in our church where each of us spoke about notions we had for the coming year. When it came time for me to talk about our little group of West End folk, I talked about wanting to center our group in the practices of vulnerability, prayer, and communion. Why I chose these (or rather had them chosen for us) is another story for another time.
Also on the agenda was talk of whether or not to “promote” these groups within our broader church body, so I closed my monologue by saying that we didn’t really want to advertise our group because we only wanted people involved who live within walking distance. I said that “community is pretty much impossible without geographical proximity.”
Well, there was some shifting in the chairs, some nervous glances, as I know that this made us the odd ones out. (I’m getting increasingly used to that.) This is an idea that we don’t often think about in our hyper-mobile culture. Normally I would want to talk about these issues in depth, but I’m going to take a concise approach for a change, with the following reasons why I believe that geographical proximity is crucial for discipleship:
- This one should be a no-brainer: it is impossible to have neighbors to love when you’re always on the go to destinations outside your neighborhood.
- It allows for organic connections outside of weekly meetings. A weekly meeting trying to serve for all of the functions of community is inherently dysfunctional.
- It allows us to care for our neighbors as a group rather than feeling the burden of “going it alone.” I would not be surprised if that perceived burden is what so often keeps us from following our conscience and helping our neighbors.
- It cuts our dependency on oil products for community building. This is a good thing, because oil usage is problematic for reasons of sustainability, environmental care, and sheer economic realities.
- It keeps us more available to one another.
- It promotes stability in resistance to our hyper-mobile, community-destroying culture.
I could probably come up with more, but that’s a good collection.