Over in another forum, I was reading a lament about starting an affinity group for Christians. For those who don’t know that term affinity, it means people in the group share something in common. Harley Davidson riders, parents who had a child die, board gamers, survivors of sexual assault, fans of the TV show Firefly—get two people together who share a commonality, and you can have the start of an affinity group.
Except the writer of that forum post was in full lament. In his case, he had a hard time getting groups to work. There was prayer time to consider, worship to plan, Bible study…
Now hold on there!
I don’t know what it is about Evangelical Christianity, but there’s this rampant thinking—perhaps a remnant of the sacred/secular split mentality—that for something to be fully Christian, Christians MUST add layers of obvious Christian practice over the top. There must be the sanctification of the secular.
Look, no matter where Christians go, we are the Church. By definition. Also, it’s almost always the case that when Christians get together, we act like Christians organically. (If we must be cajoled into being Christians, then a deeper problem exists.)
I know this sounds antispiritual on the surface, but nothing kills real practice of the Faith deader than dead than forcing it on people. An overweening sense of duty doth not a vibrant faith make.
Which is why so many Christians’ efforts to launch affinity groups fail. We try to Christianize the hell out of them.
But there’s only a need to Christianize an assembly if one goes into it with a mentality that there’s nothing inherently spiritual about a half dozen people getting together to do something they enjoy or that brings them comfort.
That thinking is lunkheaded, though. It not only drives away people, it explains why something as simple as a half dozen people getting together to share an enjoyment of comic books suddenly feels burdened by all the Christianese that must be added so as to make it a Christian comic book fan group.
My experience is this: If you want to run an affinity group as a ministry, don’t. Your thinking is wrong from the start. Don’t treat it as a ministry, even if it is. Thinking about the group as a ministry will only taint it.
The only factor you must include is to let the group breathe. Let it do that thing for which it exists. If prayer happens because someone wants it, then pray. If you need to anchor a holy moment in Scripture, then do it when that need arises and the timing is right, but don’t ramrod it.
The more we feel compelled to do such and such spiritual activity during a simple get-together of likeminded people, the more we run the risk of driving that get-together into the ground.
Where Christians are, Christ is. We don’t need more than that. And it’s high time we believe that to be the truth.
Let’s stop “complexifying” the Christian life and adding millstones around people’s necks. Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden light. C’mon, folks, let’s cut the endless burdens we keep adding to life. Or else we may wake up one day and find we are not living at all.