Many churches carry the word community in their name but, for many, it is unintentionally ironic. One of the largest church in the US call itself a community church but it is surrounded by a parking lot so large that it requires a shuttle service. Beyond the parking lot are acres of undeveloped land and beyond that one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the area.
A commuter church is filled with people who travel from outside the community to worship. They are attracted by a certain style of music or a dynamic speaker. Church is more of an event to attend than a people assembled.
One family would drive 40 minutes one way to attend Sunday service. They did not know anyone in the church and had no contact with either the church nor the surrounding community during the week.
That type of anonymous worship suits many folks today. Commuting to church and work has created bedroom neighborhoods that lack cultural opportunities and human interaction. This type of isolation has led to decreased involvement in civic activities and the political polarization we see today.
Not all commuter churches are large. Some churches have transitioned from community to commuter as the neighborhood changed. Most members moved away but a remnant return to the old neighborhood to worship. The pastor is usually part-time and lives away from the community in which he preaches. The disconnect between church members and the community leads to continued decline.
A community church is involved in its community. It becomes a center of life and beacon of God's love for it's neighbors. An urban church involved in its neighborhood is an oasis of living water. Jesus said that we are to be His witnesses beginning in our own community (Acts 1:8). Many of these churches (75%) host community service organizations.
Each church can provide a unique approach to interacting with its neighborhood. Whether it's community service, the arts, activism or something else, relationships can be created that will lead to gospel-sharing opportunities.