One of the best books out there on community is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. It often gets looked over for more recent books, but Bonnhoefer’s work is rich with insight on the implications of the gospel for Christian community.
I thought this sections was particularly insightful for church planters:
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is like to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams…Every human wish dream that is injected into Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself…
God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered common life with them…[So] we thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather than God for what He does give us daily…
When the morning mist of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.
Planters are visionaries. They have to be. Planters have to look at a lost community and envision a church that could reach them. The problem is when your vision for your community trumps the community that the Gospel actually creates.
Don’t let your dreams ruin your community. Don’t let the church you’ve planted in your head spoil what God actually gives you.
Thanks to @spenceshelton for turning me on to this book.