Last week, while we were on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina, we had several opportunities to spend some time at a few waterfalls in the area. We enjoyed stopping by the side of the road and walking the trails to the falls. Usually we only had to walk a few yards into the woods to find the waterfall.
We saw small waterfalls that were only a few feet high, and we saw Whitewater Falls which claims to be the highest waterfall in the eastern United States. We saw cascade falls, tiered falls, and plunge falls. We even saw one fall that was called a “sliding rock” with swimming holes at the top and bottom, although Jeremy and Miranda said the water was too cold for swimming.
All of the waterfalls were different and all of them were very beautiful in their own way. We enjoyed the natural beauty of the water, the sound of the water cascading over rocks or falling into a pool below, and the deep green of the woods around the waterfalls.
However, there was one waterfall did we did not enjoy. In fact, once we stopped to look at the waterfall, we only stayed for a few seconds. Why? The waterfall was not natural. It was a man-made fall. Yes, there was water cascading down over rocks, but above there was an earthen dam that controlled the flow of water. We could immediately tell that there was something different about this fall. Even though it had all the proper ingredients – water, rocks, sound, woods – it was not the same. This waterfall was contrived… controlled… man-made. It was not a real waterfall.
As I have been thinking about these waterfalls, especially in relation to the man-made waterfall, I wonder if our churches are similar. Could it be that many of us are not experiencing real Spirit-created community, but instead are we experiencing something that is contrived, controlled, and man-made?
I’m thinking specifically about alot of “small groups” of people who are placed together because of age, interests, etc. Placing people together does not create community, although it could certainly allow God opportunities to create community. The question is, are we trying to create something, or are we allowing God to create the community. If we are allowing God to create the community, are we giving him complete control, or are we setting limits for him. The more we become involved in trying to create community, the more contrived, controlled, and man-made it will become. It will not be a community that finds their identity in Christ and shares fellowship in the Spirit. Instead, it will be a group of people who find their identity in a certain person, location, time, etc.
I’m sure that the people who created the waterfall wanted to make something that was just as beautiful as the natural waterfalls around the area. In the same way, the people who try to create community themselves are trying to create something wonderful, something necessary. Probably, in many cases, they are trying to create a community because they have experienced and lived in a Spirit-created community. But, man cannot create something that only God can create. We can create something close – something that looks right – something that feels right at times – but it remains contrived, controlled, and man-made.