What is a “faith community” after all?

“Faith community” rather than “church.” Why have I — and my Project F-M predecessors — tended to use the former, longer, even clumsy two word term to describe what we’re about? “Faith community” not “church.”

I admit, it’s a bit awkward. When a random person asks what I do these days, I usually pause for some time, trying to figure a way to say it best. Calling myself “a pastor” isn’t right. “Mission Developer,” my official title, is a term very few have heard of. So, after some stumbling, I usually say something like, “I’m helping to lead The Project F-M, a new vision and venture to cultivate a 21st century faith community in Fargo-Moorhead.” Faith community.

I suppose Project F-M folk have used that phrase because it’s not encumbered by the baggage accompanying a term like “church.” People hear “church” and they’ll quickly be thinking any number of different things, but they will surely paint a picture in their minds — stained glass windows, dressed-up people, crying babies, long sermons, whatever. “Faith community” doesn’t bring that baggage with it, which might be helpful.

But “faith community” is also tricky because it doesn’t end up answering people’s questions as to what the Project is actually about. People don’t know what a “faith community” does, or is, or when the community meets, or even: what’s the point? I mean, a monastery, after all, is a faith community. You could argue so are are some yoga studios, family reunions, and even (dare I say it?) Tea Party events.

By calling ourselves a “faith community” we don’t have the baggage of the word “church,” but it seems like we also have a huge task of defining what, in fact, we are. We can’t just be “anti” after all. We’re not an anti-church, or a traditional church by another name. We are The Project F-M. A faith community. A community, striving together, to figure out what we are and should be.

-Adam Copeland (image by Tory Byrne)

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