Community vs. Communitas


I have a sense of accomplishment today – I finally finished one of the four books that I have been reading!  Sometimes I can’t keep myself from starting a new book that someone gives me or suggests to me even though I haven’t finished the other ones I am reading.  However, I spent some time this afternoon and finished up The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch.

Upon finishing, the vision that God has laid on my heart to plant a church that is a group of people on mission together to the community has been reinforced.  One idea in particular that drove me to deep thought was his discussion of community vs. communitas.  A rough definition of both terms: Community – a group of people connected together.  Communitas – a group of people who are connected together with a cause.  Probably the best way to describe it is with a story/movie that many are familiar with.  The Fellowship of the Ring, by Tolkien is the story of a group consisting of an elf, a dwarf, some humans, a wizard, and some hobbits working together with a common cause.  At the beginning they were an eclectic group of creatures.  Throughout the journey they grew into a communitas.  With the onslaught of danger and adventure, they formed a band who trusted in one another and in the mission they were all trying to accomplish.  In the same way, Hirsch argues that the church should function similarly – a group of people going through life, facing adventure and danger, all the while working on a common cause, sharing the gospel of Christ by loving the people of our world.

What does that look like?  In my own understanding it looks like people who are on mission together to make a difference in people’s lives, to genuinely love others, to stand up for the rights of people all over the world, to fight against poverty, injustice, and all forms of evil.  It is not enough for the church to be a group of people who huddle together on Sundays, but the church needs to be intentionally on mission together, actively engaging the culture, experiencing communitas, not simply community.  Hirsch argues that this takes place when God, the church, and the community all intersect.  It might just be food for thought, but I know I want my family to experience communitas and not just community.



Thanks for the review Chris… Never read that particular book, but I’ve heard that term ‘communitas’ thrown around quite a bit, and never really knew what it meant!

I really like that distinction between people who are just somehow connected, and people who are connected with a purpose. We really resonate with the idea that “fellowship” does not mean just getting together and hanging out, but being focused on reaching the world with God’s love.

Interestingly enough, it seems like there are also a lot of people who are latching onto the whole “missional” idea, but don’t seem to be able to keep it within the context of the cross…. To us, being concerned for the poor, human rights, and other social issues, is all well and good, but if the message of the cross gets lost in all the humanitarian energy, then what’s the point in the end? Anyways, looking forward to what think of the other three books, haven’t read two of those either…………


It is exciting to hear your vision for this church plant. I have heard about this book before. I just might have to read it above and beyond the call of my theolgical study duties.