A Tale of 2 Churches: What Different Cultures Can Learn From Each Other

Last spring, a pastor from Grace Church was speaking to the congregation at Vision Ministries (Allendale, SC). He had these words of encouragement for them, “We know that Allendale has something to offer to Greenville. This is a mutually-beneficial relationship.”

When I compared the sizes, resources, and staffing of Grace and Vision, I didn’t understand how the phrase “mutually-beneficial” was true. I knew it could be true. I wanted it to be true, and it should be true. But at that time, I really didn’t get how it was true.

I think I got it now. What these two cultures can offer each other has nothing to do with what we have or do, but with who we are. Vision can teach Grace about community, while Grace can teach Vision about growth.

The Allendale Community

At Grace, we like to think that we do community well, and we in fact do. The staff works hard to get people in Community Groups, and get shepherded and nurtured through crises. And after a baby is born, members often get days (or weeks) worth of meals.

But in Allendale, community is not just about crises and resources. It’s a way of life. For most of this area, interdependency is not another option; it’s required for survival. As one friend here told me, “When I was growing up, if we had meat and our neighbor had potatoes, together we had stew.”

Additionally, time is not measured in minutes and hours, but in the extent of the emotional connection made when people are together. It’s not uncommon for a simple breakfast to turn into a Three-Hour Meal. Or for a minivan-load of friends to take a two-hour road trip to go to Wal-Mart or Lowe’s (since Allendale is in The Middle of Nowhere.)

When was the last time you had a carload of friends take a day-long road trip together? When was the last time you were heading to the grocery store, and asked a neighbor to join you?

Isolation Isn’t an Option

Those who live in middle-class suburbia should take note. While it’s easy to think that the poverty-class has a lack of resources, those in this culture have a plethora of skills and resources that are just different than what we’re used to. Most particularly, people in this culture has the ability to quickly form deep relationships.

For someone in the middle class, acquiring more space is a typical goal. We want bigger houses, on more land, farther from other people. Yes, we come together, but on our choosing.

In the poverty-class, isolation isn’t an option. People need each other for physical and emotional support, and they can be quick to share what little they have.

We are built for community. God Himself (in the Trinity) exists in perfect community. Being created in His image, we have the same innate hard-wiring.

How dependent are you on community? Do you have community that nourishes your soul, or is it another “nice option” in your life?

I’m thankful for Vision Ministries and other people in Allendale, that model and teach me about community. Of course, this isn’t a one-way street. Be sure to read what Greenville can teach Allendale.

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  1. Salkehatchie Stew: Celebrating Our Stories « Mission: Allendale - February 21, 2012

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