The Wisdom of the Community: Stay With Us


I just read something in Seth Haines’ Coming Clean that I wish I had read last week. I was interviewed a few days ago for a documentary on the church — including why even believers are leaving it. I said what I had to say and will have to trust that it might be useful to someone, if it even makes the final cut.

But just now I read the following sentence from Haines’ book about his overcoming addiction — in his case alcohol, though he claims most all of us have one. He is recounting the help he is receiving from other believers. “When I’m sober-minded, I can hear the wisdom of my community and can lean on its strength.”

I wish I had read that before being asked about my views of the church. (Yes, plural “views” — I have more than one and they do not all agree with each other.) If so, I would have shared it in the interview.

When I’m sober-minded, I can hear the wisdom of my community and can lean on its strength.
— Seth Haines

We think of wisdom as being a quality of individuals — he or she is wise, knowing what is important and what is not and living accordingly. But Haines’ sentence reminds us that wisdom is actually collective, an accumulation of insight into life and into God that accrues throughout time and is dispersed through gatherings of folks and preserved by them together. As individuals, we can avail ourselves of this gathered wisdom or we can rely instead on the thin gruel of our own supply.

I would have said, during the interview, that the church is perhaps God’s prime manifestation of the wisdom that resides in community. One of the reasons he created the church is to be a place of gathered wisdom for the benefit of all with ears to hear and eyes to see. This is true, I believe, despite the church also being a place of fools and liars and sinners of every sort.

I would say to those who leave the church, wounded and wounding, who yet declare their continuing faith in Jesus: avail yourself of the wisdom that resides in this community, stay with us, add your own wisdom, speak your pain to us, listen to ours. We need you, you need us. We will grow wiser together.