Gordon Houser’s review of Centered-Set Church (Nov. 17) asks if a group can be inclusive and hold high expectations. The question led me to think about three characteristics that determine how a group responds to stress: tenacity, flexibility and recovery.
Groups that adhere to clearly defined beliefs and practices and maintain well-defined boundaries exhibit tenacity but little flexibility. Under stress, they snap like a piece of chalk. There is no recovery.
Groups that tolerate various beliefs and practices and have fuzzy boundaries exhibit flexibility but little tenacity. Under stress, they stretch like chewing gum; members drift apart. There is no recovery.
Groups that tolerate variety and adhere to clearly defined beliefs and practices respond to stress like a rubber band. Stress produces flexibility (out of tolerance), but when the limit of flexibility is reached, their tenacity (out of clearly defined beliefs and practices) applies. With both tenacity and flexibility, the group remains whole.
A Christian community produces tenacity through Christ-centered relationships. Flexibility arises from the unique way God creates each person and calls them to a purpose. Faith practices and diversity become sources of community-building that maintain internal integrity and external relevance.
Steven P. Pardini, Harrisonburg, Va.
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