3 Reasons You Don’t Like “Community”

The Church is many things.  It is a building – built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles.  It is a family – children adopted by the loving father through the sacrifice of the firstborn son, Jesus Christ.  It is also a body – each member functioning differently but in a cohesive  unit under it’s head, Jesus.

But the Church us also a community.  And more so than this, each local church is a community.  And as much as we hate to admit it, we don’t like that.  Why?

  1. The Cost – Community has a lot of benefits like combined resources,
    Community has it's costs

    Community has it’s costs

    help when you need it, and companionship.  But these come at a cost.  To benefit from combined resources, I must relinquish my hold on at least some of my personal resources. This includes money, time, emotional reserves, and much more.  To receive help when I need it, I must also be willing to help others when they need it.  This requires sacrifice of the above mentioned resources, but also the pain of entering into other people’s problems.  And companionship, while a benefit, risks the possibility of breaking down both the physical and relational walls that I’ve built in order to make myself feel less vulnerable and open to frustration and pain.  If people get inside my walls, they will see the parts of me that I’d rather were left unseen.  All of these realities (and more) cost me my wealth, my emotional security, and my pride.  Ouch.

  2. The Accountability – Even when the costs don’t deter us, we often chafe at the idea of being held accountable to someone else, and especially a group of people. Communities function best when the members are self-sacrificing and purposefully pursuing a common goal.  When one member steps out of line, the role of the community is to provide pressure to bring that person back to the stated ideals and purposes of the community.  This sounds harsh, but every community that intends to survive and thrive must operate this way.  And when the goals are directed by God, the need for accountability increases.  We can’t afford to let sin, anger, malice, and jealousy interrupt God’s purposes for the church.  With this accountability comes the dirty word, discipline.  And nobody loves that.
  3. The Mess – Sometimes if feels like it would be much easier if the church were more like a business.  If someone isn’t performing well, move them (or remove them).  If someone better comes along for a role, replace the previous person no matter what sacrifices they’ve made  to serve in the past.  If one person is angry at another, just push it aside and get the work done.  But in a community, these things don’t work. People matter.  Hearts matter.  Relationships matter.  And therein lies the mess. Challenges must be worked through instead of simply dealt with.  People will get hurt.  Boundaries will be crossed.  Bruises will be common.

    Considering the costs, the accountability, and the messiness, community life can be hard.

    Considering the costs, the accountability, and the messiness, community life can be hard.

Considering the costs, the accountability, and the messiness, why even bother with community anyway?  Can’t we just bypass all of this and avoid many of the problems that come with community?  Is it even worth it?

Of course, the answer is that community is totally worth it.  For starters, this is the environment from which our great hope for our salvation arose.  Jesus entered into community at great cost, with accountability to all humanity and his Father in heaven, and steeped in messiness.  Taking up our cross daily is, in part, the process of living in relationship with other fallen human beings.  Not only does Jesus model it, but it is the environment in which he chose to place the great hope of our purpose, our commission.  The Church is the method God chose to use to spread his work of salvation throughout the Earth.  And finally, all of the challenges of community make us more like Jesus, who learned righteousness through suffering.  Sure, it isn’t the level of suffering that Jesus endured on the cross, but being in community with other believers is a honing and sharpening reality.  It makes us better.

community-buildingSo, yes – community is hard.  But stick in there.  The benefits are worth it.

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It Happened To Us

Recently a friend of ours had an accident where she injured her foot.  She has two little kids and she was literally unable to walk around (doctor’s orders) for weeks, and so was unable to take care of them.  One of the things that she really struggled with was being a bother or a nuisance to others, even her husband.  She also struggled with why this had happened to her, especially in light of a number of times recently where she and her children had been sick.  She asked, “Why did this happen to me?”

Of all that things that one can answer in a time like this, my wife’s answer seemed to truly embody the spirit of a person on mission.  Her answer?  “It didn’t happen to you, it happened to us!”  What she meant was that this person was a part of our community, and so anything that happened to her didn’t just affect her, but all of us.  So as we offered to care for her children, pick up supplies at the grocery store, and just come over and be a friend to spend time with, it didn’t feel like we were being burdened by “some person’s problems”.  It felt like we were dealing with a need within our own family – like our own need.  The Apostle Paul says that no one complains about feeding themselves (Eph 5:29).  It felt so natural to help this person, it was like we were just helping ourselves.

So when you face challenges, don’t forget that God puts us in community so we do not have to face them alone.  Don’t resist people serving you.  That’s what they’re supposed to do.  And when others around you face challenges, don’t hesitate to step in and help.  Rid your heart of the idea or attitude that “it happened to them.”  No.  It happened to us.

God Loves Dedham – Part 1

In our community we’re in the process of sharing the love of God in a new way.  Our goal is to display God’s love in meaningful ways in our town (it’s adjacent to a major New England city and has about 25,000 residents).  About 3 months ago I reached out to the other pastors in the area and asked them if they would partner with our church to display the love of God.

My concern was that, with so many different views on God and his love, we could easily get sidetracked into some baseline agreement around good deeds or earth care.  Don’t get me wrong.  Good deeds are, well, good.  And earth care is a biblical mandate.  But these were not my motivations for working together.  I knew we would need to gather around a biblical vision if we were to have any hope of making a real difference in our community.

I will list our 5 point vision and expound on them below.  Out of 14 churches in town, 9 have agreed to participate in a day of service and celebration.  In the morning, we will send out workers to different projects around town, mixing teams from all the churches.  In the afternoon, we’re hosting a community celebration at a local park with food, games, live music, and testimonies of God’s love and goodness.

Here are the points and the explanation of the first point:

1.  We must work together to show the love of God among the people of God.

2.  We must show the world the love of God through service and compassion.

3.  We must proclaim the love of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

4.  We must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to fulfill the mission of the Church.

5.  We must expand our vision to the size of the Kingdom.

1.  We must work together to show the love of God among the people of God.  “…all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13.35  We cannot dare to claim that God loves the world if his people cannot even love each other.  It is a claim that will be flatly rejected as any form of meaningful truth.  God’s love becomes an irrelevance for a world that sees Christian disunity.  We must first learn to love one another if we seek to share God’s love with a broken, hurting, and dying world.  If we are to have any hope of loving one another, we must know one another.  Therefore, we must work together, as one Body.

This does not mean we must agree on everything.  It does not mean we must gloss over our disagreements.  It does mean that we must come to a place where the “Jesus in us” is bigger than our differences.  It means that we must put Jesus before our understanding of Jesus.  When we obey Jesus’ command to love, the world will take notice.