The Power and Problem of Building Community
“The reality is, we need community in order to follow Christ radically…If we are going to live in radical obedience to Christ, we will need the church to do it. We will need to show one another how to give liberally, go urgently, and live dangerously. When we sacrifice our resources for the poor and then face unexpected and unforeseen needs in our own lives, we will need brothers and sisters to help us stand. In the process we will learn to depend on one another according to God’s design. The global purpose of Christ was never intended to be accomplished by individuals. We are a global people whose family spans the nations. So first and foremost, I encourage you to be done with church hopping and shopping in a me-centered milieu and to commit your life to a people who need you and whom you need.”
~David Platt, Radical
I read this yesterday, just a few short hours after hearing my pastor preach a knock-it-out-of-the-park sermon on the same subject. Don’t you LOVE when God speaks in themes? It’s hard to wonder what God is saying when He says the exact same thing repeatedly from a number of sources. I always appreciate this, cuz I tend to be somewhat slow.
After hearing it preached, but before reading it in my book, my husband and kids joined another family for lunch. You know…for community-building purposes. While our children terrorized the other nice people at the restaurant trying to quietly enjoy their Sunday afternoon lunches, the adults at the table discussed how we could practically apply this message of building community to our busy lives.
After all, community-building takes time. It’s impossible for me to meet your need—whether it be for prayer or finances or encouragement or friendship—if I do not spend time with you and give you opportunity to express your need. We can’t really accomplish community-life while sitting in a Sunday morning church service. We can’t accomplish it while ushering little ones to the restroom in the middle of service. And we can’t accomplish it while dragging screaming kids out of the church foyer and into the parking lot. Is it just me, or is this a universal church experience?
Community only happens when we take the time to BE with other people, and not simply pass and greet them on our way to the next place.
So, in our exactly 10 minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation time (yes, I counted), my friend Angela and I lamented over the isolation inherent to stay-at-home mothering, and decided that it was high time we reunited our now-disbanded bible study group.
See, a few years ago, I taught a Wednesday night class at church which morphed into a Tuesday morning study in my home. I’ve been a part of a lot of bible studies in my day, but something about this group was highly cohesive and effective. I’m not sure why or how, but the combination of women in this small group just clicked. It was “community” in every sense of the word.
Well, then I had to go screw everything up and adopt a baby, which led me to break up the group temporarily. And then, I got this nasty case of major depressive disorder, which pretty much knocked me out of commission for a full year. And then, much to my dismay, schedules changed and there was no longer a day that worked for everyone to meet. To top it all off, recently two of our ladies moved far, far away..which seriously breaks my heart, because I know now we will never be a fully-intact bible study group, ever again.
But, yesterday, Angela and I decided enough was enough. In the spirit of community, we would reunite what was left of our group, starting with the two of us. We mentally scoured our schedules looking for a mutually agreeable meeting time:
Mondays and Wednesdays don’t work for her.
Tuesdays and Fridays don’t work for me.
Thursdays don’t work for either of us.
Weekends are for family time.
Okay then! It was great having lunch with you, Angela!
And off we went with our little children and husbands into separate cars.
This is the reality of my life. It isn’t that I don’t absolutely believe in the power and purpose of community. I know I need something only you can offer me. And believe it or not, I have something to offer you, too. But translating my passion for community into my daily schedule and ALSO into YOUR daily schedule is downright difficult. It’s a combination of our seasons of life and the busyness that plagues our society.
So, I’m curious. What do you think about building community? Do you value it? Do you pursue it? How do you put it into practice? How do you make it work in your life? Let’s chat!
Value it? Check!
Pursue it? Check!
Put it into practice and make it work? Kinda check?
Here are a few things I've done to be more intentional about building community:
– I invite women I meet over for coffee. As soon as I think, "I should have her over," I immediately call or email. As soon as we're talking, I try to schedule a date within the next 1-2 weeks.
– I try not to turn down any invitaiton our family (or I) receives.
– I remind myself that my plans and schedule are almost never as important as devleoping relationships.
– I choose times in my week that are "sacred" (read: cannot reschedule; writing times) and "sacrificible" (read: can be rescheduled/ put off/ dropped altogether; housework). How do you like my reinvention of the English language?!
– We try to schedule one Fri or Sat evening per month to have a family over for dinner and a good dose of visiting.
– We are patiently (not) waiting to be connected with a home group from our church that meets weekly.
It doesn't always work, but I sure do try! Especially since we moved. Almost a year here and it's starting to get a bit lonely…
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I do have to say that it's not very often a family of 7 gets invited to someone else's home! Makes it a bit easier to not turn down invitations. LOL!
You know the part about church that I like the least? The few minutes delegated to "meet and greet." In fact we have 2 "sessions" each Sunday morning for the "meet and greet."
It's not that I don't like people, it's just that the delegated part in which you try to "get out of your comfort zone" and shake hands, hug necks and ask "how are you?" "I'm fine. I miss my son in Heaven but you know…I'm okay…"
I never did like that part and now it's even harder.
I said that to say I like it when it's genuine.
I make time to get together one on one with a friend. We walk and talk or run and try to talk!
It's worked out best for me at this time in my life. We also get together with one other couple for a "double date night." We do this 1 – 2 times a month.
"We can’t really accomplish community-life while sitting in a Sunday morning church service"
I enjoy community much more than I enjoy church. After experiencing real community in a ministry group (by real I mean actually living and working together, learning to REALLY love one another and not just smile in passing or spend a few minutes "catching up") I have found the "community" offered in church to be fake, forced, contrived and empty. Plastic. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but it's true. "Church life" has always been difficult for me for that very reason. I need real community, real relationships…I feel like I have never found that in church, but in other places…college dorm rooms, Bible studies in homes or small groups on the mission field with the people I worked with, over coffee, on the phone, through friendships established long ago where we have grown through many stages, and even online. Community is built for me in the places where I share my heart…and that has never happened in church, and honestly I don't think it will. It happens around dinner tables, on playgrounds, in livingrooms, in "life". It is relationship. Church is not really "life" or relationship, it is a meeting.
I get what you're saying. Community happens while we do life together.
That said, I'm not sure "church" (as in the hour of worship and teaching that happens one day per week) was ever intended to provide that community. That part of church is for learning and worshipping as a corporate group. The "meet and greet" moments are simply a way to say "Hi! Welcome!" but are not (at least I don't think so) intended to create community.
"The church," though – that is, the people that make up the church – are where the real community happens.
I think that we sometimes go into church on Sunday mornings expecting more, and that leaves us disappointed. Imagine how the church (both the institution and the people) would flourish if everyone understood, as you do, that real community happnes in real life!
miss you. miss you. miss you. miss you. miss you!
Let's talk soon. Call me when it's a good time, please. =)
I couldn't even comment here yesterday because I'm struggling with the exact same issues. Of course.