She shuffled to the front of the sanctuary with a sense of determination in her gaze even though it was clear she carried a heavy burden. Each step forward bringing her closer to unloading her weights and closer to the freedom she desired. Everyone sat in hushed silence patiently waiting for her to reach the summit. As she turned toward the congregation, we noticed her eyes were brimming with tears.
And in her words was a confession.
Before a crowd of friends and strangers she rent her heart open exposing an area where she needed help. I sat silently in shock– not because of the nature of her confession. The confession itself was something that most, if not all, of us could confess at one time or another. What caught me was her courage to admit she needed help.
She had no shame in her voice as she stood bare before us. Just a simple boldness.
As she spoke, people began to gather around her and I saw first hand what community was meant to look like and it was beautiful.
I’d been longing to see community in action. Not just in service projects, either. I think we sometimes confuse service with community. Community is much more than that. Does it involve that? Many times it does, but you can serve a stranger and never get to know them. Never know their story, their heart, their struggles.
Community is about relationships.
It’s about really listening. And not the type of listening that is more focused on formulating a response. We can get so caught up in wanting to “fix” someone or bring them comfort that we forget that sometimes the best thing we can do is just hear them out. Stop trying to solve problems and just listen. No need to search for the perfect cliche or some other over used nugget of wisdom. Just let them to share.
There’s this Asian restaurant in my town that I’ve been wanting to try so I invited a friend along so we could experience something new together. Any time you add food and friends you’ve got a recipe for an enjoyable evening. The Pad Thai and spring rolls were pretty great, too.
As we ate, we talked and I shared with her how I’ve thinking about the purpose of church (a post about this coming soon) and how I think community is or should be involved. It’s a topic I struggle with regularly and I’ve been wanting people’s insights and wisdom on the matter. She mentioned how we can’t just surround ourselves with others our own age or position in life.
Community is multi-generational.
I believe community needs to be diverse. No one grows when they surround themselves with people just like them. We need to hear stories from our older, wiser, more experienced community members because they’ve got a wealth of knowledge. Knowledge gained through years and lessons learned. We need to listen and learn from our teens who may not have years behind them, but can certainly have insights that we can glean truth from.
There’s this older couple I know. They’re both nearing the 90-year mark and within the past few years, I’ve made it a point to connect with them because they’ve been through 90 years worth of stuff. That’s an entire 60 more years worth of stuff than I’ve been through and they still love and follow Jesus. I’ve got a lot to learn from them.
On the other hand, I know this 14 year old girl. Actually, she’s my oldest niece. I wouldn’t say she’s your typical teenage girl by any means, but there are days I remind her that if I catch her talking to a boy that I won’t be afraid to kill him. She rolls her eyes at me when I say that– she has picked up some of my sass. I also see her amazing capacity for compassion, too. I’ve got a lot to learn from her.
The beautiful thing about community is that everyone is valuable and everyone is needed. No one should be excluded or looked down upon. No one should be called obsolete. Or insignificant.
We need community. We NEED it. And I’m grateful that I get to experience it–whether in the four walls of a church or in the corner of a quaint Asian restaurant. It is there within community that we can heal and mature…and be refined through relationships.
Leave a comment and let me know how you’ve seen community in action.
8 thoughts on “What Community Looks Like”
I can so relate to the need or better yet want for community. We started a couple of years ago inviting neighbors, friends, family and church members to gatherings at our house. Our gatherings have created a community ranging from 16 to 97. We share, pray and at times even cry together. I agree we all need community.
Ya, that’s beautiful, Charles. I love when we can all come together and be genuine in sharing. Age shouldn’t be a hindrance. Busyness shouldn’t be an excuse.
I agree with your post. Where do we start though? I would love more genuine commu itywith the people I go to church with. Does it start with me being more intentional and vulnerable?
Being intentional is absolutely key. Community doesn’t just fall into our laps– we’ve got to pursue it. It’s not always easy and sometimes it can be super awkward (from my experience). I’ve learned to be straight forward with people– I’ll ask them out for coffee, or ask them questions that have depth to them. Not just the “Hey. How are you questions?” but questions that will reveal something about their heart. Community doesn’t happen over night, either. It takes time and sometimes we do better than other times (and that’s OK).
I’ve felt the lack of community in the last few years. My decision to marry a Canadian and move to a different country isolated me from my support group of friends and family. Now, in my new home, I’ve failed to make the relational connections necessary to building community. So, how does one start to fit into a community?
Let me say this first, community isn’t about numbers. Community is about quality relationships. That’s one of the keys to this whole thing. We can connect to hundreds of people and still not have true community. My sister married a Canadian and moved up there, too. So, I understand your struggle even though I haven’t personally walked through it. If you’re attending a church, start there. Is there anyone there you talk to and it comes easily? If so, find a way to connect throughout the week. Maybe meet up for coffee. Or invite them over for dinner. Or text one another through the week. I have a friend I’ve never met in person, but is a source of community for me because we keep steady communication during the week (a few text messages, a phone call, a FB message…stuff like that). I’m able to connect with her on real life stuff, and I can be myself. That’s super refreshing and encouraging, but we need people in “3D” as some call it. Relationships take work and awkwardness. It’s going to be awkward, at times, trying to get to know people. That’s ok. I’m going to attach a link for another post I wrote that you might also find helpful. (http://convergemagazine.com/community-how-do-we-do-it-14895/) If you don’t attend a church, there’s still ways to meet people. There are book groups or other hobby oriented groups that meet. Or you could be like my mom and meet someone in the Health Foods section of the grocery store and end up exchanging numbers and recipes. 🙂 Hope this helps you, Christina. Let me know how else I can help or encourage you…I know loneliness is hard. We were made for community and when we don’t have it, we hurt.