What Community Looks Like

What Community Looks Like

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.

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You’re Invited!

ONE

Sometimes…oftentimes….I find church boring.

It’s just that it seems a lot like a meeting to get through. Granted, a meeting that starts with a song, or rather, a half a dozen or so. For some the songs come out of hymnals with an organ accompaniment while others use songs written in this decade. I’m not picking on either one, I enjoy both.

The point is every service starts the same way.

Music. Check!

Next, there’s the offering/ announcement/ hug your neighbor time. When visiting a church, this is my least favorite time. I’m not a fan of hugging strangers. That could be because I’m all of 5 feet tall and hugging anyone means my face automatically goes in their arm pit, shoulder or chest. Here’s the deal, people. If you’ll bend down a few inches I’ll stand on my tippy toes. Ok?

Luckily, we live in an age with smart phones, so this is also a great opportunity to look busy on your phone. I think there’s added points if you update your Facebook status with a Scripture or some lyrics from a song sung that morning. (I get it. I’ve done it, too) Extra, EXTRA points if you use #blessed in the description.

The capstone of your morning is listening to a sermon. It’s a trail mix blend of stories, Scripture and pithy truths to scribble down in a notebook or on the back of a bulletin (and most likely) never read again. Heck, by mid-week I’m not even sure I remember the verses that were referenced. That might be because, periodically, throughout the message I’ll find my mind wandering to the weather outside, the fact that my leggings are cutting off my circulation or the laundry list of tasks I need to accomplish the coming week.

I’ve been to numerous churches in my lifetime and the general outline is the same. Come, sing, give money, hug people, listen to sermon and go. Ya sit, stand, sit and you’re out of there by lunch. You can almost taste the Chinese buffet now. Mmmm….Sweet and Sour Chicken.

I’m not saying any of this stuff is wrong. It’s good to worship. It’s good to give. It’s good to hug (sometimes). It’s good to be taught. I just think we’re missing the point.

Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven. 

Matthew 6:10

I think about Heaven a lot. Maybe it’s because life is so freakin’ hard or maybe it’s just because I’m homesick (Heb. 13:14). Its been said, “Don’t be so Heavenly minded that you’re of no earthly good.” That’s a bunch of bologna.

If anything, we need to be more Heavenly minded. What would that look like? I’m not exactly sure, but sure isn’t some mandated meeting. It’d be more like a party. There’d be laughing and food and celebration. No one nods off at a party. No one checks their watch at a party. No one is worrying about work the next day at a party.

I love inviting friends to parties. Meetings…not so much. This isn’t some lame-o excuse for me not inviting my friends to church, then again, maybe it is. The last thing I want to do is bring a friend to church and have them leave thinking, “If that’s Christianity, it sure is boring. I’d rather stay home and watch football.” I think they call that doing more harm than good. Truth be told, I’d rather stay home most Sundays, too.

But, if I can invite my friends to a party, that’s a different story. I’m not talking about flashy lights and fog machines, either.

Our modern day church services seem to place a much smaller value on relationships and community and a lot more value on me facing a podium or a stage or a screen. Before anyone loses their mind, or thinks I’ve lost mine, let me be clear– I’m not anti-church. It’s great to gather together with a common focus (Jesus) and sing songs to Him and learn about Him and build relationships with one another.

I just don’t think what we’ve always done is working. It looks an awful lot like a four-walled box. You come in, you do your time, and you go. That sounds awful because it is awful. I want something more and I think the world is looking for more. Something significant. Something worth getting out of bed for…and not just because there’s shame propelling you through the church doors.

In the end, I want a slice of Heaven on Earth. Not just on Sundays, but every day of the week and I want people (all people) to see that and want it too.