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He invites us to live side by side as a family

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in blog links, community | 10 comments

He invites us to live side by side as a family

Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” has written a great post called “Community is irresistible.” The post is not very long, so I would encourage you to read it now. (And, as far as I can tell, she actually spells all of the words correctly, which is amazing for an Aussie.)

Kathleen begins her post lamenting the lack of community among the church and the wider society today. Even though we were designed for community, we seldom find it today. As she said, “Facebook is as good as it gets for many people.”

But, what can we do? She answers that question like this:

He [God] invites us to live side by side as a family, meeting each other’s needs through the seasons of life. If we are going to tap into the full potential for the church to shine in the darkness of this disconnected, dysfunctional world, we need to start meeting face-to-face, engaging in a two-way conversation, growing in strong relationships with each other and accepting one another as Jesus accepted each of us.

We were not designed to be fellow-attenders; we were designed to be family. We were not designed to live disconnected lives; we were designed to share our lives with one another.

But, today – at least in my “neck of the woods” – this kind of community is very unnatural. It was quite natural only a few years ago (as in a couple of generations ago), and it mostly centered on extended family and neighbors who lived close to one another for many, many years.

So, what do we do? Exactly what Kathleen says above. We must intentionally invite people into our lives, and we must intentionally be interested in other people when they are willing to share their lives with us. We must be patient… and wait… and wait… and wait more… trusting that God will bind our hearts and lives together. And, while we are waiting, we must continuously and consistently have interactions with one another like Kathleen describes above: “meeting face-to-face, engaging in a two-way conversation, growing in strong relationships with each other and accepting one another as Jesus accepted each of us.”

We can’t sit alone in our living rooms and expect community to suddenly spring up out of nothing.

We will have to beging by being acquaintances and listening to others around us. When the time is right, we’ll be invited and even encouraged to speak into their lives – when we show that we care and that we can be trusted. But, again, that will only happen when we are intentional to offer our time and energy and lives to others… and allow them to accept as much or as little as they will.

As I said above, and as I’ve written previously, community is unnatural today. But, when we are living super-natural lives and intentionally giving God opportunities to bind our lives with others (or, as another blogger wrote recently, “entangling our lives together”) then we will find God building community in our midst – a community based on Jesus Christ.


10 Comments

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  1. 5-2-2013

    Alan, thank you so much for recognizing this need! I wish we truly could understand “family” as Paul did! Feeling the emptiness of the church while have 400 people present in the decoration, and adoration of ourselves really stinks.

  2. 5-2-2013

    Kathleen makes a fundamental error that I have also made when I’ve talked about this issue. The error is one of assuming that people prefer face-to-face community. Truth is, many do not.

    I’ve had introverted friends tell me that Facebook is the best thing that ever happened to introverts. It allows them to cultivate a feeling of community and yet remain detached from it. They get that slight relational fix met, but without the traditional commitments.

    I don’t think we can ignore this. It’s a paradigm shift. I also think that it’s not relegated solely to introverts. Extroverts are being forced to get their social connection the same way, and while it is less satisfying to them than it is to the introvert, it’s at least SOMETHING of what they crave, even if it’s a pale imitation.

    I believe the problem is much worse than imagined. I also believe that we must have sober assessments of this reality. And fact is, community is NOT irresistible, at least the kind of community our grandparents enjoyed. We have replacements for that community, and people are choosing them instead.

  3. 5-2-2013

    yes yes yes!! wait wait wait and then wait even longer and then when you feel you can’t wait even more.. just wait some more.

    “We will have to begin by being acquaintances and listening to others around us. When the time is right, we’ll be invited and even encouraged to speak into their lives – when we show that we care and that we can be trusted. But, again, that will only happen when we are intentional to offer our time and energy and lives to others… and allow them to accept as much or as little as they will”

    YES! That is exactly what we are finding to be true, too! It starts with the smallest of steps…being a friend, and listening and caring…. and trusting that God will use our small small steps and that it IS HIS job/role to build His Church.

    and cliches are often so true.. like, “people don’t care what you know.. until they know how much you care”. truth truth truth. We must be willing to wait for the chance to speak into others lives…and truly care, listen, be a friend…and not just try to teach, fix and change others.

  4. 5-2-2013

    Mary,

    Thanks for the comment. It’s certainly difficult to truly know people when you’re around a huge crowd.

    Dan,

    Thank you for your comment. I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I think I’m going to reply in a post. Hopefully, I’ll be able to publish it tomorrow morning. Briefly, I think there are pros and cons to both extroverts and introverts when it comes to community in Christ.

    Randi,

    Patience… it always seems to come back to that, doesn’t it? Of course, patience is impossible without love… and love is always patient.

    -Alan

  5. 5-2-2013

    Thanks, Alan! Just as well I didn’t include any correctly spelled words, such as favour, colour, practise, or centre, in my blog post. I’m so glad you don’t pick on my grammatical errors as well (that would just be impolite).

    I think Dan has an interesting point, and I tend to agree with him. Social media has created a relational outlet without strings. I think we can create community online as Christians, so I still think we should be intentional and relational through these media. I love my daily dose of Facebook (especially Alan’s entertaining status updates), and am starting to feel like close friends with some of my Twitter contacts whom I’ve never met, and live on the other side of the earth from. And Dan is also correct when he says community is NOT always irresistible. Luckily, I’ve experienced some places where it is, and I’m going to try to recreate that depth wherever I can.

    – Kathleen

  6. 5-2-2013

    I heard long ago a saying that said essentially, “If you want to have friends, be a friend!” Waiting for ‘someone’ to come along that wants to be in community with you might not be the best thing. How about being ‘that person who comes along?”

    DLE is touching something I’ve been thinking about too. Not so much the FB and electronic thing but the fact that community really isn’t as attractive and natural as it’s cracked up to be. Community is almost a worn out buzz word or cliche within the Christian, ahem, community!

    Being told that we need to be ‘in community’ is sort of like being told that we really ‘should’ be more generous or we ‘should’ be having a personal quiet time each and every day. Community should flow out of who we are as we enter a personal relationship with the Master. Listen to Him and you’ll be reaching out to others around you in one way or another. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself ‘in community’ like never before.

    Currently, it’s almost just one more ‘rule’ we have to follow but without God’s eyes, ears and heart, community is a hassle.

  7. 5-3-2013

    Another aspect of the community of believers involves people who include both extroverts and introverts, but who are not able to interact face-to-face for other reasons. For a number of years, I was not able to leave my house, sometimes not even my bedroom, because of severe health issues, both physical and mental. I did not participate in any face-to-face fellowship, whether in homes or in traditional church organizations. My only fellowship was online.

    There are more people like that than most people know. I am now able to get out and about some. One of the things I do is door-to-door evangelism. Most folks would be VERY surprised to discover just how many people are home-bound or home-limited for a wide variety of reasons. These include both believers and non-believers.

    Fellowship among these saints occurs almost exclusively online or by telephone. We must take it to them if they are to experience any sort of fellowship.

  8. 5-3-2013

    We are definitely meant to be in a community, but with the “development of the world” and the technology and the social media, though we are “connected to more people than ever before” online, yet we live disconnected lives.

    What connects us together is the Lord Jesus Christ. He as a Living Person is inside of us, and He desires to meet with other believers (and unbelievers), reach out to others, and be connected to others. It doesn’t say anywhere in the Gospels that the Lord gave long sermons to the sinners when He was hanging out with them – but it says that they loved being with Him, to the point that the religious people were upset about this!

    So…. if we focus on Christ, if we grow in life, He in us will bother us, will embolden us, and will even put us into situations where we have to express Him, minister Him to others, and be connected with others. It takes our cooperation though, to “get out of ourselves”, out of our habit of “I’m good, I’m good!”, and just GO, or INVITE, or LET’S PRAY, SAINTS!

  9. 5-3-2013

    heartspeak – so true. the last thing we need is another rule to follow (break) and expectation to fail and standard to crash below. Like everything else, we ought to trust Him to lead us – and just do the small things He asks us daily, trusting He can make perfect effective efforts out of our ridiculously imperfect small ones.

  10. 5-5-2013

    You’re all great! Thanks for the comments and for the encouragement toward community in Christ!

    -Alan