Community. It’s a buzz word churches throw around and strive to manifest. Here are some examples:
‘We’re a community church!’
‘Have you been to one of our community groups?’
‘We have community outreach programs!’
‘Community prayer is open to everyone, join in!’
‘Community service projects, we do them!’
These are only a few things we label as ‘community.’ But what does community actually mean? Has the church overused the word and diluted it down to a trendy tag line promising whimsical fulfillment?
At its Webster core community is: A unified body of individuals
Interestingly enough, the very thing many churches claim to be: ‘A unified body of individuals — church’ is quite contrary to the odor they allude to the world.
No wonder people are becoming disenfranchised with the old structures of organized religion. It’s feeble attempts to orchestrate and fabricate something meant to be organic and natural is failing. You can not force unity, nor can you buy community. You can only foster it. Which, for whatever reason, the church has been lousy at.
I think people like the idealistic notions of community, but when it comes down to it, we’re all too selfish to pay the high price it requires. We become frustrated when our money can’t buy us the depths we long for; when we have to pay any other price, say, our time and energy, sharing our possessions, or inviting people to live in our homes… why, that is far too much to ask!
I see in Scripture a beautiful picture of what it looks like when followers of Jesus are on ‘one accord,’ in other words, living in community. The notable difference between now and then is people gave of themselves and sacrificed freely for the well being of others, and their community was ready and willing to do the same. They gave not out of obligation, nor because it was the right thing to do, rather they experienced a love that completely transformed their lives, and that love compelled them to give freely.
Jesus prayed these words before he was betrayed and arrested:
“My prayer is not for them [my followers] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me,” John 17:20-23
Did you catch that? Jesus was praying for community.
Since moving up to Spokane, I’ve met so many people wounded and hurt by the old structures of organized religion. I’ve encountered handfuls of people longing for a safe and welcoming place where they can come and rest. Moreover, the wounded are looking for a safe people who will welcome them in and accept them as they are, not as they ‘should be’.
While many Christians claiming to provide community have bruised and battered countless people. I see a new breed of Christ followers arising these days. They are people who live true to the proclamations they make, they live as one with each other, they love wholeheartedly.
I see this happening in Spokane. People are seeking to understand what it means to love one another. We are breaking out of our old American individualistic mindset and living in a radically different way, a way that appears absurd and ridiculous to those still caught in the illusion of individualism. They are people who so firmly believe in Jesus that their lives reflect the one they believe upon.
I see a picture in my minds’ eye that speaks to this well. It is a picture of a symphony tuning up, each instrument begins playing the tuning note, every instrument is making a different sound, but they are all playing the same note, making adjustments where needed (and you know when your instrument is playing out of tune!). Everyone is adjusting until the sound rings out in perfect and glorious unison. I think that’s what the church is suppose to look and sound like. We all make a unique and wonderful sound, but we’re all playing the same note, and that note is love.
Let’s each make our sound together, and let’s make sure we’re playing the note of love.
We’re fostering community at a little place we call ‘The Green House’ in West Central. We all have different perspectives on faith and spiritual matters, but we’re learning how to play the same note together. We’re learning what it means to love.
Join us at 10 a.m., April 6 at Revel 77 Coffee for our next Coffee Talk where we'll discuss the concept of spiritual community. Dr. Fujiura will be one of the panelists.
- About my West Central neighborhood - July 30, 2014
- A recipe for leadership - June 5, 2014
- Being a spoke in Spokane - February 11, 2014
- 110113 quote - November 1, 2013
- Seeds, society and stewardship, oh my! - October 31, 2013
- Utilizing what I’ve been given - May 13, 2013
- Fostering a welcoming community in Spokane - April 2, 2013