“If you really knew me, would you still love me?”
When Pastor Chuck Hayes stated the question, it clarified for me how to define authentic Christian community.
What am I looking for? I’m looking for the community where the answer to that question is yes.
I’m looking for the community where …
I’m heard. Just because I speak doesn’t mean you’re listening. We know when people aren’t listening. They may hear what we’re saying but their responses seem canned. They look around the room. They wait for a pause then hijack the conversation.
But we also know when people show a genuine interest in what we’re saying. They face us. They ask questions. They repeat what we’ve said.
I’m accepted. No matter what doubts I express, I don’t suddenly become the pagan in the room. I can share difficult truths … “Our unmarried daughter is pregnant.” “I lost my job because I was viewing pornography at work.” “I said some things to my wife I shouldn’t have.” “I’m wrestling with suicide.”
Not only am I heard, but I’m accepted as I am.
I’m challenged. In our conversation, Chuck said, “Listening, honoring the other person, is perhaps the highest expression of valuing another person. The ideal Christian community is where people are heard, understood, and loved. But it doesn’t mean their ideas are all embraced.”
Chuck and I, along with our friend Greg, have taken several multi-city baseball trips together over the years. During our conversation, Chuck asked me why I enjoyed those trips so much.
The trip starts with a common passion, a love for baseball. We talk about lots of things. We speak. We listen. We accept one another as we are (Cubs fan, Royals fan, and Astros fan).
But something else happens on those trips. We talk long enough and deep enough that I’m challenged to live a better life.
After Chuck asked me the “Why do you like …” question, I recognized something significant for me. Being heard and accepted opens the door into community. But if that’s all that happens, I’ll enter but I won’t stay.
I need to know community will challenge me to go deeper in my faith and its practical expression.
Let me offer this simple truth. You and I need community. Something in the way we’re wired searches for a place where we can ask the important question. If you really knew me, would you still love me?
To find the yes community, we ask three specific questions.
Do people listen? This is the first question we need to ask because it requires the least amount of disclosure on our part. In fact, we don’t have to say anything at all. We can observe how people respond to one another.
Do people offer acceptance? This question asks a little more of us. At some point, we’ve got to offer a peek behind the curtain, let people see the messy side of our lives.
Do people express doubts? Do they wrestle with real life issues? How does the community respond to the person who’s going through a divorce or a job loss or troubles with a wayward child?
Do people grow? As I’ve noted earlier, listening and accepting are important ingredients to a healthy community. But having those two elements without growth is like attending an AA meeting where everybody’s a buddy but nobody’s recovering from alcoholism. The cycle becomes one of meeting, learning something new, and going home to the same old, unchanging routine.
Does the community embrace a passionate future? Does it show signs of movement toward that future? Does it learn and apply truth? Does it, while accepting people where they are, also challenge them to grow?
I’m curious. What ties you to a particular community? How well does your community experience line up with the three questions? What can you share that illustrates a lively, growing community?
Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes
Two men. Two eternal destinies.
One common hope.
My novel can be found at:
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I am tied to my church community by how they love the broken and odd. They forgive so easily. They easily offer acceptance. Yet, this community is weak in listening and growing. Personally, I need to work on listening. A definite weakness, and a new major prayer focus for me. Growth seems to be an issue too with this group, though there is some. This is where I feel called to minister and be an example. My husband is a great example of listening and accepting. He does it at church and also at work. I am challenged by this posts and these questions. I am also inspired by your examples. I know change must start within me.
Sounds like your husband is worth watching and offers an example worth following. You and your boys are blessed. I’m glad as well you’re growing in the process. I’m on a two-week mission trip near Fairbanks, Alaska. It gives me an opportunity to practice what I preach (or write).
Application is key. We can’t truly grow otherwise. Enjoy Alaska!
Just finish reading your other article “Does playboy influence your view of Christian community” and it’s really something for me to think about. I guess I still live in a fantasy world of how a church “should be”. And my ideal “should be” church is shown in the examples you gave in this “If you really knew me, would you still love me?” article that people are genuinely listening, show acceptance, and have growth. I have always find that people at my church are willing to listen, but I always feel them being fake ie with big smiles and not a worry in the world because (according to them) Jesus told us not to worry. I find that I afraid in sharing my thoughts because I am suppose to know to make the right decisions because Jesus is the example to follow and (according to them) all we need to do is pray using example of the Lord’s prayer. And I feel as if I don’t belong and I feel disconnected, even though I was the one who never bother to ask what’s happening in their lives because I feel it’s none of my business. I am a new believer and I guess I am lost in all the overwhelming “Jesus loves me” when I don’t love myself and the fact that they just keep saying “just pray and God will answer”. Maybe I am the odd one here and maybe I am the one who is not listening. Thank you for the article, it gives me something to think about what I should be doing instead of expecting what others should do.
Shirley, finding your spot in community is both challenging and rewarding. I admire your openness and willingness to share your search with others here. Although our relationship with Jesus Christ is a gift, it isn’t an instant cure for all that ails us. I write here about Christian community because I know it’s essential to my well-being as a believer. It’s where I work out my doubts and deepen my faith. I’m glad you’ve joined us as we walk out our faith together in Jesus Christ.