Community Done Wrong Is Alright

Bread done wrong.

Seth Godin wrote, if you want to be a great writer, you need to write poorly and continue writing poorly until you write better.

In relation to living in Christian community, I’d encourage you to get community wrong and keep getting it wrong until you get it right.

Let me start with an assumption based on Scripture (Oh, you’re throwing that Bible stuff at me; who can argue with God?). Living in community with other believers isn’t optional. During his earthly life, the Lord Jesus exemplified living in community in three specific ways.

He remained connected to family. As a 12 year old, he traveled to Jerusalem in a large company of family members. After a miracle, others said of Jesus, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” On the cross, he spoke to John about caring for his mother Mary.

In his 3-year ministry, he traveled with the Twelve and others. He had his private moments, but the solitary moments were for brief periods and always resulted in a return to his band of followers.

His weekly habit included meeting in the local synagogue. If anyone had a reason to miss church, he did. And he didn’t.

Okay, I’m not going to belabor the point that Christian community is the norm for those who love the Lord.

But how does a person find the right place in which to live out Christian community—a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, God-honoring, Jesus-loving church (you can add as many superlatives as you wish)? In other words, where can a person find the perfect church?

You already know the answer to that one. You do, don’t you?

I want you to fixate on this one point (after all, I am). Get comfortable with community in Christ done wrong. When I say comfortable, I mean accept the fact community will be messy, painful, and less than ideal.

Bummer! That sounds awful.

Question: Why would anyone want to be a part of that?

Answer: Because Jesus was (and is—and, no, I didn’t stick my tongue out when I wrote that).

I heard a couple of things on NPR that seem appropriate to share on the subject of learning to live in community.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (and, yes, I had to google his name, and, yes, that is the way you spell Arnold) spoke about the lessons he learned through bodybuilding. He saw the value of discipline and how repeated action (lifting weights) led to success (bigger muscles).

He mentioned how important doing the reps (daily lifting regimen) was. To improve one couldn’t take shortcuts. He had to do the work on a consistent basis.

In a program about baking bread, a caller asked the guest expert, “How do you know when the bread is ready for kneading?”

The baker said, “You have to learn by doing it. There is no scientific step-by-step plan you can follow. You’ll make mistakes.”

She went on to note the mistakes looked awful but they still tasted good. I’ve made my mistakes in baking bread and I have to agree, the mistakes do taste awfully good.

Here’s the takeaway from those two stories.

You have to commit to the regimen of community to experience the benefits. You’ve got to get your reps in. In other words, you must submit to the discipline of showing up, being present, and engaging in life with others. Shortcuts to intimacy are a lie. You have to do the work. When you do, you also reap the rewards.

You have to learn from the mistakes—yours and theirs. Intimacy involves seeing the imperfections. It’s looking at people with all the makeup removed and viewing them as they are. It’s also allowing others to see you as you are. That definitely is a messy business but necessary to the pleasure intimacy brings.

So here’s my suggestion. Do community in Christ wrong … until you get it right.

I’m curious. What examples can you share of staying with something long enough to get it right?

Recommended links:

Jer at The Next Twelve posted “What Everybody Should Know About Building Great Friendships”

Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work posted 2 articles, “A Confession of Doubt and Frustration” and “A Confession of Doubt and Frustration, Part 2”

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Barnes & Noble

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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17 Responses to Community Done Wrong Is Alright

  1. Chris Patton says:

    Great post, Tom! I love setting the expectation that community will never be perfect. It will often be messy and difficult. But it is still a critical part of our relationship with God. Maybe I should say, “Because of that, it is a critical part of our relationship with God.”

    Thanks for the illustrations and Scripture references. I will share this post.

  2. Kari Scare says:

    My pastor encourages us to look at what we can bring to the community rather than what we can get out of the community. When I take this perspective, i get so much more out of it. When I focus on what I can give to the community, God blesses me with so much more than if I went looking for what I can get out of it. Our instant-gratification society works against this idea of staying with something long enough to get it right. We must, more and more, seek to live counter-culturally if we are to follow God’s will for us.

    • tnealtarver says:

      But those who stay with something–golf, art, community–tend to do it very well. Even our instant-gratification society recognizes when someone does a thing well. When a people do community in Christ well–because they’ve gone through the mess that creates intimacy–others start to notice. They may even be attracted to such a community and become grafted into it. We see that in Acts 2 and following. People saw something different from their culture and joined in by the thousands. I don’t think this growing, seeing, and joining happened over a few days but over a number of days, months, perhaps even years.

      • Kari Scare says:

        Been talking a lot this week in Bible studies about the importance of depth and getting beyond surface stuff. The intimacy you talk about involves deeper relationships. When people see depth, they are attracted to it for sure. The more the Christian community can live out this depth, the more attractive it becomes to others.

      • tnealtarver says:

        Absolutely, Kari. We settle for quick fixes but we long for intimacy. Whether you’re a Christian or not, you want to know and be known. Fear of being found out and rejected keep us from going deep with God and one another.

      • Kari Scare says:

        Fear does truly trip us up in so many ways. When we step through the fear, and when we see others do it too, we learn to trust God more and more. We learn that He gave us true fellowship for a reason. When we push through that fear and into true fellowship, we sure do discover His abundance in new and exciting ways, don’t we?

      • tnealtarver says:

        A commitment to marriage over the long haul certainly proves to me the excitement and blessing of learning to trust and go deeper.

      • Kari Scare says:

        For sure. Marriage represents the ultimate in living in community. Excitement for sure!!!

  3. Chuck Hayes says:

    Excellent thoughts Tom. Community is messy but Jesus thought it was worth His time and His blood.

  4. Okay, first let me get my jealousy out of the way. I NEVER had 11 responses to my blog. I am an awful chartreuse shade of green.

    And my church is a band of misfits. But: 1. the worship is good. 2. the preaching is good 3. the outreach is good. 4. they love and accept me, so how can I not love and accept them.

    We strive to love each member even as we find the small groups we spend our excess time with.

    And on that note–teach me how to reach people with my blog! I hate chartreuse.

    • tnealtarver says:

      I love your church, Carol, especially point #4.

      As to “reach people,” know what you love, write about it, and find the places where other people who love what you love hang out.

      As far as chartreuse goes, I’ve never sipped it so I’m neutral on whether I like it or not.

  5. Barb says:

    What a great concept – for both writing and community. I would say this also works in marriage. If we consider divorce an option we’ll never have that opportunity to get it right!

    • tnealtarver says:

      Absolutely! Marriage offers plenty of “messy business.” Ellen and I disagreed so strongly recently I didn’t want to be around her. But the disagreement revealed a wound, one she hadn’t caused nor had she purposefully opened up. Commitment to living out our faith in Christ and our love for one another helped move me past the hurt. Community in Christ often deals with revealing wounds and healing those hurts. But folks have to stay involved long enough to move from hurt to healed.

      • Barb says:

        That’s the key right there – we have to stay involved long enough to move from hurt to healed. I find the same holds true in my relationship with God. I need to stay “involved” with HIM long enough to work through my weaknesses and sins which are often revealed through being involved long-term in community! God is so brilliant, isn’t He?

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