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?
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:
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