Sunday, October 25, 2009

More on community living

Community is such a broad word, it comes in so many different forms and we all experience community in a variety of ways throughout our lives. The communities of large and small families, the communities we experience in school, or at work, the communities we meet in pubs the communities that are villages or towns. All sorts of community.

Anyway, what am I looking for in community? Which in itself is a strange way of phrasing it. Instantly the question becomes about what I want not about what I can contribute.

If I approach community as a consumer and not a contributor it will never really leave me with any sense of fulfillment.

A place where I can be myself but not a place where myself won't be challenged to change. Although I need to be accepted for who I am, I need to feel secure enough to be vulnerable and allow people in, to challenge and help me grow.

True community will not allow you to be invisible. Which is scary. In the condensed forms of christian community I have experienced here in Ibiza invisibility is the one thing I have found different from being part of a larger church community, when it's small you can't hide.

Community with a purpose. One of the things that gives our community life is its sense of outward focus. We live for something beyond ourselves. A community that just exists to worship and pray and feed the christian sheep, will ossify and lose ground. The momentum of mission will sustain christian communities.

Community need an emphasis on growth, which is almost the same as purpose. Although you can get a community that is involved in social justice and has great purpose without a sense of looking to be added to. A community that is seeking to make disciples is a true christian community.

A prayerful community, this goes almost without saying. Although we can get so caught up in the work that we forget to pray. I heard one christian leader say he thought we could do 85% of what we do with the holy spirit!! A prayerful community should lead us to become a Holy Spirit dependent community. I love liturgy but this is also the thing that scares me about liturgy, the words without the spirit can become dead and just vane repetition. Even daily rhythms of prayer can be become dead lifeless acts and if we are not careful we get a form of pride that comes from us being repetitive and persistent.

A generous community, a willingness to share and give. A willingness to sacrifice. If a community is generous this will affect its outlook in so many ways. When you come together instead of it being about your needs a generous community will be looking out for others needs. Generosity has so little to do with money and so much to do with heart.

A community has to learn to rest. A restful community will give space for people to rejuvenate and truly live. I have been in churches where everyone is so busy they just don't appear rested, the programme grinds them into the ground. Sabbath for most churches can be a very busy time. The art of rest is something we must perfect if we are going to be truly counter cultural. We live in a cash rich time poor society, community must give people time, value time and allow people to take time out.

A learning community, we must always have a willingness to learn. A community that can't be told from outside that it needs to change or thinks it has got it all right is in danger of being arrogant. Yes we must be confident in the path we have chosen but we must marry that confidence with the humility to learn. Knowledge speaks and wisdom listens, we must be wise enough to listen. We don't have all the answers.

Communities need mothers and fathers. Without the input and help of older wiser more mature people we will never grow up!

Communities must love and keep loving, show grace and keep showing grace. We will never arrive we will always keep growing, evolving but we must do all this in the spirit of love. We can't sacrifice people along the way. Love has to be the centre if we keep loving we'll keep growing.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned Jesus, well not by name, but He's there He's in all of these points without His example community wouldn't work.


Gemma said...

love it! thanks for putting into words what I felt but couldn't quite get out that neatly. made me want to come and join your community! blessings

Mister Spence said...

I found this really insightful and helpful. Some of it was comforting, most of it was challenging. Food for thought.

Thanks for sharing, Brian.

(Also, good use of the word 'ossify')

Brian said...

Thank you mister spence, I find it challenging.
Glad you liked the use of ossify, it's amazing the random little words we remember. I think I got it from a Readers Digest years ago whilst reading it on the loo, it stuck in my head.

Having rechecked it means to become rigid or inflexible in habits, attitudes, opinions, just what I wanted to say!

shallowfrozenwater said...

i've enjoyed this series too. i'm part of a church community in Canada and there were all sorts of points that you made that i agreed with.