Over two years ago, we began a new leg of our life's journey. We moved to Idaho of all places…feeling like God was leading us to a place instead of a specific ministry. In the past, our moves were dictated by a new sense of call to a community of faith (aka local church). This move was dictated by a search for a new place to live and "do" life differently…to live missionally, in community…attempting to experience what we had been talking and dreaming about for years. Let me tell you about ONE of the things we learned…especially about this wonderful thing called, "community":
Romanticism of Community – Community is something that sounds good, comforting and “right” but it really is very dangerous and extremely unsettling. The closer we get to the intent of Jesus for our lives together, the closer we are going to get not only to diabolical seeds of discord and destruction but also the closer one gets to the core issues of our lives that hamper the experience of Community. Intimacy in relationship is ALWAYS something to celebrate but it is also something that is extremely costly.
Recently I have come AGAIN to the realization that the virtue of community is what it is – a VIRTUE. Virtues take practice and commitment to realize. The VALUE of community is easy to believe in…it is easy to have on a statement of values…it is extremely difficult to actually live. It is by far, the most difficult aspect of the faith journey that I have ever encountered. I can't figure it out…I can't program it…I can dream of it…pray for it…work toward it…but it is illusive and truly a gift. I really did think that, over time, relationships and a commonality of love for Jesus and a desire to experience a taste of the Kingdom would begin to transcend the challenges and make community easier to attain. But…I've discovered again and again…NOT that easy!
People in community STILL are always wondering “What’s in it for me?” We came face to face with this issue within weeks of the beginning of our new journey and STILL, two and a half years later, we are facing it. Christ-followers have NEVER been "trained" or taught about embracing communal realities through the power of the Spirit…following God is STILL all about "personal" relationship and "one on one" with Jesus in quiet times, bible reading programs, and attractional worship experiences. When you watch a show, you are not concerned about what's really going on in the person who is sitting next to you. It is your time with God…for you to be fed…for you to be pleased…for you to walk away filled to live your week. No wonder all we can do is say the superficial things that we say to each other and call it "church". We have no vision for anything otherwise.
Biblically, koinonia is not about meeting “my” needs. And there is nothing like Community to expose the selfishness, narcissism and deep seeded sense of consumerism that has invaded our souls. The virtue of community has to transcend those temptations…we have to have a love for each other and the desire to work through whatever issues that are presented in relationship. But the truth of the matter is that many of us don't want to live that virtue. We should enter into Community with our hearts knowledgeable of the powerful dynamics that we can and will experience…but we should NOT be shortsighted and overly optimistic…it is not by chance that Jesus said in Luke 14 to “count the cost”. We will encounter issues like this and the community has to be committed to work through whatever is presented in the journey of our lives.
It is so much easier to stay in "church world" and refuse to be challenged to adhere to any other vision. I'm not satisfied personally…but I do get exhausted plowing through the enormous trivialities (oxymoronic, huh?) that detract us from experiencing true community. All I can say at this juncture is that I'm sticking with the vision and praying again to realize it to the glory of God. God bless my steps.