I've been an observer of church life for about 30 years now. I haven't always been pleased with what I see. Church communities are often forced. People know how to talk about building community and take efforts to build community but I haven't seen a lot of church communities that strike me as authentic - that is - real people, expressing real joy and pain and finding true friendship with one another as well as God.
I guess that shouldn't surprise me. That's just the human condition. We are broken at a very deep level and intimacy is at the heart of our brokenness. But if God has come into our lives then I think we should be able to transcend this dilemma. We don't have to "fake it". We don't have to just have a shell that "looks" or sounds like community. I think we have the potential to experience the real deal.
Because of that I often resist trends to develop community out of a box. You can find lots of adult small group curriculum that promise that. But no program will create authenticity or intimacy. It has to be inspired by God, directed by God and given by God. And we have to be willing to long for it and wait for it without forcing it prematurely.
I long for that sense of authenticity and intimacy at Cedarbrook. I see glimpses of it and that excites me. Andre (youth pastor) has been thinking recently about the importance of "being" over "doing" and I think this is a big part of what I'm talking about. I much prefer to be a part of a group that longs for intimacy and authenticity (being) but has no idea how to achieve it than to be a part of a group that has the latest program that "looks" good (doing) but only goes through the motions of community and never achieves it.
As a leader, I think that it's more important for me to cast a vision for this kind of community - to stir our hearts - than to offer quick and easy solutions. Instead of developing programs we need to develop a culture that values authenticity and intimacy. If that is where our hearts are, it will happen. It's in the waiting and longing that causes the depth of our character and prepares us to embrace community when it develops.
How do we create a culture that breeds community? Boundaries play a role. Healthy boundaries have a lot to do with accepting people where they are and respecting them for who they are - not trying to force them to be like us. When boundaries are respected, then community is free to take root. We can relax and enjoy each other because we no longer have to fear being judged or rejected. We know that people accept us because of our inherant God-given value, not because we look or think like the crowd.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. I have the quietest readers in blogging history! What's up with that?????? : ) Click and share your thoughts. Thanks!