I used to believe that before we could reach out to others we had to have our own house (read church) in order. And while this is partially true, the reality remains we will never see our church in perfect order and this being the case, we will never leave the four walls of our community to reach out to others. The tragic thing is this cycle feeds on itself, denaturing community, turning us inward and often in on each other!
Healthy community and outreach is not an either / or, but an and / both. Let me explain. Christian community is built upon a unity in Christ. This is the primary basis of our communities thus the common denominator that trumps the cultural demarcations like wealth, sex, rank, power, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political stripe. Under the banner of King Jesus we are one people – a peculiar people who despite a multitude of diversity are indeed one people in Christ. This is inherently messy as we learn to be one; to love, care for and appreciate those who are not like us, don’t think like us, don’t look like us and so forth. Becoming Loving communities who aspire to Christlikeness as individuals and together as a community.
Forming Healthy Community in Church on the Go
This Christlikeness in community and individually is formed on the way, in living it out in real, everyday life. What this means is we can have great ideas about Christlikeness, of community but unless these things manifest in the every day they are not transformational. When we choose to be together in Christian community it provides the context to practice and grow in Christlikeness. It is the proving grounds where we learn to love others who may be quite different than we are. A place where we discover that our weakness and strengths contribute to the community as a whole. It is a place where we learn to love one another, forgive one another, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and lay down our lives for others. Don’t worry – real (and healthy community) will provide plenty of opportunities to practice this Christlikeness. It will go a long way in teaching us to pray and experience both sides of mercy and grace. In sharing life and working together it provides a context for relationships to form and to deepen. It provides opportunity for us to cooperate, to share life as our “stuff” bumps up against others “stuff”. Then to choose to forgive, to choose to major on the major things (Jesus), dispel stereotypes, false judgements, allows for old gifts to be honored and new gifts to be discovered.
Just as the individual needs a small community of like hearted folks, the healthy Christian community needs the community at large. It is in the context of the larger community that Christian community can practice being a light in the world, agents of peace, reconciliation, service and justice. This posture is not only a benefit to the community at large but provides a greater context in which we share mission – practicing loving and serving others together. While there are times we stop and reflect on Christian community development, opportunities for growth and healing, this is not done alone to the exclusion of other things, it is done in the context of real life.
The emphasis is not the projects successful completion alone but the way we complete the project. Are we loving, honest and actually doing it together? How did we steward challenges? Power? How well did we love each other? How we achieve the project says as much about us and our community health and maturity as the project itself – probably more.
By developing our Christian community on the way, it provides an excellent context for deepening identity as a Jesus community – love inspired relationships and mission. Likewise, this rhythm causes a dynamic transformation in our individual lives, Church community life and in the community at large. For us, we get hands on experience as we practically learn to live faith filled life together. The
community at large get a two fold blessing both of which are the overflow of genuine love meeting real needs. The community at large witnesses a living example of Kingdom community, of a diverse group of people learning to love each other. This is authentic sign and wonder!
This will naturally begin to fuel a new dynamism in individual lives as they grow deeper in their relationship with Christ, as they begin to see themselves as a part of something bigger than themselves in a Christian community and see how they can be agents of the Kingdom in the community at large.
The key to remember that in all things Christ. By this we live individually and together corporately in Christ and this is all practically lived out in the context of the real world living. We learn to live loved by God and in turn lives of love in ways that are deliberate, natural and concrete.
Copyright 2013, Michael M. Rose, http://www.IamSignificant.ca. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references. For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.