You know what I’ve come to realize after 25 years of pastoral ministry? Many of us fail to really connect within a community of any kind, let alone a community of faith, because we’ve been co-opted by the philosophy of consumption. We enter into relationships influenced by a backdrop belief that fundamentally thinks we’re supposed to seek the best communal experience at the lowest possible cost to ourselves. Just turn that last phrase over in your mind for a minute. Of course when we click through Amazon we’re seeking the best brand/product/thing at the lowest possible cost, and maybe even with the best warranty. Think about how that mindset permeates our thinking when it comes to relationships in community. We walk into a community just like we click through Amazon seeking the best communal experience for ourselves at the lowest possible cost to ourselves. This is not conducive to real connections in a real community of faith.
Participating in a real community of faith involves some cost, some vulnerability, and some beauty. We’re giving of ourselves to each other vulnerably, and there is some cost to that vulnerability, but when we’re vulnerable in a fairly safe and fairly healthy space there is a beautiful thing that happens. Connection, love, sharing, strength, and healing happen in that space.
Let me describe what a real community of faith space feels like just from my own experience in the last week. It looks like getting over myself, and veering away from my long time friends, and saying hello to new families who are being vulnerable as they try to enter our faith community and then hearing their story and then introducing them to my friends. It looks like always being ready to add one more person into my life, when my natural tendency is to circle the wagons around “my people.” It looks a heartfelt conversation with a couple who helped us launch our church, who came to the difficult realization that for the next season of their lives it would be better to plug into another church. There’s no hard feelings and their decision is wise, but there’s the sadness of no longer being able to see how God is working in their lives up close and personal anymore. It looks like tender moments with long time friends you’ve known for many years. It looks like saying goodbye to a widow and her orphans, a family our faith community has cared for and loved, and celebrating a move that is better for her sweet children but also being honest about the sadness you feel in saying goodbye to a loved one in your church body. Like I said, participating in a real community of faith is going to involve some cost, some vulnerability, and some incredible beauty. I hope you, my reader, have found this kind of community, and if you haven’t found it I hope you won’t give up looking for it.