Last night I was fortunate to be able to celebrate a friend’s birthday at a local restaurant. A few of us gathered together together, surprising her. (Her husband had planned it!) It was amazing. As the conversations moved about the table, the friendships strengthened and the community advanced. Community is formed by relationships. As people’s lives overlap others, the community forms and advances.
Philippians 2:4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
I often speak of our church fellowship of being a seedbed of community of grace. All people have potential but until they allow or choose to be part of the community, being placed in the “seedbed” that potential is only that. An unrealized fulfillment. When one is placed in the seedbed, growth begins to take place.
Prophecy often reveals the potential of an individual, but only when the person is planted does the potential completely unlock and release the “blooms and fruits” of a life.
Too often over my many years I have watched the life of a person never gain strength or grow because the community is not available or not important. But God has hardwired you to be in connection or community. (I can tell you in advance that most issues are caused by NOT being in a community.)
I came out of a very dysfunctional family. I know it and I get it. For years my life was governed by avoiding the pain of being in relationship. And then I gave my life over to God. The very nature of God begins to reform your life and transform your thinking about people and community.
Years ago a spiritual dad said this to me in regard to the scripture, (Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. This scripture also appears on the back of my motorcycle.) “to be fitly joined together often requires a bulldozer and dynamite to remove the ‘rough’ edges”. I know that was “funny” on some levels but I also saw it as his understanding and expression of love.
Community removes rough edges if you stay in it. When you are part of a loving community, you realize, that your missteps are hurtful not only to you but to others and you begin to change. I am thankful for the places I have been allowed to grow over the years.
In 2000 the Lord gave me a dream about the church, about its life and about is leadership. It was broken out in a leadership meeting in Richmond a month later. This is some of the things He said. One of the greatest reasons for the pursuit of community and being part of it is not always what you can add to others but what it adds to you. A healthy community brings about health. A healthy church community is an organism.
An organism is defined as:
- a form of life composed of mutually interdependent parts that maintain various vital processes.
- any organized body or system conceived of as analogous to a living being: the governmental organism.
- any complex thing or system having properties and functions determined not only by the properties and relations of its individual parts, but by the character of the whole that they compose and by the relations of the parts to the whole.
The church in proper perspective operates as an organism. It is synergistic in it nature. It’s alive – a community of relationships rather than an organization of relationships that are:
- Life giving
- Instructive and prophetically accurate
- Relationship orientated and based
- Open – transparent and real
- Non-violating of individual distinctives and vision perspectives
- Values time
- Easily accessible
To paraphrase Gerber, “people are our business. Our only business”.
I read a study from the University of Illinois and the study began with these words, “People are nourished by other people. The importance of social networks in health and longevity has been confirmed again by study of a close-knit Italian-American community in Roseto, Pennsylvania. At first blush, Roseto seems a diorama of what once was the nation’s ideal lifestyle-neighbors who looked after one another, civic-minded joiners and doers who formed the grass roots of American-style democracy. It seems to showcase those virtues that have all but disappeared elsewhere in what has become what we are now–a nation of strangers.”
Even as my friends and I gathered last night, others about us from neighboring tables began to participate. As we sang “Happy Birthday” the restaurant joined in.
People need people.
“Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Do you only care about the bleeding crowd
How about a needy friend
I need a friend”
(Lyrics from “Easy To Be Hard” Three Dog Night)
Many have recently posted the video on social networking on it’s detraction from one another. I and so many others have been saying it for a long time. You need face-to-face whenever possible. I get that people may have hurt you or you have hurt them and feel there is “no going back” but the reality of it is because God is a God of “second chances” we get to be like Him.
Many years ago I worked for two months in a hand tool division polishing room. My job was so similar to the picture of rock tumblers that were used for taking the edges off stones and resulting in beautiful, shining stones. In my job I would takes barrels of jaws, grips and barrels and toss them in large tumblers and shakers. Along with the pieces was ceramic stones, steel bearings and chemicals. When the tool pieces came out they would be shiny all the burrs and scraps removed.
God is a lot like that. He allows community to remove our sharp edges, our hurtful attitudes and thought processes soften and change. He does not need dynamite and bulldozers. He uses loving people.