Rivendell Fellowship

Thoughts on Community by markriddle
July 11, 2006, 12:41 pm
Filed under: Ecclesia


 I wrote this a couple years ago.  It was an article for a church I was working with at the time.  I thought I’d share it here and see what kind of conversation it might start.

 Some thoughts on Community:
Loneliness is the curse of our world… or rather aloneness. We all deal with loneliness, even the most social of us. Have you noticed that that feeling of loneliness does not care how many names you know. The feeling of being alone can follow you into the most crowed room even with the people to whom we are supposed to be the closest? Today, loneliness is rampant in our families, friendships and in our churches. Isolation is the gift from culture that we never wanted to receive.
We are told by our churches that we are not alone, that God is near, that he is our friend. This is very true, and perhaps this truth should liberate us from our aloneness, but honestly it comes across as a pat churchy answer and is somewhat patronizing. Is it possible to fully believe God is with us and still feel alone? (I hope so, because to often this is where I live)

In Genesis we see God creating a community in the environment.  The Eco-System is a community of plants and animals functioning interdependently.  In Genesis we see other kinds of community. God declared his creation to be “Good” every step of the way until he got to a homosapian male.   The first person ever created was alone and God said it was “not good”.  In my opinion, this is not a verse primarily about marriage, but about the essence of what it means to be human. It is not good for man or woman to be alone.  You and I were created to be in relationships with each other. That community is what we long for. Oh, to belong to a community beyond ourselves on this difficult journey of life where unity, diversity, love, intimacy, equality, submission, trust, respect and communication are plentiful.

We live in a nation full of fiercely independent individuals who are groomed in a culture that teaches us to be renaissance men and women, able to take on life alone. We’ve made Jesus our “personal” Lord and Savior, a term not found in scripture. We have turned the story of God saving all his people (and the other communities included in creation. (Rom. 8) into God saving you and me. Our individualism runs deep. We don’t understand community and we can not outside of dusting off our understanding of God as Trinity, who exists in community with himself. (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) Community is inherent in the very character and nature of God. To know God fully, we must do life together in community.
The Christian life was never meant to be lived alone. We need each other. Did you hear that? Need. It is risky though. It means you let down your guard. It means you are vulnerable… real. Real with your aloneness… real with your shortfalls… real with your thoughts… real with your stories. It means loving others without judgment or condemnation. It means intentionally connecting with other people following Jesus and telling them where you are, what you need and what you dream about becoming. Will you do it? Start with one close friend or family member.


4 Comments so far
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Growing up, the church DEFINED my concept of social taboos or tribalism.

Comment by lifeinaminorkey

People do want community, that is one of our deepest needs. And yet, as much as people love the “idea” of community, most often than not our fear of vulnerability and expressing our shortfalls often makes us retreat and we begin again to use our defense mechanisms when we fear that we are no longer in control once we have crossed a certain point in a relationship or in multiple relationships (i.e., church).
Myself included, I know so many people who have articulated their desire for communion with others but are so scared to actually commit or do anything about creating community. It is terrifying to actually think of what true community looks like. It’s not easy, and its not as pretty as we would like it to be.

Comment by pilgrimramblings

Chad, you just said a mouthful.

I like your thoughts. I think we have a glamourized version of community that is appealing to us, but similtaneously seems unreachable. As long as community is this utopian blissful state of belonging together in our minds then we will likely not seek it.

Community is messy. There are various spaces for community to take place. Joe Myers in his book The Search to Belong (or something like that) says there are 4 main spaces for belonging, or community.

There is this kind of general community. We live in the same neighborhood, we are all OU fans, we as MAC users are a family etc etc etc. This is community. and it is an important community. We live with people who walk by our houses, who live in our neighborhoods, who walk past us in the isles of the grocery store. We are in community with them.

Socal space is the second. This is where we share snap shots with each other. We each have snapshot of who we are that we share with others when we meet at a party, or church. I use different snap shots for different occations. A elementary school meeting? “Hi, I’m Mark. I’m married to Pam (point to Pam) and we have three kids. Zach who’s in 3rd Grade, Jaden who is in K and Mikayla who is 16 mths old.)

I know more about you and you know more about me in this social space. We are known, but only snapshots are known. This space of community and belonging is really really important. Have you ever met someone who didn’t have these social space skills?

The next space is a friendship kind of space. Most of us don’t have more than 10 or so good friends. There is history together. We know the person, more than a snapshot. These are the folks you invite over to watch the ball game or go to the movie. This space is really important to community.

Fourth. Is intimate community. This is the space where you can be “naked and not ashamed”. Where you are known intimatley by others but there is no fear of being shamed. you are unconditionally loved in this space. there are generally 1-3 people in a healthy persons life in this space. This is a really important space for belong and community.

Now back to the problem. The utopian view of community, the one most previlent in most of the churches I grew up in, equates to the “Intimate space of belonging”. In other words, leaders tell us that we are all supposed to be “completely real” all the time with everyone. That we are supposed to be able to always share our sin, or where we screwed up with everyone because “real community” is like that.

What is happening here? If you have an intimate relationship with everyone all the time, you become a freak! It’s unhealthy. It’s not a good thing. You become like the guy, who checks out at the grocery store and as he pays tells the checker, “let me tell you how many times I’ve masterbated this week”.
That would be akward and wrong and an abuse of community.

The reality is that all four spaces are need for a person to be healthy. A person needs to experience each of these to be known and to understand themselves and their relationship with God.

just some thoughts…..
sorry for the long post…

Comment by markriddle

Good words. I read this a couple of days ago and just kind of thought about it for awhile. Its funny driving by church billboards and seeing things life “real, authentic community” presented by the church. I don’t think its wrong to want to strive to be a congregation that seeks for people to get connected and relate to other people in very real and genuine ways, it just bothers me that somehow that ideal is sold and packaged and that we can manufacture that type of community just by gathering and saying such things.

If we are to be a people bound to Christ and filled with the presence of the Spirit, then that community is much more organic and is always forming. Its not set already as “real and authentic”, it must be fought for in tears, sacrifice, prayer, struggle, and joy. I think its much more humble than we present it as such. I really appreciate what you are saying here, there are so many expectations that we assume are a part of this community and when they are not met, we leave complaining that no one else wants community. When in reality others desire it just as much as we do, its just something we must constantly be striving for.

Comment by pilgrimramblings

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