The house church is a wonderful expression of family, friendship, and community life.
In my humble opinion, true community life, vulnerable relationships, and family-type support is not just a good thing but, rather, an essential for the Christian life. There are over 50 “one another” verses in the New Testament because we live, grow, minister, become healthy, and find support in the context of real relationships.
Jamie, at BeChurch, describes this well:
People were designed to need each other and rely on each other. People were designed to learn and grow from loving interaction with other people. That is why a safe and loving family is such an important thing for children. They need those relationships to develop properly. It’s the same with us as believers… we need healthy relationships with other followers of Jesus to experience all of the blessings and freedom that God has in store for us as His people…
When we find ourselves in a loving relationship with other believers we begin to live life in a new way, a more freeing way. We have people to encourage us when we need it; we have people to build us up. We have the awesome gift of having a support structure to rely on when things get tough. A man doesn’t have this freedom when he lives his life as a lone ranger. His life is spent chasing his tail trying to meet all of his needs or find some sort of support in other way. He is living in a way that is contrary to the way that God designed people.
True community is a biblical ideal. The church is spoken of in “family” terms frequently.
Yet… it’s not easy. It requires intentionality.
Scott Peck describes the stages that community life might go through:
For any group to achieve community in the truest sense, it must undertake a journey that involves four stages: "pseudocommunity," where niceness reigns; "chaos," when the emotional skeletons crawl out of the closet; "emptiness," a time of quiet and transition; and finally, true community, marked both by deep honesty and deep caring.
I am going to share six components of developing community that I have found we must be intentional about:
1. Vulnerability and authenticity. Creating community that is safe and that reflects God’s own love does not just happen. Someone has to risk being vulnerable and saying, “This is who I really am.” We are spiritual and human, both. Our humanness is shared in common with all. Sharing our humanness does not make us weak—it makes us close to other humans. It allows us to fulfill the biblical command to “accept one another as Christ has accepted you.” Someone has to be deliberate about taking the risk to take the masks off. In this environment of acceptance, others will do the same and true community will develop.
2. Make room for people to share. There needs to be times during meals, gatherings, get-togethers where people have space to share their lives. This may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how quickly we can fill our times together with talk about everything except ourselves. We often wait to be invited before we will share our lives with others. Someone has to ask the real questions!
3. Someone has to model what it means to console others. Christians tend to fix and advise when others have needs. This can be helpful, but very often this is an attempt to do the job of the Holy Spirit. Many times, God is very good at leading Christians into the truth they need, what He asks of us is that we learn to console one another: weep with those who weep. This is our job. This is how we stand by one another in support and closeness.
4. Get involved in the threads of each other’s lives. We need to know, really, what is happening with one on a daily and weekly basis. What are the circumstances, issues, problems, and needs that are being wrestled with. There are many ways to communicate and we need to use them all: gatherings, prayer requests, phone, email, one-on-one get-togethers. Relationships don’t just happen. They are built one brick at a time.
5. Plan on conflict. Good relationships are built on the inevitability of conflicts that are faced and resolved to the point where the relationship is even stronger. Relationships are made to grow us. We must deal with the real issues of hurt, pride, anger, communication, and forgiveness. This is the stuff of relationship. To not plan for this is to settle for superficial relationships that blow away at the first hint of strain.
6. Be willing to let go. Not all relationships are going to continue to be close, even when they are good. We want to have great community. We will have great community. But it will sometimes be time to re-arrange. God does this. We don’t become so attached to community that it becomes our god. Community does not meet all our needs, God does. Community is meant to grow us up. Sometimes we have to let go of it being the “end all” that we thought it would be.
I love community. I love community life. I am called to be a builder of community life. Being part of a transformational family is, I believe, at the heart and soul of what it means to “be” the church.
But… it’s messy, difficult, demanding, sometimes wearisome and frustrating… as well as wonderful, fulfilling, and life-changing. It requires constant attention. As Scott Peck says:
A group of people never become a community and stay a community. They continually fall out of community, back into chaos or pseudocommunity. What character-izes a healthy, ongoing, sustained community is the rapidity with which it is able to say, "Hey, we've lost it. We need to go back and work on ourselves.
What’s your experience with it?
Go to Part 5: What About Leadership
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