By Jeff Goins, Editor
This word – community – that we throw around (sometimes cavalierly) is, in practice, pretty tough. Part of what Jesus was teaching his twelve disciples by calling them to join an itinerant ministry for three years was that they would have nothing to depend onstable jobs, comfortable homes, or guaranteed mealsbut each other. Collectively, they would have to call on God and wait for him to answer, with no other options. Can you imagine them clutching each other in fear as they were out on that boat with the waves violently crashing against them, and just hoping that Jesus would show up?
Community demands vulnerability when independence would otherwise excuse it. These chosen twelve would have to be vulnerable in front of each other. They would have to, despite all masculine fears of intimacy, share with one another. They’d have to stick their necks out for the other. And at the end of it all, Jesus tells them that how they love each other is how the world will know that they are his disciples. They leave their families and get a new one, a band of brothers covenanted together until the end .
That is, until they fled. Until they forsook the Master and hid, wept, or tried to catch some fish.
It wasn’t easy for these guys. But Jesus was building a church, and one that would stand up against the gates of hell would need to be tested. What better way to test a bond than crisis situations: a storm, 5000 hungry people, or your teacher dying? Of course they fell apart. That was the point.
Brokenness is a necessary part of the process to become a community, a true fellowship. That’s why we see them arguing for seats of honor or for who will be the greatest in the kingdom. A transition from governing oneself to submitting to each other is stressful. And that’s also why we see ourselves rushing out of church on Sunday morning, because we already have the rest of the day planned. We haven’t left room in our schedules for community. We are scared of intimacy, not just men, but everybody. It’s the scariest thing there is in human relationships.
Although, just as it was “not good for man to be alone” in the Garden of Eden, it is not good for us to go through life without someone to share our burdens and hurts and to encourage us. I’m trying to figure out what this thing called community really looks in the 21st century when we don’t necessarily need each other.
Maybe I think that our worldview and that of first century Palestine are far too different in this matter. Perhaps it was a choice for them to enter into such sacred communion with one another, and it remains so for us. Maybe we need to be creative with community, but at the same time, foolishly reckless. In a society where our comfort walls us in, interdependence doesn’t make sense. But it’s necessary. It’s what our souls are crying out for.
I tend to over-spiritualize things. Community is a choice; it always has been. I pray that I am brave enough to actually make it. I work with a mission group that is traveling the world together, and they are forced into situations where it’s almost a matter of survival to choose community. I have no doubt that they will come out of this experience with a better understanding of what church is really supposed to be and why we need each other. Watch this short video that has a lot to say to us about choosing community. It’s a hard choice, sometimes.
Tell us, what’s your experience with community?
Jeff is editor-in-chief of Wrecked and works with The World Race, an eleven-month church-planting pilgrimage where twenty-somethings find the heart of God amongst the poorest of the poor.