Thursday, March 6, 2014

Elise excited for true community in Awaken
After high school I somehow found myself at a small liberal arts Christian college and it was great. I was surrounding by other God loving people who were on fire for Jesus. I could walk to my classes and hear people using the word Yahweh without batting an eye. People didn’t think I was addicted to carbs when I talked about my daily bread (although I am totally addicted to them…). Then the day came when I had to leave my little bubble and I was seriously unprepared.
I had gotten into a bad state of mind where I expected community to be created around and for me. Like many Christians, I was so used to going to a church building one to three times a week where other people had created a community for us. We enjoy our “free pass” where we don’t need to step out of our comfort zone and actually get to truly know, love, and support the people around us.
Having an authentic community is scary and our culture is probably the laziest at creating it. I mean we, pat ourselves on the back for being a good friend because we sent an old friend a Facebook birthday post with a picture attached. I give myself extra friend bonuses if I type in some false promise of getting together sometime soon with some vague location and time. We retweet a friend who is obviously crying out for help instead of calling or visiting with them, because you know that would just be awkward.
A true community isn’t always there to make our lives easier; I typically find it to be quite the opposite. It is when we are in an authentic community, we realize it isn’t all about me.  When we live in community we not only deal with our own problems, but the problems of our community.  In a true community we don’t show up and unload. We show up unload some of our issues but then gain the burden of others and feel for the people we have grown to love. We have people who won’t let us get away with “yeah I’m fine,” or “I’m doing ok.”  We are surrounded with people who love us enough to make us dig deep and ugly cry when needed. It can get messy and it is definitely hard but the beauty that blooms from it is so worth it.
We need to live in community not because it makes us feel better, but because it brings glory to God. In John 13:34, Jesus tells his disciples that people will know they are disciples of His because of how they love each other. Reading that makes me automatically start to want to bargain with God, I mean does he know how annoying some of these people He created are?  The answer is, yes of course He does. Then he asks me if I know how annoying I am, and I do…most times.
When I think of our community groups at Awaken, I see it as a designated time to intentionally develop relationships with others. Yes, we meet together to discuss God’s Word and theology, but I wouldn’t say that’s our only focus because knowledge is easily accessible, relationships are not. These  groups are a safe place to invite others to come without the Sunday morning pressure. Where you’re not asking them to “church” but you’re still surrounding them with God’s Church. Our community groups are a place for us to practice and nurture each other, so that we can go out and develop community with others. 
It is easy for us, as Christians to go to church and be disciples, sitting still and listening to our preacher Sunday morning. We often forget that we are all pastors, and our church meeting on Sunday is equipping us to go out, leave, and join little churches in our homes, neighborhoods, work, play groups, and everywhere else our lives touchdown. Why do we hold back from doing this? Besides being downright terrifying for the introverted at heart, it is hard, messy, and makes us come face to face with the responsibility we have as Christians.
So while I believe our Sunday morning gathering and community groups are essential and teach us, they need to be our pushing off point to create community with others around us. God doesn’t want us to only do what makes us comfortable,  as much as I would like to lay on the couch marathoning shows on Netflix, I know it is not how I’m going to build a community and add to God’s church.  As a church we need to step out of our comfort zones, do something courageous- have a five minute conversation with your neighbor, ask your co-worker what they’re passionate about, pay for the coffee for the person behind you, tell someone who is often overlooked just how much you appreciate them. It doesn’t take much to raise up others around us and it can be done with words or without them. God can help us run and fight through any barricade (2 Samuel 22:30), even if your barricade is crossing the street to love your neighbor.

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