Community Isn’t Easy

Having written about the importance of community being the key to any church, I’ve been challenged to seek after community in my life, rather than ignoring it. This isn’t easy for me. As many of you know, I am an “INTJ” meaning that people often drain my energy, whereas they help energize my wife Rose. This is obviously a generality because I can be energized by people, but most often I come home from a great time with friends fairly exhausted and Rose is ready for more!

Being in school, working full-time, and finding creative space to write consistently doesn’t leave a lot of margin in my week to seek out relationships that can be the launching point for deeper and truer community in my life and their lives. So I’ve struggled with this feeling of wanting to make and continue developing meaningful friendships in the midst of knowing I have very little time to offer to that endeavor.

Recently my sister called to talk with Rose and I. As the phone rang I felt this incredible urge to run away from the phone. I told Rose I didn’t want to talk and after a quick 10 second argument, Rose agreed to answer the phone while I sat on the couch. This is my sister who I hadn’t talked to in over a month, even I was confused as to why I had no desire or energy to spend time with her. After thinking about this while Rose was on the phone I realized I had been around people, in conversations, the entire day. As an “INTJ” I was spent. I had nothing left in the tank, not even for my sister.

Community isn’t easy and I often find it especially difficult for my more introverted disposition. However, God still calls all people toward the difficulty of relationships for the sake of formation of community. I ran across a truly profound statement from professional golfer and Portland native Ben Crane, who had this to say about the relationships he has on the PGA Tour with other golfers:

People ask me what’s the highlight of your career. For me it’s not like a victory, it’s doing it with my friends and family and doing it for the right reasons, which is to glorify God.”

We bring glory to God by fostering true community with our lives and by inviting others to experience the true life found in them through God’s presence.

But none of this is easy. With roughly half the population being more introverted, and Western cultures promoting values of independence and autonomy, it’s no wonder so many of us would describe community as fleeting.

Deep Community is an Outcome of a Deep Reality Within

Community does not fall out of the sky. It does begin somewhere. Relationship with others flows out of a relationship with God. It is that deep-seated relationship ongoing between the believer and God that allows for sustainable relationships with others.

The security we have in our “deep reality within” or assurance of faith through our relationship with God allows us to enter into relationships with others without looking for them to save us or make our lives better.

Community With Others is Not the End

This should be fairly straight forward. Community with God is the end and while community outside ourselves with others is an outcome, it is not the end. Community is the first step beyond ourselves, but so often community can become an insular group of alike people who no longer desire to look beyond themselves.

True Community Welcomes People For Who They Are

As I look back on the communities I’ve been fortunate to be a part of, one common denominator is that I always felt accepted for who I was. I was able to bring my pains, my baggage, my past–all of it to the table where people would welcome me and help me work through them.

Too often we welcome people into our communities in spite of who they are and what they’ve done. I think God calls us to welcome people with full recognition of who they are, knowing that through God’s presence in our relationship with them, God will begin to heal them.

My friend Rhett Smith had this to say in his new book:

All relationships have the possibility of refining us more and more to reflect the image of God, helping us reach our fullest potential that we could not otherwise achieve alone (pg 150).

I wish community was easier, but it’s worth the struggle.