Friday, March 25, 2011

Community can fail, Community never fails

This is a collaborative exercise, needed input from community outside of my immediate influence to accurately go into this. . . enjoy.

          I’m gonna be brutally honest and let you into my world for a second. I have no idea what to do specifically about this subject; it’s seemingly unavoidable and unnerving at the same time. Those of you that have shared in faith with me know that the last several years of my life have been about promoting, building, and sustaining COMMUNITY. There are many great blogs about it that go far deeper into its meaning and value within the body than I have time to, but what I want to talk about is a little more specific. I want to talk about the cycle, and even more pointed than that I wanna get into the thick of:
“when community starts to fall”.
Now the intricate balance we have learned to strike in leadership is one of growing with people but allowing people to grow outside of your influence also. [Another blog entirely involves growing with people you lead instead of just leading people, but another time-] This is no simple task because inevitably you will have a follower that gets into something so detrimental to their development that you feel that not stepping in is almost promoting sin, but it must be done. If people are not believed in and encouraged to great faith they will always struggle in “little faith”. We never want to see people fail but it’s the price that is paid to make them truly succeed. Now take that a step further, there are ministries and discipleships and a myriad of other things that we pour ourselves into that will eventually fade. The impact on individuals may never be fully realized (good or bad, eternal or temporary) but the first inclination is to step back in and revitalize the movement. I don’t know every step to take but my first impression is. . . NO! Stop. Think about our desires and the call of God. He called you away for a purpose, I know it’s hard, but the movement isn’t yours, it’s the Spirit of God moving in them. There are no bailouts in the Kingdom, a thing stands and falls on the Will of God alone. Of course good stewardship is necessary and should be duly encouraged, but we must allow things to run their course. It’s just as likely that things need to be destroyed to give birth to the next thing God wants to do.

Now I’m probably going to get some push back from this and that’s okay but something that is so incredibly lacking today is the true faith that comes through persevering. People make mistakes and as light or drastic as it appears, those mistakes have consequences. There is a natural cycle in the church; from youth programs to leadership and this experience is universal. Excitement swells, connections are made, influence becomes standard, critical mass is reached, the people revolt, leadership freaks out, there becomes a new norm and from there we either rebuild from nearly scratch or get called away. Now there are many more factors that come into play and the more community reliant a movement becomes the less likely the winding down takes hold and the easier to notice problems and address them with personal devotion/attention. The point is that we must allow leaders to lead, they will always need mentorship, the people will always need a new thing to rally for, but it’s our responsibility as leaders to give everyone the room to grow. God has a lot of puzzle pieces to order, we each have our call, be obedient to the ministry you are called to “Right Now” and avoid the trap of being disappointed about what cannot be sustained. Community will be rebuilt, attacked from a different angle, and flourish through the attack. God is faithful, His way is perfect.

Once again it’s hard to fully gauge this because my view of Community has come into such focus over the last few years, but we will work through this, and as churches become more aware of the filter of community I’m sure we’ll all have some better approaches, but for now trust in what God can and will do through our people. I’m interested in the thoughts of others who have seen vast community decline or change in the last few years, what are your thoughts, opinions, and warnings?

1 comment:

  1. So here's some of the incredible input and advice that others had to back up and give insight into this idea (thanks everyone that helped me organize the background of this):

    -it's God's community and He's in charge.

    -It doesn't matter if you're seeking community, that's awesome and you'll find it if you are. The real purpose of community is not to seek it, it's to seek others and bring them into it so “Authentic” community goes to the individual, out of love, and draws them back in. Unless God (only Him) has called them away, then “authentic” community encourages them, prays over them and sends them out with blessing, and remains available to support and strengthen them in God's call.

    -A bigger point of community is not to be sought out, but to go and seek others.
    The thing about community, is that it’s like a living organism. Sometimes it's running full speed, adrenaline pumping and all. Other times, it's in recovery mode (pacing itself, trying to stabilize). So it expands and contracts like everything else in nature. [beautiful picture made through wisdom]

    -Discipleship [as applied in commmunity]really just depends on how God's Spirit moves people. Despite our best efforts [or motives, or intentions], God is bigger than this issue and will bring about good fruit in community.

    - I am (or "we are") not really the linchpin(s)[.e. the ones holding this thing together]. Community is much larger than little ol' me [or us]. It’s not up to us to hold it together, it’s up to us to hear God and apply His voice to the conversation and climate that He is weaving.

    -This "fall" is not necessarily a bad thing. We define "success" differently than Jesus did in terms of what a successful community looks like. If Jesus' community was successful (which I believe it was), then we must admit that a truly successful community is one that falls apart from time to time. It is one where every time it gets too big (or ineffective), Jesus (the Gospel) pulls a few weeds, or even uproots some of the stronger plants (to move them to a larger garden). On the outside this looks like a complete failure (accident), I know. But we couldn't have stopped it if we knew it was coming years prior to the crumbling. In fact, if we could, I'm not so sure it would even be a good thing. As we have said in our community (about dying ministries), "let the dying horse die!"

    - People do community (and accountability) for the wrong reasons all the time. In fact, we as leaders often fail (depending on the week). It doesn't seem helpful to insist that everyone always have the right motives when seeking (or returning to community, or seeking accountability). It seems more helpful to talk about those reasons once they’re "in" (or back in). Again, our motives are constantly changing colors and deceiving us. Let us not judge the motives of others too harshly, but instead simply be glad for their participation / return.
    My heart goes out to community everywhere ‘cause it's a hard call. The weight of ministry and relationships is heavy and without a team to bare those burdens it's even tougher.

    - Sure it'll look different, but that's ok if it does. God is going to do what He's done for thousands of years and His will is going to prevail. As hard as it is to watch it change and even fall apart, the most loving thing I can do for the community I gave everything to, is to step out of God's way when He calls me out and let him work on those hearts. That doesn't mean that on a personal level I abandon them all together. I still love them, but I love them too much to continue protecting them from what God expects of them.


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