Communities of Transformation

I wonder if this is possible.

Our communities are filled with people desperate to unburden themselves in the presence of another, to be known at a level where the only antidote to disdain is grace, to sink beneath death’s dark waters while in the grip of a set of strong hands that promise to raise them up into newness of life.

(abductive columns)

If we have no one we really trust, no one we can talk through our failures with then we are truly alone. It doesn’t matter what level of commitment we have to a group or organization.

One of the reasons why so many people find their way out of conventional churches is that they are lonely and disconnected in a sea of activity. For a long time they believed that sitting and listening was participating in community. They believed that being in a small group was being supported and loved. They come to sense a huge disconnect.

The heart of ministry is to be Jesus to one another. Too often we overload ourselves with activities that have value but have so captured our attention that they insulate us from each other. We avoid the heart of ministry because it is too hard.

We can’t flee from commitment to each other, we must give grace when we are harmed, and we must love when it is inconvenient. Becoming like Jesus is a sacrifice that most of us are unwilling to make and that is why we lack so much.

(The Heart of Ministry – Leighton Tebay)

I wonder if I am willing and able to walk with people at that level of commitment.

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18 thoughts on “Communities of Transformation

  1. Grace, I wondered those same things about myself for a long time. Now that I’m experiencing it, however, I cannot ever imagine life without it.

    Yes, it costs: Pride, reputation, heartache, love, being wounded and misunderstood at times, patience to work through it all, and loads of grace. The end result: Being loved, cared for, cherished, held up, pushed on, held back, and known, I mean truly known, like never before. All this and I feel like we have only just begun.

    It’s totally worth it, but the cost is, indeed, high and I know many aren’t willing to go there. It is so worth the risk….

  2. We are going to open our house up one night a week, offer dinner and childcare and just tell people you are welcome to come. I don’t know if anyone will show up or not. But we just want to minister to families – whole families. They don’t need to worry about dinner or what to do with their kids. Just come. And I pray that we will have an atmosphere of peace and love through the breath of the Holy Spirit that all who come will be able to rest in.

    I know that we’ve been horrific at such things in the past.

  3. I tried it … I’m still recovering from the wounds caused by people who were more concerned with power than transparency.

    Some day I may be willing to try it again. But that day will be a long time in the future.

  4. I am not a “huggy” type person – I don’t know why, I don’t even think this is wrong – but we have a whole bunch of “huggers” at the Bridger and when I see em comming I become a running.

    Openess and honesty so important – we need to prove first to those who join with us in and share with us – that we can be trusted with such important information that being the story of their lives.

  5. I was okay with this until the last paragraph. Words of obligation are scary to me. It’s dangerous to bypass the heart of a person and tell them what they “should” be doing.

    If I was in a group of people who felt they “should” be committed to me, or they “should” show grace to me, or they “should” be loving to me, or they “should” be like Jesus… I’d run for the nearest exit.

    Unless the heart can freely give of these things we have no business trying to produce them of our own accord.

    Soul care is possible only from a heart of love. A heart that Jesus has so monopolized that it can do nothing but give.

    Obligation will mess things up. All sorts of conformity and control problems come out of it.

    Where are the leaders? Falling down from being told they “should” do this and that. Law will never produce a heart of love. Law produces self righteousness or condemnation. Only grace and a true understanding of the Gospel will bring us to a place where we can freely lay down our lives for another.

    Where are the leaders? They’re being short circuited in our institutes of Christianity that have forgotten the Gospel message of grace and peace.

  6. That’s the kind of community I want to be a part of. I hope that here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, I can find others who feel the same way.

  7. Grace,

    Thank you for these powerful words. I always need to be reminded of this: the call to follow Jesus in that very real, costly way of painful transparency, generous grace, forgiveness, service and love. The word “inconvenient” struck me as really summing up why so many of us walk away from the one who invites us to sell all and follow.

  8. Grace,

    Great post…and questions!

    As my family detoxes from institutional church, my husband and I have been involved in a very diverse “missional” group of mostly former leaders on Tuesdays since February.

    Over time, time group has come to recognize that we are “church” together … a kind of church none has expected. What started as a 12 week “study” moved into a twice a month “hanging out” and has now turned to being a kind of house church … because we meet in homes!

    But something interesting happened about six weeks ago. We started having one of us share the story of our journey (in whatever way feels most comfortable), with the rest of us listening and then asking follow-up questions.

    Sometime after we began this, my family stopped attending the church we’d belonged to for over 10 years (where I pastored). We’d been attending “so the kids could have continuity” but felt farther and farther away, as if the ties were melting.

    So, we now have a CLB … because we finally left.
    But we have the richest fellowship we have ever known — because we are loved and cared for and, as my Allelon friends say, are listening one another into free speech.

    …it is a profound reality.
    But we are experiencing in our little house church

  9. I get a wee bit scared when we talk of committment to each other ,having lived through an intense shepherding church of the 70s and 80s.The relationships that were ‘committed’ only existed as long as you stayed in the ‘group’ – after that you were dropped like a ton of coals due to fear I suspect.
    Informal groups where folk can tell their story and show genuine compassion is more like it,where nobody lords it over anyone else ( a tricky thing to learn).I do feel however that boundaries are important and that we have been given the gift of space where only God comes to us.Out of this sacred space we reach out to others asking for permission to enter their space.Too many believers either barge rudely into others spaces without permission or ignore others completely.Civility and deep respect for one another go a long way to reflecting Christ to one another.

    Charlie

  10. I see two realities at play in the quote that Grace has supplied.

    The first, and one which I don’t read anyone disagreeing with;

    One of the reasons why so many people find their way out of conventional churches is that they are lonely and disconnected in a sea of activity. For a long time they believed that sitting and listening was participating in community. They believed that being in a small group was being supported and loved. They come to sense a huge disconnect.

    Have not most of us reading this experienced the lonely disconnect in a sea of activity in the churces of our past?

    The second reality;

    We can’t flee from commitment to each other, we must give grace when we are harmed, and we must love when it is inconvenient. Becoming like Jesus is a sacrifice that most of us are unwilling to make and that is why we lack so much.

    If we don’t want to live in isolation, disconnected from others, then we MUST give grace when harmed and love when it’s inconvenient–which is a “becoming like Jesus”, our sanctification.

    It’s a choice; walk in the Spirit, or live in loneliness.

    I do fail in this much too consistentantly. My sins are monumental. My need for grace may well exceed that of most.

    Tom

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments. I have been thinking about them all. They have actually provoked a lot of questions which I will post in another post. I hope you will participate in sharing your further thoughts on that post.

    tracy, jonathan, and adam,
    I am going to post more about this. I hope that you will continue to share from your experience.

    bryan,
    That’s great. When you are intentional about opening your home, you can let the relationships develop naturally. Maybe the success is in the willingness to just do it, regardless of the outcome.

    sonja, jim, and fred,
    I understand those feelings. The reality is that these kinds of relationships can get pretty messy. I don’t want to be in pursuit of an ideal.

    mark,
    Good question, can others trust us with their stories?

    mary,
    Exactly! These things can’t be required, forced, or obligated. They must come out of our identity and relationship with Christ.

    erika,
    Inconvenience and perhaps fear and frustration. It also sums up why we sometimes walk away from one another. Many disappointments and hurts occur in our failed attempts to love sacrificially.

    peggy,
    What a gentle way to transition into a new tribe. I’m sure that it wasn’t without its struggles in letting go, but beautiful how the needs of your family have been provided for.

    bob,
    I do too. Now if I only knew how. ;)

    charlie,
    Great thoughts. I share some of those concerns. The things that you mentioned – the gift of space, permission, deep respect – are all important in contributing to healthy relationships.

    tom,
    So true. We can choose our level of investment. However, we also have to be careful to remember that we cannot require, even with our expectations, a guaranteed response from others.

  12. Grace, I think it is important to say that I too felt the deep sense of impossibility before we started Thrive. In fact the joke is that I was the one who said it was impossible at the first men’s retreat that started it all.

    But the glory of it was that God was moving in our midst and all we did was participate. Trust and love became the meta-works of that participation.

  13. True community comes at a very very high price, yet the rewards far out way the cost. Rickard and I have been blessed with a beautiful group of people who are committed to the same journey. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the hardest thing we’ve done, and that there haven’t been people along the way with their own agenda, but those have melted away and we are left with a family. People who would, and do give their life to each other. There is no other way I would want to do church……even if I think I may from time to time.
    I pray that you will find some along the way that will join with you and you will be able to find true community.
    Blessings

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