Since January of 2018 numerous things have taken place to take up a majority of my time. From starting the foster care process, getting our first two sets of foster kids, getting involved in their school lives – it’s been a whirlwind.
And then I received a call from a church in Florida to become their next associate pastor. This involved numerous interviews, travel to the church, accepting of the job, selling our house, moving to Florida, finding new housing, and getting to know a group of people dedicated to knowing God – another whirlwind.
What the whole process has done is reminded me of the importance of community. If it had not been for the people who surrounded us at Hub City Church – those who offered prayer, encouragement, meals, taking care of actual needs – we would have never made it. Had it not been for people at PC3 opening up their homes to us, calling to check on us, inviting us out to eat, bringing us into their circles – we would have never made it.
Without community we would have drowned.
In our culture the idea of the individual is what permeates every aspect of our lives. How we think, how we speak, even how we read the Bible is filtered through the lens of ‘I’. Most of the time we do not even realize it since it is such a dominant theme. But as a new generation is raised and finds itself being asked to inherit this ‘I’ centered world I am beginning to see a push-back. What they want is other-centered, ‘we’ centered.
The church in some regards understands this need, this desire for more ‘we’ and less ‘I’. That is part of the reason most churches create small group ministries. The idea is that if we get a group of people together on a regular basis to study the word and interact they will make their way down the path of discipleship and mature in their faith. Yet even our groups take on an ‘I’ centered approach. True, because of the small group there are numerous individuals gathered in a room together, but how often do they take on the identity of a real community? To do so takes an enormous amount of energy, resources, and time. Most people are content in their own individual worlds. There is no reason, no benefit to sharing it with others.
This idea of community, however, also spills out into how we worship on Sunday. For those of us with a non-denominational background there has been very little in our history that we would define as liturgical. Our gatherings are a hodgepodge of different ideas which brings to the forefront a feeling of rootlessness. Do those who come into our gatherings realize they are linking hands, metaphorically speaking, with millions (billions?) who have come before them? Do they know the history of the church in which the truth of a God who saves brought about progress in the hard sciences, in medical care, in social care, etc.? We focus an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people that the gospel message is relevant to the world (it’s not). In doing so we forget that the message itself is a reminder that we were unable to save ourselves and we were never meant to live a life of faith by ourselves. The whole process of salvation and sanctification was meant to be lived out in a community of believers that could model a life of faith.
The current generation desires community as opposed to individualism. They hunger to experience a liturgy of worship that connects the present to the past. They are clamoring for the opportunity to interact with a religion that allows them to serve together, sing together, read scripture together, pray together, and to practice a faith that is alive and different from anything they can obtain out in the culture today.
The way forward may mean going backwards.