Tuesday, March 4, 2014

no lone rangers-why community matters

I found it in the din of a busy coffee shop, with doors swinging open and espresso machines pumping. It was over coffee with a friend, a scene that’s been played out countless times in my life, that I was reminded again of one of the most important things in life.

Community matters. This life was not meant to be lived alone. Whether our community is crowded or small, the connections we make with others are vital. Intentional friendships are the key to pulling and pushing us closer towards God’s best in our lives. And although it’s often messy, community is a place where God’s glory can be revealed and made real among us. 

Growing up we had this thing in youth group about no lone rangers. It was something we heard over and over again on every youth trip. We weren’t to be alone, and had to stay in a group of three or more. Being a lone ranger was bad, and potentially dangerous for a young person in a foreign environment with only a pastor and a couple of adults overseeing. The lone ranger concept is a principal that extends to all of life. 

This idea is so important that God repeated it over and over in the Bible, there are over 38 “one another” verses. Those verses direct us how to live our lives together, loving one another, helping one another, forgiving one another, teaching one another, and encouraging one another. And yet, this is often something we rarely live out. 

I’ve been reminded a lot lately of how important it is to have those others in our lives. When Zac resigned from his position at the church we had a very hazy dream of what God wanted to do in us and through us. However it wasn’t very clear, at least at first. And as we tried to explain to others we were often met with blank stares, or confusion. And at the very least our explanations had to be backed up and expounded on with a definition of terms and such. 

We are redefining church for us. And because it’s new and different, a lot of people don’t understand. That’s not bad a thing, but it has tended to make us feel alone in this process. For a long time a common comment between us was, “at least you know what I mean.” We were so grateful to have each other, and that we were walking through this transition side by side. 

But last week we met another couple on the same journey as us. They are also redefining church, and are in the initial stages of a church plant. We sat down together to encourage each other and pray for each other. Those few hours with them reminded us that we really do need the body of Christ. It’s not that we felt alone in the process, we know that there are many people around us prayerfully supporting us. They’ve just been doing that from their road, while we’ve walked on ours. It was refreshing to know that there are others on this same path, the path of doing church differently and embracing a community central life. 

Which brings me to the point: we need each other. And desperately so. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we can stand by each other and support each other. 1 John 1:7 says “But if we walk in the light, as he in the light, we have fellowship with one another...” In the original language that word fellowship means community, communion, or joint association. It gives me the picture of people intentionally joining together for the purpose of building each other up in Christ, praying for each other, and supporting each other. It’s really discipleship, spurring our fellow sojourners on towards God’s best. 

I think it’s what God had in mind when he made us, knowing that it wasn’t good for us to be alone. Alone we are vulnerable. But united with other Christ followers we are stronger, and better prepared to live this life as Christ followers successfully.

Whether it’s in a small group setting, or a Bible study, or somewhere else, we are called to be a part of something bigger, something beyond us. And in that place the glory of God can be revealed all the more.

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