Community. In 1998 I longed for something more than I was currently experiencing, so I thought. The youth ministry I was leading had some of the best leaders and student leaders a youth pastor could ever wish for. To this day I don’t think I’ve led a more talented and passionate group of leaders. I had great relationships with parents and people in the church. We loved the city where we spent all of our young adult years where my wife Amy and I had lived for almost 10 years. All the signs of biblical community were present in our lives yet I chose to leave because I thought community didn’t include certain things. As I look back some 17 years later I’ve learned when you are pursuing community there are hurdles you have to get over in order to really experience the real thing. These hurdles come with every pursuit. If I would have known better I would have realized that I was closer to community becoming a reality back then than I thought, and it would have prevented me from chasing the fantasies about community I dreamed about.
Here are the hurdles you are going to have to get over…
- You’re Going to Have to Get Over the Hurdle of Conflict – I list this one first because I had more of a “Kumbayah” concept of community. I was fascinated with a concept of community that doesn’t exist. My concept didn’t exist because conflict was not included in my community equation. “If conflict was present how could community happen?” Truth be told, I ran from the conflict all the way to Houston, Texas. Far away from conflict but even farther away from where true community can be found which now I know is on the other side of conflict. Conflict is an invitation to cultivate deeper community, not an indication that community will not take root.
- You’re Going to Have to Get Over the Hurdle of Expectations – Community starts with me not someone else. When I’m looking for someone to provide community for me I have the false belief that it’s their responsibility and not my own. Often we attend churches and small groups waiting for it to happen, hoping it happens, yet usually nothing happens. So many believers, including myself, have expected to find community with no responsibility in creating it. Community only begins when I make it happen. My wife and I have recently started putting the expectations on ourselves. We do the inviting, we do the hosting and we do the cooking. Even this kind of effort doesn’t automatically produce community, but it does exercise the desire deep in our hearts that wants to find it.
- You’re Going to Have to Get Over the Hurdle of Excuses – We all have 1,000 reasons why we can’t , but we only need to find one reason for why we can. Usually our variety of excuses are derived from our external world. The noise of our lives on the outside drives us to make excuses that deny our internal world what it needs. For example, I’ve been in so many churches that have a ton of small groups but they still have people that say they can’t connect. The issue isn’t they can’t connect, the reality is they don’t want to connect. If we never practice the discipline of denying ourselves what we don’t need we will never provide our internal world with what it really needs. Opportunity for community is created when I stop making excuses.
These are the three hurdles to community I see most often. We have to get over them if we are going to jump into community. Confront the conflict, make it happen and stop making excuses!
What hurdles have you had to overcome to experience community?