Hi everyone, Rob here.
Over the weekend we had a church camp. It was a fantastic time. We had an insightful and challenging speaker, meaningful worship, beautiful weather, a great setting and a whole lot of fun together, young and old alike. What is it about getting away as a community that inspires such unity and joy? What can we learn from those experiences to help us in our day-to-day reality as followers of Jesus?
Getting away is really important because we underestimate how much the battle of life takes out of us. We live in a great love story set in the midst of a great war according to John Eldredge, and I agree. Navigating our way through life, through the subtle lies, selfishness, brokenness and pain, is tiring. It takes its toll. We need to get away from the front lines regularly. This is a matter of personal practice through silence, solitude, fun and friendship, but it also needs to be part of the routine of a believing community. To be together in close proximity, sharing meals, playing games, worshipping, learning, talking and listening feeds the life of a community. By doing this you learn to trust each others hearts. You also learn that the community is bigger than just yourself. This was our experience anyway.
It is a risk to make the decision to get away with a large community. You have to step out of your routines. You have to be seen before your morning coffee! To get the most out of the experience you have to move from the sidelines to the main action. This involves belief, vulnerability and courage.
The belief is that you are part of the community. This sounds obvious but many try and gain their identity from being outsiders. Part of this is feeling unworthy, sometimes its a means of avoiding commitment and sometimes it’s a core belief that life is up to me. 1 Corinthians 12:27 simply says, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” We are invited to lay down our identity as an outsider and join in Christ’s redemptive community, his family, his church.
Vulnerability means being seen for who you really are; no hiding, no posing, no conforming just for the sake of it. In a large group this process begins by simply showing up and entering into the life that’s on offer without needing to control it or withdraw from it. Join in the community meals and let the conversation unfold. Let the Spirit lead you as you worship. Enjoy others and let yourself be enjoyed. Laugh if its funny, cry if its sad or touching. Know your limits and tactically withdraw for a time if you have to. Come as you are.
Courage is doing it.
What does this mean for our everyday lives?
It means we have to break though our fear of community if we’re going to know the fullness of life. The size of the community isn’t that important. I find that I benefit from my larger church community, my mid-week home group and my smaller men’s group. That may be too much for many. It may be too organised for some. But it’s the regular meeting and sharing of our lives that calls us out of our shells, our egos and our fear. How do you do that in your life? It’s not about Sundays. The bigger the crowd the easier it is to hide and the harder it is to be vulnerable. It’s about engagement.
What do you have to do to engage in community this week? Is it to tell someone how life really feels for you instead of saying it’s “fine?” Is it to invite that person for coffee who you’ve been meaning to catch up with? Is it to stop dissing your church and start engaging with it? Is it to ask for prayer? What ever it is, believe that you are part of God’s family through Christ; risk being vulnerable as you open your heart to others input and take courage – Jesus is with you in this!