When community fails
by Erin Wikle –
There is something to be said about the current trend to be a little less churchy and a little more like Jesus. Some have left the organized church feeling that they can be more accessible in that way. I’ll admit (this is no surprise) that I’m a strong advocate of being the church—being accessible, mobile, and undefined by the parameters of a day, time, and location. However, I too have found myself at times pulling away from the very body that should at all times be my strength and support. This raises the question, in a church culture that is constantly changing in order to accommodate the shift in society: Is it possible to stray too far in completely detaching from the church body itself in an effort to be more pleasing to the King?
The small group I belong to recently has been studying the dynamics of friendships among women. The author, while very candid in her expressing how pithy, superficial, and dishonest we women can be with one another, has much to share about the importance of regarding our relationships with one another just as we would with those we are in direct community with.
I’m not talking about community as we seem to have misconstrued it as of late—false interest in one another, forced smiles, and quick exits out the church doors on Sunday in earnest quest for an overdue lunch. I’m talking about community as God designed it and as Paul admonished in Ephesians—serving, sharing, being gracious and allowing for one another’s faults, being bound together in love and peace (See Ephesians 4:1-6). Aah! Now that’s refreshing, isn’t it? That’s community.
So while her message is for the women who have decided to journey beyond chitchat and towards authentic relationships and raw community, I believe her words to be fitting for us all:
“I’ve never met anyone who detached himself or herself from God’s church and became better for it. Though it’s trendy to separate Jesus from his church and claim a purer faith, worship void of human error, ‘All I need is Jesus’ is a load of bull… To forsake Jesus’ church—the one he died for—is to forsake Jesus” (Jen Hatmaker, Girl Talk: Getting Past the Chitchat).
We simply cannot give up on one another. And we can’t give up on Jesus. His desire is that we might learn to grow more gracious with one another and engage in a purer interest and investment in one another’s lives.
Nothing—nothing is more pleasing to the King than when his followers sit, talk, pray, worship, grieve, rejoice, and break bread with one another. There is no question of it breaking his heart when we, instead, say “no” to the community he has created for us simply over differences of opinion and design. Nobody’s perfect—that includes you and me.
Let’s remember and reclaim Jesus’ very own prayer for all believers:
My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. (John 17:9-12)