Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Finding Community

My friend Heather is part of the Brainerd Neighborhood Mission, a group of people in the Brainerd area of Chattanooga who are committed to being the church by loving and serving their community. They meet on Thursday evenings for a couple hours. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to go check it out yet, but I'm hoping to get a chance soon. I think it sounds awesome. :)

On Monday morning, I got on Facebook and saw this update on the Brainerd Neighborhood Mission page:

Jamie and Heather skipped church yesterday to enjoy the weather and work in their yard... and discovered that while we've all been inside talking about planting a neighborhood church, our neighbors have been outside talking over yardwork on Sunday mornings.

That observation really got me thinking, not about what this group is trying to do, but about church and community in general. Often people in the church have a passion for community, so we sit down together and try to plan ways to facilitate community. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing; I'm not suggesting that churches serve no purpose or should be done away with! There are a lot of good things to be said for churches.

But this post reminded me to be aware of the community that's already in place. Who are the people we're trying to reach and connect with? And where are they? What kind of communities are already happening outside the boundaries of "church" as we think of it, and how can we become part of those communities? How can we take the church outside our walls and become part of the communities that are already happening? I've heard lots of church people talk about "meeting people where they are" in a spiritual and emotional sense, but what about physically? Some good can absolutely come from inviting people to join us in church, but a whole lot of good can also come from literally meeting them where they are. I wonder how well the church in general does this?

I'd say most church people know this, but I just want to say it as a reminder to us all (myself included): Real community isn't developed within the church walls (or the building where we meet, if it isn't a traditional church) a few hours a week. Real community is developed through consistent, daily, real-life relationships. Yardwork. Dinners. Playgrounds. The workplace. Game nights. Coffee. Talking about the little things and the big things. Supporting each other and allowing ourselves to be supported when we need it. Real community is so much messier than we ever think it will be, but it's a beautiful thing. So let's get outside our walls (the literal ones and the figurative ones that we've built up around our own lives) and make an impact in our own communities.

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