I love to watch people, because people are fascinating. They come from all walks of life. They all have different stories. Every one of us with their own specific mannerisms and interesting idiosyncrasies. I love observing the way that people interact socially. Some are wired for it and fueled by it. Some have to work a little harder and are challenged by it. No matter how you and I might be wired, God has designed us and called us to community. Hebrews 10 tells us to consider how we are doing this.
24 And let us consider how to
stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Galatians 6 reminds us it’s not just about us.
2 Bear one another’s burdens,
and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Romans 12 encourages us that we are all different.
For as in one body we have
many members, and the members do not all have the same function so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
He’s called us to take all of those stories, all of those idiosyncrasies and push them together in one group, in one place, under one vision. It is simultaneously the most beautiful and potentially the messiest thing we’ve ever experienced. If we understand and embrace that we are called to community in our lives, it makes me wonder what message our communities actually communicate to those on the outside looking in?
My son has recently fallen in love with skateboarding. He loves everything about it, from multiple skateboards, to apparel, to video games, to toy skate ramps in his room to play skateboarding using his imagination. He is all in. Hook, line, and sinker. Helping him navigate this new world, I recently took him to a skate park in the Charleston area. It is large enough to provide the outlet for beginner skaters to be around more seasoned veterans in one location. So, being a people watcher, I eagerly sat and observed this new world.
I was amazed at what I found. I first noticed how we were greeted when we arrived. The people were actually excited we were there. They were welcoming to us and supportive, even though my son wasn’t a pro yet. They were so thrilled because he was there to learn and explore this new world, and they knew that meant their community was growing and expanding. As he went out and began to skate, he was approached by some other people that had been skating a lot longer. They began to show him some foundational things that would help him along the way. They kept skating at their level, but stayed aware enough to cheer him on when he succeeded. They encouraged him when he failed. They understood their role in the community to help him grow and learn, and while I couldn’t see his thoughts, I knew when it came to skateboarding, he wanted to be like them. He wanted to do what they did. About an hour of this went by when I saw my son running up to me like a kid that had received the greatest gift ever on Christmas morning. One of the guys in the skate community just gave my son his skateboard. Gave it. This was the experience my son had at a local skate park. Needless to say, we WILL be back, because of what the community had communicated to us.
As I sat there and took in all that was happening, I began to wonder whether this is the culture people observe when they experience our gatherings of people called the church? When they enter our homes for small groups or walk through the doors of our buildings, our communities are communicating. But what are they saying? Do they feel welcomed? Is there an excitement, a genuine excitement that God has potentially expanded the community? Does your community communicate that we are all in this together no matter your skill level?
Being a follower of Jesus has never been about entry into an elitist group. I think that’s why Jesus chose a rag tag group of disciples from the start. I think that’s why Jesus chose you and me. Is that person at the edge of your community looking on feeling an environment welcoming them to come on in, beautifully articulating that we can do this together? Do we have seasoned people at the ready to come alongside others to cheer them on and encourage them where they struggle? Are we willing to sacrifice time, maybe our money, maybe our stuff to those in need?
May our communities communicate the heart of the gospel, keeping in mind that God uses our communities to visibly show and communicate that every day.