If I’d questioned what kind of community we’ve been building on Sunday nights, I don’t any longer. If I’d questioned that we had built community at all, I don’t now.
The last few times I set up to have a Sunday night storying group, no one showed up. People got busy, maybe they didn’t feel like coming, the weather turned nice, whatever. So I wasn’t sure where we stood or how hard to push to maintain something that maybe no one else cared about. I felt like maybe we’d accomplished everything we needed to in at least exposing everyone to who Jesus is and how he lived while he was on earth and how he impacted the people around him. I was kind of ok with letting it go if we needed to.
But my father passed away this week, and I felt so much support from this little band of friends. They showed up. They showed up the minute I got home from the hospital where my dad died. They showed up to keep me company between visitations. They loved on me and ministered to me and prayed for me and walked beside me. Even the people who I haven’t heard from for weeks or even months showed up to be there with me.
This is what the church is supposed to be like. I think we are becoming the church. I think that they actually view what we have as their spiritual community. It may not look exactly like what church usually looks like. We don’t meet as regularly, for example. But it seems like we’re doing something the right way if this is the way people respond during tragedy.
One of the most powerful things that I think we’ve done on Sunday nights is the time after the story where we pray for each other. I don’t think that I’ve talked much about that when I’ve been debriefing the stories. But from the very first week we started, after we shared with one another how the story impacted us, we prayed for each person specifically. We prayed for the spiritual needs they’d identified during the discussion and we prayed for anything else that came up.
In order to reach this level of community, though, you have to be vulnerable. One of the refreshing thing about people outside the church is that they don’t seem to have the same barriers to sharing who they are as people who grew up in the church. They’re generally willing to share, so long as it’s a safe environment, the things that they’re struggling with. They aren’t trying to hide their weaknesses or pretend to be perfect so that no one will know how much they’re struggling or how awful they are. They accept humanity and they accept their own humanity and they’re willing to share from that. Within this context, we successfully created a community culture that is built on interdependence. And when I had needs, they all came–every single one of them.
That kind of community is a gift. I don’t exactly know how to go forward or what shape it should take, but I feel now that I must go forward. We must go forward together. We’ve got to find a way to continue to build spiritually into the lives of the people that we’ve been given so that we all can continue to be transformed into the image of Christ.