It Takes A Village

 
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Community. We all seem to want it, but at the same time many of us seem to be repelled by it. In my conversations with people, I hear story after story of how they have been rejected or excluded from church and now they refuse to step out to build friendships.  

The Church is flawed. There’s no escaping it. It’s filled with people like you and me, and as much as I tell my husband I am practically perfect in every way, I know that my imperfections hinder, hurt, and frustrate others just as much as the next person. 

But still, no matter how busy we can make ourselves with life, we need people more than the American Dream. We need people to speak life to our hearts. We need people to champion us. We need people to love us, encourage us, and point out our blind spots. We need people to laugh with us, to believe in us, and to cheerlead us.  

Without community, our brokenness will triumph over our hopes and desires. Just look at King Saul and King David. Both were anointed king by God. Both of these men where fit to lead a nation. But both messed up. There were many differences in their leadership, but I have recently been meditating on how David allowed a man of God to speak into his life whilst Saul refused to listen to anyone. 

Like Saul, a lack of community, a lack of wise voices in our lives can ultimately be our downfall. 

But still, many of us choose to remove ourselves from community. After rejections, knock-backs, and let downs, we decide that relationships are “drama” and choose to focus our attention on only a trusted few. Some choose a trusted pastor, their spouse, or maybe a best mate. But the circle is small and it’s safe.

The ancient proverb tells us that, “It takes a village to raise a child”. But I’ve discovered it’s not just about the raising of children – it takes a village PERIOD. It takes a village to build a career. It takes a village to prosper emotionally. It takes a village to have a strong relationship with God. 

 In their best selling book, “Boundaries”, Cloud and Townsend describe;

“We all need more than God and a best friend. We need a group of supportive relationships. The reason is simple: having more than one person in our lives allows our friends to be human. To be busy. To be unavailable at times. To hurt and have problems of their own.  To have time alone. Then, when one person can’t be there for us, there’s another phone number to call. Another person who may have something to offer. And we aren’t enslaved to the schedule conflicts of one person.” (P111)

You see, when we only allow a particular one or two people into our lives, we are placing enormous pressure on them. In our quest to create a comfortable life for ourselves, we are limiting the choices of besties and giving them very limited scope to be human. So when they are unavailable, when they are hurting or needing time alone, we end up feeling rejected, let down, and totally disappointed.  

Jesus was into community. He had the three (James, John, and Peter), then the twelve disciples, and also His larger group of followers. He had pockets of friends like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As much as He prayed and spent time alone, people were clearly Jesus’ thing.

In this season of my life, I am discovering community with people that I never expected. It’s easy for me to choose my BFF and my husband, but it’s harder to create a wider circle. It’s scary. It makes me vulnerable. I have to work a little bit.

But my community is gradually becoming rich and varied. Some people in my community can speak to my heart and some to my parenting. Some I laugh with, some I have deep conversations with, some I can do both! Some can offer help with my littles, while others can only pop over for coffee every few months. 

So try it. Let go of your hurt. Open your heart. Don’t just focus on those who are your “first round pick”. Look beyond your inner circle and cast your net wide! Love people. Remove pressure and expectations, and give them choices. Ask God to be in the process. Ask Him to lead you to your people. Like we read in Matthew 7, if we ask God for bread, He’s not going to give us a stone. So if we ask Him for friendships, He’s not going to give us a bunch of crazies. 

Make community. Build your village. 

 

Ministry or People?

As I talk with people and hear their stories, there is something that many have in common; as people have grown in their faith and served their church communities, many have been rejected, criticized or burned by Christian leaders. Some have experienced ministers that were proud, some leaders have a violent temper and some leaders have gone to bed with someone else’s spouse. I, too, have been wounded by those in ministry. I experienced control and manipulation, I was pushed to my emotional limits and received immense pressure to perform ‘perfectly’.

I’m not sharing this with you to be negative or to give permission to criticize the Church, but in the midst of my pain, I experienced hope.

I think in many ways, ministry has become an industry where ‘success’ is judged. We are obsessed with growing our churches, blogs or social media following. As Christians, we have focused on advancing our groups, gaining influence and becoming recognized as a great leader. But sadly, this means we have lost sight of what ministry is supposed to do… serve God and serve others.

Jesus never taught His disciples a 10-point plan to build their ministries. He never instructed them to work until they dropped. He never said, “Hold it all together because there are people in your church depending on you and you can’t afford to put one foot wrong”. He never said, “Grow your group by 10% each year.”

Instead, He spoke of loving God and loving the people around you (Matthew 22:37-39), He included those who were looked down on (Mark 2:13-17, John 4:1-26) and He showed us that we are to grieve with those who are grieving (John 11:35).

He simply loved and put people first - not a plan, or an agenda, but people. Before the words of 1 Corinthians 13 were ever penned, He showed that prophecies will cease and knowledge will pass away, but love never fails.

We see this when Jesus told the story of the prodigal son. We are familiar with the story; a son foolishly takes his inheritance early, leaves home, totally screws up and loses everything and then comes home with his tail very much between his legs. But the father never scolded him. The father never said, “I am done with you! You have failed this family business and you are now labeled a screw-up.” No. As soon as the father saw his son returning home, he “saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Luke 20:15)

The father simply loved his son. The father didn’t pressure or abuse his son. He forgave and received his son. He loved him.

And like the father in this story, God the Father loves us and puts our hearts first. He doesn’t focus on our weaknesses and he certainly never pressures us to fulfil an agenda, hit a quota or succeed in ‘ministry’.

If you are a church leader, it’s time to put away your expectations, plans and job descriptions, and remind yourself that life is about PEOPLE. Your reputation, social media followings or church sizes will take care of themselves, but it all begins and ends with loving people.

And if you have been hurt by ministry, if you have been broken by leaders you thought you could trust, I am sorry. I know this pain and I know how hard it can be to find the Father’s love when you feel so rejected. But it’s time to forgive and see these people as they truly are. Most of these leaders are broken people who have not experienced the unconditional love of the Father. They are people who need to know they are accepted and they belong, whether they fail or succeed. They are driven by their insecurities and they need healing. And there are some ministers who were never trained to lead. They may know the love of the Father, but they were given responsibility without the tools to manage or take care of people. These leaders have tried their best but have ended up hurting and breaking people.

We are a family. We are fathered by the Father and we are in community with one another. This is what matters. Everything else will pass away; our riches, skills and achievements, but love never fails.

So, forgive the past and get into community! Grab a glass of wine with a friend and hear what’s going on in their life. Find the struggling mum and take over a dinner so she doesn’t have to cook that night. Treat your spouse to something they love. Call your friend and tell them you are thinking of them.

Let the hurt and disappointment go and love your God, your family and your friends (Mark 12:30-31).