Community is realized in story.
On the first night of our small group, I didn’t want to make things too awkward. I didn’t want to be the guy who dumped all of my junk on everyone…you know, the emo guy that just goes around with a rain cloud over my head, and shares dark things all of the time. You know who I’m talking about. Every time you talk to them you think, “How are you even still alive? You are so dark and mysterious…”
Community and Prayer
I didn’t want to pressure people too much, so I closed in prayer. I just laid it out there and said, “Hey, we’re going to close in prayer…please don’t feel the pressure to share anything…if you want prayer, please mention it and someone will volunteer to pray out loud for you in a moment.” There must have been something magical in those words. Because in that moment, the heavens opened up and it was glorious.
Our group gravitated towards each other’s stories. We could’ve gravitated towards a lot in that moment, but it was with each unfolding story that our group began moving inwards.
I didn’t ask for community to happen…it just did. Our group went from fragmented, broken individuals to a unified community in the matter of about 12 minutes. And I’ve seen this over and over again. Fragmented individuals come together more quickly and more tightly, forming the bonds of community, through the power of story. Stories reveal shared experiences.
Isn’t Community Through the Gospel?
I know that some of you right now are saying, “Nope, it’s not through story, you crazy liberal! It’s through Gospel. We’re aiming for Gospel-centered community, NOT story-centered community. Have you read Blue Like Jazz too many times?”
Community is not realized in a group simply when we find out that we all follow Jesus.
Community is realized
- When I hear how the Gospel has changed your life.
- When I hear the junk you’ve had to deal with, and that God’s grace has brought you through it.
- When I hear the pain you’ve been through, yet hear how the hope of the Gospel has sustained you.
- When I hear about how the Gospel has changed your desires.
- When I see that the Gospel transformed your family.
In the process of hearing your story, I hear mine. I make connections between who you were and who I was. I link who you’re becoming with who I’m becoming. And I see that the Gospel is strong enough. Scandalous enough. Generous enough. Big enough to transform my story, too.
Your story gives me hope.
Without your story, community isn’t found. “Bible study” may be found. “Fun” may be found. “Relationships” may be found. But genuine community is formed when I see and hear and feel and smell and hug and experience the Gospel in your life.
To choose to not share your story is to choose fear. And it’s choosing a weak, inadequate form of community when the Gospel offers much, much more.
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. – Romans 12:15-16