We are about to reach a very important milestone at The Bridge. We are going to start our home groups! What are home groups? Home groups will be a weekly bible study where members will break up by area at different homes. The purpose of the home groups is to create an environment where people can share their lives with one another and form a genuine community. Often times, creating a community on Sunday mornings is not enough, so the home groups will be an opportunity for everybody to be part of a community in a more personal way.
In preparation for this important milestone, I have been researching about the significance of community. In fact, I will be launching a sermon series, beginning this Sunday, about what it means to walk in community. In preparation for this sermon series, I stumbled upon an interesting article titled, “Why Community Matters” by Bonnie McMaken (You can read her full article here: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/features/23335-does-community-really-matter#WqdI5o4M1yzvVCFZ.99). I found several quotes to be insightful regarding community.
McMaken perfectly communicates why all of us struggle with the paradox of wanting community but being afraid of community at the same time. What I mean is that every person, on paper, would affirm that “being part of a community” is a good thing. However, when it comes time to actually be a part of a community, we become resistant. When it comes time to transition from the awkward conversations to “real talk,” we shy away. When it comes time for us to reveal our scars and baggage from the past, we quickly cover it up with a mask. When it comes time to share our hearts, we lock our hearts away and throw away the key. Why do we fear the very thing we so desperately need?
McMaken writes: Sometimes we think we don’t even want [community]. We know true community will require a lot of work, and we don’t see the value in this romanticized and vague concept. Communal laziness abounds in our culture—including among Christians. Facebook wall posts are about as far as we get. We may have Christian friends, but we never really open ourselves up to a broader community of believers. Sometimes, though, our apathy is not laziness. It simply hurts too much to engage. We put in the work of transparency, confession or ministry and don’t get anything in return—or worse, we get hurt. Or we’ve seen this happen to our parents and we swear we won’t turn into them—the kind of person who becomes a ministry doormat. So we combat the idealism with cynicism or lofty ideas of how church “should look.” In reality, though, we close ourselves off because engagement is scary.
In other words, we are afraid of being part of a community because we are afraid of being vulnerable. Here is the problem with being vulnerable. You can get hurt. You might be betrayed. People may use you. There are no guarantees; there are only risks. So instead of putting in the effort to create true Christ-centered relationships, we settle for the superficial talks about sports and food in order to lock away our hearts because we don’t want to get hurt. And the way we often mask our past hurts, insecurities, and baggage is to nitpick at every church we visit so that we have an excuse to never engage. The main barrier to true community is the fear of being vulnerable.
When a person is willing to become vulnerable, he/she will experience true joy. Back when Susan and I were dating, she wrote a card for me about how God was teaching her that loving a person requires being vulnerable. And in this card she quoted C.S. Lewis to summarize the fear of being vulnerable. Lewis writes: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries…lock it up safe in the casket and coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. The only place outside heaven where you will be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell!” Susan then said that loving me had made her feel “vulnerable, anxious, yet extremely joyful.” I think that her words perfectly sums up the mixed emotions involved in any significant relationship: vulnerable, anxious, and yet extremely joyful. There is much joy in a relationship when you are willing to tear down the walls around your heart.
This is why The Bridge will be starting home groups. I don’t want The Bridge to just be another place where people can get their weekly dose of sermons and music to ease their guilt for the week. I want The Bridge to be a place where true community occurs. But this will require everybody to become vulnerable. Yes, it will be painful at times. Yes, others might hurt you. I cannot guarantee a smooth ride. But it is only when you become completely vulnerable where you will experience the joy of loving others and the joy of being loved. So I am praying that everyone will use the home groups as a way to finally open up the coffins that cover our hearts so that we can experience the type of community that God has called us to live. If you are looking for a community, come visit us at The Bridge and we would love to open up our hearts to you.