Learn the Secrets of Building Community

Here you will find resources of knowledge to help direct you in the desire for community in your life.  The focus of this blog is to concentrate on practical advice that reveals insights into how human beings were designed to live and function together.  When applied correctly, this information should bring forth a rich and effective experience of community in your life.

3 Critical Life Decisions You Shouldn’t Make Without Your Church

Summary:  Humans were designed to operate in the context of family.  American culture has abandoned this mindset.  Until family (physical and spiritual) is once again first priority, we’ll have tremendous difficulty understanding and practicing the Christian life.

In the last post, we talked about how Kingdom community is the soil in which discipleship should take place.  Because we live in an individualistic culture, it’s hard to find Kingdom community.  But if we catch the vision for how we are meant to live collectively, we can be instruments that bring back a Kingdom community way of life to our culture.

Is this good for the group?

In strong-group cultures, seeing individuals sacrifice their own personal dreams and goals for the good of the groups they’re a part of is a normal, everyday occurrence.  In our culture, stories like this make the news.  In fact, the New Testament gives us a great example of this mindset in Romans 9:3 where the apostle Paul says “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race…

Admit it, you think he’s crazy.  You wouldn’t give yourself over to be cursed for the sake of others’ salvation, would you?

Life DecisionsWe make all of our important individual life decisions on our own, apart from the groups with which we associate.  Just think about the 3 major life decisions we all make on an ongoing basis…

  1. Career.  What do I do?
  2. Spouse. Who will I marry?  Will I stay married to them?  Will I have children?
  3. Location.  Where will I live?

What will make ME happy?

The primary factor in all 3 of these life decision areas is…what is going to make me as an individual happy and comfortable?  Also, the answer to the question “Who am I?” is first and foremost filled in by the answers to these questions, not by the groups we’re a part of.

Because of this, our personal identities and whether we are successful or not have become dependent on how these areas play out.  In general, if you enjoy your job, make good money, are happy in marriage and live in a nice safe place, you’re perceived as successful.  The problem is this type of self-reliance is not how humans were designed to operate.  When they do, the weight of these decisions and the consequences that come with them can be unnecessarily painful.

Continue reading…

Why Doesn’t Life-Altering Discipleship Happen Much?

Summary:  Kingdom community is the soil in which discipleship should take place.  Because we live in an individualistic culture, it’s hard to find Kingdom community.  But if we catch the vision for how we are meant to live collectively, we can be instruments that bring back a Kingdom community way of life to our culture.

Where spiritual formation happens

There’s lots of talk these days about discipleship and spiritual formation.  But regrettably, there’s little talk about the context in which discipleship and spiritual formation is made possible – Kingdom community.

BinocularsWe’ve got access to more sermons and other training materials than ever before in the history of the world.  Yet it seems we still struggle to find true spiritual maturity.  This is because true Kingdom community is hard to find, even among churches where one might think it would be most vibrant.

A major reason for its absence is our culture’s ingrained individualistic mindset.  I’ve addressed this with a few posts in the past, but now I’d like to dig deeper.

People grow together or not at all

Individualism is perhaps most clearly seen when it comes to the issue of conflict.  Instead of seeing relational conflict as an opportunity to go through the biblical process of dying and growing, individualistic cultures see it as an undesirable experience from which we should remove ourselves as quickly as possible.  The problem is – when you leave you don’t die, and when you don’t die, you don’t grow.  That’s right, conflict is the hammer and nails in the Father’s hand to put you on the cross.

Those relationships that bring conflict?  They’re tools of redemption designed for your long-term well-being.  When it comes down to it, people grow together…or not at all.  Those that stay together and work through conflict grow.  Those that don’t, won’t.

Continue reading…

1 Missing Component Crucial to Growing Kingdom Community

Summary:  The environments where Kingdom community can naturally emerge have been mostly eliminated from where people spend most of their time.  If we desire to be a part of a Kingdom lifestyle in our culture, median spaces need to be re-implemented into our daily lives.

Where healthy community develops

When it comes to your spectrum of personal interaction, you’ve got public spaces that strangers can occupy where you’ll still feel comfortable (parks, malls, etc).  On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got intimate spaces that are only comfortable when a few select people in your life occupy them (bedrooms, bathrooms, love seats, etc).  In-between are the zones between public and private space that are meant to be safe places for social and personal interaction.  They are the median spaces.

These are the spaces where healthy community is given a chance to develop.  This is because by nature, they are neutral spaces with no strings attached.  In these spaces, no one is pressured to or expected to come closer.  They are perfect for providing you the freedom to form relationships with others as you wish.

It’s disappearance

Front PorchPrior to the 1940s and 50s, the front porch was probably the most popular of these spaces.  Spontaneous interaction occurred between members of  communities as they went about their daily lives.  This happened simply because the front porch provided an appropriate space where neighbors were frequently visible and available to each other.  In this space, people could be invited to be closer than strangers but didn’t have to be close personal friends to come in.  It provided a space to get to know one another before feeling comfortable with inviting people into the personal space inside the home.

But then they started to disappear.  As suburban culture emerged due to changes in technology, people lives became physically fragmented.  Where they worked, ate, slept, socialized, worshiped, etc. increasingly came to be done in separate places.  Town church buildings and corners stores became things of the past replaced by remote religious campuses and strip malls.  Instead of walking down the street, people started driving cars into garages.  Instead of sitting on the porch, people stayed in their personal spaces watching TV in the comfort of air conditioning.

Since this was the case, houses started being built that were more fortess-like.  The faces of many houses became the garage; while the front entrances were relegated to a couple steps up to the front door (which no one uses anymore).

All of these lifestyle changes worked together to build a blueprint for isolation that we see today when we drive through our neighborhoods.  The spaces where social interaction naturally and comfortably takes place have largely been eliminated.

Continue reading…

How To Carefully Manage Church & Small Group Connections

Summary:  For healthy community to emerge among a group of people (church, small group, neighborhood, whaetever), members have to learn appropriate activities, appropriate behaviors, and the appropriate amount of investment for each of the relational spaces (public, social, personal and intimate) and put them into practice.  Mistakes are made when specific spaces are promoted more than others or when the four spaces are treated like an assembly line through which relationships are moved.

“…no relationship survives in one space for the entire life of the relationship.” –The Search to Belong

Space vs. investment

Spatial ConnectionsWithin a group of people (church, small group, community group, whatever), each individual only has so many slots in each relational space (public, social, personal, intimate) that can be occupied at any one time to remain healthy.  (Here’s more info on the spaces.)  Since change is inevitable, people “dance” throughout the spaces with those they come to know throughout the seasons of their lives and in different contexts and environments.

For example, a person that occupied a slot in personal space as my roommate in college has now moved to social space as we see each other every so often to catch up on each others’ lives and maintain a friendship.  This opened up slots in both of our personal spaces for others to fill, while now occupying slots in both of our social spaces.

Remember, individuals only have so much time, money and energy to spend on how they belong to each other.  Being overloaded in one space (relative to the investment to stay healthy there) deprives an individual of healthy belonging in another space.  For each of the four relational spaces of an individual’s life to be healthy, the number of slots occupied should be inversely proportional to the size of the investment in each of the slots.  Intimate space has just a few, but requires the most investment; while public space has multitudes, but requires very little.

The fans of my favorite sports team are in my public space.  In order to stay healthy in this space, I’ve got to make sure I’m not investing more time, money and energy with them than they warrant from occupying the slots in this space.  If I do, it creates unhealthiness in another space.  For example, if I watch my favorite professional baseball team on TV every night, when am I spending time with my wife?  She’s someone I claim to want in a slot of the intimate space of my life, which has very few slots available, but requires the biggest investment of them all to stay healthy.  If I choose to watch the game every night, all the relationships in my other spaces are now out of whack.

Continue reading…

The Liberating Truth About How & Where Church Community Emerges

Summary:  Church leaders tend to jump from strategy to strategy in a noble attempt to build stronger Kingdom community.  The reason for the jumping is they tend not to understand how community emerges, or where community emerges.  It emerges spontaneously, and it emerges in healthy environments where leader control is absent.  The problem is, the nature of institutional systems doesn’t allow for this.  It demands processes that humans aren’t built to function in.

We jump from this to that

JumpingWhat really helps people grow and experience community?  We jump from this model to that model, from this fad to that fad and from this strategy to that strategy.  But, if we really had this question figured out, we wouldn’t have to jump at all, would we?  Sure, the expression of community might change from generation to generation.  But, the fundamental principles of what causes community to be experienced and grow are eternal.

Somehow, it seems like we’ve lost sight of the fundamentals while jumping all over the place, doesn’t it?  I mean, every time someone comes out with the latest greatest strategy (small groups, house church, cell groups, whatever), there’s a huge scramble by church leaders to read books, get to conferences, hire staff and re-organize.  But despite all the time, money and energy spent, the facts are institutional church attendance is declining.

But it’s not about the numbers.  If numbers were declining because the Church was living out the Kingdom and this “cut the fat” so to speak, why should we care?  But numbers aren’t declining because of that.  They’re declining because the number of people who prioritize going to church (whatever that means) in their lives is dwindling.  It doesn’t make the cut anymore.  Rightly or wrongly, other things are more important.

Not only that, but people are dropping out of ministry positions at alarming rates as well.  They’re just tired of trying and trying while feeling very little success with what they hope for.  Most want to build the Kingdom, but they’re so busy having to maintain institutional machines that they get little to no chance to do that.

So, what’s the root of the issue?

  1. People (especially leaders) don’t first learn how community emerges.
  2. The nature of the systems/models/fads we choose aren’t built to create environments where community emerges.

Continue reading…