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.

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Which Of Your 2 Families Is More Important To You?

Summary:  Although not socially acceptable, Jesus prioritized God’s family over his physical family.  Disciples of Jesus do the same.

In the last post, we learned how a Christian’s spiritual brothers and sisters are supposed to be the most important relationships in their life.  This means that they’re the most intimate, nurturing and ultimately satisfying relationships.  For many, this concept is quite the challenge, especially in cultures and with people taught that their blood families come first.

For Christians with physical family members that ARE Christians, the challenge is not to show favoritism to these spiritual brothers or sisters over others just because DNA is closely shared.  It’s also to see them according to your spiritual relationship and not your physical one.

For Christians with physical family members who ARE NOT Christians, the challenge is prioritizing their spiritual family over their physical family, bucking the trend against what’s typically socially acceptable behavior.

Prioritizing God’s family isn’t socially acceptable

Prioritizing the family of God over one’s physical family definitely wasn’t socially acceptable in Jesus’ strong-group Mediterranean culture when He said this…

Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-38)

2 choicesHe’s basically saying that commitment to Him and His family is going to create conflict between His family and physical families.  At this point, there’s a choice to be made.  Those who put Him and His family first are worthy of being part of it.  Those who put their physical families first are not worthy of being part of it.  He put it even more plainly here…

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-55)

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What Should a Christian’s Most Important Relationships Be?

Summary:  A Christian’s spiritual brothers and sisters are supposed to be the most important relationships in their life.  But to understand what that means practically, you have to understand what the sibling relationship was like in the culture in which the Church was born.

In the last post, we learned that while 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.

Since the family is the #1 metaphor used by biblical authors to explain what Church community is like, we need to know what it meant in the New Testament world for the Church to be a family.  In the Mediterranean culture of the New Testament, relational priorities were totally different than they are in America today.  Understanding the difference is the only way we’ll understand what the New Testament authors meant.  It’s also the only way we’ll be able to recapture God’s design for the Church.

The bond between siblings

Brothers and SistersWhat’s the most important human relationship in your life?  If you’re married, you most likely immediately thought of your spouse.  If you’re an American, this would put you in the majority.  But what you might not realize is this way of thinking is not common in many parts of the world in the present day, or in most parts of the world in the past.

Now this is not to say th at marriage isn’t important in other cultures, because it is.  But, it isn’t the most important like it is in cultures like ours.  For most cultures throughout history, the bond between siblings stands at the top.  Inside of the blood family is where the emotional and physical needs are met.  While the institution of marriage plays many important roles, it’s secondary to the family.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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