Life in Community | Dynamic Communities
Community | by Pastor Justin Keogh
The Life in Community series highlights aspects of our life lived together in community through a mixture of theology, vision, and personal stories. Cornerstone Communities are the primary means of forming meaningful discipling relationships where we can be known, encouraged, and challenged by brothers and sisters in our body, and live out the “one another” commandments in our daily lives.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
On a Sunday this past fall, Pastor Adam asked for a show of hands for those who are not native to Seattle – and it was the vast majority of our body! We have people joining us from all over the country (and the world!), across the gamut of occupations and life stages, with a wide array of personal backgrounds and experiences. This is itself a beautiful picture of the diversity of God’s kingdom (Rev 7:9) and His supernatural power at work to bring together a new people as his treasured possession (1 Pet 2:9-10). With such a significant portion of our body being relatively new to Seattle, there are many implications for who we are as a people, including and especially how we live life together in community.
As such, I’ve taken to describing our community life as dynamic. While we are always working to build meaningful discipling relationships in our communities, that looks different season to season. It also looks different than we might expect, either from our own past experiences, or desires for new experiences. So I think it’s helpful for us to consider a few ways that our mobile urban context can work for – or against – the goals of our life together in community. I’m sure there are others, but here are five implications that have been forefront in my mind this year.
First, we are called to welcome others as we have been welcomed by Christ (Rom 15:7).
We ought to always be on the lookout for those who are new, but knowing that most of us are relatively new should keep this commandment forefront for us. Along with welcoming is to practice hospitality with one another, inviting others into our homes and our lives (Rom 12:13, Heb 13:2, 1 Pet 4:9). Welcoming and being hospitable is more than just taking someone out to lunch or having them over for dinner (though that is certainly included), but in the broader sense to be welcoming and hospitable is to say to others “I see you and I have room for you in my life.” In our hyper-busy culture, we must be intentional to make room for others, and in so doing, by God’s grace, live as welcoming and hospitable people.
Second, we should expect there to be movement as a part of our life together, without keeping a distance.
Our primary purpose in community is to foster meaningful discipling relationships – and the fact that some folks might be leaving can tempt us to keep things shallow, to avoid getting real with others. But we must walk this tension to build and maintain authentic community – and seek to make meaningful relationships with those who are in our body, for as long as they’re in our body. God is sovereign over all the details of our lives, and that includes the people that he’s brought into your life and our body today.
Third, we should commit – in community, in church membership, and in stewarding our gifts for the upbuilding of the body (1 Cor 12:7).
Commitment is like a bad word in our day and age, but it’s essential in order for us to be a healthy family. In order to be known and know others, we have to commit and consistently show up. When we aren’t willing to commit to go be with our community, what we’re really saying is that community is primarily about “What’s in it for me?” rather than “How can I steward my gifts for the upbuilding of the body?” Surely, there will be days when circumstances prevent our full participation, but that should be the exception and not the norm. Directly related is our experience of intimacy with others – if we’re not willing to commit and show up, then we won’t be able to receive the blessing of meaningful relationships with others. This same consumer mentality can lead us away from church membership, which then limits how well we can care for each other because we’re not committed to each other. And not surprisingly, if we aren’t committed to others in community or the church as members, it will be impossible for us to commit to using our gifts for the upbuilding of the church – which is a disservice to ourselves, our community, and our church family.
Fourth, we should get involved quickly, even if we’re not sure how long we’ll be here.
Some of us may only plan to be in Seattle for a year or two and be tempted to say that it won’t be worth the relational effort to get connected. There are three reasons that this temptation leads us to waste our time: First, 1-3 years can see a LOT of growth, and if we don’t take a step to commit, then we’ll miss out on the opportunity to grow while we’re here (after all, Jesus only spent three years physically with his disciples). Second, I’ve known many people who’ve set out to be here for six months, only for the project to get extended three months at a time, or a new relationship started, or a job change, which leads to them being in Seattle for years. But because they hadn’t committed to anyone, they’ve remained on the outskirts and being lonely for much longer than they thought they would be. Third, the commandments for us to make the best use of our time (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5) still apply to us, even when we’re expecting to be somewhere for a short period of time.
Fifth, we need to persevere and not be discouraged if people you’ve invested in leave.
Often we will grow close to someone and then seasons change and they move away – leaving us behind, perhaps relationally tired or even hurt. The temptation arises to say “Well, I’m done getting hurt or spending my energies on others.” But if we withdraw, this leaves us further isolated and hurting. So, the solution is not to withdraw, but to welcome others. Certainly, there will be some relational cost and loss as people move away – but for us as brothers and sisters in Christ, it is less like we’re losing family but extending our family. Lord willing, those relationships can still exist to some extent even if people move to another community, out of state, or across the world – but even if not on this side of heaven, we’ll be able to celebrate for eternity when we gather together around Jesus. Our call is the same – to continue to stir one another up to love and good works, and continuing to meet together (Heb 10:24-25).
If you’re not yet in a Cornerstone Community, the best place to get started is with the Foundations class, which lays the groundwork for our life together in DCC. The next class starts this Sunday, 2/24, at 9a. You can read more details and register here.