Community, pt. 3

For those who are just now checking in to the community-focused blog, you are catching us in the middle of things.  So if you would like to catch up with us, you can read Part 1, by clicking HERE and Part 2, by clicking HERE. There are two things I said in the last blog, which will seem to make more sense in this one:

  1. each of these community blogs are part of a whole, not independent in themselves - the reason this is important, is because this one blog will seem to not be so congruent with the last two if you've read the last two under the premise or assumption that community development is something that can only be done by relocating to live among the poor.
  2. next month (which is this month) we’ll discuss living deeply where you already are - while I absolutely believe that God calls some to 'relocate' in order to live among, to be 'sent', and to do community development among the poor and at-risk communities, I do not believe that this is God's call on everyone.

before I go into this let me make some qualifying statements, so that what I say won't be taken out of context, nor used to justify a life of consumption and escape from the real issues in our world.

  1. The Poor - while I do not believe that all are called to uproot and move among the poor, I do believe more people are called to do that, and everyone is called to be deeply engaged with the poor and the people that serve them.
  2. Home - where one lives should not represent nor be a manifestation of our lust for stuff; the idolizing of status and power; or a place of escape from the real issues of the world.  However, I don't believe that what I believe means all people will live among the poor.  The place we call home should represent where God has sent you to represent him; where God has best equipped you to serve and live out the gospel; and where your 'otherness' will stand out and point others to God - whether this is among the poor, the rich, the middle class, the black, the white, or in a different country - we need to understand we are a sent people and that should inform what we call home.

Now, let us get on with this quickly.   The short topic of today's blog is "where you already are".  Simply stated, rather than constantly looking for the next place to move, or fantasizing about what it might be like to live somewhere else, among a different people, or how you will "do" community better elsewhere, I think we should be more concentrated on building and doing community and living deeply right where we already are.  In fact, to constantly be living in the fantasy of what could be is to be very bad stewards of where God has sent you now.  For me this ideas is built around two texts (actually more than that, but for sake of space, I'll only mention these two).

The first text speaks to how you see where you are.  If you see where you as happenstance, or as a result of bad choices you've made, or as a trophy for the good choices you've made, then whether you live among the poor or the rich, you will never get the purpose to why you live where you live.  According to Acts 17:24-28, you live where you live for one reason that trumps all the other reasons, and that is so that those in your vicinity "should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him" through your life where you live.  This changes everything.  This takes where you live and turns it into the place you have been sent.  I am NOT saying, God will not, is not, or doesn't want to 'send' you somewhere else, but it seems like the principle of stewarding in the scriptures starts with what you already have or in our case, where you already are.  What if you began to look at where you are as where you've been sent?  How different would the life you live in your current neighborhood look if you believed it was there you were called to be missionary?  What if, you live where you live because you have the make-up that God desires to use among those people.

The second text has everything to do with living deeply right where you are.  Let me give an example.  I have a friend who could almost be called a serve-aholic.  That's what he does, he serves.  He serves the homeless, the poor, the broken... he wakes up in the morning, has his coffee, reads his bible, climbs in his truck and drives away from his neighborhood to serve.  A couple months ago, he said to me, "this whole serving thing is wearing me out...I don't even know my neighbors.  I'm always, going.  I can't tell you about the life of my neighbor or the spiritual and communal needs they have, but I can tell you about the deep needs of those in these other communities.  In fact, a couple days ago, as I was driving out of my neighborhood, I noticed police cars, ambulance, and a big commotion and I have no idea what was going on, and still don't...this seems very wrong and imbalanced."  It just so happens that this friend of mine found out his next door neighbor had committed suicide, leaving behind kids and a wife, and he didn't even know it.  Hear me, I'm not saying it is wrong to 'go' elsewhere to serve, but I am saying I believe it should come secondary to living deeply right where you already are, especially if we are to view our current home through the lens of Acts 17:24-28.  I believe we are called to live so deeply where we actually live (our home address) and slow down enough that we should be able to live local enough to live out the gospel right where you are.  To quote John Perkins, I believe we are to live close enough with those around us, that we begin to desire for our neighbor and neighbor's family that which we desire for our self and our family. Living out the gospel means bettering the quality of other people's lives spiritually, physically, socially, and emotionally as one enriches one's own through the gospel.   How did Jesus live this love?  This bring us to the second text - John 1:14 "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."  Jesus became one of us.  And the truth is, the most effective messenger, the most effective life lived under the influence of the gospel will be a life that lives deeply "among" where you already are.

Again, I realize God is calling and has called some of you to other places, and I am not denying that he does that, he does!  I realize that living among the rich opens up a whole different can of worms such as, how do we spend our money, or justify spending the money it takes to live among them, etc, etc.  But that is not what this blog is for, this blog is simply to state, that everyone from rich to poor, black to white, long for deep transforming, confronting, life altering, accepting community; and that needs to be developed everywhere, so rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out where to escape to, why not start building community by living deeply right where you already are!