Community | January 29, 2011

The word that keeps coming to my mind this week.  Strangely enough, it has been poignantly absent from my conversations due to overuse and misrepresentation.  It has been replaced by team, family, group and, yes, even army.  But what everyone is talking about, acting on and scared to communicate is community.

I have heard about it, listened to sermons about it, read books on it, watched DVDs…. you get the picture.  The only thing I hadn’t done was see it in action and be a part of it myself.

Things in my world and the Bethel world have been shifting towards this, but just this last week did I begin to understand the importance of community.  No, there wasn’t a crisis in my life, thankfully.  That’s what you think, right?  Community suddenly appears and becomes relevant when there is a crisis or a death; when someone needs to be comforted.  That is such a small fraction of community.

It started with something that had been bothering me and someone else finally vocalized.  I help lead a ministry that goes to a bar on Friday nights.  I love it, I love the people we meet!  This has been one of my highlights of the last few years.  The look on someone’s face when they realize that they just met Jesus in a bar is unforgettable.  Anyway, I was feeling a bit uncomfortable with the ministry because it felt like we were going as a bunch of people, just to go.  Sometimes I met the people I’d be ministering with an hour before we hit the bar.  It didn’t sit quite right.  Finally, one of the other leaders, Daniel, said that we should have a core group of people who go every week, so we are genuinely friends and then we can bring a couple of new people.  We implemented this a few weeks ago and it makes such a huge difference.  Last night we went out with a team of ten and we had a blast because we were having fun with each other and it was contagious.  Well, there is more to the story.  Before we go out we spend some time in prayer.  Not your typical “sitting in a circle and praying one at a time” kind of prayer.  We were all laying on the floor.  Laughing.  Praying.  Declaring what we wanted to see Jesus to that night.  Saying words of knowledge.  I said, “We’re going to meet someone before we get to the bar (we were still at church)”.  Ahab was lying on the floor when the janitor came in, but Ahab didn’t realize he’d come in and they don’t know each other very well anyway.  Ahab said, “We’re going to meet a black man from Florida who was a star track athlete.”  The janitor piped in with, “That’s me!”  We were expecting it to be someone at the bar and were tickled to find that they had wandered into our pre-bar prayer time.  One of the things that came from our time on the floor.. I mean in prayer.. is that someone had the idea to bring a birthday cake to the bar and we’d celebrate everbody’s birthday!  It was brilliant!  We brought a cake and set up at a table.  People kept turning to look at us with a, “ooh.  I wander if they’re sharing” kind of look.  We put candles in each piece and started passing them around.  It so happened that the first girl we handed one to had her birthday that day!  But everyone got to celebrate their birthday!  It was one of the funnest times I’ve had at the bar.  There was such a light, fun atmosphere.  Of course people got healed and touched by God and I can share those stories another time, but what impacted me was our community. We went as friends with a silly idea to celebrate everones’ birthdays.

I’ve been quite blessed the last few weeks to get a glimpse of and participate in the house church community.  I think I mentioned that we’ve been working on a promo video for the house churches.  The idea is to get loads of students to move into designated neighborhoods in Redding and transform the neighborhoods through loving the neighbors.  This is true community. We shot interviews with some of the leaders yesterday and I was quite awed by these people.  Men and women around my age who moved into lower income neighborhoods and they’re always available to their neighbors.  They’ve built connections, seen people saved, set free, healed and being discipled.  Part of me was always hesitant about “evangelism” because it didn’t seem to be doing much good.  People prayed a prayer and then what?  They go to church a few times, can’t get connected and go back to their same way of life except this time they think Christians are snobby and hypocritical.  Awesome.  We call it “one night stands”.  That form of evangelism creates orphans instead of children.  But lives are being transformed through the house churches and community evangelism because my friends are willing to take the time to hang out with these people.  We can’t transform peoples’ lives, only God can.  But everyone needs people to be there with them through it all.  My friends from Bethel who are involved in the house churches have built extremely strong relationships with each other.  Their lives are so beautiful because they love God, truly love each other, and willingly love those around them even when it isn’t convenient.

I have always had a few close friends and been content with that, but I can feel myself being pulled into the draft of this swirl of community.  We had a dinner this week for the 2nd year students Chris is asking to intern with him next year.  I  will be very involved with them.  There were about 30 people at the dinner and I realized that me committing my life to them and to Chris next year isn’t a small commitment.  I’m really giving myself to them.  My strengths, my weaknesses, all of who I am.  It’s not going to be a superficial group of evangelists, but a family of brothers and sisters who live life vulnerably.  And I’m so excited!  Honestly, I want to be like some of these students when I grow up.  I know I have strengths to offer them and quite a bit to learn from them.

The other example of community came from an unexpected place.  I had a job interview in a department at Bethel and the gentleman I was interviewing with explained how the department is transitioning.  He said that he had structured the department so that the jobs are generic.  Someone moves on and he can throw someone else into their position.  He said that God had been teaching him about how things are structured in the kingdom.  He said he was moving from the generic positions, to picking people and creating a job around them.  Sure, it will be harder when they leave, and by the world’s standards it doesn’t make sense.  But he wants a team based on relationship.  A team where people don’t clock in and clock out and work for him because of their skill set.  Basically, he wants people and relationship over workers and striving for results.  He gave me a brief overview of the job and left the decision in my hands.  I was so excited that I wanted to say yes right away, but figured i should calm down and pray about it.  I can’t imagine saying no.  Perhaps some people would say no because they want to clock in and out and go home.  Not me.  I like the idea of being in community with my coworkers.  Sure, it won’t be as easy.  There is always risk with relationship.  But I quite prefer to have the hard times along with the even better times than just be a minion somewhere.

This whole thing is a bit scary.  Like, “Oh my gosh.  I have to let people get to know me.” But I’m at a point where I know I have something to offer them.  And even when I don’t, it’s OK.  I have one friend who ALWAYS knows when I’m having a bad day.  And it’s great because I don’t have to pretend with her.  I never make excuses or act like I’m better.  She still loves me when I have a bad day.  Last night at the bar one of my friends asked me a question and I replied and he said, “Meng, I love you!  You’re so easy to love!”  Nope, don’t go there!   It wasn’t romantic or anything.  It was community.  We’ve gotten to know each other as friends the last year and a half ministering together, traveling together, going to the bar together.  And you know what?  I love him too.  True community fosters healthy love for others.  We can all use a little more love, don’t you think?


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  1. good word sarah

    Comment by julie Peters — January 29, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

  2. Meng, I love this. I’m at once thrilled with all the ministry opportunities you’re getting, right in a bar – of course. It’s genius! And how much fun you’re having, and now with good friends. It makes so much sense. I like the job idea of creating a position around a person. It is so “backwards” and a little dangerous, but really so kingdom-minded. Keep writing. And please tell your stories from the bar too. I love this stuff.

    Comment by Sarah Siders — January 31, 2011 @ 1:39 pm

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