community and family

i had a great conversation with a person who works in a church office, and she got me thinking and processing about some very interesting things. i am usually not big on names and places because i like the idea and the story to stand on their own, but becky over at sungrove community church gave me a great deal to think about, and also hope that the church may be getting it right after all. now, as many know i am very vocal when i see the church doing an injustice, and i pull no punches when i believe the church processor is about to fry a wire - so i have to be willing to give credit where credit is due and i think our conversation was a very interesting one for me - but let me put it in prospective.

today, much earlier in the day, i received a call from charles conniry, a great guy and the head of the dmin program at george fox university; we spent time talking about the church and her being a rather "dusty, crumbly" institution. in our conversation, i was not very "supportive of the church." you see, over the past few years we [my family] have been hurt by the church at some very core levels. this feeling of hurt, and that is a mild way of saying it, runs deep and it can make a person very bitter and angry - and that bitterness and anger can be focused in places we never want them to be placed. i have not blogged on this because i know in my heart that some of that bitterness is there and God needs to work it out. so, anyway, i shared that with charles [and they still want me in the dmin program - go figure] and he shared a story with me, cool - but then i speak with becky and i have to share that her voice gave me a deep feeling of hope for the church and the possibility that the church just might become what Christ wants of it..

one of the things we talked about was this idea that everyone is talking about "community" and she was wondering what i thought a "community" was - and i have to say, it hit me hard but allowed me to start a process that is powerful in my life. you see, like most people i was ready to give the "company line" that community was a gathering of believers and yada, yada, yada.. you get the drift; but i soon found myself thinking in a very different way. we talked, and we started to talk about the idea that as a church we are not a "community" - because Christ never calls us to be a community - we are a family; brothers and sisters with Christ. we are not a "community of faith" rather we are a "family of faith" - family; living, breathing, loving, supporting, helping, caring, giving, moving, dynamic family - we are to be there for each other as Christ was there for us - and let me see if i can explain this at this point, because at some level this is still in process.

I believe, Jesus said two very important things to his followers, and they were aimed at two very different groups of people - first was when he was confronted by religious leaders trying to trap him, he shared with us a center of how we are to act in community, "love others as well as you love yourself." this is a way of life for many followers and this has become the center of many a theology and many a ministry, and that is great. we must love others as we love ourselves, because Jesus shared it as one of the greatest rules given by God to live our lives. now, i have written before, and i believe it to be true, that one of the reasons we do not do this very well is because we do not love ourselves; so in reality we treat others as we treat ourselves - we do not love us, so we do not love others. but this command is how we are to treat those "outside" the church [the community], and here is where it can get sticky.

Jesus also shares with us another level of love, one that is much deeper then simply "loving yourself." as Jesus was getting ready to head to the cross he was speaking with his followers and shared this level of love, he said, "love one another as i have loved you." ok, so this idea of loving one another is based on our willingness to die for each other - we are willing to give up everything we have for each other and we should be willing to go out of our way for each other - as a "family" we should be ready and willing to give it all away for each other. so, in Jesus' mind there are two levels of love we are to have - one for community [the larger kingdom of God] and the other is for family [those we serve in a local church] - you see, this is a much bigger form of love, because it is a love that identifies us as followers of Christ. loving others is great, but showing a Christ love for each other is central to being seen as a follower of Christ. people are looking at us and seeing if we truly love each other in this way, and they are seeing we do not - so they question if we truly desire to follow the teachings of Christ. now that is where some sticky points come into play.

are we willing, as a family of Christ, to give it all away for just one person in our community? if we are called at three AM by a member of the church crying because her husband beat her, are we willing to get in our car and drive her to safety? what of the parent who is having trouble with a teen? would you be willing to take a child of a single mom on your family vacation? what doe you do when you hear a member of the church lost their job and may lose the house because of it? have you ever purchased groceries for a person in the church who is in need, without them knowing it was you? how do we care for that teen who comes and says "i am with child?" how do we help the elderly in our church? do you visit those who are shut-ins in the church, or do you simply demand the pastor do that? [after all, he gets the big bucks]. where do we draw the line, if we draw a line, between helping the community and helping the family? how can we hold our heads up as followers of Christ, when we refuse to hold the hands of those in our faith family?


Yván said...

John, thanks for the insight. I strongly agree with you.

However, can you elaborate more on the two levels of love: 1 for the larger community of believers and 1 for the local church. Wouldn't that be making a difference of two types of church? Am I not to love the ones that not gather with me every month, the same way I love the one who does?

Thanks again for your insight.

Sorry for my english, I'm not a native english speaking person.


john o'keefe said...


let me see if i can explain better :)

the idea, as i see it, from jesus is that we are to love "others" - those outside the community [when i say "outside the community" i am speaking of those "outside the church" if you will] as we love ourselves - meaning? i believe it tells us that we treat everyone with respect and grace - everyone, regardless of who we "think" they are.

then jesus tells us to love "one another" as he loved us, the "one another" are those who are followers, regardless of the church they attend - meaning? baptists are not to speak ill of catholics and visa versa - we are to be willing to die for each other.

i think we love those inside the church as we love ourselves, not very well - and we do not love those outside the church at all, regardless of what jesus says :D

Yván said...

Thx john, i missinterpreted your words. due to my bad english/translation i guess. i'm clear now.

keep up the good work... y Olé !!!


Rodney said...

I can't believe you've been talking to GFox. I was contemplating that same program and then decided the timing wasn't right and maybe not the school. I had deep problems with some of the institutional statements. But if I knew you might be there then....

rdnakx250 said...

We are all going to get hurt in ministry sooner or later. I think what hurts most is when the curtain is pulled away and we see the frauds among us, those that steal, covet and abuse people. The good news is they usually don't last very long. They move up into the denomination's hierarchy or get a seminary position?!