Summary: When I admit I am broken, I am ready for community.
The Safest Place on Earth – Part 1
February 10, 2002
Big Idea: When I admit I am broken, I am ready for community.
Since the start of the year we’ve been learning about how to become a church where no one stands alone. During the course of casting this vision, I received some feedback from someone here at CCCH. I read it with permission. This person said:
“I think some of the drawback to community is the feeling or belief that if we are truly relying on God and being obedient to him, would we really have physical, emotional, financial problems, etc.? Once that perception is addressed people might feel free to share with each other the struggles and difficulties in their lives. And until all don’t judge a person during their difficulties, all will not truly be in community.”
“I’m trying to be more open but it’s hard… I’ve just had the hardest year of my life emotionally and financially. I don’t know why but I feel that I can share with my co-workers a lot easier than my church family…. I think people at church might shun me… And honestly, sometimes I think if I am so burdened…why would I deliberately (by sharing) inflict my burden on anyone else?”
My guess is that this note echoes sentiments in the hearts of many of us. If not currently, perhaps it has in the past.
What this person suggests is yet another area of growth for a church that desires to be an authentic biblical community where no one stands alone.
Bill Hybels recalls a time when Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian was speaking for a leadership conference at Willow Creek Community Church. He writes about it like this… “Dr. Bilezikian said there’s life-changing fellowship in biblically functioning community. That was a far cry from the childhood experience of a lot of his audience! The only kind of fellowship that many of his listeners had witnessed revolved around the fifteen or twenty minutes after the service when the men would stand around the church patio and ask each other superficial questions.
‘So how’s it going at work Jake,’ one of them would ask.
‘Fine, Phil. Say, you driving a new pickup?’
‘Used,’ Phil would reply. ‘What do you have going this week?’
‘Well, great fellowshipping with you, Jake.’
That was about it. They’d (find their wives who) were having similar conversations, and go home until next week.
But the Bible says true fellowship has the power to revolutionize lives. Masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared, accountability is invited, and tenderness flows. People really do become like brothers and sisters. They shoulder each other’s burdens - and unfortunately, that’s something that few of the people in that audience had experienced while growing up in church.
In many churches it just didn’t seem legal to tell anyone you were having a problem. Families that sat in the same pew for years would suddenly disappear, because the husband and wife were in turmoil over marriage problems. Instead of coming to the church for help and prayer and support, they fled the other way, because they didn’t feel the freedom to say, ‘We love Jesus, but we’re not doing very well. Our lives feel like they’re unraveling. We need some help!’
The implicit understanding was that you shouldn’t have a problem, and if you did you’d better not talk about it around the church.
I learned that lesson well. When I got old enough to stand on the church patio after services, someone would say, ‘So, Bill, how are things in high school?’
And I’d give the response that I thought was expected. ‘Fine, Ben,’ I’d say. ‘They’re just great.’
I didn’t feel I could tell him that my heart was being ripped to shreds because my girlfriend and I had broken up. Or that I was flat-lined spiritually. Or that I had and older brother who was drinking too much and driving too fast, and I was scared about where his life was heading.
I didn’t say anything, because I felt that a good Christian just didn’t admit to having those kinds of real-life difficulties. And in many churches, that’s called fellowship.
It shouldn’t be.” (Rediscovering Church, p. 159-160)
I think all of us would agree. That shouldn’t be called fellowship. Yet many of us here today might be silently say, “I am standing more alone than I would like to when it comes to this burden in my life. I would share, but I don’t feel safe.”
Why is authentic biblical community so rare? Perhaps it is because most of us would rather appear impressively intact than broken. But it is only when I admit that I am broken that I am ready for community.