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Summary: To experience authentic biblical community, I must let people reach the deepest places in my heart; places not often or easily reached.

The Safest Place on Earth – Part 3

February 24, 2002

Big Idea: To experience authentic biblical community, I must let people reach the deepest places in my heart; places not often or easily reached.

INTRODUCTION

ILLUS – Henri Nouwen, the widely read Christian author, was a professor at Yale University Divinity School and later at Harvard. But in 1986 he resigned from teaching to become pastor for the Daybreak community of people with disabilities in Toronto, Canada.

He was welcomed into one of the homes to live with the men and women with a disability and he was asked to help Adam Arnett, a severely disabled man, with his morning routine. In Henri’s book "Adam, God’s Beloved", written shortly before he died, he describes how Adam became his friend, his teacher, and his guide.

However, just a year after arriving in Daybreak Henri suffered a severe depression.

Nouwen wrote:

“I had been received with open arms, given all the attention and affection I could ever hope for, and offered a safe and loving place to grow spiritually as well as emotionally. Everything seemed ideal. But precisely at that time, I fell apart – as if I needed a safe place to hit bottom.” (Henri Nouwen)

Prior to that time things were too ordered, too pleasant, perhaps even too superficial in his surroundings. But that place was safe. Safe to discover the brokenness that had been there all along.

A safe church is a safe place to bottom out.

As we’ve been learning about God’s vision for the church as the safest place on earth, consider these questions?

Is this church safe enough to share that you’re struggling with homosexual thoughts or activities?

To share that you’ve had an abortion?

To come clean that your grieving process has never ended?

To admit you’ve never really felt loved?

To fess up that your marriage is in shambles?

To share that life has gotten to be too much to handle?

Is this church safe enough for us to bottom out?

Our quest to become a church where no one stands alone now brings us to the point where a choice must be made among three options:

1. Go mad – Keep thinking our present experience with community will completely satisfy us. When almost everyone knows that the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing while expecting different results.

2. Go away – Because the search for deep relationships is risky, dangerous, and yields uncertain rewards, we could just find a comfortably safe distance from people – wrapping ourselves in isolation and individualism. We retreat from meaningful interactions with others.

3. Go forward – Admit that the journey will be difficult, but commit to live in Christ-centered community with others no matter the cost. Because God in His essential nature is a community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and we are created in His image to function best in community with others.

If we choose the third option, then we must seriously consider the issue of sharing our struggles with each other.

This morning I’m going to offer a model for relating based on what Larry Crabb writes about in his book, The Safest Place on Earth. But I want to frame it a bit differently.

I want to frame the process in perfect love.

Listen to the words of 1 Corinthians 13:4-9

TRANSITION: You see, when authentic biblical community is valued and passionately pursued, the Holy Spirit creates a new kind of environment within a church. And then the pathway to sharing our struggles emerges, not so much from what we do, but again from what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. And that pathway looks like this: First of all…

I. We Enter each other’s lives.

I want to clarify something right up front.

When referring to sharing our struggles I don’t mean sharing your deepest darkest secrets with every person in the church. I’m talking about finding one or two people for the purpose of confession, transparency, and accountability.

Of course, it is best to find someone of the same gender. However, many married couples, including Kim and I, find it extremely rewarding to grow through deep confession. I’m of the opinion though, that a person’s spouse should not be the only one to whom deep struggles are shared. So a person of the same gender is the best choice for entering our lives by us allowing them to learn about our struggles.

ILLUS – For a long time I had been dealing with the same sins creeping back into my life. I had struggled with the same issues in my heart. I had carried the same weight in my soul. For a long time I wondered why there was no real change. I prayed, I sought out God. I felt real relief – at times. Then the struggles would resurface.

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