...or Jill. In fact, apart from your spouse, children and closest co-workers, you probably don't know anyone.
That is precisely the dilemma one faces as they venture out in search for community in church life. Anyone who has Christ in them has this intrinsic desire for deep fellowship and community with other believers. It’s evident by the programs and meetings we plan and put together. There are community groups built around all sorts of interests and needs. People get together for bible studies, accountability, addiction recovery, marital status, and many other commonalities. I’ve been a part of each of these types of groups. The problem is that these groups do not form lasting communities, at least not in my experience.
Take accountability groups for instance. The idea is that if you can get a group of people together who are willing to share their deepest struggles with one another what you have is a recipe for growth and community. The problem is, we have all been studying the wrong material. We don’t know how to be transparent and honest with one another. What we know is what we’ve been trained for. We know how to hide our struggles and put on a happy face. We like our shallow conversations. When we get together and try to break those habits by confessing sins to one another other habits begin to appear. Some are judgmental and unforgiving. Their attitude is perceived by the rest of the group and slowly people retreat from being honest. Everyone sticks to the script and answers a list of predefined questions. Some learn to hide their deepest struggles by confessing the ones that the group finds easiest to talk about. Others ignore their own shortcomings by focusing on trying to fix the surface level confessions of everyone else. Like a pool that has been drained for cleaning they play in the deep end but there is no depth to the waters.
Shallow living can only be overcome one way that I now of. The only way to grow beyond empty surface relationships is by sharing life together. We have to hang out with each other, share meals together, go out together, and call each other when we are apart. All of our trash will float to the surface and be revealed eventually by those we spend the most time with. Just ask your co-worker and your spouse if you don’t believe me. The ability to love one another amongst the floating filth and the desire to join in the cleaning up process is what living in community is all about. This only happens if we jump into a pool that is full of life and are willing to wade out past the shallows and into the deep end.
Let’s be honest. If we were given a test about how our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing, the bubble next to “I’m good, how are you?” would be the only option we would be comfortable filling in. Most of us don’t know jack about our family in Christ because all our lives we have been studying the wrong material. All we know is how to get along together without any friction. We have no idea what it means to be totally diverse in personality and function but completely and perfectly united in Christ alone.
So….what are you going to do about it?