“Child-Like” or “Childish”? Embrace How Community Promotes Maturity
Grab a place at the table, my fellow race-runners (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:26; Hebrews 12:4; 2 Timothy 4:7)!
This is the fifth course in a series of nourishing feasts cooked-up to remind us what FELLOWSHIP, COMMUNITY consists of for the Bible-loving Christian.
Running, Running, Running… The Good Race!
The inset picture for today is fun reminder for me of the many, many, many… lest I be too repetitive… many miles I ran with some buddies way back when. Beginning in the late ‘70’s, I was incredibly blessed to be a forerunner of the now-very-popular sport of ultra-marathon trail running. [That’s me in the middle: At 5′ 11″… 145 pounds soaking wet. Yikes… Flanked by Skip Hamilton and Jeffrey Potter.]
While living in Aspen Colorado, a very small cadre of crazies would spend tons of time planning, training, running, celebrating… and recovering from… some of the most beautiful and arduous runs in the mountains (and elsewhere) anyone could imagine.
Early on, ten, then twenty, then thirty, forty, fifty, sixty… some then going for one-hundred miles of running as the repetition, beauty, camaraderie, and increasingly difficult trail runs trained us to get fitter and fitter… perhaps a tiny bit obsessed… with an ability and focus myopic enough to sap a legion of Energizer Bunnies of its “Keep Goingness”!
The Kind of Repetition… That’s Never the Same
I could run on forever, so to speak, about all the places we ventured out to challenge ourselves on the trail, but one area in particular (inset shot) was the desert country southwest of Moab Utah in a designated Wilderness Area called… (cue: “Hang ‘Em High” theme song)… Canyonlands.
In early-spring, when the Colorado Mountains still had too much snow for trail running (and before snowshoe running emerged in the Rockies), a few of us would set up camp at Squaw Flats campground for two weeks and run 10-20 miles twice a day… every day.
With over 500 square miles of the most breath-taking desert country imaginable—and with a small community of the dearest friends one could hope for—no run was ever the same. With rare exception, I’ve never had more fun and lasting memories… and been fitter… in my life.
“Repetitio mater studiorum est”. “Repetition is the mother of learning.”
AND… Community, fellowship… promotes “a form of repetition” that’s absolutely vital for growth, maturity, wisdom, and effectiveness in the faith!
Please remember a truism we chewed on recently, the five disciplines for Christian growth… Grow deepest IN COMMUNITY! Bible study IN COMMUNITY… prayer IN COMMUNITY… stewardship IN COMMUNITY… service IN COMMUNITY… worship IN COMMUNITY… It’s organic! Like any living thing, our faith journey requires the stewardship of a beautiful garden, a fruitful orchard, a plentiful farm… And this occurs inside (our own care of our faith) and out (others involved in the care).
The reason and vital importance is a form of what the Bible holds true… in the Truest of True ways: If “Repetition is the mother of learning.” “Repetition IN COMMUNITY is the mother of transformation, wisdom, holiness.” [NOTE: This doesn’t mean to exclude, minimize God’s supernatural work in the form of the Holy Spirit’s role in heart change (Ezekiel 11:17-21; Psalm 86:11; Zechariah 7:12; Romans 2:5).]
The thousands of miles our fellowship of trail runners so enjoyed over many years transformed us in ways that were HUGE!
But, BIG BUT… the walk of the Christian life in close community is way beyond a Milky Way-sized better… everlasting… true to our identity as Image Bearers, sinners saved by grace to serve… a necessary and joyous mitigation for any/all suffering… a direct influencer to our effectiveness as God’s light and salt to an ever-darker and fast-decaying world…
AND… is AS absolutely imperative and axiomatic to our growth in Christ AS the lack of community equates to our remaining spiritual, emotional, intellectual babies in the faith.
Repetition of God’s Bible IN COMMUNITY: Hearts Combined for Exponential Transformation
Please… Please consider… We, even in the Church of Christ, can choose to remain isolated, independent, free from the encumbrances and commitments a COMMITTED COMMUNITY involves. Mercifully- yet truthfully-speaking, this is no Christian life at all: No one re-born of the Trinity can choose to avoid a deep commitment to a Christian community while being on the road to Christlike conformity. Period.
Please consider a favorite quote of mine from CS Lewis’ The Four Loves that speaks directly and poignantly to this issue. Please note how it conforms to the above passages from Ezekiel, elsewhere: It’s a heart issue! And it’s so important. Where the church exists devoid of the sort of community we’re chewing on today, the Christian impact on any form of worldly community will be greatly, dramatically… many times catastrophically… decreased.
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
While there are many things to consider when “forming and norming a COMMUNITY GROUP”, as we bring the meal to a close for today please consider the following issues around a COMMUNITY GROUP COVENANT:
- How often the group meets. How long the group meets.
- Time for various parts of the meeting.
- Commitment to be on time.
- Commitment to attend.
- How members of the group will commit to telling their story to each other.
- Commitment to pray for each other.
- What you will study and pre-study requirements.
- Whether the group is open or closed. Seasons of openness.
- Committed to service together?
- Issues of confidentiality. When the covenant will be up for renegotiation, renewal.
“A group’s covenant can be determined by the leaders and then shared in such a way that allows others to buy into that depiction of purpose and responsibility. For example,
‘This group is for those who want to actively share in the study of Scripture together always culminating in a specific practical application of truth to their everyday lives. Members will study a chapter ahead of time and be present to contribute their ideas and personal implications to the group. We will meet every week for 12 weeks with members contributing refreshments on a rotational basis.’“ (Julie Gorman, Community That is Christian)
Consider Model a Prayer Offered IN COMMUNITY… For a Covenant Community Group
“We are here to know and experience Christ Jesus. He said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” “The Father and I will abide with you.” “The Spirit will be in you and with you.” We believe Jesus does… JUST, EXACTLY, CONCRETELY, COMPLETELY… what He promised. We acknowledge His presence and welcome Him into our midst. Amen.”
Can’t wait to share a feast with all of you race runners next week!! Stay fit for the long run: Your abiding in Christ, persevering and serving IN COMMUNITY… for the blessings of the community you live in… will last through your transformation… for all eternity!