Our church is known for our focus on local missions. It’s not the only thing we do, but it is something we are very passionate about. There’s no doubt that this is reflected in Allyssa and I’s leadership. But its helped us gather a community of other people passionate about serving the poor. Which means, when we put out a sign-up form for people to serve, the vast majority sign up for local missions.
This happened recently. In worship, we gave people a chance to sign up to serve somewhere in our community. Allyssa looked over the sheets and noticed very few new people offered to serve in our children’s ministry, or on Sunday morning, in general. Almost everyone who signed up for the first time signed up for local missions. She looked at me and said, half-joking, but entirely serious: “We’re not going to talk about local missions up front anymore. We’re only talking about children’s ministry.”
I agreed. Our next series would be “It Takes a Village” and decided to spend time talking about children’s ministry, and what it means to be a community.
It’s not uncommon for pastors to create series based on current needs in the church. It’s even wise. But it’s not usually profound. So I came to this series rather expecting a simple, very practical series. It would successful if we got a few more volunteers. But I didn’t expect my entire view of the world to be challenged. I expect that when I preach on local missions. But not children’s ministry. Two weeks in, I have been strangely surprised.
As we’ve dug into the nature of what it means to live life as a community, a modern village, I have been deeply challenged.
I’ve learned that “We want community, but we don’t want to need community.”
And that “The more money we have and the less we need each other, the poorer we become. “
And tomorrow, I will preach on the role of children in the church and I’ve realized that “true community happens when we begin to let go of control of the things that matter most to us.”
That, for example, true community happens when I let other people take some of the responsibility for raising Finn.
That God is calling us away from a life of self-sufficiency. That at the heart of the Gospel is the teaching that I can’t do it by myself, and that it’s not just about surrendering to God, but to God’s community.
These are bold beliefs that have really challenged me.
We want community, but we don’t want to need community. Which means we structure our lives so that our friendships never reach the place where you can ask someone to do something significant or hard.
Here’s the thing about community. We tend to want it, but don’t believe it’s something we need. We want it, but don’t need it.
Which means we will have it, as long as it’s convenient. It’s like dessert. It’d be nice, but if it’s too difficult to get, we can live without it. That’s how so many of us approach community. It would be nice when it’s convenient.
But here’s the truth about community—it’s the opposite: we don’t actually want it, but we do need it.
You don’t really want community. Not real community. Because real community means asking for forgiveness. It means being around people who annoy you. People you disagree with. It means waking up in the middle of the night to help your friend jump their car. It means watching your friend’s child when they head to the hospital for their second. It means setting money aside in your savings so you have something to help those around you in their times of need. It means dragging your kids out of the house, yet again, just because you’re going to hang out with people, even though taking your kids anywhere is exhausting. It means paying a babysitter so you can go to a small group. It means all kinds of sacrifices and difficulties and pain. We don’t want authentic, genuine community. But here’s the catch. We need it.
We need it bad. We need it like the air we breathe.
Do you believe that? Or are you still convinced you can make it on your own?