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Do you have real spiritual community?

October 8, 2009

Yesterday I received a phone call from a friend who warms my heart. Just hearing his voice and feeling the hope and connection to him uplifted me and stirred the passion in my soul. The afternoon before I had shared emails with another friend that I get to hang out with tomorrow. He also lights the fire in my spirit. These men are people who I walk in community with, they are people who I know walk with God, who are passionate about their pursuit of God, and who inspire me toward Godly character. They are people I have in my heart (“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart.” Philippians 1:7a).

I have experienced true spiritual community. It is different from the fellowship and connection we experience in most churches. It runs deeper, connects at the heart, and is truly centered on Christ and not on us. It is what Larry Crabb describes as true church. It is not something most people understand or have ever experienced, and it is not something you can really experience unless you are willing to come into a group in humility, vulnerability, and with brokenness because it requires you be authentic. I have experienced community, and I crave for it again but find it is so hard to find. I still can’t find a church that has this type of community, but I am so thankful that God has brought a few people into my life this summer who share this heart and passion. Through them and because of God I am deeply blessed!

“The cry from your heart is your longing to be part of the true church, to participate in spiritual community, to engage in spiritual conversations of worship with God and of co-journeying with others.  You yearn for a safe place, a community of friends who are hungry for God, who know what it means to sense the Spirit moving within them as they speak with you.  You long for brothers and sisters who are intent not on figuring out how to improve your life, but on being with you wherever your journey leads.  You want to know and be known in conversations that aren’t really about you or anyone else but Christ.” (Becoming a True Spiritual Community by Larry Crabb, p19)

But that’s not what we’ve done.  Instead, we found ways to “do church,” even to participate in small groups that don’t require real connecting, ways to involve ourselves with fellow Christians without fully turning our chairs.  We’ve walked well-traveled roads, broad highways involving activity, organization, and ambition (both secular and religious), and built church buildings along the way.  We’ve welcomed into our buildings the throngs of travelers to walk those roads with us and herded them into audiences we call communities.  But they’re nothing of the sort.  In real community people know each other; they relate in ways only God’s spirit makes possible.  As a friend recently commented, “I worship so much better when I’m with people I know.” Christians in community give and receive what God provides through no other means than through a handful of folks who intimately know him and each other and who at least are in passionate pursuit of that goal.  Churches are rarely communities.  More often they are social machines that run smoothly for while, break down, then our fixed so they run smoothly again or noisily chug along as best they can.  The invitation to greet pew mates during the early part of the worship service typically leads nowhere.  It’s often nothing more than a supportive oil on the gears.  You could say your name was Bob or Howard or Rita or Sue and it would make no difference.  Those kinds of interactions rarely create community-they more often substitute for it.  The path of the Spirit is so very different.  It’s a narrow way, steeper, and straighter than any other.  It’s a path traveled only by worshipers who celebrate their dependence on God and each other by turning their chairs toward a small community of friends and sticking with them, and who find the power of God’s spirit to make that community work.  They know that God gives them his spirit and works miracles both in them and among them, not because they cleverly make it happen, but because they revel in their dependence and learn to hear the Spirit voice’s (see Galatians 3:5). (Becoming a True Spiritual Community by Larry Crabb, pXIV)

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