Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rethinking 'Community'

When I wrote Rethinking 'Church' I didn't even have a remote idea to start a 'Rethinking' series itself. But it seems like that is what is happening...

It is my definition of the community is that it is a place where we can genuinely open up and share everything without the fear of condemnation or judgement. A place where we can pour out our heart without any 'processing'. A place to find the much needed encouragement and true fellowship. I mean, being authentic and being just as we are. No definitions, no titles, no hierarchies, no meetings, no schedules or any such things.

I believe that Christian walk is just not about oneself but it is about a community. We can see such great communities all over the Bible. Friendlessness is a hindrance to advance in our Grace walk and to reach many others. Billions out their trapped in the dead works of religion needs the message of freedom in Christ.

Are such communities possible? If yes, will it make any difference? We can see some great communities in the book of acts such as the group of people coming together everyday and sharing everything they have, devoting themselves to the teachings of the Apostles, counting all their possessions ‘in common’.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I see the crucial significance of community in this verse - But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Isolation never have been or never will be a solution to anything. The beautiful picture of the 'body of Christ' underlines the significance of members working together for a common good.

At the same time I do not think such communities are possible only by being a part of an organization. We cannot limit ourself to such possibilities. Instead, such organizations can easily destroy the very purpose of the community itself.

I am grateful to God for giving some great friends right here in this blog world. I think this is a great way of having fellowship. How far should we go about sharing our heart on these public blogs is a question many people struggle with. Though this is a 'face less' media, we could see it as an advantage. Being an introvert by nature I have problem in opening up to a live audience (unless I am so emotional), but here I face no such issues and I think it is great.

I still need to continue learning to be real and authentic. I still need to continue learning to share my struggles. I find lot of encouragement in the Bible itself. Apostle Paul did not hide his struggles as a Christian. Gospel writers did not hide the denying Peter or doubting Thomas. The old testament writers did not hide the shortcomings of many great men of God such as David, Solomon etc. In fact I am quite surprised to see the name of harlot Rahab in Hebrews 11. Why do we mask it if we truly know that we are unconditionally accepted by God for who we are through Christ? By being real and authentic many people out there would be able to relate the struggles in their own life and be encouraged by the fact that they are not alone. Can we use this media not only to share the blessings but the struggles, doubts, questions, sins, confusion etc as well? Can we take up the challenge which James brings up to us to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other so that we may be healed?

13 comments:

Daelon said...

Awesome post, Bino.

You struck some cords with me..some hurt being struck lol. I absolutely hate opening up to people and inviting them into my life. I'm not exactly sure what I'm hiding from them. But I keep thinking to myself "it would be so much easier IF.."

IF the church I belonged to was like minded with me about God's grace. IF this, IF that.

Opening up is something we learn over a process of time. Once we learn to expose ourselves in all our weaknesses and sins, then we can experience agape and freedom.

The hard part is opening up!!

Nicole's Godblog said...

Hello. I believe I've stopped here before but if I haven't my name is Nicole!

This is a great topic. I see how organic you express yourself and it makes my heart glad. I too have a heart like yours, to find those out there to share life with outside of religious obligations and all the details that add to being real and authentic life with one another like Father had with the disciples. I am certainly on the same page as you and would most definitely love to see all who express the same things come together.

These questions that you have posed bring many thoughts to my mind and may require more from some than others. Here is my point. Growing up in attending a congregation I have learned that it is easy to hide my realness from those who are "watching me" being fake becomes easy and in a sense becomes normal. It takes a lot more from someone if they were real and vulnerable because they realize the risk that is involved if they were to be real. In my case, I am no longer concerned about what others think, knowing that I no longer attend a congregation, but perhaps people who are on the same page as we are, (and it sounds like we are), struggle with that risk of being vulnerable knowing that there was some people in their past that took advantage of them and now they are afraid of the risk because now they know what it looks like. Do you see where I am coming from? I sure hope I am making sense. I apologize if there are any misunderstandings. I would most definitely agree that an invitation of what you have posed here be sent out, however, there are some who may be hesitant. But don’t let that stop you, I’m sure when they see how authentic and loving we humans can be, they will see Jesus, isn’t that the whole point anyway?!

Hope I made sense. If you want to talk more on the subject, feel free to email me!
My email is,
nicole.krazygirl83@gmail.com

In Freedom, Nicole!

Joel Brueseke said...

Man, this post is great! Great comments so far too!

I don't even know where to begin, but I guess I'll just start by saying that I, too, have found it hard to open up and be honest with others, but I really think it's because others in my 'religious' background haven't allowed me to be real. What I mean is, as soon as I start opening up and expressing a struggle or concern about my life, others are very, very quick to jump in with a "fix" or a biblical principle that I need to start following in order to get right again.

I admit that I used to do that a lot too, and I still see remnants of that in my communications with others. The point is, as you say here so very poignantly, Bino, is that we need to be able to open up our hearts to others without having the need to "process" it all. Not that there's not a place for suggesting solutions and all that, but sometimes a person just needs to open up without being pounced on from every direction.

One example that I can think of has to do with a man who was in the small group I was attending with my wife. This man has been hurt a lot by people in the church over the years. (Long story). Anyway, he really kept a lot of this hidden inside him. He finally got to a place where he could begin to say what's going on inside him. He said that he finds it hard to even forgive himself for all the things he has done wrong in his life, never mind forgive others for what they have done to him.

I saw this as a perfect opportunity to let him know how much he is loved by God and how he is already forgiven by God, and that it would be great for him to just rest in God's love and grace, and feel no pressure to have to work up some sort of forgiveness for himself or for others. Just get to know God's love and forgiveness. In other words, just "be," and just get to know God.

But the rest of the group starts trying to "fix" him by saying that if he doesn't forgive others, then God won't forgive him. "After all," they said, "it's in the WORD of GOD!" "We're commanded to forgive!"

Here he was, confessing the deep parts of his heart to the group, and rather than being healed, he was put under more condemnation. Why couldn't he just share his heart, and then be encouraged in God's love and grace, rather than being told all the things he had to do in order to get right with God?

I see I'm going on and on here... but as Daelon said, you've struck some chords here! I can think of several more stories to tell, but that one was on the top of my mind.

I think there are many legitimate communities out there. Like you, Bino, I have found a wonderful sense of community within this blog world. I was going crazy (in fleshly terms) before I began to meet a few people through the grace walk forum, and then eventually through these blogs. I really sense a true fellowship here. Even if we're not all meeting face to face, I think we're all building each other up in an
Ephesians 4:29
sort of way.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Matthew,

Opening up is something we learn over a process of time. Once we learn to expose ourselves in all our weaknesses and sins, then we can experience agape and freedom.

Yes it sure is a process. I had my fingers shivering when I type some of the sins I struggles with. As I am growing more and more in this walk, it is becoming less and less struggle. Sometimes thinking about being 'naked' is a scary thought.
I always liked how Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden of Eden and felt no shame (The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. - Genesis 2:25). Talk about intimacy! Yes that was about physical nakedness, but I think it is possible to be 'naked' emotionally.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Yes Nicole I know you through Aida's blog. In fact I had visited your blog and commented on your 'Unity? Is it possible?' post.Thank you for visiting again here and posting your comments.

Yes, I know where you are coming from. I had been part of such so called 'conservative' churches where I never felt to open up and be myself. One of the reason was exactly what you were addressing in your comments- Past experiences and the experiences of other people. I totally agree with you that there are people "watching us" and ready to comment about our actions or provide solution to the problem. I do not question their intentions but if the results are negative the intentions really do not matter. Most of the time what I need is not a 'quick' solution or a Bible verse (I am not saying Bible verses can't help). What I need is people who can relate (openly/freely) with the struggles I go through and together building each other up. Yes, there is risk in being real but are we willing to take up that risk?

I see one benefit in writing these blogs (If i can write them from an open heart) is that in the future my children can read these and know that their Dad was not perfect at all. I am sure they will have their own shortcomings in their own respective Christian walk. I don't want them to live in the illusion of perfectionism. It will be a relief for them to know that others are their to relate their struggles.

Yes there are people who are going to be hesitant and I understand that I am still hesitant to some level. But I am learning. In fact Father is teaching me and its my prayer to be teachable person all my life. If I am not teachable, I will never grow.

Daelon said...

I understand what you're saying, Joel about people pouncing. The one reason I don't do that around most people is right when you tell them the struggles you're dealing with they're quick to say "Matthew, you can't be doing that" or something along those lines. My thoughts are, "DUH! Thats why I'm confessing it to you!" And then I refrain from opening up again, because I'm afraid of people scolding me and telling me what to do. Like you said, there is a place for suggesting solutions, but If I know something is wrong and I'm opening up to you, then quit nagging at me telling me I need to stop it. I'm sure I do this to people as well.

I wish we would quit trying to fix everything all the time and just lean on each other and encourage each other.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Joel,

I know that you have written about being real and vulnerable in the past. In fact, I tried to find such posts in your blog to link when I wrote this post. If you can remember them, please link it here in the comments section.

I have greatly benefited from some of the topics you have discussed in the past in your blog about some struggles you went through such as panic attacks, fear to call radio broad casts etc.

It shows the signs of person who has tasted the grace of God.

I once took my unsaved parents to a church where we attend and after the service while we were coming out I saw a person (who attended the same service) smoking in front of the church. (Smoking is considered as a sin by my parents) My quick reaction was to hide that person from my parents because what I wanted to show them when I took them to the church was that all the 'saved' people are so holy. It is always my temptation to show off my righteousness (or our righteousness, or the righteousness of our church). I still have this problem, especially when I am with my unsaved relatives and friends. It is as though I am telling them 'Look, how holy I am. You can be this holy if you believe what I believe!)

Note: I think the person who smoked wasn't that 'religious', because usually all the religious people smoke in private not in public, that too in front of the CHUUUUUUUUURCH! :)

I think some 'sinners' accidentally enter some churches because there is no sign saying 'No sinners allowed', but most of them won't stay long because soon or later they will find out that they are not 'holy' enough to belong there!

Nicole's Godblog said...

Bino. Cool name by the way! Now, I may be getting confused here, but do you happen to have two blogs? I wasn't sure but when I went to another blog to look at the profile that one also said your name!
Thanks for replying. It was good to hear what more you had to say on the subject. I Well, I am trying to be a safe place for poeple in the christian circle so I hope that all of our communting thus far as shown that! I too would love to be able to share stuff with you or others in the blog world, so I don't feel so alone in this journey, if you know what I mean. Please feel free, anyone, to contact me via email at anytime or connect with me through my blog as well! I am sure I will continue to post comments as well!

Thank you for bringing this topic up, it really was good!

In Freedom, Nicole!

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Thanks Nicole. You know, some people when they hear my name, they think it is the name of an 'acid reducer' :) I wouldn't blame them though. There is a medicine called 'Beano' which is used to prevent gas! So I have to explain my name is b-i-n-o not b-e-a-n-o.

Again, thank you for all the encouragement and thank you for the posting your email as well.

Like you say,

In Freedom!

Joel Brueseke said...

Hi Bino,

Sorry to take so long to do this, but as you requested I went and looked up posts along the lines of what you were talking about, in regards to being vulnerable about talking about our struggles. During my time as a blogger, I've gone back and forth in my mind as to "how" vulnerable to be in the public, and there are things that I haven't shared but there are also things I've shared that I think others can relate to.

Some of my own links are here:

Kings of the Wild Frontier

Panic Attacks!
I overcame a fear today!

How the quiet guy in the corner got into radio


It hasn't always been easy to be open in some of these cases, but I think it's been worthwhile.

I also came across a post in which I linked to someone who had been open like this on someone else's blog:

Why church hurts

Walking Church said...

Been wrestling with traditional Christianity for some time. I led something called walkingchurch. A simple concept. People would meet at a beach, park or Hiking trail. We formed a circle. Opened with prayer. Asked if anyone had a word. Most of the time someone had something. We would go for a walk (the only church which will tell you to 'take a hike')..it was great...much like a Jesus model and his discipling technique.

We savored God's creation. We prayed for one another and even had communion in some of the prettiest places. We would then go to breakfast and continue to encourage and spur.

God was faithful - no building projects required.

He led me to a season of 'rest' again burdened for the body of Christ and how to make something disfunctional ...functional

He has put it my heart that we try to hard - it is His Church and He will lead. We just need to love one another (even non Christians)...

I am renting space complete with a kitchen in the bottom of our Library...for 25 bucks (cannuck) probably next Sunday.

He has freed me from trying to over organize. At best coffee, juice and cookies...no worship band yet...no powerpoint....just a group of believers assembling in community....just being.

Hope this helps - I have been pounding my head for years and finally have an answer. By the way I love the Vine passage in John...it is so freeing.

In Him - Alvin the belmonite.

Joel Brueseke said...

Alvin,

I can truly relate to that pounding of the head... and the rest... and the waiting... and the wondering... and all that. :) Indeed this is Christ's church and it's His gospel. I've seen waaaaay to much "pressure" in most of the churches I've been a part of to make it into something that it's not even supposed to be.

I don't have all the answers but I truly appreciate Bino's heart in sharing what's on his mind because it provides a great perspective on which to think, and your heart as well, Alvin.

I think many of us out here in the blogosphere on are the same page, asking many of the same questions, and helping each other look to Christ for the answers.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Alvin,

Thank you for visiting and posting your comments!

Those are some great ways of doing 'it'. I get a kick when people call churches 'House of the Lord', 'Place of Worship' etc. God is Spirit and we worship Him in Spirit. No physical realms should restrict us to have an attitude of worship for what He has done on our behalf and what is He is doing in our daily life.

Joel,

Thank you for posting those links!