As part of my ongoing quest to understand community, I sought out Phill Kwon. It was Phill’s sermon on family that really encouraged me to make the leap and join a community group. So I sat down with him and asked some questions about living life in community.
Unwilling to let me call him an expert, Phill truly sees community as a vital part of life that he’s still exploring. What most influenced me about our conversation was Phill’s conviction about the vitality of community.
Phill, now married with 2 daughters, attended Texas A&M then lived in Houston for 4 years for seminary. While in college he went to small group and spent time with other believers in the dorm. But when he left college, the dorm life ended and he struggled with the loss of community. It was during this time in Houston that Phill discovered the real-life struggle to stay in community … and that it’s worth fighting for.
When I asked Phill to help me understand the difference between joining a community group and being in community, he explained that community group is just a program, while being a part of community is family.
Joining a program is easy; no commitment is required. Family is harder. I didn’t get to choose my family and I can’t just leave if I’m hurt. Just because I physically move, doesn’t break family ties.
Honestly, I don’t necessarily like everyone in my family all the time.
But we were never called to like everyone. We were called to love one another.
That is not just a cool idea, it’s biblical. Check out the early church in Acts. The brotherly love of the early disciples was so counter-cultural that it wierded out the Romans. Unfortunately, not many in our culture are wierded out by how we love each other.
I asked Phill how has being in community impacted his life personally. But he said that’s like asking how drinking water or breathing air had impacted his life. Community is just a vital part of life for the believer; that’s what we’re built for.
Without community, church becomes a chore and we become stagnant and stale. Community changes our understanding of what it means to believe.
Sure, community costs something. The risk comes in being open and that’s scary. To have someone who knows me; really knows me. It’s a level of trust that could be dangerous and it requires an element of submission.
Phill compared it to the risk of adopting a child. Or the risk taken by getting married. “I am bringing someone into my life, not for a moment, but in a real and lasting way.”
And, like adoption or marriage, there will be challenges. There will be things to work through. It’s a struggle but there is a joy that comes from the struggle. It’s worth it.
Choosing NOT to pay that price is more expensive: by actively rejecting the Church (body of Christ) and refusing to engage in the local church where I have been planted, I die. It really is like not drinking water or deciding not to breathe.
Look at the scriptures and how Christian life is meant to be lived: Accountability, Growth, Maturity, Sanctification, Understanding God’s Word, Worship … All of theses are meant to be done in relationships. (Check out Genesis 2)
People who reject community, all they’ve got is themselves and the voices in their head. To live outside of community means to have no mechanism of navigating what is true and what is not.
Even navigating scripture, without other believers to challenge my thought process, there is nothing to help prevent dangerous interpretations leading to dangerous doctrine and potentially dangerous decisions.
This is the way we are meant to be. This is what we’re made for. The program WBCC has developed is meant to facilitate the principle. We only have the program to make the connections practical.
Phill said the emphasis on everyone being in a community group has nothing to do with WBCC having an awesome program. It’s about having a true community to live in and an intentional family formation. The program is meant to facilitate the purpose.
As believers, we grow in 3 areas:
- What we know (meaningful faith).
- Who we know (meaningful relationships).
- What we do (meaningful experiences).
The easy first thing to do to connect is to have a meaningful experience together. Share a story. It creates a bond. For most people, awkward lunches, dinners, or coffee meetings… it can be hard. Reading a book together doesn’t really build the heartstrings that come from living life together.
Going on a camping trip, kayaking Town Lake, playing paint ball… there is something about a shared experience that opens the door for trust and relationships to happen. That’s going to look different for everyone; not everyone enjoys camping or rock climbing. But, like we had as our theme this summer, everyone wants to tell better stories.
No one wants a boring story. How great to tell great stories together?
We are still walking it out, discovering community. No one is an expert. Being a part of a family is hard. That’s why Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was for unity. He prayed for us to love one another. John reiterates in 1 John that we are called to love one another.
1 Corinthians teaches us that loving one another involves difficult things. Like not keeping a record of wrongs or bearing all things. Nothing about being patient and being kind is fun.
But in the midst of that, ultimately the way we are a part of this family is what will draw people to Christ. It won’t be a slick evangelism program, a great music ministry, or free give aways. None of that will draw people to Jesus the way us loving one another will.
Jesus said “The world will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.”
Not by telling them.
By loving each other.
That happens in community. So come get some air.
For those at WBCC who are not currently in a community group, you can get engaged by contacting your elder or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.