Written by Sherry
Friday, 25 May 2007 08:09
Christianity Today has an interesting interview with Richard Lamb, author of The Pursuit of God in the Company of Friends.
Lamb is an evangelical (he does campus ministry with Intervarsity) so some of his specific experiences don't apply to Catholics (such as the experience of "planting" a new Christian community) but many of his insights are most apropos.
Community is a buzz word. Everybody is talking about community. What essentially are people missing when they talk about community in the Christian community today?
I'm not sure if there's one thing. But part of the answer involves understanding what I think are three essential and kind of irreducible components of community. Community involves a move outward, a move inward, and a relational glue that keeps us together. I call the move outward partnership in mission; the move inward is accountability, depth of relationship; and the glue, the relational glue is friendship.
One of the points that you make in your chapter on presence and intimacy is the time factor involved in pursuing God in the company of friends. And you talk about Jesus and how he had a way of using his time that reached a lot of people but maximized that company of friends as a more important use of his time.
The whole notion there is a focus on the few for the sake of the many. This is an ancient notion and well discussed by Robert Coleman in his book of 40 years ago, The Master Plan of Evangelism. The idea of being intentional with people can be a little intimidating because it feels like, if I spend more time with this member of my small group then do I have to be fair about it? Just realize, Jesus focused on a few. He had 12 that he spent a lot of time with, and he had three that he was even more intimate with. And his pattern of relationship can be our pattern as well.
Many times the company of friends doesn't really have a stated leader, but there is an interplay between serving and leading.
Part of what I'm trying to recover is the notion that friendship and intentionality somehow don't go together. Friendship should be spontaneous. Intentionality implies work and insincerity. And I'm saying the deepest friendships are going to be highly intentional where we think about people even when they're not in the room, and we pray for them even beyond what they're asking prayer for.
That's a part of the case I'm trying to make that the effort and thoughtfulness applied to our friendships really strengthens those friendships.
What about somebody who hungers for community, but they feel they are alone? They don't feel like they have any friends, and what you're describing is even making that feel more painful.
I think everybody has a chance to find a group, like a small group or a new church perhaps, or a new small group. But you show up at that church or at that small group and you look around and you say, these people aren't like me. Or, I don't really feel like this is really meeting my needs. And one of the primary pathways or primary steps to community is to decide to make a commitment to a community.
You say this small group didn't meet my needs tonight. And it may not meet my needs for several months, but if I commit to this group of people over time, by virtue of that commitment I'm going to experience a deeper experience of community. I will no longer be alone. Then I can make other choices like deciding I am going to let them know what's going on in my life. I'm not just going to wait around and see if they like me. I'm going to be a part of making this group community for me.
We all can make those kinds of choices in our lives. We don't have to feel like that's a party to which we have not been invited.
If this topic speaks to you, consider attending our gathering on Building Intentional Community here at the stunning Penrose House in beautiful Colorado Springs on August 31. A number of the denizens of ID will be there: Fr. Mike, the Other Sherry and her husband Dave, Kathleen Lundquist & her husband Gary, will be present along with our old friend, Mark Shea and his wife, Jan. Everyone is welcome but we do need you to call and let us know you are coming so we can plan.
For more information, go to http://blog.siena.org/2007/03/intentional-community-post-third.html.