We've relaunched our Gospel Communities this month and I trust many of you are being refreshed and renewed by the context these create for connecting in meaningful ways with one another. At Generations, we often talk about walking in the light, living in community, being known, being honest and authentic. All of these are ways of getting at the core conviction that we will flourish together only when we're real with each other.
We cannot hide, pretend, act like we have it all together and simultaneously thrive. We do bring our strengths, gifts, talents, and aptitudes to the community we're part of, but we also bring our weakness, need, struggles and vulnerabilities. Healthy community can only exist where we bring our real selves, committed more to being known than being impressive. Gospel Communities are places where we're safe to bring our best and worst and be loved, as well as a place where we love others at their best and worst.
If you are part of Generations, the odds are you have affirmed this theologically and desire it experientially. But even though we agree with this way of walking and want to enter into it, we still rage against it internally. It's easy to want this kind of community. It's even easy to embrace others as they walk this way. But what is really difficult is actually making yourself vulnerable in community.
As you gather with brothers and sisters this week and in the weeks to come, in each others homes, or at church on Sunday, whatever version of community you have embraced in your head, you will be tempted toward a counterfeit form of community. You will be tempted to say you're "fine" when you're not. You'll be tempted to act like you're at peace when you're anxious. You'll be tempted to pretend your joyful when you're discouraged. You'll be tempted to protect your hurt and loneliness with bible knowledge and religious familiarity. You'll be tempted to play games, wear masks, and be who you think people want you to be rather than who you are. You'll be tempted to detach, hold back, disappear and isolate. All of these temptations are real. They are strong. They are relentless. And they are your enemy.
Joseph H. Hellerman, in his book, When the Church was a Family, writes,
"People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow together in their self-understanding and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the often messy process of interpersonal discord and conflict resolution. Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progres in the Christian life. People who stay also grow. People who leave do not grow. It is a simple but profound biblical reality that we both grow and thrive together or we do not grow much at all."
At Generations, in Gospel Communtiies, there is a "no masks allowed" policy. Some of you will fear exposure and find any excuse to alienate. May you find the courage to show up. Some of you will pave the way in this and create a path for others to walk safely behind you. May you have courage set the pace. Others of you will hold back instinctively, wanting to wait and see what happens to those who lead the way. May you find the courage to follow. In a place where it's okay to not be okay, it also has to be okay to be okay. Some of you will be feeling stable and joyful, encouraged in the gospel, and you will be no less sincere or authentic. May you find the courage to listen, empathize, encourage and remain at rest in the grace of Christ.
This creates a culture of safety and discipleship, where the gospel is applied to our hearts and appropriated into our lives, that we may all progress toward maturity and health in Jesus.