I want genuine church family. The kind it talks about in the Book of Acts.
People that I know and who know me--strengths and my weaknesses.
People I can repent to, and who will hold me accountable and sharpen me.
People I'm going to support (and by supported by) materially and spiritually.
The kind of church family that I trust to help raise up my kids.
Since 2012 Whitney and I have searched for this, we've looked at lots of churches, big and small. And this type of community is hard to come by.
If I have to point to the top reason why, it's simple, it's not a priority for most people. Instead, we'd rather:
Be in lots of other social circles
Have ourselves or our kids in a bunch of activities
Preserve time to just be with our own family
Work a bunch so we can afford a more comfortable life
Also, for the most part, we pretty much wait to connect with them around church programmed small groups, picnics, or other functions.
The problem is, however, that most of us are pretty much booked solid, and so our only hope to connect more deeply is to either 1. quit stuff, or 2. bring our church family into the activities of our regular life. And I actually propose must of us need to do both!
Make no mistake, I'm guilty of this too.
The only "leg I have to stand on here" is that I'm fighting this fight. I've quit stuff (watching sports regularly, physical training, hobbies), and Whitney and I are also doing the following:
- We've joined a small group. I meet guys on Thursday morning for an hour to check in on life and typically we're reading through a book. Whitney does the same on Fridays.
- I show up at the Men's breakfasts and other events whenever I can. Even more, I've signed up to help out once in awhile.
- We've started reaching out to anyone who shows any sign of wanting to connect more. We give them our number and get theirs, then text them. This usually leads to us inviting folks over for dinner, and we take it from there.
- I've targeted specific people to talk to, typically men who exhibit real commitment or wisdom, and ask to have coffee with them just to learn who they are, and figure out ways we might work together.
- We pray for people we meet and to connect more deeply, and we sometimes will let people know we're praying and if we've gotten any sense from the Lord about it.
- Whitney and I have couples over for dinner every few months.
- We sign up for the opportunities to meet other new members, for example, our church has a "Dinner for 8" program to keep us meeting new people.
Is this a formula for deep spiritual community. Not at all.
In fact, it's going much more slowly that Whitney and I would like. We're a long way away from sitting down with other families to talk about our possessions and what we need to sell to support each other, like it says in Acts 2:45.
But we're not giving up, and we're trusting that God is going to provide this in the right season. And in the absence of it, as we've prayed about it, we've sensed that God is saying to us, "right now, I am enough." He's also given us a vision about one day having deeper community, and we trust His promise there.
I'm also starting to get more upfront about what I'm looking for in the church. I've been telling guys that I want to talk about the serious aspects of life, or I just start talking about them myself.
Recently, one gentleman in the church and I sat down and started thinking through how we can challenge more guys to be interested in this kind of community. It's a work in progress, but we've got a few ideas we're going to try.