In my beginning days in small group ministry, a ministry friend and Life Group Pastor at Real Life Church in Valencia, CA, Brandon Beard said to me words I will never forget.
He said, “Some day, after you’ve kicked off your small groups, someone will say, ‘Look at the mess you’ve made.’ And all you can do is look at them and say, ‘Yeah, isn’t it great?’
Community without messy isn’t authentic, Biblical community.
There is no way around it. Our lives are messy. Our lives are filled with issues and baggage and pain. As I mentioned yesterday, in order to really engage and create depth in our relationship with Christ we need purposeful, truth-telling words from friends. The only way to get those words is through raw, burdens-laid-bare, authentic, messy community.
Bonhoeffer again has something to share on this topic…
Only that fellowship which faces disillusionment (he is speaking of giving up our lofty dreams of community that are perfect and without blemishes), with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. (Life Together, pg. 27)
Bonhoeffer’s words are straight to the point and may even be hard to hear. If you are looking for a community that is perfect, without blemish, that ties every loose end like a thirty minute 80’s sitcom, then Christian community isn’t for you. Christian community is build on each person’s ability to get down in the muck with their brother or sister who is struggling and lift them up and give them hope.
True Christian community is a graceful, glorious mess. Isn’t it great?