Sunday, September 14, 2008

Primary community?

The elder teen asked what it means, operationally, for Christians to be her "primary community." This is a great question, but like all such questions, it's hard to answer. It's like the question of how often one should read the Bible or pray, in that an overly prescriptive answer is just as bad as an overly vague one.

The trouble with a too-vague answer is that hearing it doesn't give you any idea of what to do; it's not at all practical. And the trouble with being too prescriptive or too practical or too precise (e.g., "once a day every day for not less than 15 minutes, starting no later than 7:00AM") is that the rule itself may become the goal -- definitely not a desired outcome.

With that in mind, here's how it works for me. There are not many people who know my biggest joys and anxieties, but those who do are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

In what venues do I share these with them? Well, on walks or in quiet places with the lovely Carol. I sometimes consult a paid professional counselor (MFT) who is a sister in Christ. I have meetings with a few brothers in Christ several times a month (some groups have just one guy plus me).

One major difference between my life and that of a college student is that most of my times with non-Christians is at work -- that is, an environment where our time is structured (well, sorta) and we have an agenda. In contrast, denizens of a college dorm tend to have a lot of unstructured time together -- time with no explicit/overt agenda.

So one way this might work is to arrange one's life so that there's more time with Christians. The lovely Carol suggests meeting a prayer partner, or an accountability partner (i.e., a quite-small group) for maybe an hour a week, and supplementing those meetings with unstructured time -- something "just social" or so -- about once a month.

The small group doesn't have to be quite that small, but basically I agree with this concept of building community through small groups whose objective is mutual encouragement to spiritual growth.

The other thing, the idea of having blocks of unstructured time with Christians, has also worked for me. Spending a week in Yosemite with friends, or, when I was young and single, hanging out in groups over a meal (again, sometimes just two of us -- and I have fond memories from those years) -- those all helped build community. In those days, it was a great blessing to find people I felt similar to, at least in some ways. Several from that group were in technology, and quite a few would fit the label "intellectual." (I don't much like that word, though I suppose I ought to just admit that I am a sort of one.)

Now I have to confess that if I were starting out today I'm not sure what I'd do -- probably start attending the Men's Bible Study on Saturday mornings and trying to find a kindred spirit, or Mission Fellowship maybe.

Interestingly enough, the sermon this morning (Scott Scruggs, live from San Mateo) was on community, and he made the point that we have to take initiative both to know and to be known. His sermon is better than my posting but they overlap in that effort is required, and this effort is in a direction many of us find unnatural. (That's why I use the word "effort.")

Well, I hope that wasn't too vague or too prescriptive.

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