We build community when we share our lives

When I attended the Generation Change: Calling Your Students to Change Their World seminar, yesterday, I expected to learn about working with youth at our church. I did. I also came away with a challenge of what I needed to change in my own life.

Duffy Robbins, a professor of youth ministry at Eastern College and popular speaker, led the Generation Change seminar in Baltimore. The youth director and a handful of youth advisors and youth from our church attended. I teach Sunday School to Middle School students, so I wanted to go.

Although the message of change your world is a familiar one to this baby boomer Christian, the packaging and presentation of the message was distinctly today. Robbins used multimedia segments from popular movies, commercials, and other relevant film clips to punctuate and emphasize his talking points. Humor was liberally spread on each major and minor point.

In all, there were three sessions, lunch, breaks and time to chat with others or browse the book table. I made a mistake not to buy several books during the break after the first session because they disappeared fast.

The training included a book with the outline for the talk, some quotations used and places to keep notes. The book is a meaningful reference for thinking through and remembering the day's topics with accurate details.

The Generation Change training was worth going to.


Transparency

There were too many points made during the sessions to discuss here so I will concentrate on transparency.

We arrived late, but we were just in time to hear the end of the first session "It Starts from the Inside Out." The session was on how change starts within you. You don't transform your world, God does. You transform you world by first beginning with you.

Three areas in which we may need to change are Truth, Trust or Transparency.
  • Truth -- Do we really believe what God says, more than the lies and doubts that clamor for our attention?

  • Trust -- Do we really trust God to keep his promises and help us?

  • Transparency -- Are we building community where we can take off our masks appropriately?
Robbins read a quote from Randy Frazee's book, The Connecting Church:

"The future of the church depends on whether it develops true community. We can get by for a while on size, skilled communication and programs to meet every need, but unless we sense that we belong to each other, with masks off, the vibrant church of today will become the powerless church of tomorrow. Stale, irrelevant, a place of pretense where sufferers suffer alone, where pressure generates conformity rather than the Spirit creating life -- that's where the church is headed unless it focuses on community."

Of the journey of transformation starting from the inside out, transparency was most meaningful to me. Transparency, appropriate transparency, is hard for me. Yet, in my prayers and meditations for some time now, I believe we need to find places and people where we can take masks off and really let people know who we are and what is going on. If we don't, or we can't, we lose out on so much of what God can do through others and through us.

God builds community between a large or small group of Christians when we can trust God and each other enough to share who we really are and what we are struggling with.

We experienced community when Matthew was in Iraq. When my son Matthew was deployed to Iraq in 2003, the church knew our family situation. It was comforting and helpful to have people come up to me in church and ask me how Matt was doing and tell me they were praying for Matt. The burden we bore and our worries were shared. We didn't feel completely alone in our struggles. And when Matt came back from his tour, church members shared our joy. We experienced community in our church when we could talk about what we were going through.

On the other hand, years earlier, we didn't experience community when my father was dying. I didn't feel free to tell people in the church. If my father had been dying of a brain tumor, I could have. But when a relative dies of AIDS ... I didn't share. It was so lonely and I walled myself off in silence. I felt disconnected from the other church members. I didn't experience community primarily because I didn't trust others enough to share my pain. Even so, God ministered to my heart through that experience where I was.

We experience community when we share our lives even with only a few others. In another situation our family went through, I told only the pastor and a few people at church. After having tasted how wonderful it was to have some supportive people listen and pray, I so didn't want to wall myself off in silence. We experienced community by sharing.

If you are struggling behind a mask today, I hope you can muster the courage to take your mask off with at least one other person. Don't suffer in silence. Yes, God can meet you in your walled off cell. But God has messengers of love and acceptance he wants you to meet. When you start talking to someone you can trust, you may find God's acceptance and love working through them and freeing your heart.

You are forgiven. You are not alone. You are greatly loved by the God who sees you, who knows who you are, who knows what you are going through and can bring you even closer to himself to the place of joy and peace. We experience community with others who love God's truth, trust in God's ways and are transparent with God and others appropriately.

Why are you afraid to let people really know you?

How can you help someone around you who is struggling with transparency?

  • Model transparency. Remember Christ let his disciples get to know him and what he was going through. Christ's friends knew when he was hungry or tired or was sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane or dying on a cross.

  • Pray. Remember Christ is praying for us as we struggle, so pray for others as they struggle.

  • Forgive. Remember Christ forgave us, so forgive others.

  • Communicate grace in your words and attitudes. Remember you are righteous in God's eyes ONLY because of God's grace, so accept others as forgiven and righteous in God's eyes based on faith alone.

  • Love. Remember God doesn't let anything separate us from his love, so love others without conditions.
People may be listening to you and wondering if they can trust you. Can they?

We build community in our church by being real and allowing others to be real. We help each other do this when we live the truth, trust in God and prayerfully live a transparent faith.

I'm trying to do this. How about you?

Relevant links

Generation Change

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