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6 Things Every Strong Community Needs Community doesn’t always come naturally. Here are a few ways to start developing a strong one

“I think community has to be organic,” said the guy across the room.

6 Things Every Strong Community Needs
Community doesn't always come naturally.
Here are a few ways to start developing a strong one.

By Marisa Barnett August 18, 2014

Native of Lancaster County, PA, Marisa lives in Cape Town, South Africa where she serves with Paradigm Shift, a nonprofit organization that alleviates poverty by training and discipling the poor. Marisa blogs at ineedwords.com.

Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-things-every-strong-community-needs#OxAwX3ItxZwE17BO.99

I cringed and sucked in a deep breath. My heart picked up pace. My body always responds this way when something severely rubs me the wrong way.

As someone who had just left my community and moved across the ocean, the comment felt like a slap in the face.

The initial response in my head was defensive. Easy for you to say since you come from a well-known ministry. Community isn’t so organic when you’re changing cultures.

But my heart response was more along the lines of, What’s wrong with me? Why has it been anything BUT organic for me? Why do I have to try so hard?

For a long time, community seemed organic for me. I had lifelong friends that had been playing by my side since before we could talk. I had more recent friends that quickly became kindred spirits.

Community isn’t always as natural as we think it is.

But when I moved, community was my biggest struggle, and it hasn’t been easy. Not because people aren’t friendly, not because people in my new city don’t have community, but because community isn’t always as natural as we think it is.

I used to think all I need is God. And that the loneliness I’ve struggled with is just helping me to turn to God instead of relying too much on people. There is some truth to that. But the truth is our hearts need more than an individual relationship with God.

In Genesis 1, God creates the world. At the end of each new creation, God calls it good. Then God creates Adam.

So there’s Adam, living in what the most beautiful place there has ever been on earth. Adam walks with God. There is no sin separating him from God. He has all the food he needs. He knows nothing of shame or pain or sadness. He’s in paradise. Adam has it all.

And then, for the first time since the world has been created, God sees that something is not good. He says in Genesis 2:18, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.”

Again, Adam has everything. A perfect relationship with God. Plenty of food. A safe and beautiful environment. Everything is working how it was created to work. And yet, it’s not enough.

This scenario isn’t just about marriage. Jesus, who was the perfect man, the “second Adam,” was single. But this speaks to a larger need we all have: A need for relationships and for community. We weren’t meant to be alone. In fact God says, “it is not good.”

Community is a buzzword, but it’s easier said than done. And often it’s more talked about than it is practiced.

As I’ve worked to develop community, I’ve learned that there are a few things every strong community needs:

  • Intentionality
  • Community has to be intentional. Even if it starts organically, it still has to be maintained.

    The community that Jesus formed with His 12 disciples was intentional. It wasn’t organic. It’s very unlikely that a tax collector and a fisherman would have naturally come together had Jesus not called them both. And there are decidedly some moments of tension within the group. It wasn’t this group of guys that just understood one another’s hearts and agreed on everything and sat by the fire singing kumbaya. They bickered, they disagreed, and they resented each other at times. But they became a community that multiplied and changed the world.

  • Diversity
  • Community can’t just be with people we feel comfortable with, who completely understand us and believe the same things as us.

    This is what I love about church families. The diversity, the differences, all of these imperfect people that come from different walks of life and yet share one common love: Jesus.

  • A Willingness to Embrace Awkwardness
  • Developing community can be awkward. I’ve learned that creating community means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, my insecurities and my discouragements. It can mean awkward conversations, refused invitations, miscommunication and expectations not matching reality.

  • Openness
  • Invite others in. Come as you are and you’ll find me as I am.

    One of the best ways I’ve found in creating community is inviting people into my life, and into my home. Letting people see our imperfections (and our imperfect homes and meals), helps others to feel more free to be themselves. There is nothing like bonding over a flopped cake or an embarrassing moment.

    I’ve learned that creating community means pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, my insecurities and my discouragements.

  • The Ability to Have Fun Together
  • Create a memory. Stop just going out for coffee. While I love going out for coffee, coffee dates are better for maintaining relationships than starting new ones.

    Do something that will create a memory and bring people around a common cause. Whether it’s hiking a new trail or getting people together to raise awareness for a social justice issue or organizing a game night, initiate activities that will bring people together.

  • Inclusiveness
  • Expand your community. Don’t create cliques, create community. Always be expanding your community and looking for new people to invite in.

    Creating community has been an up and down process for me. I’ve had to work to put aside fear, laziness and anything that keeps me from stepping out and pursuing relationships. I’ve learned that I have to let go of self-preservation and self-criticism.

    Through community, and these new people God has brought in and out of my life, I’m encountering God in new ways and growing in ways I never could have without community.

    Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/6-things-every-strong-community-needs#OxAwX3ItxZwE17BO.99

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    Coffee With Jesus

    I have to say I really like Coffee with Jesus by Radio Free Babylon.


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    In Light of Robin Williams Death and Battles with Depression

    I want to share with you a powerful and important word from a former Mercy Churcher Darla Earnest.

    Darla has given me permission to share this. I appreciate her doing what we all need to do to help others.

    Truly, hurt people, keep hurting people. But healing people help heal people. I was reminded of this from both ends (fortunately and unfortunately) this week.

    "I struggle to share this so publicly, but am compelled to in light of recent events. Swallowing my pride may help someone else.

    One of the best things I ever do in life is when I admit I have a problem and seek a solution. The same was true of depression. I wasn't sure what was wrong, but I knew something was wrong. I had no hope, was listless and the smallest task overwhelmed me. This lasted a while--too long--and would come and go over the course of years. All I knew in those times was that EVERYTHING was terrible--& I was so disappointed in myself. I often stopped functioning. I finally sought help. I wish I had years before.

    Seeking help from qualified professionals is NOT a sin, it is NOT the same as saying God can't heal me. Quite the contrary. Admitting my weakness and going to those whom He has gifted to be His hands and feet was precisely how He began to heal me. Anything less would have been pure pride on my part, not a "more spiritual" way of dealing with it.

    Don't listen to the lies--even from well-meaning Jesus-followers. Don't hesitate. I have been there and I follow Jesus more passionately now that I have been helped and healed. Get help if you have ANY concerns at all. He has gifted people who can point you to His healing and help you out of the pit." - D.E.

    Bruce and Darla taught at the University of South Dakota in the Fine Arts department. They were part of the Mercy Church family and moved to the University of Mobile, AL where she teaches Voice Professor and Bruce is Associate Dean and Associate Professor, School of Music and Performing Arts. They also run a summer school in Europe to bridge Fine Arts, young people and the Kingdom of God.

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    If Your Kids Are Gamers … Best Vacation, Er, Teaching Op Ever


    Swedish man took his sons to the middle of a war-zone to teach them a lesson that "war isn't cool".

    When Carl-Magnus Helgegren, a journalist and university teacher, noticed his 10 and 11 year-old sons were obsessed with the shoot-em-up video game series, Call of Duty, he then decided to take his children – Frank and Leo – to Israel, the West Bank and Syria in order...http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/swedish-dad-took-his-kids-israel-palestine-syria-teach-them-war-isnt-cool-1460923?utm_medium=social

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    Mercy Churchers Serving Globally…

    SIM Ebola Work Great to hear from one of our Mercy Churchers who works in Africa 8 months of the year with community health. She shared this AM at Mercy Men's Monthly breakfast. Join us tomorrow at 10am to hear more from Susan McDonald. Her compassion ministry group SIM is running one of the hospitals in the news related to the Ebola outbreak. http://www.sim.org/ ‪#‎jesusmotivatedcompassion‬

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    Leaving Calvinism: Keith Coward’s Story

    Leaving Calvinism: Keith Coward’s Story
    Aug 4, 2014 by Scot McKnight

    This paragraph is revealing and over the years I’ve heard this so many times… I have italicized the words that reflect a common set of categories used to explain anyone not a Calvinist. We get no where when Calvinists — and not all are like this — claim non-Calvinists don’t have the stomach for the full counsel of God. This is a bundle of non-falsifiable logic: if they agree it’s because it’s true; if they don’t it’s because it’s true and they don’t accept it.

    But several things eventually led to me reconsider the views of almost all my teachers, colleagues, friends, and heroes. The first was that an acquaintance gave me a copy of a book written by a “Reformed Arminian”. I read it out of curiosity, and though it did not persuade me in the least it did challenge my prejudice against Arminians. Scripture seemed clear about RT, so I had assumed that anyone who denied it was either ignorant or insolent. Some had not read the Bible carefully enough and others just could not stomach God as he revealed himself to be. But this book offered a clear alternative to Calvinism and intelligently interacted with its favorite proof texts. The author did not convince me, but he did give me a new category: there were non-Calvinists who had taken the Bible to heart and honestly believed that it taught God’s desire to save all…

    And here he says the Bible itself tipped him over the edge:

    The third thing that set me on the course to reject RT was the thing that had led me into it – Scripture itself. As a pastor I preached through books of the Bible verse by verse. Occasionally I would encounter a common Calvinistic proof text and realize that it did not necessarily say what I had thought it said. John 3 does not necessarily teach that regeneration precedes faith; John 10 does not necessarily teach that Jesus died only for the elect; Eph 1 does not necessarily teach that God ordained whatever happens; 1 Pet 1 does not necessarily teach that God elected individuals for salvation – unconditionally, effectually, exclusively. Once again, these discoveries did not shake my confidence in RT. There were too many passages that clearly taught it; I considered Romans 9 impregnable to Arminian assault. But I realized that the quantity of verses used to support my view did not matter if, upon closer scrutiny, they could not bear the weight that we Calvinists were putting on them on a case-by-case basis….

    That was a turning point in my life. For the first time I said, “Whatever it cost me (and I knew it could cost me everything), I want to know the truth.” I spent the next year and a half going back through Scripture, reading books on both sides of the issue, listening to debates and lectures, praying fervently, studying passages, and meditating deeply. Gradually, my questions about RT turned into doubts, and by the end of 2013 I realized that my doubts had turned into disbelief. I had not fully reconstructed my theology, but it was clear that I no longer found Calvinism coherent, much less biblical….

    Finally, I lost my livelihood and have not yet recovered it. There have been seasons of desperation and even anger as I’ve asked why the Lord led me down this path that seems to lead nowhere. But he has provided for my family abundantly, and he has reminded me to worry not about how I’m going to pay the bills, but what pleases him (Prov 3:5-6; Matt 6:33).

    In the end, this journey has not been about having the right answers, but following Jesus. I differ from some Arminians when I say that if, when I meet the Lord, I discover that Calvinists were right after all, I will fall on my face in worship, savor the sacrifice that covers sins committed in ignorance, and trust him for the grace to love him as he is. I am not seeking a man-centered religion more palatable to my ego, but have followed him down this path because I am zealous for his honor as a loving God, a just God, and a God who is so sovereign that he can make creatures who, like himself, are not scripted . . . but free and thus capable of loving and being loved by him. What I have found is a God that actually lives up to the glorious God preached by Calvinists.

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    Participation Matters

    I was sharing with a brother in Christ the other day that one of the things that I value most in the worship of the local church is participation.

    This has been one of our core worship values since the founding of mercy church, "all can play!"

    This is a list of our worship gathering core values:

    1. Spontaneity over Efficiency
    2. Order over Control
    3. Ancient traditions - Post-contemporary Styles
    4. All Can Play

    It's dangerous, but if we are to truly be Spirit-led, we must value spontaneity and be willing to let our humanity get mixed in with God's presence. We want to have the need for the gift of discernment-instead of having no need because we control everything. Order allows freedom and creativity.

    May God and humanity disturb us, make us uncomfortable, and shock us as we open our souls to the Spirit of Christ. In fact we will encourage questions, dialogue, and disagreements-and invite God's presence into the doubts of humanity-that REAL hope in Christ may emerge. God can handle authenticity-it is not offensive to Him. All growth involves some chaos. New life comes out of messiness. As Charismatics we seek to release our human desire to control things and submit to order of God.

    We value the worship of the Ancient church. We seek to incorporate Eastern Orthodox, Celtic and Western Church traditions into our worship services. The goal of our worship is to glorify and love on the Holy trinity - being people of His presence. Stylistically we are all over the map. We also encourage the congregation to express the gifts of the Holy Spirit, through love, in worship and life (see 1 Cor. chs. 12-14).

    Finally, we seek to incorporate many people into our worship gatherings. This is done through group singing, scripture readings, creeds, prayers (planned and spontaneous), silence and other new and old visual elements.


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    11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member

    11 Differences between a College Football Fan and a Church Member - Thom Rainer

    Shel: Yeah I've been reposting too much Thom lately. Sorry I will work on that. You can subscribe to his feed at: http://thomrainer.com/

    Warning: The article below is a bit of sarcastic humor. I am speaking in hyperbole to make a point. The football fan noted represents a very rabid football fan. The church member represents some, but certainly not all, church members.

    Disclosure: I tend to be a rabid college football fan. I see my allegiance as an area of devotion that needs significant adjustments downwardly. So I don’t necessarily practice what I preach. For example, even as I type these words, I am reminded that the kickoff for my team’s first game of the season is exactly five weeks from today.

    Caution: While I do write these comparisons with some humor and a lot of hyperbole, you might get just a bit uncomfortable reading them. That may indicate there is some truth in each of them.

    1. A college football fan loves to win. The typical church member never wins someone to Christ.
    2. A college football fan gets excited if a game goes into overtime. A church member gets mad if the pastor preaches one minute past the allocated time.
    3. A college football fan is loyal to his or her team no matter what. A church member stops attending if things are not going well.
    4. A college football fan is easily recognized by his or her sportswear, bumper stickers, and team flags. Many church members cannot even be recognized as Christians by people with whom they associate.
    5. A college football fan pays huge dollars for tickets, travel, and refreshments for games. A church member may or may not give to his or her church.
    6. A college football fan reads about his or her football team every day. A church member rarely reads the Bible once in the course of a week.
    7. A college football fan attends the game no matter how bad the weather is. A church member stays home if there is a 20 percent chance of rain.
    8. A college football fan invites others to watch the game every week. A church member rarely invites someone to church.
    9. A college football fan is known for his or her passion for the football team. A church member is rarely known for his or her passion for the gospel.
    10. A college football fan will adjust gladly to changes in kickoff time. A church member gets mad if his or her service time is changed by just a few minutes.
    11. A college football fan is loyal even if he or she never gets to meet the coach. A church member gets mad if the pastor does not visit for every possible occasion.

    Yes, I admit I do enjoy college football. But I really love Christ’s churches even more. I need to demonstrate that reality more readily. Do you?

    So . . . what would you add to my somewhat sarcastic list? Do you see the humor? Do you see some truth?

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