Monday, October 15, 2012

This is What Community Looks Like

A few summers ago friends invited us to a weekend parenting seminar at their church in midtown Kansas City. Free tips on how to raise our kids, free food, AND free childcare?  We were in.

It was good. Discussing how the gospel should impact our lives so deeply that it's core to our parenting was good for my soul. But even better was the discussion among the church members about how this really looked in their community.

I remember one guy asking, "But what if I don't see my buddy doing it (being a good husband, father, and leader in his home)?" What followed was a discussion I didn't know would radically change our families life. They talked about what it looks like in community where we, as believers, push each other to trust Jesus, love well, and hold each other to it. I had tears in my eyes overhearing how this community was living life together and I was aching to be a part of something like it.

Fast forward about three months. In God's crazy grace and sovereignty, we made this church our home and our community. And we began to live life with the body. We joined a gospel community, a small group made up of a handful of families that meets together weekly to break bread, dive into the Word, and do life together.

Our church set a goal for Gospel Communities that looked like this:
...for us to be a people who constantly remind one another of our desperate need to be centered around the truth of the gospel.  In this group we are dedicated to lovingly call foul when we see ourselves moving past the gospel and to helping one another repent and reorient our hearts around what Christ has done for us.  We will push each other to believe the gospel and to live gospel-centered lives that never get beyond God's redemptive story.  
And last November this really happened for us. I mean the above paragraph was lived out right in front of us and around us. Our Gospel Community became a safe place of confession and repentance, accountability to the truth of the gospel and it's life-transforming power, and constantly pushing us to trust Jesus and his ability to heal our family.

When our lives were turned upside down, our community of believers was there literally within minutes to help us weather the storm. There were men to walk beside Jamy through repentance and accountability,  there were women who supported and encouraged me living as a single mom for a season, and there were families who offered tangible support. We got way more than the pat, "I'm praying for you." Although they prayed for us (and we know this because they also prayed with us), they put teeth to their prayers and offered concrete support. Jamy had a place to stay for three months while were were separated.  I had help with meals and childcare. We had help financially to help pay for all of the counseling our entire family was accessing. There were gas cards and gift cards and letters and texts of encouragement. When I left on a road trip to go to my parents for Thanksgiving, just me and the kids, dear friends created busy bags for the kids, packed treats for me, and even fixed a broken headlight.

There were men and women in our community who literally walked us through some of the hardest and darkest days of our lives. I can remember one of my friends sitting with me in an earth shattering appointment and holding my hand when all I could do was cry. And another who grabbed my favorite Starbucks drink knowing I was about to walk through a few very hard hours and going with me.  They were Jesus to me.  They were my tangible reminder that I was not alone. And it made all the difference.

In January, Jamy and I invited our community to celebrate all that God had done for our family in those preceding months and witness our renewed marriage covenant (you can see the video here). It was an amazing time to share with the people who had walked so closely with us in worship, prayer, and thanksgiving.

And the great thing is we keep walking with them. We still receive love and accountability and childcare and encouragement from them. And God has slowly moved us into the place where we can graciously give to them as well.

This, my friends, is what community looks like.  A place where believers who are all broken are living out the gospel in a tangible, real, and sometimes messy way.   

What would marriages, families, and individuals look like if we all had a safe place to be transparent  to share the real struggles, and push each other to really believe the truth of the gospel? Marriages would be saved, families would be transformed, and individuals would know the true saving grace of the Rescuer.

Photos thanks to Jeremy and Ashley Parsons.

Are you aching that you don't have this kind of community like I once did? Find one. Can't find one? Create one. I often think of where my family would be had we not had a strong community surrounding us and  pushing us toward the gospel.  I'm convinced we would have had a much different story to tell. It was completely Jesus who got us through that season, but He used His people to do much of it.

I'm so grateful that God, is his infinite wisdom, gave us this body of believers. They are forever a part of the story of how God redeemed our family.

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