by Garrett Higbee
Have you ever been to someone’s home and from the minute you walk in you sense something is different? Our family went to visit some friends a while back and it made me rethink the meaning of fellowship and hospitality. This family was deeply interested in us and our every need as if they took hospitality as a matter of family pride. The grace and attention was almost embarrassing. They invited us beyond the dining room right into the living room for rich conversation that made the meal, coffee, and desert seem a nice touch but only a garnish to the grace we received. It was really the fellowship, the way they shared their lives and drew out ours that left a lasting impression. The central topic inevitably became Christ and what He was teaching us and the evidence of His hand in our lives. Tammy and I left commenting to each other that this was an unusually meaningful evening. We told our kids that this was a night to remember and that Christ was seen in the love of our friends.
Nights like that make me imagine living like that all the time and what a close community of friends like that might look like. We started what we call neighbor dinners once a month at our home about 10 years ago, where we bring food and pray with our neighbors living near by. Some of our neighbors were believers, but some were not. No one went away hungry, and over the years some who did not know Christ started to stay around for prayer. We have done this now in three neighborhoods. We know the neighbors, we borrow sugar and butter from each other, we shovel each other out in the snow, and we speak into the lives of the neighbor’s kids. It has been one of the clearest ways we as a family have shined a light in this world for His glory (Matthew 5:15-16).
Honestly though, that isn't enough. It is not really uncommon community. That was and is just good old fashion neighborliness. So what is it that makes community uncommonly good? It happens when a group of folks gathered knows their need for grace, forgiveness, and their desperate need for Christ. It happens when people are done playing church and are authentic, transparent, and vulnerable. A few times we have had it in a group where people felt safe and no one was judged because they too had been embarrassed by God’s long-suffering and steadfast covenant love. Because we have moved a lot we have had it and lost it a few times, we are always searching for this type of community, but it has now become our goal to create this environment wherever we live and serve.
Here are some attributes of uncommon community:
- Redemptive (it is safe to confess sin or fail forward)
- Transparent (people get real)
- Intentional (there is an effort to meet and connect regularly)
- Relational (people laugh, cry, and connect deeply)
- Giving (everyone shares generously their time, treasures, and talent as they are able)
- Intrusive (others have permission to get into your “business” lovingly)
- Serving (taking care of the needs of others outside the group)
I hope you will make an effort to create that environment in your home, your friendships, your small group, and your church. It is a fortunate virus and I believe God will spread it if you persevere.
Making It Happen
A while back Pastor James MacDonald preached to a gathering of over 1000 pastors and leaders worldwide and he challenged all of us with what is quickly becoming Harvest Bible Chapel’s unofficial fifth pillar: “Uncommon Community.” It is part of bringing God’s glory down by being a Vertical Church that lives out the gospel as we do life with one another. I hope you will pray for us and join us in making this a God-glorifying reality in the local church.