Up, In, and Out - A community that’s going somewhere.
The video on Up, In, and Out has stuck with me. I like the simplicity, the categories it provides, and the "interconnectedness" of each of the components. It also seems doable and resonates to my experience.
I was listening to NT Wright recently and he was encouraging folks to be connected to a local church. He says that he cannot pastor someone through a podcast. We need a pastor who knows us well enough to speak into our lives and to be there for us when we have a need. I love the sentiment, but have never experienced it. Church in America is different than Reverend Wright’s British context. We typically have large churches and if the Pastor remembers your name he certainly does not know about your needs, or how to speak into your life.
But, he got my attention. I can’t pastor myself. Expecting a young christian to pastor themselves is outright dangerous. We need support, encouragement, guidance, and accountability. We need someone to check our ideas to make sure we don’t go off into wackyland. Sometimes I need friends who push me a little. I love it when I feel pushed and when it is totally not intended to be that way. When a friend shares a conviction and how they are wrestling with a topic and I find that it pierces my soul and makes me wrestle as well.
I need this kind of community. Where we go a bit deeper than the surface talk. Where we share actual joys and actual struggles. Where we have fun together and even weep together. In the end it is a community where we are actually transformed by a constant pressing of the gospel message into our souls. This is very hard to experience in a Sunday morning environment or any other event oriented relationship. Do you have this sort of community?
And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Changing your clothes seems hard when you’re a child. For a grandparent, it’s hard to watch those little munchkins wrestle to get the shirt on or off. But when we grow up a little, it gets easy. We learn to change all sorts of things besides clothing. There are a/c filters, tires, even jobs and neighborhoods. Changing habits can be a bit harder. Such as adding physical exercise to life, or adopting a specific diet. Harder still is changing in character.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed
The Bible commands “be transformed” in Romans 12:2.The idea is communicated in dozens of other places but in this one it is a clear, brief command. For grammar geeks it is particularly interesting because it is a command but it is passive. A better English translation might be “let yourself be transformed” or “let God transform you” as the NLT puts it. In other words we are told to do something but we are not the one to do it because we are passive in it. So, we have to choose to allow transformation to happen. But we are creatures of habit. Changing our character (or allowing it to be changed) can be very hard.
Our tendency is to fake it. It goes like this. We start going to a church, we hear the gospel message, and we genuinely respond in faith. Then we find ourselves on the inside. God changes some things very quickly if we stick with it. We also watch the other people and start acting like they act. We want to be on the inside. We want to be accepted and liked. So, often we fake it. We hide undesirable activities and character traits and get into a new rhythm of life. But the command still says “be transformed.” The grammar of it is in the present tense. So, it could just as well say “keep on being transformed.” There is so much more growth to be had. But sometimes the effort to grow is more than we want to expend. So, we just hide it. We fake it.
I am reminded that much of the Bible speaks to a crowd rather than to an individual. I think we ought to read it as a crowd in order to get the proper effect. In other words, I am not to just sit in my room alone and be transformed, but I am to do this in community. I do well when I talk about my struggles with my close friends and ask them for help and prayer. Hebrews 10:24 in the NLT reads “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Spiritual growth is a team sport. This is a struggle for our tendency to pose… our tendency to hide and fake it.
I feel like if we could just admit it and embrace it, we would be so much better off. I remember people wearing shirts in the past that said “me too.” If we adopted that posture it might do us some good. I struggle too. We are in this together. Let’s help each other grow.