Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sunday, May 3 Leftovers Part 2

I think one of the biggest tensions the elders of Jubilee feel is structuring the church for growth as well as creating an environment for authentic and robust community life. It's so much easier to go for one and leave the other behind. However, we must go for both if we want to follow the New Testament layout for church life.

One of the most freeing ideas that we have come across is sourced from a book called A Search to Belong by Joseph Myers. In A Search to Belong, Myers explains four different types of "spaces" and how we can connect with others through each space. Below is a listed summary of his findings and how it relates to us.

A Summary of Joseph R. Myers' A Search to Belong

PUBLIC SPACE: "Public space happens when we connect through outside influences. It isn't about connecting person to person; it is about sharing a common experience. Think of fans at a football game, members of the PTA, shoppers at a grocery store. In each case an outside influence brings these people into a common grouping. They connect because of the outside influence, not because of shared personal information" (p. 41).

SOCIAL SPACE: Social space is often denigrated as superficial, but it is vitally important. "In many ways, social belonging is the 'small talk' of our relationships" (p. 45). The neighbor relationships of social belonging allow us to "share snapshots" of who we are with others. A shared social space also "provides a safe selection space for us to decide with whom we would like to grow a 'deeper' relationship" (p. 46).

PERSONAL SPACE: Personal space involves the sharing of private information. It takes place in a safe setting where trustworthy confidences are built. We connect through sharing private - although not 'naked' - experiences, feelings, and thoughts" (p. 47). The people to whom we belong in this space are friends or "close friends" rather than acquaintances.

INTIMATE SPACE: "In intimate space, we share 'naked' experiences, feelings, and thoughts. Very few relationships are intimate. Intimate relationships are those in which another person knows the 'naked truth' about us and yet the two of us are 'not ashamed'" (p. 50).

How This Applies to Us
The big issue in the American church world is that, in general, we settle for public space and social space. There is little interaction among church members outside Sunday. Our connection is limited to a "shared experience" (public space) or perhaps some small talk (social space). However, if we are going for New Testament community life, our relationships have to go deeper! We have to be real with one another...but not necessarily everyone. That is where I think the tension is for us in Jubilee and where Joseph Myers can be helpful.

Those of us who are passionate about personal connections, who like our gatherings small and intimate, will naturally struggle when we show up on a Sunday morning because we don't know everyone. The reasoning being that we don't have the same family feel like we did when we were smaller.

As a church grows, members need to be comfortable and understand that there are different levels of connecting with people and that is actually a healthy thing. Sunday morning, for example, is more and more going to resemble "public space" where your connection with some people is purely an experience. Now if that is all it is for you (a Sunday experience), that's an issue, but that is where Action Tracks come in. Let's not forget that the community portrayed in Acts 2:42 was 3,000 people strong...so how did they achieve such deep community? Well, they met in the temple (Sunday) and in homes (Action Tracks). So are Actions Tracks where we develop deep, authentic community? Yes and no. Because in an Action Track we are still bringing people together who may not have previously met, it can most accurately be described as social space. Action Tracks are medium sized groups (10-20 people) that provide a great opportunity to meet new friends, but it may not be the best place to "get real" with one another although that could happen.

So how do we connect deeply with one another? Developing deep, authentic community won't be found in simply attending Sunday (although that's an important part of the process) and it won't be found in simply attending an Action Track. Our hope for authentic community is that we come together and share a common experience on Sunday that would lead us to a social environment like an Action Track (or serving together), and from those environments we would connect with 3 or 4 people and begin to do life with one another (share personal space).