Helping you find community might be a waste of time!
Posted on February 14th, 2012


Last night my wife had to watch the Super bowl on a small TV in an adjacent room from where my high-school girls were. They were hogging our big screen TV room with all their friends, mostly students from a hard, inner-city school. My oldest is dating a great kid named Dre, and his band of pirates are mostly poor, misguided, farts that eat all our food, and break windows, like they did during the 3rd quarter. To avoid killing them all and embarrassing my girls, I headed out to a friends house to watch the rest of the game.
After duct taping the window this morning, my wife and I headed off to breakfast and talked over how much we really loved these kids, faults and all. Because Dre grew up without a father, we have gotten to know all these kids by going to their sporting events, and because they always would rather be at our home than anywhere else, especially there homes.
While sipping our coffee and laughing a bit over their collective cluelessness, we once again talked about how it’s time to really give our lives to kids like these. After 10 years of YFC ministry, I vowed I’d never return to youth ministry, but it just seems as though it’s the real deal and that every minute we spend with them is transformational.
Because it was Monday I diverted the discussion to my personal frustrations I was having in where to spend my time. As is the case every week, my email loads up with adults Christians, most of whom have been Christians their entire lives, asking for a cup of coffee, some chat time, or a little help getting connected in our church. I suppose this is all good activity that most pastors give time to. And I even suppose that if I didn’t do it, people would just leave and go to another church because we didn’t help “plug them in.” But all of a sudden the pressure of choosing who would get my time, hit me square in the face.
Cheryl, cut through my fog with something like this, “So…you’re feeling bad that you can’t give all these people help in finding other Christian adults to be in community with, when all over our city are teens who have absolutely no help, no hope, and no clue of how to navigate their lives? Are you serious?”
I just stared deep into my mug of java and took another sip.
As we kept munching on our amaretto and white chocolate pancake, I felt my heart bubble over with frustration and clarity about what my role as a Christ follower should be. Not my role as a pastor, which seems to only bring confusion. But simply the role, the job, or the life that Christ wants me and everyone else to live.
At some point, someone has to bust through the minutia of nebulous get togethers and scream…who’s really going to give some time to people that need it?!! When will we as adult Christians stop prioritizing finding more Christian friends to have a small group with, or another bible study? When will we actually take a few disadvantaged or disillusioned people under our wings and give flight to God’s heart for their lives?
Most people know that I’ve spent my life’s work trying to help people form incarnational communities that witness of the Gospel in every nook and cranny of our cities, but I’m coming to find that when people focus too much on community and not the gospel, they become nothing more than 30 year old 8th graders looking for friends. They in turn forget that community is not the goal of life. Community, true biblical, missional, and gospel-centered friends are supposed to be the people we go on mission with, not the people that keep us from going on mission.
If pastors are supposed to be spiritual leaders, and leadership is taking people past where they are to the place God wants to take them, then it must begin with some jackwagon like me going, “Enough is enough!” So, that’s what I’m doing right now.
If you want to do coffee with me, I sure hope you’ve got a reason that is at least as important as the “least” of these around me.
Not trying to be mean, just trying to follow Jesus.
Hope you do to.
Hugh


Posted in Incarnational Community    Tagged with no tags


6 Comments

Brian Mayfield - February 15th, 2012 at 9:35 AM
Holy crap! Hugh - you just hit me square in the face and in the heart with this. I've been trying to articulate some of the restlessness inside me as a pastor for awhile. I think you just put your thumb on it and pressed down like an anvil. Thank you!
amanda - February 15th, 2012 at 12:02 PM
I hear your struggle, but must share a personal story.

“who’s really going to give some time to people that need it?”

I’ve been a Christian for a good decade, but had some major issues and pain that were seemingly unresolved even with my relationship with Christ. One of the greatest issues was my feeling of aloneness. I lacked a sense of belonging, especially in the Christian community. I used to at least fit at the bar. Now I had no where that I could go that someone would actually get me. And yes, I was one of those that tried to plug in to the Bible studies and other groups in my church.

I am so thankful that a couple years ago a person did recognize my pain and struggle within the Christian community, brought me into a group of others, and by example and practice taught me the true meaning of belonging. This was not just another small group or Bible study. This was a very intentionally focused group aimed at healing and equipping of others. By establishing strong ties to my identity in Christ, living from the heart Jesus gave me, I learned that Belonging is the joy that I create around me. I am now empowered to create belonging wherever I go. The pain and aloneness are removed.

The reason I share this story is to emphasize that even though I was saved, I needed help learning to swim. Even though saved, time spent with me was just as valuable as time spent with someone who was not saved. The time invested equipped me to go forth.

I understand the sense of urgency to bring the wonderful gospel to those without, but let’s not forget that many who have bonded with Christ still need help on their journey. I am reminded of Ephesians 4 here. Because someone did take the time to walk with me in community, I am now equipped to create belonging in joy to all.

Yet, I do understand your personal struggle. Your heart has a specific bent. If you are to live from the heart Jesus gave you, you will be attracted to reach those whom Christ has in mind for you. And you can’t do it all. But I’m sure that some in your community have a heart for walking with other believers on their journeys to wholeness. Perhaps they are the ones that should be chatting and having coffee with the Christian seekers.
Matt - February 16th, 2012 at 1:14 PM
As a youth worker and pastor I'm learning more and more everyday that mentoring kids is consistently the most significant investment I can make with my time. Last year while juggling three jobs I had no "extra" time to spend with a teen in my church. So, I simply took him along with me once a week as I worked and recreated with my dysfunctional youth-at-risk. It never hit me how much this impacted him until the next year after he had gone to college. I received an E-mail one day asking for a reference so he could be a part of a group that recreated and worked on building relationships with youth in custody. This teen "caught," in a very short time, something I've been trying to teach and model the adults in my church for months. Spending time with teens is well worth it...they will also typically enjoy positive risk activities like mountain biking and skiing. So go get some fresh air, life, and a renewed sense of meaning as you invest in these great kids.
Erika - February 23rd, 2012 at 9:17 AM
Thank you Hugh and Cherly, for your willingness to process your life, passions, and frustrations in light of the Gospel and the reality of life, in front of everyone. I really appreciate it! Made perfect sense to me.nErika
Tom Batterson - April 19th, 2012 at 8:18 AM
"When will we as adult Christians stop prioritizing finding more Christian friends to have a small group with, or another bible study? When will we actually take a few disadvantaged or disillusioned people under our wings and give flight to God’s heart for their lives?"



We , my wife and I, have been having the same struggles, asking the same questions, processing through the same christian bubble...



We were a youth pastors for a few years and have been missing it badly ever since we left. Thank you for this. You have given us a starting point for the conversation that must now happen for us to move back into the mission.
Heather - July 27th, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Agree 100%. :) Thanks for sharing.
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