My wife and I decided to go to New Orleans for a couple of days for our 20th wedding anniversary. And we even went during Mardi Gras! Now I know some of you might be thinking, “why on earth would a Pastor and his wife go to that place during that time”? And I would answer simply…we wanted to! It wasn’t really all that bad, at least, during the day. Most of our site seeing was done, well before the nightly celebrations filled with beads, breasts, and beer, and we were a few blocks from Bourbon St, so it wasn’t even that loud. We went for the food, and the ambiance of the French Quarter of New Orleans, plus I got to see where at least parts of one of my favorite shows, NCIS-New Orleans, is filmed! What I didn’t expect was to see and hear from such a large community of homeless people, and to learn from them. So here is what I learned…
1. Community is important. You might think to yourself, duh, but it was quite visible when walking around Decatur St. The homeless community stuck together! There were groups everywhere, and they would travel together, as well as sit down together. They were always in “talk mode” with one another. I think the biggest impact was that many CHOSE THE LIFE. They didn’t choose it because of circumstance, they chose it because of the family connections that were apparent in the groups. Many were smart and savvy types, who could be successful in anything they put their minds to if they would separate themselves from the group, but instead what kept them was the level of acceptance from one another within the group (something they risk when leaving). The fear of disconnectedness from one another was huge! This showed me that community is about belonging, and belonging accepts one another warts and all! This is important for having an open arms policy as a Kingdom Community.
2. Community is about COMMUNICATION. The “Lone Wolf” is not allowed to thrive in existence in a strong community, especially in the Kingdom Community. There was importance in letting one another know where they might be going or would be. There seemed to be a certain level of transparency in communicating. It wasn’t about control, it was about accountability. Accountability carries among its definitions, one which is “information before it is required”. I like to think of it as caring through sharing. If the group or anyone in the group doesn’t know “where” a person is, then there is a diminishing of caring that could arise. The opposite is also true, through transparency, I care enough to let you know where I am at or how I am doing. A growing and strengthening community that thrives on care, doesn’t allow “I don’t know” to be a viable excuse when it is connected to a person, their whereabouts, or even greater their spiritual development.
These two elements of community are somewhat universal. They are evident, I believe in every type of community that is found. Without them, I’m not so sure that a person can say without a doubt that they have a strong community around them. It’s more important that this describes the atmosphere of the church. It is from the strength of this type of community, that you have a united mission and vision and find your gifts to contribute to the thriving and growth of that community. The goal is to create this type of behavior in every group found within the community of the church. Not only should this be the evidence of community in the corporate, but it should also run like a thread through small group ministry too…after all, we can only be as strong as the weakest connection. Let’s leave no room for disconnect!