By Justine Tegen
“No, how are you really doing?”
Whether it comes from a co-worker, a friend, a sibling, or someone from my small group—this question always throws me off. It breaks up the pattern of my perfunctory “I’m fines” and pushes me to respond thoughtfully, honestly And that is what makes authentic community so uncomfortable.
When we choose to value authentic community, we push past friendliness, take off our masks, and relate to one another as we really are.
Around ALIVE, we like to say this is a “me too” community. In other words, this is a place where we admit we are all broken and in need of Jesus and choose to pursue him together. This is huge because we believe that chasing after Jesus together is our best shot at experiencing true transformation.
That’s why we ask people to join small groups, find places to serve, and continually say we want each person here to find an “active role in Christian community.” We want people to experience authentic community.
But authentic community doesn’t happen by chance. It is something we have to build. Here are just a few tips on building authentic community.
1) Show up.
If we want to develop relationships that help us pursue Jesus, we have to be together. Whether this is showing up and talking to the same people on a Sunday morning, committing to serve regularly on a service team, or signing up and attending a small group – showing up is the first step.
But showing up doesn’t just mean our body is in the room. Showing up also means we are present, emotionally and mentally. I’ve had friends show up for me when I was overwhelmed. That meant they came to my house, they asked questions, they listened, they brought food, and they encouraged me.
2) Be honest.
This step is the risky one. We cannot build authentic community while pretending. So we open up. We share what’s really going on. And when we share honestly and openly, we open doors for others to do the same.
This happens when a small group takes time to talk about their lives or when a service team prays for one another. This happens when we slow down and ask one another, how are you and wait for the response. And it happens when we tell people our concerns, our dreams, our fears.
3) Create an environment of grace and truth.
If our community is going to help us apply truth to our lives, then we have to create an environment that is both safe and challenging. Balancing grace and truth means we love people where they are at, but we love them too much to leave them there. It means some weeks we allow people to sit in their mess and some weeks we show them steps to get out of it.
It means that we let others see and love the broken parts about us, and it means that we accept their loving encouragement to turn away from our sin. When we balance grace and truth we invite Jesus into the room and let Him shape the way we think, act, and relate to one another.
Pastor Tom has preached several times about Spiritual Formation, which he defines as “identifying untrue ideas, thoughts and definitions about God, yourself and the world and replacing them with the ideas, thoughts and definitions that filled the mind of Christ.” If we are following Jesus, we want to see spiritual formation happening in our lives. Being a part of an authentic community is one great way to invite trusted people to the table to help us identify untrue ideas and replace them with the mind of Christ.
So who is in your community and what steps can you take to start building authentic community? Take some time to think about which step above you find most challenging and why.
And as we show up, are honest, and create environments of grace and truth together we’ll start to see transformation happen.
See you on Sunday!