I believe we need the church not simply to find God, but to be held accountable and to be uplifted by others. The great commandment is not simply to love God, but it is to love neighbor (and self). The problem with living faith in isolation is we miss the relationships and as such we miss both the accountability and the encouragement.
This week has been one where I was reminded of the need for community. While I work with people all the time and am fairly connected, I have seen how our church has been working on it's own. We have been lone-rangering (yes, dad, I know that's not a word...) and in many ways blowing in the wind.
As I heard about the church down the street that was both struggling with the same 2 youth we struggle with and struggling with the issue of homeless sleeping on their campus, I thought, "It's time I go meet the other pastors around here and talk with them about what they are doing. Surely, we could be more effective if we put our heads together." I also went to a Homeless Care Network meeting where I met all kinds of folks that are trying to do their part in serving the homeless and ending homelessness in our city. It was a breath of fresh air to think about how others are doing something so we don't have to, we can encourage them in their efforts.
We need the community. We need it to be effective. We need it to do more. We need it because we are meant/designed for community.
I also need community so that I don't become arbitrary in my decision making. As any good human is, I am subject to my emotions and often make decisions based simply on an emotion and not on logic. We all do it. People with greater wisdom and experience hopefully do it less. But we all do it. It's human nature.
As I've dealt with tough issues in ministry I have noticed on occasion that sometimes my emotions make me arbitrary. What do I mean? hmmm....well, I get along well with M, and she's a she, so when she needs a shower, I let her come to my house and take one. I've decided for safety reasons not to let men shower here, but I'm not sure I would let one of the other women shower here....why? Um...I don't know them or like them as much?!? See how that's arbitrary?
Then there's the men at the church. One in particular has wanted showers. I have told him he has to wait for the trustees and outreach to make a decision. Well, he didn't wait, he played both sides and went to a parishioner instead. So he got his shower. Now he's asked me for a shower 2 times since. I said yes. Reluctantly, but I said yes. (In retrospect I should have said no since the trustees and the outreach committee still haven't made their decisions...) Now, we've had trouble with him. He's come drunk to church and got into a verbal altercation with a church member. He's left a door propped during the day when he came for the bathroom so he could stay at night. He's gotten on my hit list for his misbehavior. I am still frustrated (and hard-hearted...???) for his misdeeds and so I don't want to help him with anything right now. Again, it feels arbitrary. I don't have rules or guidelines for the appropriate consequence for cussing out a parishioner or propping a door....and since I am the main decision maker on these issues right now...it comes down to whatever I want. If I'm peeved, then I'm inclined to *punish* someone and refuse whatever...not a good plan.
I need community. I need other perspectives and ideas and input. So, that's what I'm working on. There's the subcommitee about the homeless....I'm going to leave it to them to decide (or at least present a proposal to trustees to propose) what we should do. And we have a different team of folks getting organized to work with our challenging youth.
I can't keep making all these decisions. There's too much pressure and I am only one person, who is sinful and falls short of the glory of God and needs (desperately) others to help balance these decisions and enforce these rules.
Hillary was right....It takes a village. Not just because we need a village worth of resouces, but because we need the accountability and wisdom of the whole village.