Joe (not his real name) and I were in a guy’s accountability group back in the day. The purpose of the group was simple: celebrate life’s victory’s, share life’s pains, bear life’s burdens. Not too complicated.
Joe was a bit older than me, a seasoned “vet” as a Christian, but was in an awkward place spiritually. Joe planted a church years earlier. The church fizzled after a few years. Since then, Joe’s heart had gotten cold, and in his words, his relationship with God had become … “polite”. As in, “You take care of your business, God; I’ll take care of my business. I’m not walking away from you, but I’m not RISKING anything for you ever again either.”
Like I said, chilly.
When we began group meetings, Joe was 5 years-post the demise of the church. He had tried everything the break through the ice in his soul. Seminars, books, conferences, intense religious experiences. Nothing worked. Willing to participate in the group (perhaps as something of an experiment), Joe also admitted a bit of skepticism.
Several months later, during one of our meetings, Joe spoke up (we always began group meetings by celebrating places where we saw the hand of God at work): “Guys, you know I came into this experience cold. I’d done everything I knew to crack through the icyness of my soul. Nothing worked. But it’s weird…now…I can feel it all breaking up…It’s like my soul is getting warm again…and I’m not doing ANYTHING different other than just meeting with you guys and laying it all out every week…somehow this experience of community is transforming my heart.”
What if the deepest experiences of holy intimacy are closed to most of us NOT because we haven’t tried all of the tricks in the evangelical “book” for “falling in love with God again”…prayer retreats, scripture reading, conferences, workshops, seminars, etc. …
But because we lack spaces where deep openness to other people of faith is experienced?
Check this out:
“5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have FELLOWSHIP with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have FELLOWSHIP with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-8)
Give that a “think on” for awhile. John is linking “fellowship” (Gk: koinonia – the deepest kind of knowing-and-being-known) with God to the concrete experience of “coming out into the light” with other people. There, “koinonia” is indeed experienced. But it is not one-dimensional. It’s multidimensional. We expose ourselves to other people, and discover the depths of Jesus Christ.
Is it possible that the raw power of Christ to make “all things new” in us is only known to us in raw, open, naked community?
I think so …
Deep, transparent community isn’t an “add-on” to an experience of faith that’s really “about” something else (me and my own personal Jesus). It’s the very essence of it.
Move out into the light.