The Conversations of Community, Part 2

I appreciated much of the feedback from people who read my last blog. And my heart hurts for those who do not yet know that there are people around them, probably closer than they think, who are on a very similar journey and hungering for the same kind of contact. I find them everywhere, so I know they are out there.

But as I wander about the planet I notice there are people who are quite relational, willing to engage people around them in conversation, to travel to meet new people on this journey, and are intentional about opening the door to new friendships by taking the initiative in arranging times to get together. Then there are those who wait in hopes that friendships will come to them. The former have lots of people in their lives, the latter have very few. Until we become the friend we want to have, we will stay rather isolated.

I know this is scary for some people, but honestly, relationships won’t come to you; you have to go to them. All our coping mechanisms of the flesh isolate us by making us defensive around people we don’t know and don’t trust. If grace does anything in us, it makes us more relational people, willing to take the risk to engage others in conversation, even if the relationship goes no where. Spiritual growth makes us willing to risk an evening just to get to know someone, and even rejection if in the end they don’t want to know us better.

If you want the conversations of community you have to go looking, sampling scores of relationships to find those half a dozen that become the most meaningful to you. When I travel around I meet lots of people on this journey, and often the room is filled with people the others don’t know. During the day, I meet lots of people in that room I’d love to know better if I only lived in that area. But what amazes me is how little contact between those people goes beyond my time there. Obviously they were there only to meet or hear me, when there were so many other treasures of God in the room that they could be walking with now if someone would have taken the risk to provide an opportunity to grow the relationship.

What seems to be true is that people are either content with the friendships they have, or they just don’t want to risk their comfort zone to get to know others better. I even find people when I travel who would like to schedule time with me personally if they can, but don’t want to come to a gathering of people they don’t know. Usually they have some kind of excuse, but deep down it’s just that they are uncomfortable coming to a strange home or finding out the arrangements. I’m afraid our comfort zones will always isolated places to dwell.

If you don’t make yourself available first, you will have little to choose from because most people are not going to initiate it with you. It’s never easy to take the risk, but the rewards are worth it. Just don’t think you’ll connect with everyone. You won’t. But those that do become friends are well-worth the search. It’s like looking for a job. You wouldn’t sit home hoping one comes to you. You have to go look, to interview, to be turned down, maybe forty or fifty times in this economy to find a job. What if that’s true of friends? Are they worth investing some time and intentionality?

If the body of Christ is going to connect in our day, it’s because God transforms people to having a greater relational priority than to simply do their jobs and chores each week. The greatest treasures in this earth are people. That includes our neighbor next door and the person in the cubicle across from us. If we just start loving the people around us, whether or not they are on a similar spiritual journey, we will eventually find ourselves overwhelmed with friends and fellow-travelers and maybe people who don’t know God yet, who might see his love in us.

I refuse to give into the notion that some of us are relational and some of us aren’t. I agree that it may be easier for some and more of a risk for others, but that’s usually because some have been taking the risk for so long they are no longer uncomfortable with it. But I am convinced that finding God’s love will free you to love people more freely.

If you want the conversations of community, realize they are the fruit of living relationally. Not every contact will produce community, but it is certainly true that if I’m not growing any relationships, I’ll never find it.

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10 Comments
  1. Jeremy Myers February 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for the encouraging words.

    In your experience, does there seem to be an average time frame for developing close relationships with people in a community or at work?

    My wife and I seem to move every 18-24 months. It always seems that just about the time we begin to develop some really close friendships, we have to move again. It is getting quite frustrating, and part of me (knowing that another move is coming in a year or so) wants to just give up this time around.

    So I have some questions: Does this time frame seem normal? I know that you cannot rush relationships, but do you have any ideas for speeding things up so that we can have relationships sooner?

  2. Jeremy Myers February 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the encouraging words.

    In your experience, does there seem to be an average time frame for developing close relationships with people in a community or at work?

    My wife and I seem to move every 18-24 months. It always seems that just about the time we begin to develop some really close friendships, we have to move again. It is getting quite frustrating, and part of me (knowing that another move is coming in a year or so) wants to just give up this time around.

    So I have some questions: Does this time frame seem normal? I know that you cannot rush relationships, but do you have any ideas for speeding things up so that we can have relationships sooner?

  3. Daryl L February 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Appreciate the insights. I’m just thinking that the inviting, risking, talking to others is actually just the natural result when we learn to live loved. It is hard not to want to share Father’s love love with those around us…both by actions and words. I’ve found that for that to happen, I’ve gotten comfortable with Father and Him alone. I feel so much more comfortable with who I am, and no longer long for a group of “like-minded” people to share with. For me, I think the reason I was longing for a group was to confirm what I thought Father was telling me. I mean, how could I be right if no one else agreed?
    Well as time has gone by, I know I live in Abba’s grace, and He leads me and watches over me. My fears and doubts are gone, and I know that what I don’t have right, Father will change in me over time. I love meeting with those who “understand” what I understand. I meet them all the time now, but I find myself comfortable not “meeting” officially in a “fellowship” or with special “free range” friends. I’m just loving meeting people, and sharing whatever love Father puts on my heart for them.

    I wonder if Father might actually take us to the place where we only need Him and not the support, and then puts us in relationships and groups. Might going out and looking for people like we look for jobs end up being just another way to replace the sufficientness of Father’s love and presence with the support of people? I dunno…. just a thought.

  4. Daryl L February 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Appreciate the insights. I’m just thinking that the inviting, risking, talking to others is actually just the natural result when we learn to live loved. It is hard not to want to share Father’s love love with those around us…both by actions and words. I’ve found that for that to happen, I’ve gotten comfortable with Father and Him alone. I feel so much more comfortable with who I am, and no longer long for a group of “like-minded” people to share with. For me, I think the reason I was longing for a group was to confirm what I thought Father was telling me. I mean, how could I be right if no one else agreed?
    Well as time has gone by, I know I live in Abba’s grace, and He leads me and watches over me. My fears and doubts are gone, and I know that what I don’t have right, Father will change in me over time. I love meeting with those who “understand” what I understand. I meet them all the time now, but I find myself comfortable not “meeting” officially in a “fellowship” or with special “free range” friends. I’m just loving meeting people, and sharing whatever love Father puts on my heart for them.

    I wonder if Father might actually take us to the place where we only need Him and not the support, and then puts us in relationships and groups. Might going out and looking for people like we look for jobs end up being just another way to replace the sufficientness of Father’s love and presence with the support of people? I dunno…. just a thought.

  5. Josh L February 20, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Great article, Wayne. “He who desires friends must be friendly himself.” It does take moving out of our comfort zone to engage with those who are naturally very different from us, but like you say, the reward is well worth the risk.

  6. Josh L February 20, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Great article, Wayne. “He who desires friends must be friendly himself.” It does take moving out of our comfort zone to engage with those who are naturally very different from us, but like you say, the reward is well worth the risk.

  7. Wayne February 21, 2011 at 10:52 am

    Jermey, I think it depends on how much time you spend with people. A couple of years or so is about right for just the sporadic contacts that come over time. That can be accelerated by a trip together, or a retreat that accelerates that time frame. Moving every two years, does make it difficult, no doubt about it…

  8. Wayne February 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Jermey, I think it depends on how much time you spend with people. A couple of years or so is about right for just the sporadic contacts that come over time. That can be accelerated by a trip together, or a retreat that accelerates that time frame. Moving every two years, does make it difficult, no doubt about it…

  9. Ian Stapleton February 21, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Daryl. I agree with you.
    I think that sometimes what motivates this need of fellowship in us is a need within ourselves, for ourselves. And especially coming out from the organised church with that “need to” and “should do” mentality makes these self based needs stronger within us. But when we can learn from Dad that this desire and need of fellowship can be fully sustained in Him and Him alone, it kinda shakes away any agenda, just my thought anyway.
    I do however see the point in going out to meet others, and I do understand the loneliness that can come from no fellowship around us. But how freeing and how much more can our fellowship and relationships be without our own need being the motivating force behind it.
    Thank you Wayne for this second post, it has helped me see what Dad is doing around Sharon and I at the moment. I suppose the old mentality of spiritual fellowship is still lingering in the back of my brain somewhere…lol.

  10. Ian Stapleton February 21, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    Daryl. I agree with you.
    I think that sometimes what motivates this need of fellowship in us is a need within ourselves, for ourselves. And especially coming out from the organised church with that “need to” and “should do” mentality makes these self based needs stronger within us. But when we can learn from Dad that this desire and need of fellowship can be fully sustained in Him and Him alone, it kinda shakes away any agenda, just my thought anyway.
    I do however see the point in going out to meet others, and I do understand the loneliness that can come from no fellowship around us. But how freeing and how much more can our fellowship and relationships be without our own need being the motivating force behind it.
    Thank you Wayne for this second post, it has helped me see what Dad is doing around Sharon and I at the moment. I suppose the old mentality of spiritual fellowship is still lingering in the back of my brain somewhere…lol.

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