How Do We Achieve Authentic Community?

You know what I was thinking about lots this week? It’s sad that so many people are surrounded by dozens of “friends” but don’t actually experience authentic community.

It really doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re from…relationships matter!

In a world where we’re constantly bombarded by text messages, snap chats, Facebook notifications, and emails, why is that so many people still struggle with feeling lonely?

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I believe it’s a lack of authentic communities. A lack of trusting, supportive relationships.

Being a part of authentic and supportive relationships empowers you to grow and then serve and support others, serving and supporting others allows you to live out the gospel in a meaningful way, and in order to support and encourage others you need to have someone supporting and encouraging you. It all comes full circle. When we form communities of support and authenticity we’re able to effectively live out the Great Commission together.

If you’re not quite following me here, see if you can relate to this as I share a bit of my own experiences with you:

I have a tough time being vulnerable with people. It’s suuuper out of my comfort zone. I get awkward even just being in small groups of people, not to mention bigger groups! Since day one of my faith journey I’ve always had a tough time sharing my struggles and burdens with others. Growing up in a Church has in some ways made me more hesitant and afraid to be real with people because everyone seems to have it all together. It sometimes feels like the catchphrase “come as you are” isn’t fully true. You come the way you want people to see you, when people ask how you’re doing you say “good”, and admitting struggles only goes a certain depth.

In my first couple years after giving my life to God I felt like I had to try really hard to prove myself to other people. I didn’t have anyone mentoring or encouraging me, and I really didn’t feel like I had anyone to turn to when I needed some wisdom or insight. I often wrestled with thoughts of not being good enough, and I would compare myself with other Christians or convince myself that other people were comparing me and I was coming up short.

In my conversations with other Christians I’ve found that there seem to be a few themes when it comes to vulnerability and relationships. Firstly, lots of people convince themselves that because what they’re dealing with isn’t “as big of a deal” as someone else, it’s not worthy to be shared. Secondly, being vulnerable is just tough….period. It’s anxiety-provoking to put your heart out on the line and risk not having someone respond the way you desire or need them to. Thirdly, a lot of relationships stay in this sad middle ground that lies somewhere between acquaintances and authentic relationships because of lack of vulnerability. Lastly, achieving “realness” within a community is SUPER difficult when the majority of people continue to wear a mask or conform to what tradition or society say is the right way to act or be.

I can relate to all of these, what about you?

Creating real and trusting relationships takes effort and energy. It requires willingness. It also requires someone to take the first step.

This month as I’ve reflected and prayed over this so much more, I’ve realized that God wants me to be one of those people who takes the first step. Imagine together with me how amazing it would be if you and me both decide to take the first step? There are countless stories of individuals who take a step of faith and challenge others to do the same, changing the course of history.

So this is my challenge to you: Find some people in your life that you can be real with, and share more of yourself with them. Whether you’re broken or healing or whole, allow yourself to share how God is working in your life.

I’ll be real with you right now. One way God is teaching and refining me lately is by using multiple ways to show me over and over and over again that LOVE must be my motive! I get caught up in checklists and To-Do lists way too easily. As I read in places like John 15, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians 3, etc. I realize that God doesn’t care about what I’m doing if love isn’t my driving force. None of it matters. Singing during worship, mentoring someone, sharing a devotional with a friend, serving at a soup kitchen, teaching youth about Jesus…God says to the Church in Ephesus in Revelation that none of it matters if LOVE isn’t the driving force behind it. That’s pretty humbling, hey? So in the last months He’s been challenging me to re-evaluate every single thing on my weekly agenda that I’m doing or a part of and have my heart checked. It’s painful at times, eye opening at times, and encouraging at times.

As I share that with you, I bet there’s at least a couple of you who can relate to this. That got me thinking: if I’m willing to be vulnerable and share how God is teaching and growing me, how I’m being challenged and how I’m struggling, then how neat is that if we can do it together? It gives YOU the opportunity to share with me that you get it, and maybe you even have some super valuable insight to share or lessons you learned with the very same challenge. It gives us a connecting point that is so much deeper and more meaningful than talking about the weather or about “what I’m up to lately”.

The other day I had a moment with a friend where we both went, “What, really?! You too?? I thought it was just me!!” You’ll never know if you don’t share 🙂

How can trusting relationships and authentic communities be built if you and I can’t be honest and transparent with each other? How can our communities be mobilized to live out the gospel in the areas we’ve been placed if we can’t even provide for the real needs of our own people? How can we be a strong force to be reckoned with for the Kingdom of God if we’re not empowering, supporting, and encouraging one another?

It starts with me. It also starts with you.

I want to be willing to be real and vulnerable with more people in my life. I want to show people around me- both believers and unbelievers- that being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean being perfect and going to Church to worship on Sunday’s with a nice dress and a smile on my face. I want to show people that being a disciple of Christ means being a learner of Christ for my entire life. My life is being transformed daily more into His image. I am constantly growing, struggling, being challenged, learning, experiencing spiritual attack, and because I’m human I also have days where I just feel down and discouraged and need a hug.

This is what my vision for my blog is this year: I want to journey together with you. I want to be vulnerable with you. I want to be real and honest about my struggles and the things God is teaching me. I want to serve as an encouragement to you. I want to slowly be a part of the movement towards authentic communities amidst all of the shallow relationships around us.

I want to victoriously run this race marked out before me by the grace of God, but I can’t do it alone. Neither can you.

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