We have a conversation at our newcomers gathering at Crossings Community which I have not experienced in the other churches where I have been involved. There are probably many who would find it crazy to have such a conversation with new people who have not yet committed themselves to the church.
We explicitly tell people that they are going to get hurt by others in the church and at some point will probably get hurt by one of us in leadership. We go out of our way to tell everyone that it is not an ‘if’ situation but a ‘when’ situation.
We do this because it is a reality inseparably interwoven with the vision of God’s church and our sin. God desires for His church to be a web of real and accountable relationships which are on the journey of transformation together. He desires for these types of relationships to populate His church and for those to happen amidst the lives of sinful people. Therefore, it must not be a surprise to us that it will not be easy to walk in these transformative relationships.
We should go a step further and understand that these guaranteed struggles of living in relationship with other sinful people in the church are an intended path of growth. As you think about Paul’s writing in the New Testament, how many of his growth challenges were around doing life in God-glorifying relationships as the church? I’ll help you… a huge portion of his writing was given to functioning well relationally.
A church where everyone functions together in community beautifully without offense or conflict is not a healthy church. That church is both inauthentic and stagnant at best… it also probably has very few to zero long term members. That begs the question, what does a healthy church of real relationships really look like?
A healthy church must be engaged in real relationships, navigating hurt feelings and offense, and doing the hard work of humble reconciliation. A healthy church of healthy relationships is a church that can grow through conflict rather than one that avoids it.
As a pastor I have mourned the times that offense has led to departure for families who once called Crossings Community home. That being said, I still rejoice greatly in the strength and growth God has wrought through the real relationships which have worked through the real struggles of living in authentic community. The latter stories are the firm foundation from which He has built His church.
These ideas go against the flow of the suburban culture. In suburbia, we tend to project perfection and avoid conflict at all cost, while believing the lie that an offense can be avoided. Our God calls us to be ourselves in all of our messiness, knowing that our sinfulness in authentic community will produce growth in us.
By God’s grace, I’m thankful to be a part of a healthy church of healthy relationships and I pray for God’s continued work of gospel transformation.