I asked a college and friend to contribute with an article on missioninnovation.info. It`s a privilege that I have got to know him, work with him and enjoy his sense of humor, over many years here in Constanta. His insight is remarkable and something I think every church and organisation needs to take to heart. Thank you Martin Axelsson for wisdom and friendship- It has been a great joy to serve with you in Constanta for many years!
Life giving community – releasing and a sense of home
The last 8 years I have lived in community, in a Christian setting. I can see how this has shaped and taught me things, more than any nice speech or teaching I have listened to. Community living can be seen as something you do in order to live cheap and something that can be nice for a certain time in life when you are young. But I realise more and more that a healthy Community is a key for transformed lives and for impacting people’s lives, and provides a sense of home and belonging. So to me community in itself is a very important ministry, even if it’s not always given that much credit and attention. You might ask; how can you measure success in this area?
We can see how Jesus and the disciples more than anything else were spending a lot of time together, in a community. I am sure that was an important place where Jesus modelled things to His disciples, simply by living with- and spending time with them.
I see community as something rich. Why? Because there are always things to learn, especially about myself, but also about others and how to relate to different people.
I have learnt through challenges when I don’t know how to relate to a person, but also through joy, where I have experienced the deep sense of home, strength, care and love a healthy community gives.
What makes a community attractive and alive?
I have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing different communities, and in different countries the last years. I have noticed one thing; you can gather many people in one building, but still not experiencing community. There can be many reasons for the lack of it, but I believe the leader(s) for the organisation/place is a key. It starts with a determination to create community, and that depends on the people living there, but also a lot on the leaders that set the tone, whether they want it or not. People observe the leaders; their attitudes, motives, focus and heart. A community copies the leader(s) more or less.
Who of us haven’t had amazing and deep talks in a kitchen? It’s often there it happens, as we cook, have a coffee, do dishes or just pass through; the kitchen is a great meeting place in a community for newcomers as well as long term inhabitants. It’s informal and safe ground, where we can come as we are in our daily life. Important to keep our eyes open for this kind of meeting places, where people can open up, and where we can grow as a community and in our relationships.
Things I have found important in a community is when details are noticed and taken good care of; for example having a strong value of listening to- and affirming people when they talk. Taking time to sit down over a cup of coffee, especially with guests and newcomers. That proves to them that they are seen, listened to and cared for right from the start. It also creates a sense of home, also for the people that has lived there for a long time. One thing I have observed is that for people that come from challenging family situations growing up; for them a healthy community can be their first time they experience real family atmosphere, with safety and love that brings healing and encouragement to them. That’s powerful.
A healthy community has a culture that believes in its people and that honours, shows respect and sees the potential in people, and wants to release others and make them find the fullness of their giftings and dreams. Having a heart of wanting the best for others, and be there to encourage and support is a precious attitude. These are mature signs of a healthy community, and out that culture it overflows with a heart of blessing and encouragement to other organisations, churches and people around it.
I like to joke. And I believe it’s a healthy sign when there is some humour in a community, because it shows that we don’t take ourselves to seriously, and it shows warmth, generosity, freedom and a welcoming atmosphere that’s easy to join. And if you live there long term, then you simply need to have fun. I believe humour refreshes, recharges and inspires the people (as long as the jokes not are hurtful and mean).
Conflicts- what do we do with them?
Living near others is challenging at times. Community is a great place to practice how to deal with conflicts. There are many things that cause tension, it can be anything from someone that keeps the light on in the common bedroom late at night, to facing rude attitudes from someone. TALK about it and sorting it out is a key, and it just makes the relationships deeper. And we can experience more and more freedom as we choose to live in right relationships with each other, choosing to deal with things that bothers us. If not life will be heavy, since we will face each other every day in a community setting. It’s about Giving and taking, and it’s a journey we are all on, and sometimes when we think we are fully developed as humans, then suddenly we realise that we have grown arrogant, proud and selfish. And community is often the place that shows us that, and also teaches us to grow in different areas where we are lacking.
it starts with the leader and leadership team that sets the tone with their lives and attitudes
When you are Seeking God as a community, letting Him be the Lord and shepherd for it and for what you do as a group, then there is a healthy focus and lots of life around. It’s simply beautiful. And again, even here it starts with the leader and leadership team that sets the tone with their lives and attitudes. The fact you seek the Lord as a community gives ownership to the whole group, and a sense of togetherness, and a common vision that we own together, and an atmosphere to be there for one another and fighting for- and protecting our community.
As you are healthy as a community you can be generous and keep the focus outside “our own group” and “us” and keep the eyes open for; how can WE bless OTHER’S around us, and extend God’s Kingdom together with other communities?
So, community living is important to me, cause I have experienced how it has shaped me, and made me to more than what I would have been without it. It’s a great strength when we gather together and create a life giving community with a sense of home, because I believe that is a key if you want people to stay in a location, organisation or in a team.
Community – It is about our every day life.