As I talk with members of the Glenwood Community who go to Grace, two words continue to stick out in our conversations – discouraged and alone. There are at least four households from Grace who have moved to Glenwood for the purpose of being salt and light in the neighborhood. Diane and I moved in back in 2001, and for a couple of years, we shared our home with the Lewkowicz family before they moved to a house about a mile away in Glenwood. That was the closest we have come to having community in the midst of ministry here.
All of us who live here "on purpose" really desire to make a difference in our neighbors' lives. We have offered food and shelter to the stranger, befriended families, and even started programs that are making the difference in the lives of children. We know that there are others here "on purpose", and we even work on some things together. Yet we still feel alone and discouraged.
The model for ministry here has been "act first, involve others later." When Diane and I moved in, we asked other couples to come with us, but none felt called and so instead of waiting, we went ahead. I think that has subtly set a tone for ministry in Glenwood. Community has seemed like a nice thing, but it has never seemed as important as doing good things. We sort of hoped that community would form as we did good things together, but to take time to care for one another seemed to take away from doing the really important work of helping other people.
I recently skimmed the book of Matthew, and I noticed that Jesus didn't start many programs. He rarely appeared busy or harried. He seemed to eat a lot of meals with people, to talk with them and listen to them, and to love people in practical ways. He never seemed driven by immediacy or urgency, and he made time to invest in His relationship with His friends, who were also His ministry partners. The church in Acts didn't seem focused on running programs. They ate meals together, shared with those in need, opened their homes and seemed to sincerely enjoy one another. And it was contagious – people were amazed at their love for one another and wanted to know the source of that love. Community created hunger for Jesus just as much as good deeds.
God is stirring in us, helping us to see that we need each other. Not just to help do more good things. We need each other to speak life and truth and to pray for one another. We need each other to laugh together, to share life and meals. We need to operate as a team together and to make room to be together without "doing" anything at all. I am beginning to believe that I need to practice what I preach – community is key for life. Community brings life that can then be given away to others.