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community

As I’ve stated before, I have a love-hate relationship with social media… particularly Facebook.  Although it can be quite entertaining, educational and even inspirational at times, it’s mostly an outlet for unabashed vanity and narcissistic exploitation that exposes itself in all age categories.  I’ll stop there.

Dragon-conThis past weekend I did enjoy a few pictures on FB from an event that happened last weekend in Atlanta called:  The Dragon-Con 2013.  I didn’t have the energy to explore it too deeply, but the pictures that I did see were… ummmm… special.  Obviously, there are lots and lots of grown-ups still into fantasy or at least the fun of it.  That’s kewl… I think.   Guess it’s not much different than me pretending to be a golfer.  Trust me… that too is a fantasy.  What are you pretending at?

I mention all that because it got me thinking about a phrase I hear often from the folks that I do commonly read on Facebook:

 

“I need (spiritual) community!”

 

My first thought is always:  “Yes you do.”

My second thought is:  “Do you have any idea what real spiritual community is?”

My third thought is:  “Do I know what it is anymore?”

Most of what people call “community” is nothing more than a “belonging system”.  It’s a place or a group of people that make you feel like you belong.  The Dragon-con people are a belonging system.  It’s a safe place to wear the costume, apply the paint, and be in the role.  There is mutual appreciation and respect for the courage it takes to do all that!  Its whole purpose is to provide a place to see and be seen.  To blow off a little steam.

Go for it Batman… Yoda… and Wolverine!  The world is safer because of you.

But, if I’m not mistaken, “spiritual community” is supposed to be something else.  Sometimes, our so-called “spiritual communities” are nothing more than “religious belonging systems”.

We wear the apropos costume, we apply the paint of what we want to project, we live in the role, we respect and measure each others piety and it’s definitely a place to see and be seen.  Sorry, that’s pretty hard… but, there is “some” truth in it.

Real “community” should be something different.  “We” or “me” can’t be the center of what holds us together.  It’s supposed to be forged and bonded by a bigger and stronger reality that pushes us to change internally.  It can’t operate from our egocentric impulse and perspectives.  It can’t morph according to our every whim and appetite.  There has to be a deeper foundation other than what seems to be “the hot word” for today.

There needs to be an element of confrontation.  A voice, an influence, a ribbon of unwavering truth that won’t let us give in to our internal bitchy voice of selfish immaturity that wants to govern us constantly.  Community notices when we stink and offers much needed soap and water.  It’s not afraid of our gaps or the gaps in this world, and might even be willing to soil itself in order to fill a gap or two if possible.

It provides contrast and encourages coming out of the pretense.  “Take off the costume… remove the fig leaf… quit hiding… be real”.  You might find it in an institution, a movement, or with the spiritually hip… but don’t hold your breath.

Just because you’re with the band… doesn’t mean you’re in the band.  Anyone can sit in a pew.  Are you there to conform or transform?  What’s easy and obvious may not be right for you.  Don’t be afraid to look around.

Community IS out there.  But don’t follow the pretty people and expect to find the gold.  Smell for the smoke… look for the broken… recognize the trail of tears… search for the honest.  It could be with the guys at the pub or on the back deck with brews and cigars; or with the chicks doing yoga after work, but real community is magic without the fantasy.

The thing you’re looking for—the genuine love of a spiritual family–may not feel like love at all when you first encounter it.  But the penetrating whisper of the Spirit’s white noise will tell you to “wait and see”.  But make no mistake, spiritual community is down with getting down into your pit when you can’t climb out by yourself.  Messy is just a part of the understood norm.

Keep looking if you’re thirsty for community.  It won’t be complete until you get there.

-MDP-

xo

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 4, 2013 at 10:01 am

    this is muy muy bueno.

  2. Steve Johnston
    September 4, 2013 at 10:37 am

    Powerful stuff, my brother. You are dead on target as usual, though I do recall you are a pretty good golfer, just out of practice.

    The challenge, as I see it, for the community you describe is our making a deep commitment to it for self and for the others in the community. Too few of us have the ability to commit so deeply, either to community or to Christ, and are saddened by it. One of the strengths of your ministry, as I know it, is the ability to make it easier for others to become communal by being open and encouraging and supportive and welcoming. I remember well the night we worshipped together in Gainesville, and while I was the old guy in the room, it was clear I was welcome. Your attitude and leadership make it so.

    Bless you and Miss Patti. We will hold you in our hearts and prayers forever.
    Love you guys,
    Awesome Dad
    SJ

  3. Lacey
    September 4, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    Holy crap. This is such an adequate description of community. I only say that because I’ve heard many inadequate descriptions. I tell you what, I long for that soap and water when I start to stink. Please, Jesus. Thanks so much, Papa Mike.

    • September 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks for reading babe! Love you! xo

  4. September 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    i love this. thankful for the community i have; the one you’ve helped to shape. now, if i could just find a friend or two in sc i’d be in good shape 🙂

    can’t wait to see you!

    • September 4, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      I’m sure that’s not too much of a problem! xo

  5. September 5, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Mike, I believe I’m on my third read and still gleaning from this blog. I’ve developed a ‘love-hate’ relationship with the belonging system, I mean my church that I attend for the very reasons that you stated community is not. How can you have community without communication? But that’s pretty much what belonging to a large church can become. I do see a lot of cliques, but I think they’re a little different than the community you speak of. You have to ‘fit in’ to be in a clique. It’s a closed circle of friends. But community accepts everyone. I’ve had invitations to some cliques but I know I’d have to conform to their list of standards to fit in and couldn’t be myself if I joined. I guess that’s why I like working in the coffee shop at church. I get to meet, greet and do small talk with people I would not normally look for at church. I love going to church, but sad to say, it’s not the place I find community. OK, I’ll stop while I’m behind. lol

    • September 5, 2013 at 8:10 am

      E-man… #1 thanks for reading. #2 you’re not alone in how you feel and what you observe. #3 you’re a massive personality with a huge passion and a good heart. I’m sure there are plenty of ways to do kingdom with like-kind and like-mind. The Spirit will help you find those who are looking to find. People are searching for “real” community.

  6. allison schwartz
    September 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I needed to hear this today. Thank poppa man! Xo

    • September 6, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks for reading sweetheart! love you! xo

  7. Heidi
    September 7, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Good reminder that I needed to read this morning. Thanks.

    • September 8, 2013 at 6:54 am

      Thanks for checking in Heidi! xo

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