Well everyone, as life would have it, last week was spring break at USFSP but I personally did everything except take some time off for a break. Except from the blog of course, on account of writing my newsletter. Since that has been completed now, I can get back to the blog business by wrapping up my series on the traits of a thriving church community.
The fifth necessary trait needed for a thriving community is the ability to process conflict. Now, if any of you are like me, you probably try to avoid conflict as much as possible. Don’t speak your mind or give your opinion because you might offend someone. If your friend asks for your opinion on her outfit, tell her she looks great. And whatever you do, don’t tell her that shirt or dress makes her look fat because you might never hear from her again. Okay, that might be a little rash but now let’s consider something a little more serious.
Suppose your best buddy---who claims to be a Christian---started sleeping with his girlfriend and moved in with her. He asks you not to judge him but as a brother in Christ, you’re responsible for holding him accountable and reminding him what scripture says. You’re afraid he’ll get offended and break off the friendship because you don’t support him so you don’t say anything. Or maybe you simply tell him that you may not agree with his actions but you still love and care for him. Better to avoid the conflict and just keep living as if the issue wasn’t a problem, right? Wrong. Believe it or not, “we do our communities a disservice if we treat conflict itself as the problem instead of using it as a springboard toward further growth and development of our mission and identity.” (Rowe & Jones) If we truly love our friends, we’ll tell them the truth and work through the conflict in a manner of love and respect; a manner that honors Christ, no matter how uncomfortable it gets. Even though conflict in and of itself may not feel like thriving, the community as a whole will ultimately thrive as an end result of having worked through it in a healthy way.
Finally, the sixth and last trait of a thriving community is one that none of us would even come close to considering as a vital point. Suffering. How in the world can suffering result in thriving? Well, to be honest, it just depends on how we view suffering and how we respond to it. “To take suffering seriously as part of the pattern of a thriving community helps us see that Christian communities constantly run the risk of being an offense to the world. And at the same time, some suffering---the kind that seems senseless---can help us learn to hope in the end, in the resurrection. Living through suffering reminds the world of both its brokenness and its hope.” (Rowe & Jones) As seen in the book of Acts, the church community endures suffering on several occasions but that doesn’t stop them from trusting in God’s deliverance. An example of this is seen in chapter 12 when King Herod kills James, the brother of John. He then imprisons Peter “but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (vs. 5) and an angel of the Lord breaks off his chains and leads him out (see verses 7-9).
Last month, I was going through some suffering--- albeit significantly less intense compared to what the church in Acts was going through---and came across Psalm 138:8, which I memorized. “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” Dr. David Jeremiah’s footnote for this verse in my study Bible talks about how the Lord uses our struggles to help us grow and mature in our faith; He renews us in the midst of our struggles. Like processing conflict, suffering may not seem like thriving at first, but the end result will bring the church community to an ultimate place of thriving when we place our hope and trust in God during our trials and tribulations.
I serve with CoMission full-time as the Executive Assistant. My role includes everything from bookkeeping to proofreading and now keeping this blog so you, our family of missionary servants, can stay updated on our latest happenings. Love y'all and hope y'all find this blog informative and encouraging.