4 Marks of Authentic Community

While I’m in the process of teaching a class on what is authentic Christian community and we focus on four marks of authentic community, of that the first is to know and be known. I call this storytelling, some people would call it self-disclosure, but the idea is to open up my life to you as you open up your life to me. You know we have a deep desire to be known and to know others, but things stand in the way; there are barriers.

It’s usually fear, fear being misunderstood, fear of being shamed that my story isn’t valuable to you or maybe I’d bring some hurts and wounds from the past and you can’t accept them. Or when you hear about those you say, “Whoa, what is that about you?” so I’m worried that you’ll judge me. Maybe I’ve had bad experiences in relationships in the past. So lots of fears or barriers might stand in the way, but our deep desire is to be known and to tell a story to others and to hear their stories so that we can know them better. So carve out a place and some time to know and be known, whether it’s on your team or in your small group or whatever. The idea that we need to carve out a place — whether it’s in a group setting or at a meal or an extended time together at a retreat — we need a place and then we need some time together. Community doesn’t happen quickly, and so if we can devote some extended time to telling our stories and getting to know each other it’s a big step to building community.

A second one is to love and be loved, to express love and receive love. Gary Chapman in The Five Love Languages book, years ago picked five areas we can do that in. With words, because some people are words people they need to hear or see in writing that you care about them, that you appreciate them. Some people are touched people, they need a hug or handshake or you know, that punch in the arm or something but that the touch is important that says I connect with you, I care about you and I know you care about me. For some it’s gifts, actual tangible things, “Hey, here’s a book I want to lend to you” or “I heard this great music on this CD I want to give you” or maybe you were traveling and you said “Hey I thought you while I was traveling and I picked up this little object here this token of my appreciation for who you are” that little iconic sort of thing represents your affection for them and that gift is something they can look at it see if they feel cared for. Service is another one, just doing acts of service, serving others, doing the little things to encourage them and lift them up, do chores for them do the hard things in their life for them, help them with their taxes or whatever. And then finally time, just spending time together is another way to say “Hey, I care about you I love you, I’m glad you’re in my life.”

A third one is to serve and be served. To use our gifts, abilities and talents for the sake of others in our group and outside of our group in the world around us and to be served by people to let them serve us appropriately. That exchange builds a sense of bonding and encouragement and oneness.

And then finally to celebrate and be celebrated. Everybody loves to be affirmed and encouraged. I have to think today, how can I affirm and celebrate and encourage others in my group, on my team, in my world?

So, take some time to know and be known. Think of some ways to express love and receive it. Find some aspects of your talents, gifts and abilities that you can share with others and serve them and be served by them. And then be thinking… “How can I encourage someone today, how can I build them up by celebrating who they are and allowing myself to be celebrated by them as they do the same for me?”