This summer we had a team of Granada elders, staff, and leaders revisit our church vision. (Our church vision functions as our road map for our congregation helping us chart the way we are going. It is the way we think about ministry going into the future, our intentional focus for planning how to serve Christ in our community.) Here’s part of what we found. People in our city feel increasingly isolated and alone. Yes, there are plenty of people here, but real meaningful connection is not happening as we would like. In truth, many people come to Miami for financial opportunity, but in the process, they experience social detachment.
We make these decisions for good reason. This country was built by people who left home for the hope of a better future. We love the old stories like Little House on the Prairie that tell how a small family can make it on their own. We tune in to watch American Idol or similar shows that showcase self-made superheroes. We extol the lone ranger standing tall on his or her own, not needing anyone’s help. This is the American experience we have imbibed and we truly believe. As one writer put it:
We seek a private house, a private means of transportation, a private garden…self-service stores, and do-it-yourself skills of every kind. An enormous technology seems to have set itself the task of making it unnecessary for one human being to ever ask anything of another in the course of going about his daily business. Even within the family Americans are unique in their feeling that each member should have a separate room, and even a separate telephone, television, and car… We seek more and more privacy, and feel more and more isolated when we get it. (You may be shocked to find that these words by Philip Slater were published in 1970!)
The problem is that the living this story makes us feel isolated. The truth is that it doesn’t work. It is as if we are actively seeking the things that make us unhappy. So as we were looking at our city and the gospel and our church, we began to envision a different future. A future where people find support and can share their lives in authentic community, a community of grace. As we looked deeper, we found that this is what the gospel is about. What Jesus has done is about bringing us back to God, and joining us to a living community of faith. When we look at the first days of the church that sprang from the ministry of Jesus, we find an extraordinary sense of community.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47
Now, I find it difficult to relate to such a community of mutuality and connection. But, I believe this is what we were created for. This is where we thrive and flourish as people, where we can enjoy God and also each other.
Now, here’s the hard part. For this to happen here and with us, we have to change the way we think, from thinking only about me, and to thinking about ourselves in community. This means measuring life in ways we are not accustomed to, and giving ourselves to each other in community. Changing the way we think is tough for any of us to do. But, this is the journey we are on together.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking more about this and the direction Granada is going in 2017. I look forward to sharing the journey with you.