I’ve been reading Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging for what feels like an eternity but has, in reality, only been a couple of months. It’s a great book that I have to read slowly because it is tremendously convicting for me and also instructional for how the Church might look going forward as a community of faith. I highly recommend it if you care about living in community with others whether it is a neighborhood, a Church, or any other grouping of humans.
Within this book there is a section that has dominated my thinking lately. It relates to the ways in which a community talks together. Block speaks about the ways we separate ourselves through the ways we speak by creating us/them and expert/servant dynamics. I want to share with you today my thoughts on one particular question in this chapter of the book: “How valuable do you plan for this effort to be?” This question has rattled my brain because it forces me to take ownership of the things that I do. How valuable do I plan this worship service to be? How valuable do I plan this meeting to be? How valuable to I plan this __ to be? You can see how it might play out in every single thing you or I participate in. It forces me to be honest about my expectations, my ownership of the experience, and my part in what we are doing together. Let’s examine how it might play out in a couple of examples.
I hate meetings. Especially when those meetings are mandatory and I have no part leading what we are doing together. This is not a reflection upon those leading the meetings or organizing them. Instead it is a reflection upon myself and my resistance to owning what part I might be playing in said meetings. I often will drive to these meetings with an expectation that the meeting will be a waste of my time. Sometimes a colossal waste of my time. I am already planning what value this meeting will have before I ever even arrive at it! Then when I arrive, because I’ve planned for it to be useless, I withhold my energy, expertise, in truth my whole self from the community that has gathered. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy and thus the uselessness of this meeting is experienced because I have planned that it will have little to no value to me.
Let’s flip the script here for a second. If instead I plan to make these mandatory meetings valuable to my life, I will approach them differently. This may not change how others plan these meetings. I still may not have a voice, a role, or anything other than being a warm body in the room. Yet my plan is to make that meeting valuable. If I am doing this then I am already shifting the focus of my own mind. I may begin to ask myself a further question, “Why does this meeting matter to me?” Simply the answer may still be, “It doesn’t.” However in acknowledging this I may begin to seek out ways in which I can create meaning and value in that meeting. I may recognize that the content being discussed isn’t as important as the opportunity to be with other leaders, or vice versa. I may plan accordingly that the drive to and from the meeting is what I value about the meeting more than the time I spend in that room. The ways we think about, and plan to engage, often will reveal what matters to us individually and collectively, especially if we throw that question out to the whole group and honestly discuss it.
Today I leave you with this thought: How valuable do you plan to be as you engage with your community? Each of us is an integral part of our community. If you are a Christian then you are an important part of the “body of Christ” in this world. Plan to be valuable, and you will see what God might do in and through you, because you are valuable.