I remember some years ago a friend of mine started a small group in his home. He said that he was looking forward to having a really dynamic discussion group. The first few meetings went fine, as typical. But then conflicts began to arise and conversations got strained as they attempted to come to some kind of mutual understanding. Some people got hurt and others got defensive. He said he couldn’t wait to get this constant renegotiating over so that they could get on to the real important work.
Then, all of a sudden, he had an epiphany that these discussions working out common ground and a way to negotiate it with grace, patience, and understanding was actually the group working together in a healthy way. Just because there’s serious negotiating of terms and understandings does not mean that it is unhealthy! In fact, this is a sign of good health. Working things out means it’s working!
TLS is a place to process. As I said to someone earlier today, we are here to listen and learn, not preach and proselytize. Working out agreements in a gracious manner IS community. I don’t want to find a community that believes everything the same way I do. I don’t want people to be able to say, “I found an agreeable group of atheists who are just like me!” Or, “TLS is a feminist group that is totally on the same page as I am!” or, “TLS is a post-Christian community where everybody else is identical to me. That’s why I feel so comfortable there!”
Rather, to me, real dynamic community is one that manifests the energetic, lively and gracious “unity in diversity” model. I’ve seen and experienced it before, and we’re seeing and experiencing it here on TLS. I’m loving the discussion “Family Centric Church Structures”. It reminded me of a model of church that is still probably one of my inborn assumptions that I now need to re-explore and change. It’s cool exploring such topics in a gracious manner. Also, the daring thread on gender became so tender that all the participants agreed to let that one rest for a while.
That’s healthy and wise. That’s community!