I have a confession to make: I am not an extrovert.
I know it may seem that I am because I spend so much of my life on stage speaking or playing music, and I know my personality seems quite extroverted, but my happiest place is usually when I am alone with a book or my thoughts. Other introverts will know that excited feeling when plans get cancelled and you suddenly get to be alone for an evening!
What this also means for me is that I like to have just a few close relationships rather than millions of friends; I’m most refreshed and relaxed when I’m with people I know really well and have known for a longer time. Even though I enjoy meeting new people, I usually have to make a conscious choice to develop new relationships with those people.
The problem is that the introvert part of my personality can keep me from becoming who I’ve been called to be by Jesus.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from Jesus and from studying the Scriptures over the years is that being part of and contributing to a community is absolutely key to our growth as followers of Jesus. As much as we place a priority on personal time and relationship with Jesus, He also places a priority on the way we love and interact with others.
Our January series “This Year I Will _____” has been challenging us to step into new depth with Jesus and others this year. One of the best ways for us to do that is to engage more fully in community. As I’ve journeyed this over many years, here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve embraced the joy of community, even when I found it challenging!
Community helps us to be vulnerable – When we really connect into community we quickly learn that we have to open up our lives in trust; we also learn that we can trust others as we walk together with Jesus. That vulnerability is vital for us to grow in depth with Jesus personally as well.
Community helps us to connect – One of the best things about getting involved with community is that it helps us to meet new people who open up our world to different viewpoints and fresh thinking. If we’re only surrounded by people who we know and who already agree with us, we have very little chance to grow or be challenged to go deeper.
Community helps us to discover who we are – The best way for us to understand our identity is in Jesus and He calls us to greater relationship with Himself and others throughout the Gospels. Often, Jesus uses others to speak to us and to help us see things, both good and challenging, about ourselves that we can’t see on our own.
Community helps us to become more generous – When we connect with community we begin to see others' lives and needs rather than just our own. When we respond to those needs we begin to move away from selfishness and into generosity and we have a wealth of opportunities to love others beyond our small circle.
Community helps us to become more like Jesus – I’m always struck by the amazing fact that Jesus chose to do life with a community of disciples and followers. Surely He didn’t need others, but He chose to be with them and to open His life up to them. He shared His dreams, His sorrows and His days with a group of people from diverse backgrounds. Even though they were all Jewish, the fact that both a zealot and a tax collector (two individuals who would generally be at each other’s throats!) were among His 12 disciples has always challenged me greatly. If the Son of God chose community, I definitely should too!
This week we announced our next term of Small Groups here at Causeway Coast Vineyard. 78 different groups will run over this term with something for everyone and a place for all to connect more deeply with others. It’s a wonderful chance to meet new people and encounter Jesus with others outside of our church events. Most importantly, small groups are a fantastic opportunity for us to step deeper into relationship with one another as we discover that big things can happen in our hearts and lives as we journey community together.
For more information about Small Groups at Causeway Coast Vineyard, visit our Small Groups page.