Reflections on Four Years: On Community

As we shared last week, we’re prioritizing spending the first three weeks of January hearing our other pastors preach on Sundays. During this time of Bryan being out of his normal rhythm of preaching, we asked him to offer some thoughts on our core values and what he’s learned as The Summit turns four years old this January.

In the film, The Princess Bride, there’s the well-known scene where Inigo Montoya gets so tired of Vizzini’s perpetual misuse of the word, “inconceivable,” that he finally says, “you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” As I considered all we’ve learned about the concept of community over the last four years, I feel like no line better reflects how consistently we used a word that we didn’t really understand. And while I’m not trying to excuse away our errors, this really is an easy thing to do in our age. We all have hundreds of “friends” online but are often left wondering if we have someone in life’s most difficult moments. New gyms and restaurants throughout the city consistently use “community” as a buzzword in mission statements, but the dots are never connected for how the delicious Turkey Club at that new sandwich shop that doesn’t even have any seating will help me be known by others at a deeper level.

So I feel like one of the most significant growing pains for us as a church over the last four years (but also a tremendous area of growth) has been not just throwing out the word “community” because it’s trendy right now, but to have both an understanding of what that word means and a plan for how we’ll deliver on that promise. And as we’ve been growing in this area, I consider four lessons in particular that I’ve been surprised to learn over the past four years:

  1. Community is a necessity - we are created in the image of a Triune God who is communal in his nature. God was not “lonely” prior to the creation of humanity but existed perfectly in community with Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since we were designed in the image of this God, we not only crave friends and family, but also bristle at cheap imitations or counterfeits.
  2. Community is costly - when The Summit was nothing more than a dream over a dining room table, my friend Drew said, “everyone loves the idea of community until they actually have to start living in community.” He was so right. Authentic community means shifting the most significant areas of our lives from a functional dictatorship (one vote that I always win) to a democracy (many votes which I sometimes will lose for the greater good). It’s deeply costly and counterintuitive to enter a relationship as a giver rather than a taker, but it’s the way of Jesus (Philippians 2:1-11).
  3. Community requires intentionality - I know this seems obvious, but I’m amazed by how many people are discouraged that deep, authentic relationships don’t just happen for them. I’ve found that most of us (myself included) are far more socially awkward and inconsiderate than we’d ever want to admit, as well as more introverted than we realized. Because of this, deep relationships don’t just happen but require intentional planning, prioritization, repentance, and forgiveness.
  4. Community needs fair expectations - While many of our frustrations about our relationships are legitimate, many stem from unrealistic expectations. We long for somebody to relate to us perfectly, understand what we’ve been through, and offer their full presence when we need them the most. Not only do we need to accept the limitations of those around us who can’t ever fully live up to these expectations, but we must recognize the incredibly good news that these unmet expectations in other relationships ultimately point us to the beauty of Jesus calling us “friend” (John 15:15).

As I reflect on these lessons, not only do I give thanks to all we’ve learned in what it really means to be a community, but I really do rejoice that this beautiful, imperfect, messy community called The Summit has become our family.