Layers of Christian Community: ‘Micro’

It is no secret that this is the most neglected and forgotten layer in the Church.

It is also in this layer that lies the secret to everything – the pathway to a spiritually vibrant community life.

In the first layer we considered the power of a life centered on God.  While the Christian walk is never private, it is inherently personal; inviting each heart to pay attention to the love and power of God in their life.  Learning to cultivate a unique, organic relationship with the Divine is what produces the unyielding stream of life that Jesus promises in John 4.

As John Donne has aptly stated, “No man, is an island.”  We cannot thrive as humans while separated from others.  Nevertheless, there is a neglect of the Micro Layer, especially in the West, where individualism and mass corporatism reign supreme.  We are a highly narcissistic bunch, and unfortunately, this makes truly engaging the lives of one or two others very difficult, if not impossible.  We want it to be “all about me” making “empathy,” “teamwork,” and “community” good ideas only…but ones that are never realized.

Generally speaking, the Church in the West has only a tacit awareness of the Micro Layer – the communities of two or three.  Accountability groups became for many nothing more than sin-management sessions, and Catholic priestly confession took an important habit of the early church and distorted it, setting up an actual one-way wall that only invited one-way confessions.  In contrast, I believe that we are all priests, and we are all confessors. 1 Peter 2:9

Much of the burden of  spiritual formation has been left up to two people in the Western Church: the first is the pastor, who does what one can to spiritually nurture a crowd once a week, and second, the loner Christian whose spiritual life and struggles are not to be shared with anyone else for fear of rejection from the group.  This becomes particularly toxic when the pastor takes his own spiritual formation as privately as the rest of us – which results in many of the clergy scandals we’ve seen in the news of late.

But a quick skim through the relationships found in the Scriptures shows a different life.  David and Jonathan didn’t have the private-life reservations we Americans hold today.  They knew that life was best lived with a friend at your side.  Jonathan even made a vow of brotherhood to David in covenantal friendship, 1 Sam 18:3-4.  Or what about Moses and Aaron – learning to lean on each others’ strengths to fulfill the will of God that bound them together for life.  Or Paul and Barnabas, who relied on each other to earn the trust of Jewish Christians and Gentile skeptics for the sake of the Gospel.  Or Peter, James and John – Jesus’ tight knit band of brothers.  That’s what we need – we need a band of brothers.

We need a fellowship of the heart that will fight for each other.  To be a place of sanctuary for another’s heart where they can feel safe to ask tough questions without fear of rejection, mutually confess sin, and realize dreams they could never achieve on their own.  Where the challenge of discipleship can be lived out on a practical level and practice the teachings of Jesus.  It is in the Micro Layer that we first experience God’s Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven…the hard work of peace-making, reconciliation, and loving/ serving/ submitting/ praying for one another.

It takes a church to raise a Christian.

youarenotalone

This is the smallest unit of church – where the core elements of the Church’s DNA are first expressed: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships, and Aposotlic Mission.  I think of the Micro Layer as the most important part of the church.

Like leaves on a tree – they may be the weakest part of the organism, but leaves are where light enters in, and collectively they keep the tree healthy and strong.  If a tree has a strong trunk, but no healthy leaves, we assume the tree is sick and dying.  The same is true for a church – the massive worship gatherings may be strengthening to the church, but if marriages, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and soul friends throughout the crowd are not connecting with each other and inviting God to speak to them, there is something very sick about the church.  This is the power of the Micro Layer.

Why do so many avoid the Micro Layer?  Because it is easier to keep our masks on and hide in our shadows.  But the benefits of community (Eccl 4:9-12), accountability (1 Tim 5:19), confession (Matt 18:15-17), flexibility (Matt 18:20), and especially reproducibility (2 Tim 2:2) bring transformation to every child of God.

The Micro Layer is the “on ramp” for each disciple into living the abundant life Jesus promised and the earliest Christians experienced.

I’ve observed that many, when they realize this piece of their spiritual life is lacking, quickly get frustrated because there is no program to join or curriculum to follow.  At the micro level, there are only simple structures.  Below are a few examples of the Micro Layer in action:

  • Life Transformation Groups – our organic church network attempts to make LTG’s a community practice.  It involves a same-gender group of 2-3 reading lots of God’s Word (25-30 chapters a week), confessing sin to each other while speaking forgiveness over each other, and praying for the lost.  The DNA of the Church in its most raw form.
  • CO2′s – or “church of two.” In addition to LTG’s we are pushing marriages and families to take on the task of being the church together in a daily way.  It means listening to our hearts and sharing them honestly with one other person.  Using the tool of SASHET and VIRKLER we are “listening attentively to my heart, your heart and God’s heart.”
  • Read up on the Anamchara from 6th Century Celtic Christians in Soul Friend.
  • Read the Shack, and consider the “Micro Layer” found in the Trinity!
  • Check out Centered by my friend and mentor Kent Smith.

Why would Jesus send his 70 disciples out to share his gospel in pairs?  Couldn’t he have spread his message further with 70 individuals rather than 35 pairs?  I think his decision reveals God’s desire for a the human heart – to have a companion for the journey.  Whether its Adam and Eve, Paul and Timothy, or you and me, as soon as one disciple of Christ joins another, they become an “incarnate capsule of the Kingdom,” “Jesus with skin on,” displaying the glory of God through redemptive relationship.

Imagine what would be different about the Church if everyone was in a covenant friendship with just one other Christian.  Just imagine…it would change the world.  The Micro Layer may be the hardest to find, and the hardest to keep – but for those who seek it – there is no doubt they will find it.  And lives will be transformed.

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