8 Circles of Sharing:
to survive, to love & to learn
Against a culture of rugged individualism, we want to hold many things in common, sharing with each other as did the first Christians. They had “no poor among them” because they shared physical necessities (“to survive”). They shared time, care, affection and faithfulness (“to love”), and the stories, wisdom, and knowledge they gathered on their journeys (“to learn”).
To open ourselves up to this kind of lifestyle is challenging for many of us, especially those of us who see ourselves as having more to lose than gain by sharing. Yet, it’s the life that Jesus invites us into. He tells us that when we let go of our exclusive and private claim on our possessions, our time, and our learning, we get them all back – one hundredfold, in this life. They are multiplied because they are shared; each individual has access to the common wealth of the community.
Creating a common life of sharing ourselves on these three levels is best done in small and trusted circles, whether they are housegroups, Triads, or other intentional circles of relationship. These groups are necessary to us living out our mission.
We want it to be normal to share resources, to have a circle of loving relationships, and for that group to be well acquainted with the personal growth of all those in the group. We want to continually and thoughtfully ask: what do I have that I do not need, that you could better use? How can I open up my life for you to feel safe and be loved? What part of my story can I share with you, and what can I learn from you and your story? And we show up consistently, so that the sharing can be counted on and trust can be built.
Here is our paradox: the poor are always to be with us, but when they are really with us, there are no poor among us.
being real, being kind, taking time
To know and to be known: how do you do that? It’s hard enough when you’re similar in background; it’s really hard when there are vast differences of culture, class, and religious background. Real relationship requires courage to allow differences to emerge; it doesn’t suppress them for the sake of feeling “togetherness”. But, it also means that we have some things that we are unified around. We recognize that if we don’t have both unity and diversity, we’ll either split apart from lack of common ground, or we’ll try to control and change each other to make us all fit some mold. Neither of those options looks good to us.
Instead, we go on a journey with each other that begins with finding out and celebrating what we have in common: common interests, vision, likes and dislikes, common strengths, and even common weaknesses. Above all, what we have in common is that we are loved by the same God, even in our brokenness. Then – we make room for each other to be different, without judgment or need for one person or group to be better than another.
We observe that much of church culture relies on sameness for unity; that attitude bores us. Differences are never cause for shame; they are cause for a divine curiosity – to inquire and know the other person, and to disclose ourselves. They are reason to spend time together to learn the stories behind our differences. We refuse to be so driven to accomplish things that we need to suppress differences to get everything done right away. Urgency is often an addiction, and we strive to keep the freedom to be able to press pause in our work, to take the time to figure out different needs, feelings, perspectives, and strengths, and from that, decide how closely we can work together on any given task.
Where differences make closeness of cooperation impossible in any situation, we practice serving each other as we separate to do different things. But most often, taking this kind of time to know each other without control results in the ability to do things together in a complementary way. It’s less efficient in the short term, but more effective and productive in the long term. And, there is more love and less control of each other along the way.
gather and scatter
Jesus seemed to have a rhythm in his days. Luke tells of how Jesus would go by himself to be with his Father, even all night. Then, in the morning, he gathered his friends and followers together in the morning. They spent time together, relationally, learning together, even had a common purse. Later in the day, they went together to minister to many people. Separateness, togetherness. For us too, the rhythms of gathering and scattering are important.
We practice gathering together weekly. We are consistently present to each other in a social and friendly way, experiencing the presence of God together in worship, welcoming and embracing those who have just begun to join us, considering the same scriptures together, and listening for what the Lord is saying to each other and to us as a whole. We find people that we might connect with during the rest of the week, to serve them, invite them to our housegroup, or find a place for ourselves.
Then, we scatter. We ask God to bring his Kingdom to our homes, places of work and school, and neighborhoods. We daily open up space in our lives for God to make himself known to us through scripture and prayer. We practice a variety of spiritual disciples in solitude. Half-way between gathering and scattering is making time to meet in a housegroup to practice the sharing that is best done in a small circle of friends. Also half-way are the ministries we do together with a few others.
This rhythm accents the unity and diversity of our body. It helps us stay grounded when we are tempted to withdraw from community out of fear or apathy; it keeps us maintaining our uniqueness as individuals even though we’re part of something larger, something we may not always agree with. And, it is part of our being apprentices to Jesus, who took his rhythms of gathering and scattering right through till his last instructions to “come and see”, then “go and tell”.
11 Prayer ministry:
healing through prayer
Jesus healed people, and told us to go do the same by the power of his Spirit. He did this not by his own power as the Son of God; he told his disciples that by listening to the Father, he could simply cooperate with what the Father was doing. Though God can certainly heal without us, he choices to work with us. So prayer, real listening prayer, is an essential key to healing.
We want to see the kingdom of God demonstrated wherever we are through signs and wonders. Though healing seems to be one of the most dramatic and frequent of the supernatural signs, both in the gospels and in our own history, we will continue to pray for all manifestations of his presence that were seen in the life of Jesus, and “greater things” also.
We are people who easily and often ask “Can I pray for you?” and are seeing the power of God evident as we obey. We pray for every kind of healing that is needed: healing of our bodies, our inner being, our cultures, and our relationships. Even the healing of nations, and creation.
Our community practices praying for each other. First, in our families and housegroups, with frequency and consistency. But then, at a moments notice, we love to see the power of God come to any situation of need, to anyone of any persuasion. We look for every chance to say, God, let me join you in what you’re doing, right here, right now. We know that when God heals someone who doesn’t know him, it’s a bigger invitation for them to join his family than words can ever say.