Our pastor asked us in the congregation to submit a paragraph or a page on the theme of transformational communities--I suppose testimonies of how we’ve experienced transformation in our lives individually and corporately. I have no idea if this is the kind of thing he was looking for, but this is what I wrote.
I’ve been a part of the community called City Church of East Nashville for just over five years now. From my medium-term perspective, I feel like I’ve seen as many things not change as change.
I’ve seen my own heart, calcified with bitterness and anger, be softened overnight--some miracle of God’s mercy that I certainly didn’t instigate.
I’ve seen a covenant community share life with a family in poverty, to some degree of mutuality, and the difference that can make in one girl’s life as she grows up in the church.
I’ve seen people (myself included, I hope) grow in knowing their sin and their Savior all the more. Grow in prayer and repentance as a community. Grow in love and service and interdependence. Grow as a Gospel community.
I’ve also seen the dividing boundaries of us and them persist.
And I’ve seen the racial diversity of the church more or less stay the same as when I first came, attracted as I was by the mission statement that I saw online about “reconciling the diversity of East Nashville.”
Marriages and divorces. Births and deaths. People coming in and moving on. Pretty much everything in Ecclesiastes 3.
I think we do well as a community in weeping with one another as well as rejoicing with one another. In pointing each other to look to Jesus in order to glorify the Savior together.
And while so many things look the same as they did five years ago, I don’t lament that terribly right now. So much heart change isn’t necessarily evident at first glance. Seeds planted that may not show yet. Some sow, others reap, and we enter into each other’s labors.
Sara Groves has a song called “The Long Defeat”:
I have joined the long defeatthat falling set in motionand all my strength and energyare raindrops in the oceanI can't just fight when I think I'll winthat's the end of all beliefand nothing has provoked it morethan a possible defeatand I pray for a visionand a way I cannot seeit's too heavy to carryand impossible to leave
I guess that’s part of what I feel about being in it for the long haul. Praying and laboring the unseen kingdom into the here and now of our daily lives.
In the meantime, in the waiting and in the working, as I wrestle with all the false gods and idols that maybe, just maybe, might fix my life this time (not true, thank God), I find myself in a community that reminds me that Jesus is real. He is my portion. He is the Lover that I long for. To Him be all glory, in this place and all places, forever and ever.