I'm reading this incredible book by Christine Pohl entitled Living into Community: Cultivating the Practices that Sustain Us.
In it, she identifies four key practices for community life. These practices can be applied to small groups, committees, a local church body as a whole, work teams and family life. This is not a book about structures and programs for community. It's a book that deals with the hidden issues that make community community. This is a book that invites us to think, reflect and pray about the kind of life God is creating in our churches and in our small groups.
The four practices she identifies are:
• Gratitude—without it we turn the the practice of grumbling.
• Making and Keeping Promises—without it we turn to the consumption of relationships as long as they are personally convenient.
• Living Truthfully—without it we hide from others, thereby deceiving ourselves and others.
• Hospitality—without it we live in fear and horde the good that we have to offer the world.
In a summary paragraph, Pohl writes, "Within hospitable families, communities, and congregations, the other practices are not only necessary; they are tested and refined. If the community is sustained over time, often people learn how to speak the truth in love, keep their promises, and renew their gratitude. Envy, deception, grumbling, and betrayal destroy community and undermine hospitality, so when they appear in community life, they often prompt efforts at discernment, confession, and forgiveness" (160).
Every few years, there is a book that reroutes my thinking as it opens up new horizons about what God is doing in the world. For me, this is one of those books. It's the kind of thinking that will help churches and small groups live out the kind of life that actually teaches us how to be the people of God.