On the topic of belonging and togetherness
On the topic of belonging and togetherness among communities of Jesus followers, I think it’s helpful to ask the question, who’s responsibility is it to foster belonging among a group of people?
While there’s [obviously] no black and white answer to the question, I think it’s worth while to approach the question and spend some time here, both as individuals and as groups of people committed to following Jesus together. Jesus communicated that those around us will know we are disciples of Jesus, primarily, by the way we love each other. So, belonging is important, yeah?
Passive consumers of belonging
Culturally, we are inundated with opportunities to belong. Unless a brand can communicate where we fit into their story, it probably won’t last long. From where we buy our groceries to who’s images scroll through our Instagram feed, we belong to a smattering of places and people. In order for brands [even personal brands] to survive, they are continually feeding us with how and why we can [and should] belong to them. This is neither a good or a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s important to realize the environment it creates and the paradigm it leaves us with. This environment makes us passive consumers of belonging. If these opportunities were scarce, we would take advantage of anything that comes our way, but since opportunities to “belong” abound… here we find ourselves.
Moving beyond passive belonging and togetherness
It’s not that feeling a sense of connectivity to a brand, podcast celebrity, or dining location is a bad thing. It’s not! We operate at many levels of connection. I just think this makes the idea of belonging to authentic relationship that much more complex to navigate when we begin the conversation about belonging and togetherness in a community of Jesus followers. Where in so many other areas we have brands vying for our attention, membership, and participation, I don’t believe it’s helpful to build communities of authentic spiritual friendship and family in the same way.
Relationships take work and commitment. And they grow naturally over time… over lots of time. Think about your best friends of 10+ years. These relationships are filled with fun moments and tense moments, tears and excitement, steps of intentionality and open space of togetherness.
Why would we expect rhythms of spiritual family and togetherness to be any different?
Back to the question at hand — belonging and togetherness
So, going back to the question, who’s responsibility is it to foster belonging among a group of people? [And in our particular context, among a spiritual Jesus following community]. I believe that to actually see authentic and depth of friendship among Jesus following disciples [the kind that fosters love among a people that points others to communion with God], the responsibility of togetherness and belonging rests with the individual. We are not passive consumers of belonging. We are spirit filled stewards of one another.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
— Jesus of Nazareth