For some time now I’ve been struggling with this question. It seems like for all of my young adult life, I’ve been searching for true Christian community. I’m not sure I even knew what I was searching for or what the words “Christian community” meant, but recently I’ve discovered that’s what I’ve been longing for.
I can recount so many different conversations I’ve had with other young adults who are longing for the same thing. A place where we can be real, authentic, honest about our past, and share our fears and hopes for the future. A place where we can embrace our brokenness as humanness and accept one another in the midst of it all. A place where imperfection is received with open arms and people stand ready to remind us that we are all imperfect people. Somewhere we can laugh together, cry together, sing together, shout together. Then again – isn’t that what we all long for?
Each summer I get a glimpse of what true Christian community might look at when I staff a youth event called AFFIRM. Growing up, I was a participant at AFFIRM throughout my high school years. It has changed many lives, including my own. I knew it affected my view of the church, but I wasn’t quite sure why or how until I became an adult staff member. AFFIRM is a perfect example of what true Christian community might look like.
Read that carefully … it’s not PERFECT community. People mess up – we get angry, tired, stressed out, homesick, sick, we argue, disagree, gossip, and fight – but it’s a safe place to work things out. We’re surrounded by people who open up and share their own brokenness and we realize that it’s okay to talk about our own brokenness. We are accepted and loved as beautiful children of God – even when we do screw up. The AFFIRM community loves each other – even when it hurts. There are times when we do things we don’t particularly want to do because it’s in the best interest of the person we’re loving – but we talk about it, we love them through it, and we promise to always walk beside them.
I am so thankful for my own AFFIRM experiences. It is because of that event that I understand what Christian community can look like. I strive to make it more than just one week every year – I try to use the things I learn there and take them home with me. And I am ever hopeful that the youth that participate have the same experience that I have had. I hope they see – whether it be now or 10 years from now – that AFFIRM was a place where they experienced what it means to live in Christian community with one another. I hope they take what they learn each year and make it more than just one fun week each summer.
Where have you experienced Christian community?