Communities of Grace

Tim Chester offers his (good) advice for creating communities of grace –

How can we create communities of grace? Let me suggest seven ideas:

1. Make the connections
We need to teach, speak, sing, and pray grace. But we also need to make connections for people. We can believe in justification by faith for the final day, but doubt justification by faith for the next day. On a Monday morning in the workplace we are still trying to prove ourselves, to find identity in our achievements.

2. Welcome the mess
Welcome messy people. Don’t suppress conflict. Don’t hide problems.

3. Stop pretending
Don’t hide your own problems. You’ll need to exercise some discretion: let everyone know you struggle and let some people know what you struggle with.

4. Stop performing
Don’t put on a show. Don’t push people to perform, to produce results, to get it right all the time. Give people permission to fail. We’ve realized, for example, that polished Bible studies and articulate prayers disenfranchise semi-literate people.

5. Eat and drink with broken people
Jesus eats and drinks with sinners. It’s a powerful expression of community. We think we’re enacting grace if we run projects for the poor, but we’re only halfway there. We still act from a position of superiority, proclaiming that we are able and they are unable. The dynamic is totally different when we eat together. We meet as equals, share together, affirm one another, enjoy one another.

6. Give people time to change
How long did it take for you to become perfectly like Jesus? Of course, you’re still changing. There seem to be some sins we’re prepared to work on over a lifetime, but others where we demand instant change. Why is this? The answer, of course, is that we want people to be respectable. We don’t want a messy community.

7. Focus on the heart
All too often we focus on the behaviors we would like someone to stop or start. But Jesus says our behavior comes from the heart (Mark 7:20-23). Our focus needs to be on the heart. Our job is help people find joy in Christ.