Guest blog: How do we share life with people in our communities to help them belong?
Made to Belong author Andy Percey says if we want to communities that are typified by welcome then we have to stop building fences ...
If we worship and follow a God who gives us a place to belong, then we are surely to be communities that do the same with those around us.
Is your church a tribal space, or a space for people to belong?
Many years ago I was travelling in Australia, and visited a ranch just north of Perth. The land was so vast that it would have been hard to fence all the way around, so instead of doing that, they built a watering hole in the middle of the land, because the animals would not stray far from where there is life.
Here in the UK, where the land is usually much smaller, we tend to fence our land so that we can keep our animals in, and others animals out.
Broadly speaking our churches fall into one of these two categories. We are either communities that build fences in order to keep those we want in, and those we don’t want out – these are tribal churches; or we are churches that have life at the centre of who we are, trusting that people will not stray far from where the life is. These are belonging churches.
If we want to be churches that give people a space to belong, then we have to stop building fences. We need to be open. That openness is not about contradicting or watering down the amazing news of the gospel, far from it. It is about placing that truth at the centre of who we are, and realising that if it is the gospel then it is free for all to come and drink. After all, Jesus said in Revelation 21:
“To anyone who is thirsty I will give the right to drink from the spring of the water of life without paying for it.”
The first step to being communities that help others to belong, is to remove the fences. What are the obstacles that we put in peoples way? Is it our preferences, or the way we do things around here? Are we focused solely on our own needs, or the needs of those outside of our communities?
The second step is to understand that belonging is deeper than simply attending. We fall into this trap so often, which is to say that we belong to a church, and what we really mean is that we attend. They are not the same. Belonging means to give people a stake in who we are. It is to create places where people can not only receive but give, to help to shape the culture and identity of our communities.
Sometimes that’s scary for us, but if we want to be places where all can belong, then we need to give up control. After all, it’s not our church anyway, but the Lord’s. Do we trust him to lead his church? Do we trust him to build his church? If we do, then maybe we need to be in the business of opening our communities and our hearts to those around us; to be a people who dismantle fences and guide people to the water.
- Read more in Andy Percey’s book Made to Belong, published by Authentic Media.
- Read our review of Andy's book here