I’ve been super excited about a new discipleship community I’ve discovered this year. Imagine, deeper community even during a pandemic!
Let me describe some of what I’m experiencing and observations I’ve made. I hope that it will help all of us think more intentionally about our disciple-making and the communities we want to see flourish.
First, one of the interesting things about the community is that it is free to join, but it’s not without “cost”. It takes some effort. This didn’t put me off. I understood the goal: a common base of knowledge, understanding, commitment, etc. And, members are very willing to help and offer a lot of opportunities to get me where I need to be.
This represents one of the most important values I see; intentional discipleship is woven into the fabric of the community. It’s personal, but not individualistic. That is, there is a great emphasis on personal growth and learning, but with a lot of community support. It’s freely offered to me. But, I also understand the clear expectation that I will also mentor others, even when I’m new and just getting the hang of things.
Community connection is nearly always available, not just at set times in the week. This takes the form of informal networks that they are completely open to the public, not private conversations. I can drop by, ask a quick question, or just listen to conversations of others. I often learn a lot by just hearing what others are struggling with. Sometimes I have something to offer as well. I can make these a regular part of my life, or not.
The community has regular scheduled meetings, usually 2-3 times a week, facilitated by a member of the group. Some of these are general meetings where people share what’s going on and can ask questions. Others meetings have a theme that might be of interest to the group. A person who is more of an expert will prepare a presentation and answer questions. In both the formal and informal meetings, if I have a question and someone doesn’t know the answer, they will almost always be able to connect me with someone who might; it’s just part of the ethos of the thing.
And the goal isn’t just service to the group; I’m encouraged to explore ways serve others in the surrounding community. Some members specialize in this kind of service and develop expertise that is a big help in extreme situations.
In a kind of counter-cultural posture, this is an all volunteer community. There is no paid “staff” and little commercial incentive or exterior organizations that drive things and make it all feel like commerce. The “celebrities” who gain some attention might have a YouTube channel, but that’s about as glitzy as it gets. And it’s because they serve some need or help their subscribers in some valuable way.
Finally, the community has a global awareness and intentionality. Some people put a lot of effort into reaching out over great distances. Members form groups so that others in different regions can connect intentionally on a regular basis to check in and to maintain a way to stay connected over a long-distance. They feel it’s important to be connected so everyone can feel safe and cared-for when life is kind of crazy.
This community motivates me, encourages me, and helps me to grow. It provides value to my life. Being a part takes initiative, effort, and learning on my own so I can really grow and be deeply connected. But I’ve found that it is worth it.
It’s not a church.
But I think my church can learn a lot from them.
It’s the amateur “ham” radio community.
Hams have figured out how to sustain a broad and varied community across the globe that is completely voluntary, non-commercial, service-oriented, and highly mentoring-focused. The only requirement is that you get an FCC license, and there’s help for that. You can grab a cheap handheld radio and connect any time with others, listen in on informative radio “nets” and be part of a local club. You can go deeper with radio gear that will reach around the world. There is no pressure, but lots of encouragement.
It prompts me to ask of my own church; how are we doing?
Does any of this sound good, intriguing, perhaps missing in some way in your own church community?
I’m thinking of ways to apply what I see and experience as a new ham radio operator in my life of faith and disciple-making as I pray and seek God’s Kingdom to be revealed on earth among all peoples.
I’m interested to know what you think. Please comment and connect!
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