People are ready to resume the social interactions they missed during the pandemic. They are yearning to get back to the groups and activities that brought meaning to their lives. They have rediscovered the importance of relationships and are ready to fill the void that has been created.
Because of this longing to reestablish relationships, you are at a critical point in your leadership. You have an opportunity to step into this void and to nurture community. So, how will you lead?
Relationships are Essential for Community
I know there are several alternatives, but the reality is you will either slide into the way things were before the pandemic or you will nurture people into new relationships. You will either allow people to close their circle of influence or you will lead them into deeper and broader interactions in their neighborhoods, towns, and cities. So, how will you lead?
As you are thinking about it, remember that community is about the interrelatedness of people. It’s about belonging to something larger than ourselves. It helps people say, “I am a valued part of this body and have contributions to make”. The essence of community is a feeling of being in relationship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals centered in Jesus.
Three Aspects of Community
This interrelatedness is seen in three aspects of community:
Nurturing communities facilitate connections between people. They are the places that help you develop relationships with others on several levels. There are immediate, superficial connections that cause you to look around the room and ask, “Who here is like me?” And on a deeper level, you connect with people around your stage of life, life experiences, likes, dislikes, interests, etc. When you experience connection with other people, you know you belong to something bigger than yourself.
Nurturing communities invite you to make a contribution. Your connection leads to contributing to the community with your skills, gifts, and passions. Through your contribution, you are saying, “I am a valued part of this group and I have something to offer.”
Care is the integration of connection and contribution. When people know that you care about them, care about their talents, care about their contributions and connections to the greater community, they are more likely to be involved in the community. This doesn’t mean you have to offer all the care, but it does mean you are offering God’s love in every situation and circumstance of the community in which you are leading. Simply stated, you are loving God and loving neighbor in all that you do.
Every community is made up of different members who work for a common purpose. Effective leaders recognize those differences and understand that the differences are crucial for healthy community interaction and function.
Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, uses the metaphor of the human body, to illustrate this point. He writes that even though the body is made of many parts, it is still one body. And even though the body includes great diversity, every member is equally a part and important to the function of the body.
As you know, his point had nothing to do with human anatomy. He used the metaphor to show that every follower of Christ is important and for the body to function properly, all parts of the body are needed. He points out that no one has the right to act as though he or she is separate from the body and no one has the right to exclude others from the body. For the body to function properly, all parts of the body are needed.
God created each of us and expects us to faithfully serve according to our unique giftedness. As a leader, you view every person of your community as a crucial part and you assist every person to live out his or her giftedness in relationship with others.
“Members of the Body”
Maybe you can think of it this way.
One day it occurred to the Members of the Body that they were doing all the work while the Stomach did nothing but store all the food. So, the Members of the Body held a meeting and decided to strike until the Stomach consented to do its share of the work.
The strike began.
The Hands refused to take the food, the Mouth refused to receive it, and the Teeth had no work to do. After a day or two, the Members began to find that they themselves were in poor condition: the Hands could hardly move, and the Mouth was parched and dry, while the Legs were unable to support the rest of the Body. It was at that moment, the Members of the Body discovered that the Stomach was doing necessary work for the whole Body to be healthy. The Members decided that they all must work together for the Body to function properly.
Your Role as a Leader
As a leader, you work to make sure every person of your community makes their contribution to the whole of the community.
Maybe you can think of it this way. A great orchestra had gathered to rehearse with a celebrated conductor. As the music reached a crescendo, every instrument was being played, except for one. Distracted, the piccolo player had momentarily lost his place on the page of music. He hoped his instrument wouldn’t be missed. Suddenly, the conductor brought down his arm and silenced the orchestra. He looked over the group of musicians and asked, “I didn’t hear the piccolo. Where is the piccolo?” A skilled leader, like a skilled conductor, assists every person in the community, regardless of perceived importance, to make his or her contribution. Every part of the system is crucial, even those that seem small and less significant.
Now, why is this important? For God’s love to be known by all people in creation, it takes all of us, related to each other and working together, to connect with the people beyond ourselves. Each of us has our part in the body.
Four Functions of a Nurturing Community
To use Paul’s metaphor, what does it have to do with our part in the nurturing community, the Body of Christ? It means the following:
1. We see through the eyes of Christ
When we see each other as God sees us, we see with the love of God. There are distinctions and differences, but no one distinction has greater value than the other. In other words, there are distinctions of black and white, male and female, east and west, but all are one in Christ. Through the eyes of Christ every person is a child of God, a person of worth. As a leader, nurturing community means, you are leading people to see each other as God sees them and to see the world in loving concern.
There is no selective service in caring for people. Seeing through the eyes of Christ means we see all people and not just the people who are like us. Where there is suffering, poverty, injustice, hatred, etc., you assist the people entrusted to your care to see Jesus.
2. We speak with the voice of Christ
When you speak, use words of care and compassion. Don’t confine the voice of Christ to those with whom you agree or with those who agree with you. Speak to human beings in every situation and every condition. It is not a matter of a social gospel or a personal gospel. Nor is it a matter of who is progressive or who is conservative. No, it does not matter who is a Democrat or who is a Republican. It is a matter of God’s love spoken into the lives of every human life. Remember Jesus’ sermon recorded in Luke 4? He used the words of Isaiah, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He had sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).
To speak with the voice of Christ is to use your voice with words of love (agape). Whether it be in our families or with our enemies, no area is off-limits to God’s Word (Jesus, the Word made flesh). As a leader, you have been anointed to speak the good news and to equip those entrusted to you to speak to all who will listen.
Paul in this letter to the church in Ephesus wrote: “Let no evil talk of out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). As a leader, speak with the voice of Christ, so that those who need a kind, caring, and encouraging word, hear your voice of love, support, and care.
3. We heal with the hands of Christ
When you respond to human need, respond with the hands of hope and healing. Sometimes hope and healing come with grace and forgiveness. Do you remember the story of Hosea? As a prophet to Israel, Hosea’s job was to predict the nations’ exile and later restoration. In order to illustrate God’s love for the nation, he was commanded to marry Gomer, a prostitute. He did so, but his heart was broken when she proved unfaithful and left him. Later, Hosea sought out an emotionally broken and financially destitute Gomer, forgave her, and renewed their marriage relationship.
Hosea’s love for Gomer serves as a picture of God’s love for unfaithful people. It serves as an example for us to follow. There will be times you are called upon, as the leader, to seek out, forgive and restore those who have wronged you. Such actions will require the compassionate and grace-filled hands of Christ.
Sometimes hope and healing come with justice and compassion among the poor and the elderly; in the divisions that continue between races, the inequities that continue between female and male, and the widening economic gap between rich and poor. The healing of hands of Christ are needed among those who are economically deprived and politically oppressed, as well among those who have everything except what they need to make what they have worthwhile and meaningful. As a leader, assist those entrusted to you to heal with the healing hands of Christ.
4. We breathe with the breath of Christ
We are not only a human organization or institution, we are living and breathing organisms. In fact, we have no community without the breath of Christ. On the day of Pentecost, God sent the Holy Spirit to empower the church to be agape for all people. Because of God’s love for each of us, regardless of who we are or what we have done, God uses us to reach all people with his love. That is why, as a leader, assist people in finding connections in the community and in making their contributions of hope and healing.
A Critical Moment
You are at a critical point in your leadership. This is a unique time filled with opportunity and promise. Will you step into this opportunity to nurture community to see with the eyes of Christ, to speak with the voice of Christ, to heal with the hands of Christ, and to breathe in the breath of Christ? God has provided the people you need to take a step into this opportunity.
Think about it and reflect upon it. How can I come alongside you to assist you in making the connections needed, to make your God-given contribution to your nurturing community?
Remember, who you are is how you lead. Your next steps reveal your place in the Body and the God given contributions you are making.
When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara and I introduce our theme for June, “Rest, Relaxation, and Play.” If you want to build community, or deepen community connections, join us for Episode 180. Become a regular LeaderCast listener. Subscribe and listen to a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021.