Rooted faith bears fruitful fellowship.
I woke up after an incredibly uncomfortable nap on the basement floor. I pushed myself up on my forearms and looked around the room at all the sleepy faces. I closed my eyes and told myself to cast this moment into the walls of my memory. This was the last time we’d all be together like this: free, young and a bit silly…because when you put a bunch of teenagers together who love Jesus and innocent fun, you’re bound to get some shenanigans.
I changed into my blue shirt that read 24-Hour Jump-a-thon with a print of a person jumping high above a trampoline. We had just inaugurated a friend’s new trampoline. The previous one had frayed into its grave after 15 years of our celebratory leaps. We were all leaving for college soon, but not without a proper send-off to future generations of jumpers. Since we never did anything half-hearted, we gathered all of our friends to participate in a 24-hour Jump-a-thon.
To pull off this event, two friends jumped for an hour time slot twice throughout the day. It was the middle of August in Kansas, so I chose 7pm and 2am for some cooler weather. In between jump slots, we ate lots of junk food and binge watched the entire seven seasons of Boy Meets World like true children of the 90’s.
Clean shirt on and ponytail fixed, I headed back out to the tramp with the rest of the group at 5:55am. Our finale was set to the song “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher and Higher” by Jackie Wilson 5…4…3…2..1…Jump-a-thon done, summer over, community…well…that story was only beginning.
These friendships were not solely built on silly endeavors but, they were built on a love for knowing and living like Jesus. There was a DEPTH and SECURITY in this Godly community that allowed everyone to thrive and grow into mission-minded young adults.
For the next five years this ordained group of friends matured in their faith, grieved all the awkwardness of high school together, and most importantly had lots of creative fun. The final trampoline event was like a celebration of all that God had given me…a rooted community.
I use the term “rooted community” often so let me tell you how I define it.
Rooted community is a group of people that are first and foremost planting their seeds of faith in the Word of God. Their foundation is in deep, imperishable soil that gives them truth and boldness in the way they create community. With a rooted foundation, they continue to sow their faith by pursuing people and loving them the way God loves them. In God’s timing, this rooted community produces a fruit of fellowship with God and with one another.
The vision for rooted community comes from Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus. Paul writes,
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV).
When we are rooted and established in God, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to know the love of Christ and his saving grace for all people. Once we identify ourselves as saved people, our communities can be filled to the fullness of God because we learn more about God’s love TOGETHER. This is not a solo mission, but a mission for you and all of God’s people…a rooted community built on the gospel.
And yet, this idea of rooted community is not an endpoint to be reached as with most worthwhile endeavors. It’s a more like a messy hike with lots of unexpected switchbacks. I know because I experienced this in college.
I was expectant of the friends God would provide in college. I had heard many women say they met their best friends in college. I believed them because what other time in your life do you get to live in a dorm with 100 potential best friends? But, community was different in college. It was tough. It was lonely. It was jealous, competitive, hurtful and undependable. I bounced around from friend group to friend group trying to find the next person that would make me feel worthy to be called their friend. This shallow version of community led to a season of depression for me. I was frustrated with God, so “over it” with my community at college, and felt disappointed with myself.
I began to doubt that I could do friendship.
I thought: “maybe the whole community thing before was a fluke, it will never happen again. Maybe I am a bad person nobody wants to be friends with. Maybe I don’t even want them for friends. Maybe, God, you are testing me. This hurts. I am lonely. Save me.”
I left college with unfulfilled expectations and some painful emotional bruises, but the experience gave me a more gospel-centered view of community. It probably wasn’t going to be as organic as it once was, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t take action and start building a faithful group of people. So, I dug into the Word and began to put myself out there. I moved to Denver by myself to start graduate school and refresh my perspective on relationships.
After four years in Denver, community is so good because I’ve learned to appreciate genuine friendship but, not rely on it for my value. My husband and I have found a balance between realistic expectations of community and a vision for what rooted community could be like: expectation seasoned with grace, because we know we’re all going to do something stupid and selfish at some point. But we firmly believe that rooted community is something everyone should get to enjoy.
Whether you have never experienced rich community like this or you have seen glimpses, I want to show you what God’s community could look like. First, by grounding ourselves in our identity in God and then allowing our God-given confidence to lead us forward into fruitful fellowship.
This is real, friends. This is reasonable. This rooted community is waiting for you to be the initiator, the active participant, the prayer warrior and the organizer of 24-hour-a-thons.
Through the well-trodden vehicle of the ABCs, this series will explore God’s vision of community. You can look forward to:
- Creating community rhythms and traditions
- Tackling lies and false expectations of community
- Receiving practical questions to discuss with your people
- Challenging yourself to be planted firmly in your faith and your friendships
If there’s one thing the Lord has made very clear to me is my passion for creating rooted community and helping others do the same. Why?
God created a craving for rooted community in each of us. We satisfy it through our faith in God, our imperfect relationships on earth and the eternal community God has promised.
Let’s go build rooted community!