Updated: Oct 8, 2019
Last week, I had the chance to hear from TL alumni Kassie Verdoorn, and I'm excited to share with you some of her thoughts amidst mine about the importance of community life...
Everything worthwhile is hard; and the most beautiful and valuable things are usually the hardest and most rare things to come by. Think about a seed; left alone, it’s safe, dormant, and unchanging. When that seed’s existence is interrupted by water (one of the things it was created to react to), everything changes. Through the pains of stretching and changing, it is soon not even recognizable as a seed. What an agonizing process it goes through to become a beautiful, life-giving, reproducing, plant! Many of us can look back on the things in our lives that have caused the most pain, and see clearly the redemptive “fruit” that comes out of those situations. I’d like to suggest that as Christians, when we “sow”/invest in relationship with other believers (something WE were created to react to), even when frustrating or painstaking, we will “reap”/collect more blessing and benefit than we could ever foresee.
Four years ago, we had the privilege of getting to know a girl from Minnesota named Kassie. After graduating from Timberline, Kassie continued her education at CCU, an esteemed Christian College just over the mountains from us. She married another Bible school student named Jacob Verdoorn (both TL Class of 2015), and they continue to be involved at Timberline when they can. Kassie has recently finished college and has started to develop her passion for writing (check out her blog at Kasshope.com).
The most impactful year of my life was when I took a year off of school before starting college. I went to Timberline Lodge, a Torchbearer’s Bible School in Fraser, Colorado. I was challenged there in ways I didn’t know possible. God used the staff and students to change and shape the way I view the Christian life, especially the concept of Christian community.
What I experienced at Timberline was the most Biblical picture of “relationship” I had ever seen. It was raw, real, and redemptive. People debated their theological views, confessed long-held sins, and cried in each other’s arms. In the midst of sharing their lives, which often involved great pain, God sprung forth His comfort and healing.
Opportunities to invest in people are often inconvenient and costly. How many times, just before company arrives for dinner, have I wished I never initiated an evening of “community?” It’s often the case that I’m physically tired, emotionally worn out, and overall a bit needy by the end of the day; not feeling like I’ll have anything left to “give out” as the evening wanes on.
God’s Word urges… “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). People, like miraculously germinating seeds, are fragile and messy and require lots of hard work to care for. Without the tilling of the soil, the spreading of the seed, the watering of the plants (and let’s not forget the cleanup that takes place in between each step!), we will not reap the bounty and nutrition of what God created relationship to produce.
Inevitably, as the dinner party comes to a close, I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to know people better, and to be known by them. It is worth the efforts to plan and prepare because there is something wonderful and satisfying about sharing life with another person, especially someone else who is anchored in the Hope of the Gospel of Jesus. Paul says to the Philippian church, “make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2). Striving toward this kind of unity is challenging, yet worthwhile, even when we are drastically different from one another.
We were created out of the heart of a triune God who, in His very nature, shares relationship, and in a sense community, with each member of the Trinity. He made us in His image with a similar, innate longing for connectedness, and so we best function and most fully thrive when we are engaged in deep relationship with our God and with other people.
Throughout the year, I was deeply challenged: physically, through mountain adventures and service projects, emotionally as I lived in tight quarters with 37 other students, and spiritually as I dug deeper into God’s Word on a daily basis. Getting away from much of the material world and into God’s creation with a group of like-minded people was so refreshing. Living in the city now, I crave the fresh air, the amount of time I had set aside for reading the Bible, and the daily dose of Christian comradery I experienced at Timberline.
The experience I had that year shaped me into who I am today, and I cherish it more and more as time passes. Since then, I find myself looking for communities that are sharpening, but forgiving. I look for communities that are aware and knowledgeable about the culture around them, but are not absorbed by it. I look for communities that value eternity over the present life, and seek to submit everything, big and small, to Christ.
God works so mightily through Christian communities who live in humble submission to Him and are not afraid to do the dirty work of dealing with sin. I hope and pray more and more communities live out the Christian life like I saw at Timberline. Life is not easy. We need each other.
Those of us who have community built into our vocations are lucky dogs; we’re bettered in ways we often can’t see or appreciate. For some people, though, this is a tough concept to turn into a reality. How often in your week do you share your thoughts or challenges with someone besides the one or two people closest to you? Who in your local church can you reach out to in order to encourage them and be encouraged by them? Are you in a place where you can invite a new family over for dinner? (Can I offer a few fun ideas for connecting with other people? Check out my list and links at the bottom of this post.)
Community doesn’t often feel convenient, or easy, or tidy; but it’s a much-needed gift that I pray we will make room for in our lives.
In what other ways is sharing life with like-minded people beneficial to you?