August 24, 2022 | Chad Vinson
Maybe you’re like me: when you think back over the course of your life, you realize you have spent significant time sitting in rows. Remember your early days of school? The teacher would assign seats and those seats where always in rows. Even when you went to P.E. class the teacher lined you up in rows.
I even remember the first time I played organized football and the coach lined us up in rows on both the defense and offensive side of the ball. This manner even carries into church, and whether you attend church regularly or infrequently, you walk into a service organized in rows!
Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t have anything against rows. Sitting in rows is a very effective method of learning content. We all have benefitted from learning information we didn’t know or from being reminded of information we have forgotten by sitting in rows and listening to someone speak. But doing church as a community of faith in rows is not comprehensive to an effective biblical community. We need a different environment for our community to flourish.
Andy Stanley said it better than I can (but we all know he got it from someone else!):
"Community happens in circles not rows."
Circles are where we are confronted with people. Some of our deepest joys have been the result of people, while some of our most painful hurts have been the result of people. You might need to pause and read that line again. Your experiences with people—good, bad, or indifferent—are not what draw you into the Christian community; but people are the necessary component God uses. This leads to the question, "Why even engage others?" Or "What makes you sit in the circle?"
To answer that question, I'm reminded of the words of the German theologian and Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"We are bound together by faith, not experience. For Jesus Christ alone is our unity. Through Him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another."
Bottom line, we show up in the circle of community not because of the people but because the people give us what we desperately need, and that is Christ. And I confess for many years, even as a believer, I didn't have this perspective and I would find myself leaving the circle of community both discouraged and defeated.
Showing up in the circle of community means I'm allowing myself to be seen, to be heard, and to be understood. Paul says it this way in the book of Galatians:
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
So when I enter the circle of community, I don't engage as a person who has it all together or who has it all figured out. On the contrary, I sit in the circle in need of the people around me. I need their patience, their encouragement, their love, their gentleness, their forgiveness, and their presence. They direct me to Jesus who is bigger and better than myself! Then in turn, I can reciprocate those same actions to those in the circles with me.
Sitting in the circle of community allows one to experience "together is better!"
Pull up a chair and join the circle—it might save your life.