The Retirement Reformation Manifesto (part 6)
Principle #6: Community
We need community and connection with others in authentic relationship.
Our retirement years are best spent in community. It is in community with family, friends, fellow believers, plus the week, poor and disenfranchised where we both learn and serve. The intergenerational church provides a community between and among believers.
The first books of the Bible talk about community in its interaction between God’s community of believers, their connection with Him, and their distinction with outsiders. Community was important is many ways.
The community of the New Testament was The Church. Jesus’ ministry of love and relationship was to be carried out by the Church with the guiding light of the Holy Spirit. Jesus identified differing roles to lead the church and pointed out that each of us has a role as, what he called, friends. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 4:16 when talking about the community of friends – the Church:
16 From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Ken Gire in his book, The Weathering Grace of God makes the point about community with a totally different voice:
Our lives are part of an overarching drama, part sunshine, part rain, that spans the heavens from Paradise to Paradise.
So, until then, what? We feel our way in the dark. Until we find each other. We huddle together in the storm. Wet and shivering, but together.
And maybe, in the end, it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.
Ken is talking about the strengthening of relationships and the blessings we receive when we are in an authentic community and real relationships together.
Those relationships in community are held together with friendship. Lexham’s Theological Wordbook defines friendship:
Friendship is a reciprocal relationship characterized by intimacy, faithfulness, trust, unmotivated kindness, and service. The concept can describe one’s relationship with people and with God.
Yes, our God is one of relationship – one that He desires and we choose. When we make that choice, we enter into community with Him and His angels, as well as those he’s brought into our earthly community. God created people to be in a relationship with Himself and with one another in friendship, marriage, family, society and the church. We then are blessed. In 2 Peter 1:3-4, it says,
Jesus has the power of God, by which he has given us everything we need to live and to serve God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus called us by his glory and goodness. 4 Through these he gave us the very great and precious promises. With these gifts, you can share in God’s nature, and the world will not ruin you with its evil.
Wisdom comes from God, is to be applied in our lives and we then learn from each other. Believers are to be in a relationship with each other. We see this clearly in our church children’s and your adult groups. It surfaces again when young marrieds and young families get together. We see it again when seniors are segregated into separate life groups or Sunday School classes, taking trips, potlucks, and bible studies. All good, but not enough.
God designed our communities to be intergenerational, not segregated. We are to learn from each other with the knowledge and its application carried out from young to old, old to young, and everywhere in between. The church must expand its vision for connectivity and provide the culture where intergenerational living can not only exist but thrive.
Our communities are getting more complex. Take families for example. One church did a survey and found out that over 20% of its households consisted of 3 generations or more. Technology is one of the reasons why the generations don’t connect. Skype might shorten long distances but our culture keeps us apart.
We don’t experience community with the weak and disenfranchised, or the 3rd life-stage. This separation leads to confusion and even animosity. We divide our communities by the music we like and the style of dress we wear. If we don’t spend time together, get to know and appreciate our differences in both strengths and weaknesses, we will grow frail, looking inward and downward, both fearful and alone.
It is critical for all of us to expand our relationships, see the diversity in our community, and learn from it while we contribute to it. It is in community that we are truly whole. It is in community that we stay young and help the young to grow old with grace and dignity.
In community we have the opportunity to thrive as both individuals and collectively. Jesus knew that and commanded us to love each other whoever he or she may be. He wants His children, that’s you and me, to represent Him to the world uniquely and collectively. He said, by your love they will know me. I believe the word “your” is both individual and collective. Let’s keep learning about community, be a part of one, and thrive together for his honor and glory. We can huddle in the storm.
This 6th principle of the Retirement Reformation Manifesto brings encouragement to all of us and a clear reminder of our interrelationship with God and those he created.
Go to: RetirementReformation.org to review the Manifesto, sign, and join if you agree. Download a copy for your reference and acquire the Retirement Reformation book or one written by any one of our Retirement Reformation Roundtable members.