Uncompromising Orthodoxy (Part Five): What it takes to be in Community

By Cameron Silsbee and Ariel Villaseñor

Begin with prayer

Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other, and then have somebody pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.

Take a few minutes to go around the group to debrief anything noteworthy from the Practice this past week. 

Read this overview

From the opening pages of the Scriptures, God has set out to be in relationship with humanity. God is not distant and estranged from the day-to-day reality of existing as a human being. He is intimately connected and involved with humans. The story of the Scriptures lays out the lengths to which God goes to heal the fractured relationship humanity has created with God. Relationships matter to him.

God isn’t just interested in humans having a relationship with him; he’s also interested in people having relationships with one another. In the Scriptures, while God goes about healing the fractured relationships humanity has with him, he intentionally brings people into relationship with one another. He eschews a spirituality that isolates a person in their own individualized spiritual experience for what the Scriptures call “adoption” into God’s family. 

However, God has specific intentions for people in his family. Being in God’s family and relating to one another isn’t primarily about our entertainment or comfort. It’s the context in which God forms us to be like him, acting as ambassadors for his imminent, healing Kingdom. These relationships God has called us into connection with one another, where we experience things like love, joy, encouragement, and also the hurt and pain of people and a world not yet healed. 

Talk through the following discussion questions:

Participating in God’s family the way he has intended us to be, takes commitment, vulnerability, and accountability. It’s best to start from a shared understanding of what we mean by these words. While we may nuance things a bit differently about each of these, the following is a good baseline of what is meant when talking about commitment, vulnerability, and accountability.

Commitment: Intentionally being present and participating in relationships and the things we find valuable. For a Van City Community, commitment looks like prioritizing being present at Community during the week and present at the Gathering on Sundays. It also includes participating in the gathering, relationships, and the Practices in ways that contribute to the Community.

Vulnerability: An openness to share and receive from others. Sharing includes the parts of ourselves that we are still growing in and where healing is occurring. Sharing these parts of ourselves is not with the expectations that others will “fix” us but that we might share in the process together. A healthy vulnerability allows for safety within a relationship, where a person feels safe to bring to light difficult, troubling, or embarrassing situations or failures, without the need to focus attention on all the details. As a person shares, healthy vulnerability does not require of the hearers specific actions or relational closeness in response to what is shared. 

Accountability: Being held responsible for your words, actions, and influence. Accountability involves gentle correction for the person acting in a way harmful to others or themselves. It also involves encouragement in the process of growth. Ultimately, accountability typically only works in relationships with commitment and vulnerability. 

Talk through these discussion prompts about vulnerability and accountability.

  1. Take a moment to recall an instance in your life when you were significantly helped by being vulnerable with someone. After a minute or two, go around the group and share that experience with each other.
  2. Bring to mind a time in your life when you were not vulnerable with someone and wish you had been. After a minute or two, go around the group and share that experience with each other.
  3. Describe what you consider to be helpful accountability based on what you’ve experienced in life. 
  4. What would helpful accountability from those around you look like in this season of life?

Talk about this week’s Practice as a Community:

Set aside 15-20 minutes to do a commitment audit for this week’s practice. Begin your time by focusing your attention on God’s presence. After a moment ask him to lead you as you do this Practice. With a pen and paper or the Notes App on your phone, list all the commitments you have in a given month. (e.g., family, friends, work, church, hobbies, personal goals, school, etc.). Once you’ve written them down, reflect on the following questions:

What do my commitments say about what I value?

Which commitments am I struggling to uphold? Which commitments are not a struggle?

Which commitments are life-giving, and which commitments are draining?

Be prepared to discuss what you noticed about your commitments with the group next week. 

Close in prayer

End your time as a group by having one person say the Nicene Creed. 

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.

God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.