starting an intentional community

Posted by Teen Bean

I met up the other day with a particularly bubbly, yet controlled young lady. She heard about my thesis on intentional prayer communities and wanted to "pick my brain" about her passion for community. We scheduled our meet up at the local CO-OP deli (it can't hurt to care for the environment a little as you talk about holistic community). After spending much to much time debating weather i wanted a lush looking Greek salad or a unique looking BBQ tofu sandwich, I sat down opposite this passionate soul and began a conversation that stirred my heart in that familiar way that whispers "God is in this".

She explained how she had spent a season in prayer about started an intentional community and was exploring the possibility of starting a community in the same neighborhood I have been living and doing "community" for the last year. Her eagerness was so raw it was like a static electric shock, with an unexpected jolt to my soul included.

We started out the best way any two people can by thanking Jesus for our food, inviting him into our conversation, and then telling our stories of falling in love with... or as the stories ringed more true, how we were hijacked by Jesus. She explained an uncontrollable awareness and desire to be more and I shared the begins of my random, but purposeful community journey.

We shared about family, friends, and our passionate love for God.

My heart laughed when she pulled out a notebook and asked if she could take notes on what I was saying. I wanted to stop her, but instead of telling her to put her book away I started explaining to her that any intentional community first had to come from a pure desire to love Jesus. It can't be done for people, for justice, or even the sake of community... it had to simply and completely be shaped and centered around our savior Jesus.

I explained the importance of starting a community with as clean of a slate as you can. To let all expectation go and let God simply blow your mind... I told her to be ready to be disappointed beyond all measure and equally to be encourage beyond all belief.

We chatted then about how important space is. To not get to carried away with forming a perfect model or structure of what "our community" is going to do for God, but simply to lay our whole self ... the nasty and broken bits as well as the good and passionate bits all down at the feet of Jesus and simply say.. "I am yours use me". I warned her how hard this was and how God might use this time to call their community to serve in ways they never thought they would... possibly in ways they don't even like... but how a radical sacrifice would simply be the beginning birth pains of dreams being born.

I told her about rhythms... I even quoted my good friend Katy Smith from "Colchester Boiler Room" and her warning to plan activities that were life giving and not life sucking. I cautioned her to not confuse the word rhythms with the word frequency but to remember that a rhythm just means consistency at whatever capacity a community can handle. Community isn't about a dogma, its about freedom, joy, and life... rhythms that breathe deeper relationships.

We ended our conversation as she finished her split pea soup and I took my last munch of Greek salad. We spoke about where they were in the process of starting the community and she said they were in the process of looking for a community house. I invited her and her potential community partner to come around for dinner and prayer and to potentially look at moving into our place. Her face spoke a million times over her excitement about moving into a place where God had been intentionally invited and pursued. And then, in the cool sun of a Seattle May afternoon she scooted off to another meeting and I wandering around the CO-OP trying to find affordable deals on ethical food.

Later that night as I sat in the community house "Love Sack" an overwhelming rush of humble thanksgiving poured over me. Two years ago I arrived in Seattle. A little lost, a lot scared, and desperate to further God's kingdom now. The majority of my time here, if you stopped and asked me if I was "there" ... if I had made it to that place I dreamed of being... I would have either laughed or teared up as I constantly felt like I was lacking, falling short, and failing God.

Time after time, God would come through for me in ways that even now bring tears to my eyes. My prayer from the very beginning was to somehow, one day, help Christ-centered community form in the Seattle area. For the last two years I have tried so many times with my power alone to do that... and have failed horribly... Just this very week I was questioning why God had moved me into a community, who's presents and being has had seemingly very little impact for God's Kingdom. Save for the random prayer nights for our community, simple (and maybe even awkward) introductions to neighbors, and a tacky prayer wall in our living room, our community hadn't done much.

I remember when we moved in to this neighborhood really feeling like it was never going to be the same... like these neighbors, these streets, this place was going to experience the love of Jesus like they never had before. If I am honest, I don't feel like our community did very much to show our neighbors the radical love of Jesus. However, as I considered the handiwork of God I realized, yet again, how what I am involved in is bigger then me. With a little bit of confidence I realized I seriously did give my all to God while I was here... and though it might not be as radical as some "intentional communities" are these day it made a difference.

As I sat there in my community's small living room, God encouraged me with an image of a great field that was rich with potential for producing a mighty harvest... he then was gracious enough to show me that my place in that picture was in the season that was preparing the field... I might not see the harvest, but I think today, as I sat in the overly earthy CO-OP, I met one of the mighty harvesters to be... how my prayer have started to take shape before my very eyes.

23-26Listen to me now.
Give me your closest attention.
Do farmers plow and plow and do nothing but plow?
Or harrow and harrow and do nothing but harrow?
After they've prepared the ground, don't they plant?
Don't they scatter dill and spread cumin,
Plant wheat and barley in the fields
and raspberries along the borders?
They know exactly what to do and when to do it.
Their God is their teacher.

-Isaiah 28: 23-26

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at Wednesday, May 11, 2011 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 comments

Isn't God amazing that way? I love that he let you get a glimpse of the future of the your community in Seattle. It's like you've laid the foundation, and there's so much more to come! Isn't it also fantastifc to meet someone who's as passionate as you are about a subject? I love those concersations!

May 11, 2011 at 4:56 PM

I am glad of your 'Pure love for Jesus' point about the purpose behind it point.... It's one I need to be reminded of because I get caught up in issues and forget to just hang at Jesus' feet. :] xx xx xx Love you. xx

May 12, 2011 at 7:50 PM

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