It could be defined as nomadic and unpredictable. Dangerous and fast-paced. Outspoken and competitive.
Sometimes our church gathers for a short service, more often ‘church’ happens in groups of two or three next to idling engines, stacks of tires, crock pots and grills.
By many American church standards, we would not even be defined as a church. But we are.
Growing up in the church, I heard the word ‘community’ in relation to church a lot. I thought I knew what community was, too. After all, I saw it every Sunday at church. It was almost utopian.
Unfortunately, community isn’t utopian. It is messy. It is tough work. It is often uncomfortable.
It wasn’t until we began to spend time with our ‘other church’ that we began to get a real picture of what community looks like, of how a community acts and interacts. And it is really quite beautiful.
Our ‘other church’ is a community of competitive teams and officials, which for all practical purposes are trying to keep their deck of cards close to their chest. They are all there to one-up each other. Teams are there to beat other teams. Officials are there to keep the teams in line, finding themselves in a perpetual game of ‘cat and mouse’. Every aspect of our ‘other church’ is competitive.
There are rivalries and friction. There are varying thoughts and philosophies. There are hurt relationships and strains. To say there is tension would be an understatement… the conflicts that exist go much deeper than any conflicts I’ve seen in the church growing up.
But this melting pot comes together as a community. A group of people who are walking the same journey, and sharing the same stresses…openly. If someone is having a bad day, they’ll tell you. If someone is upset with you, you know it. You know where everyone stands. They are real.
In spite of this, they are able to coexist. Don’t get me wrong, we have our share of fights and spats (what family doesn’t). But beyond coexistence, there is a genuine personal care and concern. When someone is suffering away from the track (whether it is a family member, a friend, or themselves personally), this competitive, tense community rallies together behind them. The differences don’t matter, because everyone knows they are in this together.
The same is true on the track. I have seen teams share parts, motors and even cars with their closest competitors because of something ‘catastrophic’ happening to equipment while at the track. Why would a competitor do this as opposed to taking the easy win? Because they are a community…and they understand each other.
They are involved with each other at the track…and away from the track.
They encourage each other when they are down, and make others problems their own (Gal. 6:2). They provoke each other to do good (Heb. 10:24-25). The pick up those who need the help (1 Thes. 5:14). They fight each other’s battles (Prov. 17:17). They share in teaching (sometimes sport, sometimes life, sometimes spiritual), in relationship and in meals (Acts 2:42-47).
There is conflict…yet concern. There is competitiveness yet compassion. There is separation yet community.
The ‘home’ church we find ourselves in now, Conduit Church, we found because of the lessons in community we learned from our ‘other church’. Community can be achieved. It just is not the utopian picture I once thought it was.
It is messy, dirty business. But it is beautiful.
I am so thankful for my ‘other church’…as well as Conduit Church, for teaching us community.