I leave Sugar Land tomorrow morning. I probably won’t be back until Christmas. I’m headed to Monahans (a tiny town in the middle of West Texas) to visit my grandparents and then I am heading to Abilene.
I have spent this summer working for the church I grew up in, dwelling in rich suburban Sugar Land, living at home for the first extended amount of time since I graduated from high school, and spending a lot of time with myself.
When I return to Abilene I will be a full-time college student working enough on the side to pay my bills, dwelling in Abilene whose median income is 77,692 dollars less than Sugar Land’s median income (Sugar Land’s median household income for families is 117,720 dollars while the same figure for Abilene is 40,028 dollars), living in a tiny apartment with three other single college guys, and spending the vast majority of time with my best friends—my Jesus community.
And, despite the fact that I have to work way harder, pay my own bills, cook my own food, and buy my own groceries, I infinitely prefer life in Abilene. The reason for that is because the people with whom I am walking through life in pursuit of Jesus are in Abilene. Rarely does a blog entry go by where my friends don’t get a mention.
* * *
I was in the Metroplex a little more than a week ago celebrating with friends their engagement. Logan and I drove up from Sugar Land early on Saturday morning. We planned to celebrate with our friends, and then spend the rest of the weekend with our friend Amanda. When we arrived we were met by a pleasant surprise. Two of my three roommates had also come. I had no idea they were coming. Zach, one of my best friends and the guy I lived with for the last year and will continue to live with, had been in Ghana for most of the summer. This was the first time I had seem him or even talked with him in a few months. We ended staying up late into the night talking.
One of the things we began to talk about was our vision for life together this next year. We came away with three thoughts.
First, we want to live according to a common liturgy. That is, we want to pursue the devotional life together. Evangelicalism is really good at telling us to have “quiet times” which, by the way, needs to be renamed. According to Matt Chandler (who also gets quoted in most of my blog posts) calling it “quiet time” makes it seem like a punishment. So, actually, I prefer calling it “private devotions.” In any case, Evangelicalism is really good at telling us to get up in the morning, read our bibles, and pray. Not that many of us actually do that, but when we think of interacting with God outside of Sunday morning, that’s what we think of. God has given me some grace this summer to actually get out of bed at six in the morning (most of the time) and pray and worship God. It’s been great.
Unfortunately, such an emphasis just plays into out individualistic view of the work of God. If I worship God privately and then come to community, what tends to happen is community becomes more about reporting what is going on in life rather than actually living life with other people. Now, I’m not knocking your private time with God, but I am interested in gathering with my brothers and sisters in common prayer and worship on a daily basis. Zach and I discussed how we want to build that rhythm. We want to pray and worship every morning at six and invite over whoever wants to join us. A common time before the Lord is really important to any community.
Second, we want to live according to a common purse. Now, I don’t mean we want to pool all of our money and possessions into one pot, but what I do mean is that we want to live with both hands open. Our stuff isn’t ours; it’s God’s. On all the stuff we use in common, we intend to pool our money. We want to have common groceries, common toiletries, etc. And, since we want to live open-handed, we want to share what we have with other people. We want people to always feel welcome. We want people to just stop by and eat our food. We want people to take something if they need it. Good gracious. I have too much stuff anyway. If someone needs my car, fine. If someone needs financial help, great! We want to try to live so beneath our means that we really can help people.
Third, and finally, we want to live according to a common rule. Our common rule is the “Jesus Creed”, as Scot McKnight would call it. Simply, it is, “Love God. Love others.” We want to evaluate everything we do in light of the greatest commands. We want to place the Jesus Creed prominently in our apartment. We want to tape it on our door frames and splash it across our fridge. We want to love God, so we want to be a community of guys (and anyone else who joins us) who confesses sin, prays for one another, encourages one another, and worships God together. We want to love others. We want to love others as a community. We want to invite all of our friends in. Part of love for neighbor will require that we keep out apartment clean. We want to invite the homeless in. We want to care for the widow and orphan. We want to be good neighbors. We want to be idealistic, for we trust in a God who put this burning passion on our hearts. We want to cook meals for the girls who will be living right above us. We want to be light and salt in our community. We want people to mistake us for Jesus.
So, we want those three things (a common liturgy, a common purse, and a common rule) to be who we are this next year. Be praying for us, and be praying that God give us the courage and boldness to do this.
I’ve thought about this a lot this summer. I can’t very well live this open-handedly in my parents’ house, but I certainly can in my own apartment. God demands everything, not just my moral conduct. He demands my money, my space, my time, my energy, and, most of all, my heart. I feel him calling me strongly now.
If I say “I will not live this life of radical love and radical surrender” then “his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9)