Community: In His Image

NOTE: Today’s guest post is written by Steve Carpenter. I became friends with Steve and his wife, Brenda, through serving in an outreach ministry with Steve’s mother for years. I couldn’t ask anyone more suitable since Steve and his wife have both invested in my life on countless occasions and helped me to see what God sees in me.

Regarding community, he’s been on a journey of discovery, learning first-hand the value and power of community. I’m excited for him to share with this community what God’s revealed to him. Enjoy!

community, God, Godhead, Jesus,

Photo Credit: Matt Heaton (CC)

Somewhere, somehow over the course of many years of walking as a “Christ follower”, I developed a very subtle and insidious mindset. The subtlety of this paradigm really led me into a kind of belief system that essentially violated what I already knew in my heart to be true. (Gen 3:1)

God created mankind, male and female in His Image— body, soul and spirit. The Godhead is Trinitarian, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All things were created by Jesus Christ (Col 1:16) in whom the fullness of the “Godhead” dwells bodily (Col 2:9). Those things were created inside a relational paradigm.

The whole balance of the material world itself reflects the image of this relational position; the balance of nature and our entire eco-system all the way down to the molecular level is held together “relationally” by Jesus Christ (Col 1:17). The human body itself, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14), is a delicate balance of integrated systems that are very different in design and function, yet are fitly joined together to create one person. Nothing is created outside of relationship as the fullness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit dwell inside Jesus Christ where all things were created.

Scripture is loud and clear…the enemy is a liar (Jn 8:44); he is also very shrewd. We do not intentionally believe lies. The nature of deception is that the lie is not obvious, and is often wrapped in a “religious” package at times with the allure of “a deeper walk, more abundant revelations, greater spiritual maturity and ultimately, more power.”

The mindset that I had gradually adopted was that somehow I could mature spiritually at an accelerated rate in the absence of community. I do believe that there are times and even perhaps brief seasons in which we are called to separate ourselves unto the Lord for seeking, prayer, fasting, etc.

However, I am discovering that some of the deepest transformational work that the Lord has done and is doing in my life is the result of my being in a powerful community of other believers that have a high value for deep personal connections. The Body of Christ is relational (the dwelling place of the Godhead), not just by virtue of being a good design idea or “blueprint”, but in the expression of the “nature” of our creator. A normal healthy body must function relationally or disease will result.

It could be said that the transformational work that I am making reference to is the healing of a disease. A disease that had resulted from a wrong belief system that ignored the necessity of deep connectivity with other parts of the Body.

After repenting of the lies that I had believed, I began to see (2 Cor 3:16) how it came to be that this belief system was so deeply rooted . . . I had spiritualized my dysfunction. I had in a sense formed a “doctrine” that essentially gave myself permission to avoid the change that I desperately needed; the change that my spirit man was and is crying out for. I embraced religious activities that justified my isolation and separation and ultimately insulated me from confronting my own fears. Those activities were actually hindering my transformation. These fears can only be displaced by the love of God. I was seeking intimacy without relationship (Spiritual Prostitution).

Community is relational by nature. Jesus illustrates the power of this when He states that all human responsibility and revelation rests on it (Mt 22:36-40). It’s interesting to note that the Greek word translated neighbor in Mt 22:39 is from the Aramaic word kareb, which means “one who is close to you (emotionally or by proximity).”

This transformational process has not been without its challenges. 1 Jn 1:7 NIV states that “But If we walk in the Light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.” True fellowship requires trust. I like what Danny Silk says about trust: “Building trust is the highest form of success in the Kingdom of God.” Brene Brown states from a researcher’s point of view that trust is built over time by the consistent little things that we do – not the one big thing that we do; a process as opposed to an event.

We must trust that we will remain safe in our openness and transparency and that we can remain connected in the midst of tension that comes from interacting with others that may have dissimilar views; to do this, we must value relationship and community over “agreement”. Something that I have discovered in community is that many other believers actually struggle with the same issues I do. It required trust on their part to walk in the light with me and share their own struggles. Deep rooted shame and the temptation to hide are a result of the fall— broken fellowship with a loving, heavenly Father. When Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Father, they also hid themselves from each other.  

To the measure that I solely trust my own opinion of myself, I do not trust my heavenly Father. But the truth is, I am what His Word says I am. That trust must be formed by and firmly rooted in His nature; that He is a good, loving Father who always has my best interest in mind, sometimes at the expense of my personal comfort.

I have come to understand that because of the self-centered root of fear, it is really a manifestation of pride – sometimes masked as humility. I am beginning to learn that oftentimes the feedback I receive from others in community can be turned into personal growth. I must be willing to make adjustments to protect my relationships. These adjustments are not made to “people-please”, but are a humble response to the Lord showing me those things through my relational connections.

A year and a half ago, my wife and I, along with several friends, were led to a local body of believers that have a high core value for hosting the presence of God and a strong emphasis on deep personal connections within the community. We are consistently amazed at the transformation that is occurring in our lives. We are excited about the many things the Father has in store for us in this wonderful process of discovering who we really are in community.

How about you? What changes have you seen when you became involved in community? Please share in Comments below. Thank you.

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About the Author

Steve Carpenter

About Steve Carpenter

Comments

  1. Wow, wow, wow…WOW!!! What an amazing and anointed article. Thank you, Steve for taking the time to share this!

    When I went to a new church in 2010 and the pastor said the word ‘community’ it actually scared me. At the time I don’t realize that my strong reaction was due to an “island thinking” stronghold operating in my life. But our Father is gracious and began opening doors for me to take some risks and try again to experience “community”. Steve penned it beautifully with this statement: However, I am discovering that some of the deepest transformational work that the Lord has done and is doing in my life is the result of my being in a powerful community of other believers that have a high value for deep personal connections.

    Just a few of the changes/growth that I have experienced are:
    1.) Learning that trust is earned over time, not given in an instant. By learning this I found out who my heart was safe with and who it wasn’t so it made community a safe place.
    2.) Learning to be vulnerable because without it I automatically would rewrite my history to make me look better. By doing this it stopped me from connecting deeply with people because if you wear a mask people can’t connect with me.
    3.) That with intentional purpose Father God puts “provision” for my growth in someone else so without being connected in community, I will never receive that “provision”.
    4.) That being able to bounce my thinking off of another person gives me counsel since they can see any lies/danger wrapped around it and can make me aware of them.
    5.) That instinctively I wanted to do community but I wasn’t discerning on who to do it with and therefore got my heart shredded which allowed me to swallow the lies of the enemy’s that “Community isn’t safe so it’s best to avoid it. After all you have the Holy Spirit in you so you don’t need them. They will only slow you down.”
    6.) Like Steve, the greatest acceleration and richness of my growth has come through community. Sure, I get revelations when I’m by myself but my ability to “make it mine” only come through community.

    Suggestion to readers: If you find you have a negative reaction to this post ask the Father this question, ” Do I have an island thinking stronghold operating in my life?” If the answer is yes, invite Holy Spirit to reread this post with you and then follow what He tells you to do.

  2. Bruce Hillman says:

    Steve, I thoroughly enjoyed your article on community and the relationships that are involved in doing community. I, until recently, had been and islander. I didn’t do community because I didn’t leave the island long enough to connect for very long with anyone.

    The occasional forays I had to the mainland and did connect with someone were enjoyable for the moment but then I would be drawn back to the island once more.

    Hence my growth was stunted, change rarely came and when it did it didn’t stay long. It wasn’t something that was lasting. It felt good for awhile and I was satisfied and felt like I was accomplishing something but then the good would slip away and I would be back to my old self again.

    I believed the lie that as long as I was on the island I was safe from hurt and pain that someone could bring when I tried to share with them and because of it felt like I had become a “project” that was broke and needed to be fixed which made me feel like I was a loser and not worthy. I had the victim mentality that kept me from being a powerful person that could withstand the feeling of brokenness and feeling less than.

    Finally it was time for me to leave the island and join society. Father God told me to pack up and leave. It took awhile, fortunately not years, but I believe I have finally left the island behind and moved to the mainland.

    I did the very same thing of trying to have intimacy on my terms without the relationship which I have found doesn’t do anyone a bit of good. There is no real growth or growing closer together. That applied to both the Spiritual realm and Physical. I also have grown to appreciate community and the importance of it. Now there is a chance of real and lasting growth and change which I feel is already happening.

    Being a powerful person and also learning who to trust with the most intimate parts is a very important part that is learned only in community. Not “everyone” is safe! Trust is built and earned over time when what is shared is closely guarded and not given to anyone and everyone.

    Thank you for who you are and being “trustworthy” and for sharing who you are and where you have come from.

    Bruce

  3. Very interesting article. Thanks Steve, for your transparency.
    I would say my value of community comes from having it within my family and my family fostering it by being teachers and leaders in the community. It has made me desire to do the same in my adult life. At a very young age , this made me sensitive to people and their needs and their passions. It made me compassionate to be in relationship with them, and to help aid them in some form or manner. I think what I noticed about people and the influences it made on my life, made me then want to giveback in the same fashion.

    I has eventually led me to being a therapist, and one who lives to immerse ‘self’ into the community, all the more. Today I lead engineered groups on prayer, and sisters mentoring sisters. I gain so much from them. As leader, I learn and am humbled by the connection and growth and responsibility to self and to one another. I grow as a person, because of my interactions and those involved mentor me. Help to build my compassion. I had never thought much about intimacy without relationship. I can totally see; however, how it can be possible. It made me desire to repent of the same, if I ever was guilty of this in my lifetime.
    Thank you.