WithSTAND the Storm

Florida was made to withstand the harshest of storms.

I cannot help but think that is why God put Palm Trees everywhere! A Palm tree has a special root system that enables it to stand tall in the midst of even the worst winds. Think about it. When is the last time you saw a Palm Tree uprooted?

Palm trees sure may bend and may snap at times, but very rarely do they get uprooted.

 

We just drove around our city to scan the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, which passed directly over our city last night at 2 am. Trees were turned upside down all over Lakeland, leaving their cluttered root systems facing the sky. Various fences look like they had been ripped apart piece by piece.

 

Amidst the wreckage of trees, not one palm tree had been pulled from the ground. This is because Palm Trees, despite being some of the tallest and skinniest of trees, are also some of the strongest due to their unique network of very wide short roots as opposed to a few long roots.

 

I firmly believe that the people of Florida are reflective of the root system that makes up these special trees. When united, we are a force that cannot be reckoned with. We are a community of fighters and, together, we will once again rise from the ashes.

 

Community In The Early Church

The early church often functioned without youth groups, rarely had actual buildings, faced limited access to Scripture, and rarely had institutionalized leadership.

 

In most of our eyes, the neglect of these elements would be detrimental to our church services and, sadly, even our Christian life.

 

However, the early church experienced such uncontrollable growth.

Why did Christianity spread without the modern luxuries we deem as necessary to expanding our ministries?

 

Alan Hirsch, the author of The Forgotten Ways, discovered a number of elements that may have contributed to the uncontrollable advancement of the Kingdom that was seen in the early church.

 

One element he identified was that of communitas. Notice, I didn’t say community. This would be more of a static group of people that are simply doing life together.But, communitas implies a dynamic group that is driven forth by a mission and characterized by extreme opposition, fear, or concerns for safety.

 

The first generation of the church faced imminent danger, major threats, and possible death. And they did it together for the cause of Christ. Fear for their well-being knit the people of God together. Not just as a community, but in communitas.

 

Post-Irma Reflections

This fear of well-being rarely characterizes modern Christianity.
Alan Hirsch explains that community is about safety and, as a result, it becomes static.

Communitas, on the other hand, is about building memories with one another through shared ordeals and dangers that bind the group together into a deeper community.
Thereby, making it more of a movement.

 

When individuals are driven to build memories and values together in the midst of opposition, such as marginalization, rejection, or survival, a greater sense of mission arises.

For example, after a hurricane.

 

Just today, we found ourselves outside talking to a neighbor that we rarely converse with. It was a joy to find we actually have something in common: A post-Irma blackout to be exact, one that may last for days.

How do we cook food? What stores will be open? Our common struggle brought unity to our community in a way that I have never seen before.

 

It is amazing how total strangers, living next to each other for years, can become best friends in an instant at the possibility of imminent danger. It is sad that these are the circumstances that ultimately bring us together. But, it also makes me think; why not see these treacherous moments as opportunities rather than obstacles? Not just to reach people so we can grow our church or ministry, but because we care about the well-being of our neighbors and our cities.

 

Even at our churches, it seems like we are often characterized as a community, but have very little communitas. We do life alongside one another, but there is never any real opportunity for shared values, mission, or passion.

 

For this reason, we challenge you to become intentional in building Communitas as you respond to the struggles that Hurricane Irma left behind. Start by thinking about these questions:

 

How would you define a missional community of faith?
How can you take part in being missional during the recovery of Hurricane Irma?

Here are some things we thought of:

  • Cook extra food for your neighbor. A friend just told us he made an “Irma sandwich with cheese” with some of his neighbors

  • Offer to mow your neighbor’s lawn or help with yard work, especially trees that may have fallen during the storm

  • Offer to help rebuild a fence in a nearby area

  • Bring someone in your neighborhood a cup of coffee, especially if you have power and they do not.

  • Check with your church to see outreach efforts they may be organizing

 

Together, we will rise from the ashes to rebuild our cities. We will be stronger than before because we will build from a place of deep-hearted mission. Brick by brick we will build from shared memories of a time when we faced imminent danger together and, through the divine protection of God, we prevailed.

 

Just like Palm Trees can withstand the strongest of winds, I believe this will be a time of great triumph as we stand together, stand for each other, and stand out for Jesus Christ in our cities. Blessing to you and your families during this time of recovery.

 

You are in our prayers.

 

Natalie Barnoske

Youth Alive Missionary

@nataliebarnoske

 

 Reach out to us if you need help connecting to a church in your city following this intense storm.

 

Hirsch, Alan. The Forgotten Ways. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Brazos Press, 2006.

 

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