Over the years I’ve found that there are not many who have the wonderful experience that I had as a young believer to live in community. To be quite frank, it was one of the best, and most challenging, experiences of my life. It wasn’t perfect but that time in community taught me more things more quickly than just about anything else could.
Discipleship houses: living out community.
I share my story in my book Silver Threads: Weaving Godly Wisdom Into the Lives of Younger Women, but it is vital to share a bit of it here. I was discipled by Sharron who was discipled by Evie. And Evie had a vision for discipleship that was deeper and broader than anyone else I’ve ever met.
There were actually a small handful of gals that she personally discipled, but she trained disciples year after year after year. One tool she used was a discipleship house. The one I lived in had 11 women, 1 ‘head of the house’, 1 administrative co-leader and 1 intern in leadership. The motto of our house was “Doing Your Dishes To The Glory Of God!”
When you are living in such a tight community of women with a goal to growing deeper in your walk with the Lord, He has AMPLE opportunity to stretch, goad, challenge, chastise and train. And we got loads of that!
But the thing that we learned most of all was what community meant.
We learned to serve others.
Our house was one of the first places the church went to when there was a need. Whether that need was offering a meal to someone or going to help delouse them, we learned how to sacrifice our wants for the real needs of others.
We learned to support one another.
When you have that many women in one house, you find a lot of emotional turmoil. We learned how to stretch beyond our comfort zones and be there to celebrate in the good times and to lift each other up with strength in the hard times. Regular faithful prayer with and for one another was the cornerstone of our home.
We learned how to compromise.
Living with others means that you don’t always get what you want. We had quite a few really strong willed women and it was a challenge at times for us all to learn to compromise how we wanted things to run in the house. It was the perfect training ground for all future relationships.
We learned to confront.
There were some who would rather stuff conflict than deal with it head on. But conflict never goes away by itself – it just might be out of sight for awhile and than BAM, one day it pops up out of all proportion. When someone takes you by the hand and leaves you at the door of another gal so you can talk things through to resolution, that is great training on how to deal with conflict!
We learned to work with others.
In a house as large as ours (an old Victorian with 14 rooms, not including a finished basement) and with as many women as we had, keeping up on chores was essential. Especially if we needed to always be ready for company to drop in unannounced. Building good working relationships with one another was essential to a smoothly running house.
We learned to challenge one another in our walks with God.
Because the purpose of the home was discipleship, we were all trained to disciple others by learning the basics of the faith and pushing each other to a deeper relationship with God. Bible study, prayer, long talks, living out a daily living faith: these were the bonds that linked us together and stretched and trained us for a lifetime.
Bearing one another’s burdens.
All of these things that we learned in community were part of bearing one another’s burdens. Being there, no matter the time or energy level. Learning that a life of sacrifice for others was lived out in the life of Jesus for us to follow. I learned so much and am more grateful than I can ever say for the training I received and the examples I observed in the lives of the women around me.
How can we still build a heart of community in our churches without actually having to live in community? I think this is something sorely missing and deeply longed for in the church today.