Jasheen and I recently returned from an amazing holiday in Singapore and Bali. While there, we experienced heat like we haven't in a long time, we experienced the joy of life and parenting with the assistance of family, we walked painfully through the loss of a child with dear friends in California, and we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary.
While I could write pages about our time in Southeast Asia, I'm not sure I could do it justice through written word, and I'm not sure I could hold your interest for very long. I think I'd rather share some thoughts and observations I had along the way.
Many of you have heard my take on community before. While I see it as a vital part of our Christian life together, I've also experienced the downside(s) of the pursuit of authentic community. Many, it seems, long for community for selfish reasons - perhaps subconsciously. It may provide safety, security or even purpose. Often times, community is manufactured to achieve a goal - usually in a ministry context. Rarely have I found that community is authentically executed for the sole purpose of living out the Kingdom of God on earth.
One of the things that occurred to me on this trip was that through all the efforts that our generation chases after community, they don't seem to think to research cultures and societies that do it naturally. I think it's obvious that Western culture does not do community very well. Our societies foster individualism, boundaries and isolation. We're consumed with personal time, personal space and personal autonomy. We've even reduced the gospel to a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
In Singapore, and more specifically, through Jasheen's extended family, I discovered that Asian cultures and families live in community effortlessly, without thought, intention or strategy. They don't map out community values, maxims or behaviors. Their lives are truly intertwined and they don't rely on permission or courtesy to speak into each others lives. Whether it's commenting on ones appearance, or sharing approval or disapproval on parenting style or a family member's choice of girlfriend or boyfriend, they engage one another authentically. Raising children is truly a village's responsibility.
This all may seem intrusive at times, but that's because of our conditioning. In every other facet of life and learning, people research environments relevant to their field. It seems incredibly arrogant (in my humble opinion) to pursue and provide community without studying and understanding how to really do it. Applied theory can't compare with observed and experienced reality.
At Mosaic, we are trying to cultivate a missional community - a community that practices the elements seen in the communities of the Bible, and more specifically, the communities that Jesus was a part of. By observing societies that live in community naturally, and applying biblical foundations to those models, I believe that we can more effectively achieve the Kingdom-minded communities that we are pursuing. But simply extracting biblical principals and incorporating them into our western cultures - or making them relevant to our conditioned lifestyles - I think we're spinning our wheels... and doing more harm than good.
We cannot succeed by making biblical principles relevant to our environment. We MUST make our environment(s) relevant to biblical principles. Inasmuch as I will make every effort to live in biblical community here in the West End of Glasgow, I remain unconvinced that true community can be done in such a context. We're talking radical abandonment of conditioned paradigms; surrendering the "personal" in areas of space and time; letting go of expectations afforded us by a modern western mindset.
This does not mean that we eliminate times alone with God. As Jesus took these times, so should we, for the recharging of our souls so that we can effectively engage the community and world around us.