Everything will change. A Ministry of WorldVenture.
We are community deprived. Statistics show that young Americans value relationship above everything else. In Thom Rainer’s book “The Millennials” he tried to determine what makes millennials tick. He concludes that Relationships were the most valuable thing to that age group. How does relationship become such a universal value?
I have been thinking about community for the past few days. My wife made banana bread for our neighbors the other day. She wrapped it with love and Christmas ribbons. After work that day, my three year old and I delivered the treats to some of our neighbors. There was a card that accompanied the bread. At the bottom of these little cards, my wife wrote, “Please feel free to drop by anytime to borrow a stick of butter, flour, or an egg.” That line got my mind going.
Actually, for a while I have been feeling convicted about my interaction with our neighbors. It is so hard to build community in your own community. I have this wish and hope that our neighbors would feel free to ask us for anything. Our culture is strange. Think about it, when you have to move, who do you call? Do you call your actual neighbors or do you call friends and family? This might not sound strange to you, so why am I talking about it?
In many cultures, your closest relationships are found in your neighborhood. In communal societies, it is harder to cultivate community with people who outside of your neighborhoods then it might be for less communal societies. Our Journey Corps program launched in West Africa. In much of Africa, it is more common to have close relationships with those who live near you. If you need something it is not only normal for you to ask your next door neighbor, it is expected. This is true regardless of your religious background our job situation. There are natural reasons why Africans might feel more comfortable in neighborhood communities than Americans. For example, travel is much more difficult, life is spent outside, and more.
This is quite different in the United States. The average middle class American builds some relationship with their colleagues but then drive home, park in garages and isolate themselves from their neighbors. Some Americans may only speak to their neighbor a few times a year.
What is wrong with us? What is wrong with them?
Am I suggesting that African culture is better? Not necessarily, but I am suggesting that we have some things to learn from other cultures. I think one of the reasons millennials crave relationship and community is the fact that our culture is not conducive to it. They never get to live and work in community. Our culture is too segmented for that. We have pockets of community with groups of people. When community is segmented like that, it is never going to be as diverse or as deep. We can often choose those who we build a relationship with in America. If you can choose every person in your “community”, how often will you choose diversity?
I am not an expert on African society, but I’ll make an educated conjecture about the challenges that Ivorian Christians might face. I have gathered this idea from various conversations I’ve had with missionaries from Cote d’Ivoire. If it is culturally easier to build relationship with your local community, it might be more difficult for the body of Christ to be as deeply related as it needs to be. I won’t speak to that now, but my point is simply that American believers and Ivorian believers have much to learn from each other.
So can you begin to see the value of learning in another culture? Could it be that God wants us to interact with each other? Could it be that the Global church is more effective when each local church begins to share it’s lessons with the whole?