Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: The Irresistible Community

Community is something that we all long for. Its something that every church advertises and yet so often come up short. Community is something that should be integral to the life of the church and yet the countless volumes on this topic are a pretty good indicator of the fact we often come up short. I found myself intrigued by the title and the catalog description of “The Irresistible Community” when the publisher offered me a copy for review. I found myself engaged within the first pages as the author uses the illustration of the Last Super to show us what community was intended to be. Each chapter begins with a first person narrative from one of the 12 disciples. Donahue does a great job and drawing us into each of their stories and how they likely felt on that fateful night. This personal vignettes give us an personal and emotional connection to the various elements of community each chapter addresses.

The book itself is broken into three sections, which cover the three dimensions of community that make it irresistible. The Table is where we gather and community happens. The Towel is what we must pick up to serve each other and together serve others. The Truth which must encircle our community. I really appreciated these three dimensions as many “communities” fall short because they lack or over emphasize one. We're often good at gathering around a table but often fail to pick up the towel or we're so engrossed in serving we forget the truth, or so concerned with the truth we fail to serve.

The first section talks about the Table, how we find our place, table manners, different kinds of tables and telling our stories around the table. The truth is a lot of community happens around the table, often because food is involved, but what I appreciated most in this section was the recognition that there are different kinds of tables. Not everything can be or should be done at the dinner table. Sometimes one needs, not a family dinner, but a boardroom or a surgery. There are tables made for these different situations and it is important to recognize that community can play many different rolls including, counsel, encouragement, correction, negotiation, teaching and more. There are different kinds of tables, and recognizing which one you are at and the rules around that table is key to doing life together.

The second section deals with the Towel. Just as Jesus picked up the towel to wash the feet of His disciples, we too need to pickup the towel and serve. A community must serve those inside and outside its numbers. The author makes several good points here, including the fact that the towel will get dirty. Serving gets dirty but in the dirt, it is rewarding. A couple of helpful points in this section are in the Don't do list about how to use your towel. This included, not waiting until your exact gifts are needed to serve and don't lose the big picture. The first has to do with sitting on the sidelines because we don't think we really fit the need yet, often we can do something and may even need a little stretching. The second is that we must always keep the fact we are part of something bigger in mind and that even the smallest thing might have a major impact. Often times the big break troughs don't come from something spectacular but just from hundreds, if not thousands of cups of coffee shared in love.

The final section deals with the truth that every community must keep. This is not simply about including a Bible study in every community but letting the truth of the scripture really get inside us to transform and renew. Truth must be at the heart of community, it is only when we know and embrace the truth of who we are in Christ and to each other that we can get any depth to our relationships. The truth at times will hurt but it will also heal. When we face the truth we can truly see ourselves and others and build the kind of community we long for.

Overall I found this to be a great and accessible book and well worth the read for anyone in church leadership or simply wanting to build and be a part of an irresistible community.

(I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.)

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