Saturday, June 22, 2024
Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeAll The NewsSPINNING MY GEARS: Community And The Call for Transparency

SPINNING MY GEARS: Community And The Call for Transparency

      Funeral services are not what we want to think about with Christmas knocking at our doors. The liturgical themes of Hope, Joy, Peace and Love do not mesh well with reflections on death. Nevertheless, at this time of year, many families have no choice as they gather around a table with an empty chair.

      I am confident that I am not unique in providing instruction at the funerals I have participated in to remember grieving families during the holidays. With that in mind, I ask the readers of this column to remember those who celebrate Christmas differently for the first time. Of course, feelings of emptiness and isolation are not plagues reserved for those familiar with loss.

      Recently, I have noticed an air of loneliness in several young people. The irony that I write this article “from a young pastor’s perspective” is not lost on me. The youngest adults today are in a group called “Generation Z.” They are between 11 and 26 years old. This age group is the first generation to grow up with cell phones and social media as an ingrained part of their life. After growing up with an artificial community and synthetic relationships, it is apparent that this generation of young adults is desperate to belong to a tribe of their own.

      My wife, Michelle, got a text message from a Gen Z friend that we were a part of discipling while we were in Northwest Arkansas, expressing this very thing. Our friend said, “I want real, raw relationships, transparency without judgment and deep conversations.” In my head, I used to mock comments like that. You may be doing the same thing now. Having been a part of the writer’s life, I know that “transparency without judgment” does not mean “confession without accountability.” The call for “deep conversations” isn’t an appeal for more sensationalism or goosebump moments during Bible study. My young friend wants to live out their faith with their tribe. Understanding this message gets my gears going.

      As the age scale moves higher, the tendency to protect oneself with vagueness under the guise of diplomacy slides with it. As a young pastor, I am frequently frustrated with failed attempts at getting my mature church members to open up. I understand why we may be guarded or reserved in the workplace. I’ve had the proverbial knife stuck in my back, too. I get it. The community of God’s people should look different, though. There are consequences to failing our fellow Christians in this way. We can avoid these consequences with some easily implemented behaviors and commitments to one another. If successful, the potential is sincerely awe-inspiring.

      This year will be the first Christmas without my mother-in-law. Like many families I have had the privilege of ministering to this year, our table will have an empty chair. Comforted by God, there is still a longing in our home for things to run “normally.” Our loss this past year includes the transparency that allowed deep conversations. I miss conspiring with my mother-in-law to surprise my wife. It seems as though I am without my grown-up shenanigan buddy. This grief helps to explain the loneliness of today’s youth. While many grieve what was once here, the young adults long for what they’ve never had. Where does this longing for community come from? Christ’s advent aimed to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The lost are why we don’t escape to Heaven’s glory at the moment of salvation. The lost are why our gears keep spinning. The desire for community is often the beginning of God directing His lost sheep back to their flock.

      The consequence of failing to provide the relational needs of a grieving heart and a lonely person is that there is today an abundance of alternative quasi-communities that may allure and misdirect them. Innocent fandoms become idols. Hobbies define the person instead of the person defining the hobby. God made humanity to desire community. He designed you and me as social beings. Before the fall, the first thing that the Lord declared “not good” was for “man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Most church members realize the responsibility that comes with caring for the bereaved. We should apply the same to the lost, the immature, the wandering and the lonely.

      Incorporating transparency and depth into our relationships isn’t rocket science. Avoiding these consequences does not require a unique program or training session. Ultimately, it comes down to applying the truths of the Bible to our daily character and life. We must be honest about our insecurities, vulnerabilities, fears and desires. Allowing ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable, we should avoid withholding our unpopular opinions. Transparency alone will not build a deep community. We must model allowing ourselves to be held accountable by others. Such accountability also demands taking personal responsibility.

      If we faithfully did these things, the church would be stronger, and there would be growth in the church. Instead of seeking fulfillment in the things that can never fulfill the person, our neighbors would see the church, and ultimately God, as the answer to their perceived problems. Additionally, church members would be more likely to serve. When I’ve asked the people I serve alongside what has kept them going in ministry, I have never heard duty or obligation in their response. Anyone serving in ministry longer than 10 years has always alluded to the needs of others. Such selfless and discerning people who do not need the concealed needs of their neighbors to be explained to them are a gem. If there were no partiality in who we were transparent with, there would be no need to explain the need to anyone.

Derrick Bremer
Derrick Bremer
Derrick A. Bremer grew up in Northwest Arkansas where he met his wife, Michelle, in their 9th grade English class. Derrick surrendered to the gospel ministry in 2018 at Temple Baptist Church of Rogers, Arkansas under the leadership of pastor Wade Allen. Derrick was ordained in 2020 when he was called to serve as the pastor of Denver Street Baptist Church in Greenwood, AR.