Communities Practice Vulnerability
By Pastor Scott Roberts
A community that loves and serves one another, practices times of fellowship, and incorporates others will also be a community that practices vulnerability. To understand why vulnerability is necessary, one must first understand what vulnerability is. Vulnerability means that one is exposed to the possibility of being harmed or attacked. The vulnerable person opens his or her life to others who can theoretically cause pain in return. Sometimes this pain is caused by the rejection that follows when something is revealed. Sometimes the pain is caused by others misusing or mishandling the information released. But the community that genuinely wants to develop deep relationships will be a place where people regularly practice opening themselves up to others.
Imagine a group of people who never took a risk in revealing themselves. A conversation might go something like this:
- What’s your name? I will not tell you; you might stalk me on the web.
- What part of town do you live in? If I told you, you might think less of me.
- What kind of work do you do? It’s none of your business.
Giving answers to these questions requires the risk of basic vulnerability, but many of us realize that the risk of this level of vulnerability is worth the reward that comes in making friends. It is hard to be friends with someone whose name you don’t know, whose work you cannot relate to, and whose fellowship you refuse to engage.
But it isn’t this kind of vulnerability that genuine communities need. They need a level of community that goes even deeper. People need places where they can safely talk about their marital and parenting struggles. People need to be able to be open about their psychological difficulties – struggles with depression, anxiety, fear, etc. People need to know that they can honestly answer the question, “How are you doing?” and know that the person on the receiving end will receive the answer and respond in a way that displays love and grace. We also need people who can hold us accountable in the places where our sin seems to be strong. Our battle against sin can be bolstered by others who come alongside us, not to judge us but to pray with us, to encourage us, and to share similar struggles so that we realize we are not alone in the battles of life. All of this requires vulnerability in our church community.
A community that can’t foster this level of intimacy will miss so much of what God wants for his people. We are to be people who carry one another’s burdens. Practically, this will require a high level of confidentiality, i.e., no personal conversations will be shared without permission. Furthermore, we strive for a two-way street model where those who open themselves up to others are responded to in kind. As we practice vulnerability regularly, we will find it permeating every nook and cranny of our church life. We will find that as people share, there is nothing to fear, but rather love, grace, and acceptance become more and more a hallmark of our common life. May we strive to be a vulnerable community.