We recently took 25 of our top leaders at CRISTA away for a three-day retreat to Miracle Ranch. Our goal was to build community and spur more diversity. CRISTA actually has a lot of diversity but we want more. We want to reflect God’s kingdom more. The more we reflect what the Kingdom of God looks like the more joy we will experience and the more winsome we will be to the world.

Community comes from the root words common and unity. What we have in common promotes unity. It is critical to know what unites us. For us, we are united by being surrendered followers of Jesus Christ. He himself outlined many times that diversity of gifts, talents, ethnicity, race, political beliefs, economic status, age and gender is to be valued and promoted. This variety helps us gain wisdom and insight. We seek to grow in our character and become more like Him. Our work is to believe in Him and seek to walk closely with Him through this life.

The life of Jesus Christ was marked by love. Scripture teaches us that God is love. He came and gave his life for every person. He said love your enemies, go the extra mile with those in need even when they are very different from you. Be generous with all you have and are. You are not here for yourself. You are here to rejoice in His presence and make this earth more like heaven.

Most communities come together because many of us like to be around people like ourselves. Age groups, political views, economic status groups make us feel comfortable and reinforce our own way of looking at the world. God wants us to strive to see things from His point of view. No one has a corner on that. Wisdom comes from listening and seeing things from other’s point of view.

Community matters. We are relational and social creatures. Studies show that when newborns are taken from their mothers and left alone, they fail to thrive. They sometimes even die.

Love matters. God’s love is the only thing strong enough to bind people with a multitude of differences together.

I Corinthians 13
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

These words are very familiar to many. Reading them or giving intellectual assent means very little. We are to be the incarnation of this kind of love. When we love like this, it creates the environment for everyone in the community to grow and thrive. To become more like Jesus.

This is my prayer for our CRISTA community.

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