We were recently contacted by a network of house churches and intentional communities in Tampa, Florida called Tampa Underground/Underground Network. They recently released a book about intentional Christian community written by one of their communities that formed around 15 years ago. ‘In Your Underwear: Life In Intentional Christian Community‘ is edited by the Underground Network director Brian Sanders and is full of theory, personal experiences of the community members, and practical details of how it all works in their context.
I can honestly say I have been riveted by this book. As my wife and I prayerfully seek the LORD on our own path towards intentional Christian community this book is a reminder that we are not insane for wanting to pursue this missional way of life- and that in many ways, if we want to truly go hard after Jesus- pursuing a shared life together with other Christians is essential to embodying the Gospel.
The book begins with the chapter ‘Community as Exposure‘ and Brian starts off with a story about how he embarrasses himself by trying to run in his underwear towards the bathroom early one morning and in the process is seen by one of the other community members living in the house. He goes on to say:
“I think this story illustrates what we all decide to experience when we walk into community. We all must accept that we will get caught in our underwear. The journey into community must begin with the realization that we will all be exposed, that we will all feel vulnerable, and that we will all be subjected to the raw truth about each other. There are reasons people don’t share who they really are. People tend to hide the truth about themselves because exposure would be both embarrassing and offensive…We fear telling others the truth because the truth is ugly and because rejection is likely. We hide because we believe we will be able to preserve more relationships by projecting and protecting a false image of ourselves. I get it. But in community you kind of decide, “I am going to be exposed, and I am going to see if people will still want to be friends with me, if they will still love me once they know me.”
“…All communities are formed ultimately in their underwear. Until you get to that place of exposure, shock, and acceptance you are not really community. In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonheoffer called it the shock of disillusionment. He argued that life together is not possible until you confront and progress beyond that moment when you say, “This stinks; this is not what I signed up for, and this is not community.” In other words, we all enter into community with false expectations; the problem is we don’t know what they are. Until those false expectations about what community is and who we are as individuals within it are released, there is no chance for real community.”
“…Community is hard only because we like to hide and because we like to lie. Community is hard because we are (more than we like to admit) self-centered and arrogant…If you have no community in your life, you have no spiritual immune system. And isn’t painfully obvious when so many of Jesus’ people seem to struggle with their character, mental health, and integrity in the same way as everyone else? It is not that Jesus doesn’t make a difference; it is that the presence of Jesus often comes in the package of his people (his body), and we have tried to live more as individuals than as part of something.”
Wherever you are in your journey towards deeper and more intentional community (in it’s many forms) with other Jesus followers this book is a great resource. Check it out!
(Editor’s Note- Disclosure: Sustainable Traditions receives free books including the book excerpted above. SustainableTraditions.com is an independent website free to express opinions, reviews and excerpts unhindered by any contractual requirements to any publishers or organizations.)