Do you have ‘stickability’? I reckon that most people have a commitment-cycle of about eighteen months to two years. I can’t prove that, but it is something I’ve observed through watching people come and go with the different things with which I’ve been involved (and sometimes that has been me too). People tend to jump into something with excitement, but once it becomes more of an every-day commitment, they begin to lose interest and eventually go onto something else.
This is Part 3 of some thinking I’ve been doing around whether the Church has anything to offer when it comes to building a sustainable local community. We might like to think we do, but too often the reality is that others are doing it better than we are, and we need to join in with them in humility and learn.
But I do think our implicit faith foundations (what we might call our theology) give us some unique perspectives that we can offer into the mix. The Incarnation is one such foundation, which I talked about in Part 2, and our eschatology is another.
Eschatology, strictly speaking, is about what is called, ’the end times’. That’s a horrible phrase, which brings to mind all sorts of weird fanaticism. What it is really about though is pointing us towards the future. It asks us to think about what sort of future God is intending to bring about and how that impacts the way we live today.
There is so much that we could talk about here. For now though, I want to make the simple point that, as Christians, we are used to waiting!
We are used to not seeing everything happen as we want it right now. We are used to not seeing things being fulfilled immediately. We are used to learning how to live in patience and hope, longing for a better world and working within the limits of what we have and who we are. We are used to committing for the long term.
And that approach is vital when we are working to build sustainable communities because they do not come about overnight. And they fail. And things go wrong. And they’re not perfect. And we have to revise our strategies and change how we do things. But that’s okay – if you’ve been part of a church for any length of time you’ll be used to that.
An integral part of eschatology is the spiritual disciplines (or practices, or habits, call them what you will). Life can be a long, hard road. What keeps me going along that road is my faith and the practices that I attempt to build into my life each day that keep me rooted in Jesus and open to his presence. We need sustenance to keep going when things are tough and we can bring that spiritual dynamic into the community-building work we do with others too.
We have lived on our estate now for nineteen years. It is no way close to being a sustainable community and we have our fair share of failures and disappointments. But the long-term perspective that my Christian faith gives me enables me to keep going and looking forward in hope. I hope it does you too.