I am very excited about the new book from Heather Zempel, Community is Messy. If you have spent one minute as part of a community of people, especially people trying to be more like Christ but fully aware of their sinfulness, you know that the statement is true, community is messy. It is hard, it requires effort – but it is what we are called to do and so worth it.
Zempel has written this great read for those thinking about small group ministry. I wouldn’t call it a how-to but instead a reflection of what has and has not worked for Zempel’s church in Washington, DC. I enjoyed the book thoroughly, partly because I was reminded of my time serving with Heather as I learned a ton from her – but mostly because there is great wisdom in the book for those doing this ministry and attempting to build community among believers.
Among the most important take-aways from Community is Messy is the experimental mentality that flourishes at National Community Church. They are willing to try most anything and while they hope to succeed, failure does not scare them. In the book Zempel labels some things failures that I might suggest were successes but for different reasons. The message is that you have to be willing to experiment in your context to see what might invigorate your community while maintaining what is important to every church.
Zempel also claims that discipleship is not linear – the systems of discipleship are unique for each individual. I love this piece because I serve in a context where it is often suggested that we have a common engineering mindset and uniformity is desired – and everything has to be linear! But in reality, each discipleship path is unique and we have to be open to that truth and pursue it.
In the book Zempel also reminds us that growing people follow well. It is a testament to our desire for growth if we are good followers and all of us experience seasons of followship and this is healthy and important for our growth.
As I read the book one thing that stuck out to me about Zempel’s character is her willingness to highlight the work of others. The book is full of name dropping of regular servants in the church. By doing this not only does Zempel honor those she serves with but she shows her humility.
Maybe the best thought I pulled from Community is Messy was that God gives us the faith & passion we need to endure even in the mess. Community is worth it for God’s glory and he empowers us to achieve it in all its dirtiness and mess. Read this book.