Inspired By Community

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- Aaron Monts

“This could very well be the biggest risk we ever take,” I said to my wife as we packed our car to move half way across the country from the suburbs of Chicago to the city of San Francisco.

“Let’s hope not.” She responded. 

She’s brilliant that way. Pushing me to think beyond the notion that a cross-country move would be the greatest risk of our lives. However, in my stubbornness I didn’t hear her. For me, the move was the risk. Leaving comfort and stability, leaving friends and family, leaving: that was the risk, everything else was simple.

Church planters often believe the largest risk you take is moving to a new place. This is what we celebrate; this is the boldness we admire. However once we arrive at our destination, we slowly begin to tap out on the risk front and resort to the proven methods and models that will help us build yet another good church in a city we believe is desperate for another good church. We lose the art of the risk.

This is complacency, plain and simple, and whether we’re a church planter, a stay-at-home-parent, a writer, accountant, salesperson or student, we’re all susceptible to this same mode of living. 

John Eldredge wrote, “Life is not a problem to be solved; it is an adventure to be lived. That’s the nature of it and has been since the beginning when God set the dangerous stage for this high stakes drama and called the whole wild enterprise good. He rigged the world in such a way that it only works when we embrace risk as the theme of our lives, which is to say, only when we live by faith. You won’t be happy until you’ve got adventure in your work, in your love, and in your spiritual life.”

Two years after launching IKON Christian Community I had cozied up to complacency. I sat back and applauded myself for moving so far, for risking so much. I allowed others to regularly affirm me for taking such a big risk, even inviting them to applaud me in a gross display of self-aggrandizement. I was living in a fantasyland constructed to reassure me that risk was no longer necessary. I had arrived.

Complacency (mixed in with a healthy dose of pride, in my case) leaves us not only stagnant, but a repugnant, putrid, steamy pile…

One Sunday morning after going through the motions (yet again), the unspeakable happened. Through the windows of the building I could see the commotion of people gathering around a bus stopped in the middle of the street. Underneath the middle wheels of this accordion-style bus were two legs eerily visible. A man had been hit, run over, and dragged by a city bus.

I stood there horrified not really sure what to do when out of the corner of my eye I saw see four people from our community rush out the door and underneath the bus. They rushed in to be with the man, to check his vitals, to pray with him, to comfort him, to calm him until the fire department arrived.

The sweet aroma of risk began to fill the air.

Never before have I been more inspired by the actions of others than I was in that moment. Not only was I inspired by their self-less risk, in that moment I recognized my own complacency. I was stirred and awakened from my delusion. For the first time in years I saw the beautiful, redemptive work of risk playing out before me.

Complacency is the concrete expression of our love affair with individualism. It is only through communal engagement that we can be set free.  

Many have been quick to cast aspersions on community and church, in fact it is highly in vogue these days, yet it is here that we can find inspiration. It is within the church and as a contributing part of the community that we can be moved to see beyond the self, beyond the individual, beyond our delusions and our self-aggrandizement. It is here that we can be set free from complacency and into a life of beautiful, redemptive risk.

My story has no ending, simply because it is not finished. This move from complacency to risk is a work in progress I am undertaking with a community of people who continue to challenge and inspire me to see bigger and wider, who provoke me to dream bigger dreams that require amounts of risk I’ve never before exercised. The journey from complacency to risk is just that, a journey, but a journey that no one can undertake alone.

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Aaron Monts is a Christian, soon-to-be-father, pastor, avid reader, and baseball fanatic living in San Francisco, California. He attended Lincoln Christian University earning a Master of Arts in Contemporary Theology and Philosophy before continuing his vocational calling as a pastor. Aaron is the founding pastor of IKON Christian Community, a new community planted in 2009 dedicated to uniting people with Jesus to change the world they inhabit. There should probably be something witty here, but there isn’t so instead follow him on twitter @aaronmonts or check in on the blog he infrequently updates: aaronmonts.com