In an effort to answer the question of what we mean when we say we’re “in” at Evergreen, we came up with 6 “core commitments.” These are what we ask people to look at, be aware of and commit to when deciding to become a part of our church community.
The second one is: On Presence
Part of being a part of a community is being present. We commit to being present physically, emotionally and spiritually at community events whenever possible, and present to others in the community, giving them the gift of our attention, our wisdom and our friendship as well as our prayers. We commit to time spent with each other, formally and informally, whether in Sunday gatherings, home groups, or in each others homes and over meals, and seeking a balance in our relationships between those within the community and those who are not.
What does this mean?
Simply put, you’re not really a part of a community unless you are there. When the community is together, you are a part of things, and more, your presence extends beyond merely being physically present all the way to emotional presence, attending to what is happening in the lives of others and how God is at work there.
To many people, church is something I engage with like I engage with my local coffee shop- I go when I like, when it’s convenient, and when nothing else better is happening. Otherwise, I’m not there. I certainly would never say “I can’t do such-and-such tomorrow- I need to be at the coffee shop.” Well, I might say that if I really felt as though that coffee shop was the center of my experience of community, that I went there not simply to get my needs met (caffeine!) but also to meet the needs of others. What if there were people there who needed me?
Believe it or not, we think this is how church and home communities and other pieces of our ecclesiastical life should be to those who have said “Yes” to following Jesus. It’s not a matter of going when I feel like it, or even when I don’t have anything better going on- it’s a matter of choosing to make these people, this community an integral center of my life- of worshiping and seeking God together with them, of allowing them into the burdens I am bearing and helping others to bear theirs, of listening to God together and responding appropriately. We just don’t think one morning a month or every couple of months is going to suffice for that type of communal experience.
So, no- we don’t track attendance and won’t call you the first Sunday you miss, or the first time you’re not at home community or some other community event. But yes, we all notice when you haven’t been around and we really want you to be present. No, we don’t want it to get to the point where the only people you know or hang out with are people from Evergreen, but yes, we want the life of this community to be so integrated into your life, that it’s a natural thing for you to begin to connect people from the other parts of your life, friends, neighbors, co-workers and family to what is happening at Evergreen.
Let’s care enough about each other to actually show up, be present, and even say more often than not- “No, I can’t join you for brunch Sunday morning- but I’d love to invite you along with me to Evergreen, and then we can grab lunch after.”