Small steps in faith

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Pronoun "we"

I'm reading a book called "Looking For God" by Nancy Ortberg. I actually went to look for a book by her husband and the title of the book caught my attention.
I just read a chapter about Community which had some awesome definitions of what a community should be. She also gave an example of an exercise they did which demonstrates how easily we can exclude others.

"We don't usually think of community as a powerful word. We've diluted its meaning, redefining it so that its now soft and unword.
Rightly understood, however, community is very powerful. It is God's people living together with God at their center. It's the ways of life out of which evangelism and discipleship emerge. Community is where we learn the truth about ourselves, where we are deeply loved, where walls are broken down, and where people who are usually excluded are included.
Community has its own language. And when it comes to community, pronouns are everything. In community, first person singular moves to first person plural: from I to we.
In community, a deep solidarity with others can be found. In community, an identification and collaboration with others occurs. In community, it really isn't all about us. The kind of sacrificial, others-focused love that Jesus puts within our reach is reflected in the big word we. In using that pronoun, we move our focus off of ourselves and onto the bigger picture of others."

She goes on in the chapter to describe an eye opening exercise:

"One weekend,Jarrett opened his message by asking for 10 volunteers to come up on stage. He asked nine of them to stand off to the side and form a close circle facing each other. Then he talked directly to the one remaining.
"Your mission , should you choose to accept it, is to get into the middle of that circle in fifteen seconds. You can do whatever it takes to get in. Pushing,shoving,tickling, even drawing blood is okay." While Jarrett was describing the challenge to the guy, we could see the circle getting tighter. They began to talk among themselves and finally came up with the strategy of locking arms, touching legs, and slowly rotating the circle to keep this guy from getting in.
During the next fifteen seconds, this twenty-two year old guy tried desperately to penetrate the circle. Finally, to the cheers of the crowd, he was able to push apart two bodies and dive in. He did it!
It took a minute or so for the ten volunteers to find their seats and the congregation to settle down. Then Jarrett spoke slowly.
"When I gave the instructions for this exercise, what is the one thing I never said?"
"I never told the group to keep him out of the circle"
It's almost instinctive isn't it? None of us would ever intentionally decide to lock arms and rotate, but with the turn of a shoulder, and the averting eye, we communicate to someone that he or she is not included."

I honestly believe that if you are going to create a community whether it's a church, ,small group, or whatever you have to use "we" not "I". You have to be aware of things that may make others feel excluded.


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