Control: In community we still control how confessional we are. We are the gatekeepers of how much we put out there regardless of the community we find ourselves in.
Perhaps one of the reasons "Community" is not functioning at the level we hope for in meeting the "confessional" needs of our people is that we are still the gatekeepers. As an individual in a community, you are your own PR representative. You disseminate information as you desire. You spin it as you need. You test the waters of acceptance and reveal versions of the truth. You are still the guardian of what is buried the deepest. And perhaps most deadly, we often don't even know what is buried there and how it is forming and shaping our behaviors.
You know the stories, You have lived them. I know the stories and I am living them. A group meets regularly for years and many things are shared and intimacy is valued. Crisis hits and sacred ground is stood on. These are your people and the connection is tight. Then, out of what seems like nowhere you discover one of the group members is entangled in a life battle with sin and has been for years. It shakes you to the core as you begin to question the authenticity of your community experience. You review conversations like post game films, looking for the "drops." You feel cheated, lied to, let down and disappointed. You thought you knew this person and now you feel like you don't. You question if anything shared was real or was it all a lie?
These feelings and thoughts are normal in these type situations - not always accurate but normal. I think we tend to want to abandon an entire relational, community experience as untrue when we discover something like this. However, that may not be true. While a significant secret may have been kept from you, it does not discount all the rest of what you know and love about a person. Once we grieve the loss we feel, I pray we can find it in our hearts to continue in community with people who are struggling with holiness but still in love with the Holy One.
But why does this happen...In "Community?" My answer is that whether we are in community or not, we are the gatekeepers of our deepest secrets. Community does not necessarily change this - it just provides us close spiritual friends to hide our real struggles from.
So, what does change it? I am beginning to think that the solution to this one, is when the focus shifts from community and moves to encouraging individuals to begin a journey of self discovery. A journey that includes discovering our woundedness. Uncovering our pains, our triggers and our hurts. Naming them safely with one who is equipped to walk with us, and replacing them with words of Truth about our identity and our purpose. And then when the lies of the deceiver are thrown out and the words of Life from I AM are taken in, we can begin to get honest about who we are and how we live. A group of people all on a journey to healing their hearts and making them a place for Truth to reside and resonate can then form community that is really authentic.
Bottom-line as I see it today. Our desire for confessional environments to spring up out of community are certainly noble. And sometimes they do. But, creating a group of some kind and assuming the the group environment is enough to make confession happen is flawed and naive at best. I think we would see more authentic confessional community happen if we focused some attention on assisting our people in getting emotionally healthy to prepare their heart for the fruit of confessional living.