Sustaining Dynamic Community


We arrived today at Westmont College for CRM’s World Wide Conference in Santa Barbara, CA. This unique, every-four-year event brings together all of those serving with CRM around the world and their families for five days. Close to 700 people will participate.

So why are we doing this? Why go to all this effort and expense?

In May of 1997, during a discussion prior to the first such event in Hungary, those of us in CRM leadership were wrestling with this very issue. John Hayes (who leads InnerCHANGE, CRM’s order among the poor) eloquently articulated (as only John Hayes can) the importance of such a gathering and why InnerCHANGE staff – who probably have the least amount of money available to apply toward such an event – were committed to attend.

I was so impressed by his arguments, that I asked him to put those words into writing. What resulted is a timeless explanation of why getting people together like this is an essential in an apostolic movement such as CRM. John’s words today are as timely as when they were written almost a decade ago when he said:

“Years ago, I ransacked the gospels for practical insights into sustaining dynamic community over the long haul since that was important for InnerCHANGE (and CRM as our larger apostolic community) if we were to survive in our ministry.

In the short term, I sensed community would come naturally and easily. . . as we were all pioneers thrown excitedly together in some difficult, challenging contexts. But I was concerned that we would fall prey to the deterioration of relationships that seems to mark so many movements or organizations with the passage of time.

Luke 4:24, in which Christ references the proverb, “A prophet is without honor in his home town” seemed to speak a warning to our hope of maintaining a close, relational atmosphere for the long haul. What we wanted was more than “team,” more than “organization,” it was family. And as family we enjoyed a natural intimacy. But with family comes familiarity, and with familiarity came the tendency to under-appreciate one another or even diminish one another.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is simply a more contemporary restatement of the proverb Jesus quoted that was circulating in His day, and we have wrestled with symptoms of that same contempt. One of the symptoms of under-appreciation I have occasionally noticed manifesting itself is a resistance to attending important functions like annual conferences or a cynicism about gathering at other times as staff.

I believe that when organizations first begin they gather naturally with joy and eagerness regardless of the agenda. There is a tacit sense that gathering as family has value for its own sake. Families gather. They nurture one another. They sharpen as iron sharpens iron.

However, with time, as the “prophet-in-his-hometown-syndrome” begins to deflate our sense of one another’s value, a subtle transition can take place. No longer is it important intrinsically to gather together—-we must know the agenda and know that the agenda of the gathering is “worth our time” or “worth all this money.”

I am not suggesting that agenda is not important or need not be discharged in an excellent manner or that costs are difficult to bear—-I am suggesting that when our concern about the agenda of a conference or the cost supplants the value of gathering as our unique, apostolic expression of the Body, we are in danger of under-appreciating one another and “professionalizing” our relationships.

So I believe as we gather in Hungary in 1998 as the CRM Family from around the world (or any other time we gather together) we will be expressing again the value we have in one another’s lives intrinsically as a John 13:34 community over and above simply what we can “take” from one another or from the conference presentation to advance our personal learning curves. For many reasons, being in Hungary is important, but this reason alone should be justification enough.”

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