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building a community to reach a community

May 2, 2013

From "AW-Kward"  to Community 

This past Monday night the college community group I lead had its last meeting for the semester. These two semesters have been a great journey for our group. One of the things I noticed early on in this group is how calculated and cautious our students initially were about being in our group. I think this may come from what one sociologist calls our cultural obsession with awkwardness.  

Adam Kotsko says, "Awkwardness is everywhere, inescapable.  Awkwardness dominates entertainment to such an extent that it's becoming increasingly difficult to remember laughing at anything other than cringe-inducing scenes of social discomfort." Kotsko goes on to point out. "We are master at diagnosing it, if not avoiding it." 

We live in a culture where the fear of awkwardness can rob us of community because we leave it unexamined. We hate what it does to us and to others, and yet we really don't know what to do with it.  One final insight from Kotsko. 

"We're all concerned to develop our own strategies for avoiding or at least controlling social discomfort, so its perhaps understandable that so few have asked themselves what awkwardness is, what it means, what it's telling us about our age and about ourselves." 

There is really no such thing as an awkward situation. Awkwardness exists in our hearts and minds. The situation we perceive as awkward is really a feeling that comes when my foremost concern is how people are perceiving me or my perception of their social conformity. When I feel awkward I am relating to others out of a self love instead of learning how to love them better. If I perceive people as awkward, I am avoiding ways to love a person whom I perceive lacks social conformity or is difficult. This once again is self love not giving love.   Awkwardness goes hand in hand with what the Bible calls pride. 

True Christian community ought to have no interest in awkwardness.  Christian community is the refuge for awkwardness. In Christian community, we learn to welcome people for who they are and we see ourselves and others through the lens of scripture, not popular culture.  To judge ourselves and others as awkward is to pass judgment using culture rather than a biblical standard. Awkwardness can shed a powerful spotlight on our pride and fear of the opinions of others and lead us to repentance and renewal in the gospel that centers us and our perspective in our identity in Christ. As leaders, we must deal with our own feelings of awkwardness as we model for our group how to deal with theirs. 

What a powerful experience of seeing college students move beyond their initial antennas of awkwardness and share how grateful they were to experience of community this past academic year with brothers and sisters in Christ. Only the gospel that gives us a unified identity in Christ can take a diverse group of college students from cultural awkwardness to Christian community. Why would we want to following anyone other than Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!! 

Grace, Tim