In the approach to 2011 I’ve been thinking a lot about our community, considering who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Vineyard Central has always been a community that’s a little hard to wrap your arms around. Some people have described us as elusive and hard to define. I think we need to listen carefully to this critique. And the truth is, we’ve largely attracted dreamers, idealists, visionaries, reflective types, artists, counterculturals (rebels?), bohemians, and — this is the most important point — individualists.
If you know anything about Enneagram personality theory, you’d quickly identify the corporate personality of VC as 4, as the personality of the artist. Artists by nature have a deep longing for what’s real, what’s authentic. They hunger the essence of things and are unwilling to settle for less. To settle for less than the whole would be unimaginable. That deep unarticulated thirst drives a powerful creativity. But once they’ve created something — and sometimes even before they’ve finished! — they’re looking for something newer, something better, truer, more original. Ultimately they’re on a Quest for the Holy Grail, but they often can’t tell you what the Holy Grail actually is — perfect setting, perfect people, or perfect whatever. (But they’ll know if when they see it!) If you want to capture the spirit of the artist, just think of the lyrics from U2’s classic piece, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
Because artists are more typically individualists with a deeper need to be unique and special, they’re intensely wary of going along with the crowd. In fact, if most people are doing it, then whatever it is they’re doing is inherently suspect and worth resisting. To join in with “the masses” would mean, for the artist, to forfeit her/his identity as an individual. This is precisely one of the greatest fears of the artist: not being noticed as different, as unique. Artists usually won’t be vocal about their non-participation; they’ll just quietly dig in their heels and choose to stand on the sidelines.
To complicate matters, artists tend as a population to be introverted, which means they find more pleasure and energy in their private reflections than in face-time with others, especially when a larger group is involved. Introverts need more time apart from others than do extraverts.
Strangely enough, artists often unconsciously sabotage their own efforts to succeed. They want to be noticed, but to be noticed by too many people means going mainstream, appealing to the masses. To remain small and obscure means that you’ve stayed true, that you haven’t sold out to “the man” like so many others. Artists have a complicated relationship with success.
Last, artists tend to be weak in organization. They have a ton of ideas, beautiful ones at that, but they’re often woefully lacking in the ability to strategize, organize, prioritize, and mind the details all the way through completion. As a result, they start things but get bogged down in the details and end up abandoning their projects.
If I’m right about 4 (the artist) being the dominant corporate personality of Vineyard Central, the part that casts the longest shadow over us, then what does this say about the prospect of a true community among us? And just as importantly, what does it say about our willingness and ability to draw in others?
If essentially we’re mostly individualists, mostly introverted, mostly unorganized and mostly afraid to grow, then we have some serious hurdles to overcome. Without work we’ll just morph into a little Christian ghetto of people who show flashes of brilliance and play alongside one another occasionally and accidentally. Yet by the grace of God we have the ability both as individuals and as a community of faith to transcend our weakness without forfeiting strengths. In order to do that, I think it will be critical for us to do the following:
- let die any part of us that wants to be different for the sake of being different
- come together more often and more purposefully as a larger community
- get outside of ourselves and actually be with people (favor face-to-face over Facebook)
- count the cost of what we set our hands to
- set goals and place a premium on good organization
- create healthy, sustainable structures
- finish what we start; follow through on our intentions and initiatives
- embrace community-wide rhythms of life that reflect our deepest values
- make room for different voices to be heard
- make room for other gifts to be shared
- make room for newcomers
- create “sticky points” and an orientation process for newcomers (rather than expecting them just to get it by osmosis)
God is the artist, and we — the entire community of faith — are God’s artwork, workmanship, masterpiece and poem. (Ephesians 2.10) God desires to create out of us a beautiful tapestry of different colored threads, woven together through Christ in a spirit of humility, cooperation
In the next post I’ll say more about the bulleted points above. Until then, be well.
Peace to you,