Whether you’re outside, new to, or have been around the Christianity for a while, one thing that most of you have probably noticed is that you can’t get too far without someone talking about “community.” Sometimes it sounds weird, and unfortunately it’s become a topic so talked about that it’s slowly fading into the category of cliché and irrelevant. But is this true? Or is community something that we were created for? Let me offer a few thoughts:
1. Cliché or not, we need it.
Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
Authentic community is good and pleasant according to the Bible. When we work together, care for one another, respect each other, etc. we come together in unity as a body of believers. This should bring us great joy! It’s not something we should simply hope for, it’s something we need to do!
Another reason we need Christian community is that it’s a crucial way in which we show the world that we are truly followers of Christ. Jesus says there’s credibility that comes when people see the gospel transforming our lives. Real community shows the world who Jesus really is. What do people see when they look at our lives? What do they see when we interact with each other? Is it attractive? Do they see us working towards unity, or do they see people busy building our own little kingdoms?
2. Living in community takes hard work.
Expecting community to come easy usually results in disappointment. It’s something we must be willing to work hard at. And that hard work isn’t simply doing “church things.” Tim Keller, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC says…
Christians expect to find community by attending church services and coming to a small group. However, it’s possible to do these things without adding the elements that create real community. Because of our idols and the habits of our heart, church events simply become places that individuals “focus on themselves in the presence of others.” Rather, it takes deep reflection and costly commitment to live in community.
Keller says we turn good things – church, Veritas, Vintage Greek, small group, etc. into things we use just to focus on ourselves. We act like consumers that get what we want and move on. But this isn’t what community is meant to be at all. It’s not supposed to be “me focused.” It wouldn’t be costly if it were all about us.
Rather, cultivating community is challenging. We have to be intentional with each other. We need to ask good questions, listen well, and be willing to get past the superficial. A huge component of community is living life together. This means we’ve got to go deeper, carry each other’s burdens, encourage one another, and hold each other accountable. We want it, but are we willing to put in the work it actually takes?
3. Community isn’t an end in itself.
Our goal should never simply be to “get community.” It should never be the end in itself. Rather, it should point us to Christ because it’s only by Him that we’re able to have community in the first place.
Dietrich Boenhoeffer in his book Life Together says it excellently...
It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren… Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what He has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by His call, by His forgiveness, and His promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He gives us daily.
God has certainly blessed all of us with opportunities to get involved. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to get involved. Come to Veritas. Join a church. Join a small group. But remember, don’t just consume. You’ll only be disappointed and let down. The hard work is worth it! Real community should create real change, leading to a deeper relationship with Jesus.