The idea of community is a tough one. There are lots of questions about how and when and where and who and all that, and no one I know purports to know all of these things. Even for a lot of this post, I won’t answer the questions, but I pray they and some of the things I include will lead you to prayerful consideration. In them, there are a few things that I think we (read: I) throw out sometimes with the proverbial bathwater, namely the importance of community. First, we know it’s important to our Triune (read: relational) God, as it is right next to loving Him as the second part of the greatest command, as in “love our neighbors as we love ourselves.” God even explicitly says in Genesis that it is not good for man to be alone. Regardless of how well we do naturally in building/living in community, it’s a process that is a constant for us in all seasons of life, as people come and go. Community done well is one of the most fulfilling places where we can spend our time; however, growing relationships (and maintaining them!) is one of the hardest endeavors we will face in our lives. We know that even in the Church, we are broken pieces working with other broken pieces to make up the beautifully irregular yet complete mosaic of God’s people. So to recap, incredibly worthwhile and incredibly difficult. Got it.
Another thing might be the look and feel of community. As Pastor Tom mentioned in his sermon this week (you can listen here), we are called to be more than a social club or an acts of service group. So…what then are we? Just as Paul writes to the church at Corinth, we are members of the same Body and of one another. So that means we are to be believers who are of one mind with each other, acting in different parts for the same purpose: making much of Jesus and serving/loving people. There is also value in relying on each other – one coworker, one family member, one neighbor helping another – but what else is there? Sometimes it seems that the parts are so broken, the members so different, that there could be no way that they could work together. Is it really worth it? The temptation for many in an individualistic culture is to just forego the whole thing. But is that part of the abundant life God offers?
The other big thing is the value of community. Just as when the disciples came together to follow after Jesus, there is a messiness to getting started, to keeping it going, and to adding others to it. They didn’t really understand a lot of what Jesus was doing at the time he was doing it. They didn’t all know each other before they set off together. They didn’t have the same skill sets, and they certainly didn’t all come from the same background. But they were following Jesus. Translated to another phrase, it wasn’t up to them, because it wasn’t about them. The same is true for us: it’s not up to us, because it’s not about us. Jesus made the community happen, because it’s about Him. Imagine if Peter had been so overwhelmed by starting anew in community that he never got started. It takes a whole lot of guidance by the Holy Spirit to live that out. It takes vulnerability and rejection and loss and focus on Jesus and others first to get the full picture of the best of what community is and means, which is (if I’m honest) probably the opposite of what I might think I want. But we are following Jesus. If he says it’s worth it (and he does), then may we all reconsider!