In Craving Community
Lately, people around me have been craving community. We need more community, they say. More encouragement. This seems to be a strong felt need right now. And I would agree: community, a sense of belonging, deep relationships, and mutual encouragement are all very important aspects of life - and they're biblical. In pursuit of this "community" myself I've searched for it in a few places: maintaining past friendships, family, friends outside of work, church small groups, campus life etc. Sometimes I've felt successful, other times I've felt lonely and disconnected.
In a culture that seems to becoming increasingly disconnected where people feel more and more isolated - this need for community has never seemed greater.
Soooo community. How do we find it? With all this searching, there must be an answer out there. I tend to believe that if there's a deep, intrinsic need, or craving, in our hearts for something, it means that there must be something designed to fulfill it. For Christians, they often look to the fellowship of the Early Church in the book of Acts in the New Testament. Often churches see it as a "model" for how a community of believers should be. I think it's worth looking at:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [Acts 2:42-47, esvbible.org]
Community is naturally fostered when people are unified in God's mission.
To develop that deep sense of community that we all crave (with vulnerable relationships, generosity, a sense of belonging, and mutual encouragement), we need to first be unified as believers and be active in God's mission and purpose of our lives to be actively sharing our faith (Matt 28:18-20), and praying together (Romans 12:12).
Attempts at forming community around social events, games nights, or hangouts won't solely create the kind of community we desperately need. But those elements of having fun need to be included. Christians are commanded to celebrate and rejoice in our God, to make loud music, and to party! Heck, even Jesus went to weddings and drank wine. Heaven is also sometimes described as a party, with a great wedding feast when the Groom (Jesus) and his Bride (the Church) are reunited.
I often observe people who attempt to form community solely around fun. When that happens, I also meet many people who still tend to feel disconnected, alone, and seek something deeper. Fun is important, but even fun in the Bible is still centered around God, his glory, and bringing people into relationship with himself. This is God's #1 priority: to seek and save those who are lost and separate from himself (Luke 19:10). That was why Jesus came to Earth - and God calls each of us to be united with him in that mission.
The BEST community I've been part of naturally was fostered around evangelism and prayer, and seeing God work. When we joined together in God's mission to share our faith, pray for the world and our campuses, and took steps of faith together, deep community was formed. We had deep relationships that were vulnerable and honest. We encouraged one another and supported each other. We served and sacrificed for one another. It wasn't perfect - but it was life-giving and awesome.
I know this is the kind of real community that my friends are craving. But experiencing it starts with being involved with God's mission together. Just like in Acts 2, the early Church started with God's mission and deep, relational community was naturally fostered.
So if you're seeking that kind of community start with God's mission. Find others who are on board and serve Him together. Share your faith, prayer together, and see God work. Have fun too, and invite others to join. Be vulnerable with one another and extend grace - and humbly ask for forgiveness when you hurt someone else. This is the kind of community I want to be part of.