Community is dying. It is being replaced by what some would call “individualism” and its tragic! It is my contention that community is what is quickly becoming extinct in the western church. That is right, the church is NOT immune to this tragedy and in so many ways the western church seems to be embracing individualism…maybe without even knowing it.
You can’t read through the New Testament scripture and not be struck by the multiple “one another” passages found all the way through. Theirs was a society that embraced community and the church operated perfectly within that community. If a family member disowned a new believer for their faith in Jesus, the community would rally to the side of the babe in Christ and step in to fill whatever role needed to be filled. If needs arose, it was the community that would step forward and meet those needs. When joys abounded or tragedy struck, it was the community who would rejoice and/or weep with the situations. I could go on, but I think you get the point. They were not a bunch of strangers worshiping alone together…NO…they were a community doing life together, challenging each other, and encouraging one another DAILY. They didn’t do it perfectly (Exhibit A – the Corinthians) but they embraced it and did what they could to build it.
Ask yourself this question: does that look like the church I belong to?
If I were to poll those of you reading this blog my guess is the majority (not all) would say NO. Rather than community what many see (or at least the stereotype of the world about the church) is gossip, cliques, favoritism, factions, hypocrisy and so much more. Here is what I have seen…
- What I see are people gathering for an event on Sunday and then living their own lives every other day of the week.
- What I see are people so disconnected from each other that we have no idea what is going on in each other’s lives.
- What I see are people so caught up in the “business” of life that they don’t have time for community.
- What I see are people that don’t want other people in their “business” so they avoid relationships that are more than surface level…“Hi, how are you?” “Fine…oh great…I’m fine too. See you next Sunday.”
I don’t know, but doesn’t that seem so shallow…so NOT what Jesus died for us to have?
Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” If I had to guess not many people think much about the law of Christ…law seems so Old Testament! But, what Paul tells us is that community is what the law of Christ is all about! The point is that the church today cannot RUN FROM community we must RUN TO it. What does that look like? Here are a couple of thoughts…
- Put yourself out there. I know that is a scary thought. What happens if I am rejected, what happens if put myself out there and people don’t respond? Great question…remember, we were designed for relationship…it is built into our DNA. So, even if it takes some time for us to regain what we have lost, deep down all of us desire and NEED community, even if we say we don’t.
- Keep at it. My guess is that there are going to be some rejections that happen along the way. Sadly, some of those rejections will probably happen with people who claim to follow Jesus. KEEP AT IT. Anything worth having is going to take time, energy, and effort.
- Don’t let go of it. When (not if) you find yourself in the middle of community…hang on to it. The enemy will fight against community because it is so transformational. Put on the armor of God and stand against the schemes of the Devil.
- Practice forgiveness. Community is made up of people…people are flawed…we will let each other down. If (when) that happens, forgive and repeat steps 1-3.
Ecclesiastes 4 reminds us that two is better than one and a threefold cord is not easily broken. The wise man is stressing community…we would be wise to do the same. Let me finish with this…Jesus says in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By THIS (emphasis mine) all people will know that your are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”