I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately. And I’m not the only one; community is high on the priority list for most people who attend a church in America today. But while community is important to almost everyone, that’s about where the commonality ends. they're looking for.
It seems there are as many different opinions of what church community should look like as there are people. The church I pastor, like many other churches, is made up of all sorts of different people. We have different church and denominational backgrounds (including many with none at all), different personalities, and different life experiences. This can lead to different ideas about how “community” should function.
With so many different opinions, how do we experience community at church? In fact, what is God’s ideal for church community? Interestingly, the Biblical phrase most frequently used to describes community is “one another.” As in pray for one another, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, be kind to one another, exhort one another, teach one another, admonish one another, be patient with one another, and love one another. Two things stand out in my mind as I examine this Biblical list of “one-anothers.”
First, Biblical community is all about, well, one another! Community does not mean a few insiders reaching out to the masses. It isn’t mainly about the few pastors or elders of a church pursuing each member, which would make community a top-down thing; something done to us. Rather, the Bible is describing community as all of us reaching out to all of us. Biblical community is a delightfully organic thing, engaging every person in a thriving dance of giving and receiving. Because community is not a one-way thing, the person who walks in to a church, sits down, and waits for community to happen to them is going to be waiting a long time. And the person who goes from church to church doing this, evaluating each one on how relational the church is will almost assuredly never find what
Which leads me to the second thing: a direct implication of the “one-another” language in the Bible is that community is not something you find. Community is something you help make. Many people bounce from church to church looking for community the way we might hop from store to store in search of just the right plasma TV. But because of its one-another nature, community can’t be boxed and put on a shelf for discovery. Community is not something we find at church; community is something we bring with us to church.
Community happens when I determine to be a one-anothering kind of person, and I seek opportunities to share love, grace, patience, encouragement, and burden-bearing with those around me. It does not require me to have a socially outgoing personality. Rather, it requires me to spend enough time getting to know people that I know what needs they have, and what will encourage them. Then it requires me to take a little risk, by stepping out and meeting that need.
At that moment, you’re touching another person’s life powerfully. You become Jesus to them, you begin a strong relationship, and you make God’s church a little bit more like what he wants it to be.
And that’s way better than anything you can get from a store.
they're looking for.