The value of community

From the very beginning, you were created for community. It is the only place where you will flourish because God has ingrained a need for relationships in you. Firstly, a relationship with the triune God, and secondly, relationships with the community of believers that God has placed you in or is prompting you to be a part of.

To me, the Church community has looked like delivering meals to new moms, having playdates and sleepovers so that we could give parents’ friends a break, staying in our rooms to create privacy for my parents to counsel people experiencing actual loss, and being babysat by my older siblings as my folks counselled engaged couples and newlyweds. For all significant life moments, I have watched the biblical community being represented in my home.

The thing about my memories of growing up in a church community-focused home is that they weren’t always pleasant. I didn’t enjoy giving up my mom’s attention so she could help young girls without a motherly figure. I didn’t enjoy being at every Church meeting, the first to arrive and the last to leave. And I didn’t enjoy the preparation it took to host and comfort and support the people around us. Sometimes community felt like a sacrifice. That is the core of community: it’s not just about your comfort or enjoyment, it’s about working together to collectively look more like Christ to believers and onlooking unbelievers.

True community refines individuals to look more like Jesus. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens [and influences] another [through discussion].” Remaining in community creates a space for accountability to be developed, we are supported by people who have more experience than us and we’re given the privilege of learning how to follow Jesus, exercise our giftings and in turn, disciple others.

The Bible says that we laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry. When the difficulties and triumphs of this life wash over us, we are designed to rely on the Holy Spirit AND the community He has planted us in. Hebrews 10:24-25 challenges us to “consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.”

There is a reason this passage comes as a challenge to believers, we need to be reminded to stay committed, to always be encouraging and to look for opportunities to do good things for those around us. We are not perfect people, and until the Lord returns and restores all things, the church community will not be perfect either. If you are feeling disengaged or discouraged by the church community- ask for help! All it takes to shift our perspective is to be on the receiving end of true community instead of the giving end.

Offense, hurt and pride will continue to be a weapon the devil uses to divide us but see these things for what they are- tools of the enemy. Unity and community do not happen by chance, we need to continually decide to fight for them and we can be confident that the Lord will bless our efforts. Ephesians 4:3 says “Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful].”

As believers, community is essential. While we have a personal relationship with God, we are one body that serves him and should not separate ourselves from the church. Therefore we must do our part to establish a unified community, representing Christ’s love.

 

By Lindi Marais