by Jess Brock
What is community?
When you hear this word, do you connect to it? Do you feel joy when you hear it, or does it make you feel bitter and sad because it is the furthest thing from what your life looks like right now? If you feel like you don’t have community, what is keeping you from having it?
I believe God designed community to be a blessing, but it is something that we must be willing to fight for.
When I think of the word community, I immediately think of the word discipleship. Over ten years ago I had the opportunity to be a part of the Crossroads Discipleship Home (CDH for short) through Clayton King Ministries where I devoted a year after college to be in intentional community with other believers and intern with this ministry I love and believe in. During that year I started to realize that whatever you put into something is what you get out of it, especially when it comes to community.
Being in community with people is simply living life together - in the highs and in the lows of whatever circumstances may come.
Being in true community with people is being transparent and vulnerable with others. Taking off the mask and letting them into your “real reel” spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Being known by people and knowing your people is the only way to find true freedom, authenticity, accountability, and fellowship.
Authentic Christian community like this takes time and intentionality. Sometimes you even have to fight for relationships, confess sin, ask for forgiveness, and forgive others. It is not always “rainbows and butterflies” (thank you Maroon 5), but it’s worth it!
So what does scripture say about community? Paul's words in the book of Romans is a great place to start. Here are four reasons why community is something we should work for from the book of Romans:
1. Because we were made for it.
We are created to be in community because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and God is a part of a community through the Trinity. This perfect community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is our first and perfect example of community.
I am sure you have heard the saying “We are better together” or “You can't do life alone”. Both of these phrases have so much truth in them. Paul's letter to the Romans ends with him talking about the practical application of true Christian community. I think he did this because in order to understand and live out the commands listed throughout Romans, we need community to help us. We need community to point us to truth, to encourage us, to hold us accountable, to help us know Jesus better, and to become more like Him.
2. Because we are called to die to ourselves.
In order for true Christian community to work, you have to die daily to yourself and live for God. It doesn’t sound easy, and that's because it isn't. Daily surrender requires discipline. Spiritual discipline is a practice that will transform our minds and allow our sinful and worldly self to die in order for our soul and spirit to be aligned with Him and our community.
Paul implores us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, and he says that it is our spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1). So to worship, praise, and glorify God, we are to live in His Spirit and die to our own desires. And praise God that His desires are better that our own! We can do this because of the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He is our helper, and in Him, we have life.
Paul goes on to say in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…”. Paul is telling us that spiritual disciplines are so important in the daily fight to die to ourselves and live for Christ. We have to practice things that renew our mind like prayer, studying Scripture, service, and confession to our community. These things help us to remember that we are here on Earth first to glorify God. We are His first.
3. Because we belong to each other.
Paul states in Romans 12:5 “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all others.” For me, this is one of the biggest markers of a true Christian community - belonging to one another.
I am a mother of two children who are four and two, and we are in the throes of parenting. At times it feels like I am losing in the battle of disciplining my children, and I honestly feel tired at the end of most days. In these moments it doesn't help to hear a mom who has gone before me say, “Enjoy this time dear, they are only little once!” No. What I need is a mom who has gone before me to come take my children for an afternoon so that I can regain some sanity! That is the epitome of belonging to each other in my season of life!
The Body of Christ is constantly learning, growing, and in need of some encouragement and each other. When we know a part of the Body is struggling, how can we help him/her by not just saying “hang in there”, “try harder”, or "I hope it gets better,” but actually doing something to help.
In order to be active in our commitment to belong to each other, we must understand that someone's struggle affects not just them alone, but the entire Body of Christ.
We have the gift of community right here for us to take: to know Christ and to be known by Christ, to know others and to be known by others.
4. Because it teaches us how to love each other the way Jesus loves us.
Paul later in Romans 13:8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Paul is saying we are to be in debt with one another in love. We are to continually owe each other love.
We see in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 what love is: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…”.
We are to be in debt to each other with patience, kindness, gentleness, truth, forgiveness, and hope.
Being in “love debt” to each other helps us to belong to each other as well. This debt helps us to love our neighbor as ourselves. It helps us to be Christlike to each other. By exhibiting these acts of love, we protect our community from slander, hurt, pain, bitterness, jealousy, and comparison. When we love, we can strive to live in the abundance of true Christian community - praising our Creator, knowing Jesus more, and making Him known.
I believe that community is for everyone and available to everyone, and that it is often the way we see and experience God’s love for us.
I pray that if you answered the first question with “no, I don’t have community” that you would try again. I pray that you would put yourself out there and not give up. We are all learning and growing, so I pray we can extend grace to each other as we seek community. I also believe the Lord will answer your prayer for it.
I pray that if you are experiencing true Christian community that you will remember the debt you owe to love and seek ways to pay that debt to the people you belong to.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 15: 4-6