In many Christian circles, the term “community” is frequently used. Pastors and church leaders stress the importance of gathering together for church, Bible studies, and group activities. But in our digital age, it is all too convenient to stay at home and avoid partaking in community.
It is easy to stay in bed on Sunday mornings and “attend church” virtually by listening to a sermon online. Additionally, we have control over which pastor we want to listen to and what kind of message we want to hear. It appears that anyone can be a dutiful Christian at home. So what’s the deal with community, and do we really need it?
Do we need community?
True Christian community happens when a group of people gather together to center on their foundational beliefs about Christ and His working in their lives.
In Scripture, it is evident that God calls us to live amongst a community of believers. Jesus did not live in isolation, but was in constant contact with the twelve disciples. If anyone is in perfect communion with God, it is Jesus Himself. Yet He chose to preach, pray, worship, and commune with twelve lowly sinners whom He took on as His brothers. Community meant something to Jesus and to the disciples as well.
The apostles left their families and homes to gather together and follow Jesus to share the gospel wherever they were called (Mark 3:13-19). Although the Twelve traveled, dined, preached, and suffered with one another, this does not mean that Christians are to isolate themselves and engage only with fellow believers. Clearly, the Twelve were called to meet with all people and “proclaim the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:14). By examining the lives of Jesus and the apostles, it is apparent that God desires for us to live in fellowship and carry out His mission together.
Opportunities for community
While attending a local church is the simplest form of partaking in community, there are various opportunities to fellowship with believers in all stages of life:
If you’re a middle school or high school student, you can get involved in youth group, retreats, and Christian summer camps.
If you’re in college, you can attend a Christian university, join Christian organizations (such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes [FCA] or Intervarsity Christian Fellowship), attend college-specific retreats, or start up a Bible study in the dorms.
If you’re a parent, you can host dinners for college students and/or other parents, attend Christian seminars and conferences, and form prayer groups.
There are a multitude of things we can do to make sure that we are interacting and engaging with one another in Christ!
What does community look like?
Now we know that community plays a significant role in our lives, and we know a few ways in which we can get involved. The next question is how exactly are we to treat one another? Let’s take a look at what Scripture has to say:
Forgive one another (Col. 3:13)
Care for one another (1 Cor. 12:25)
Be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32)
Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21)
Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
Confess your sins to one another (James 5:16)
Pray for one another (James 5:16)
Love one another from the heart (1 Pet. 1:22)
Show hospitality to one another (1 Pet. 4:9)
Instruct one another (Rom. 15:14)
Build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11)
Do good to one another (1 Thess. 5:15)
As these verses demonstrate, we are to called to love, serve, and build each other up in the faith. We are not called to live as hermits or monks, but to actively engage with one another, even when things get complicated and messy. As you may have already experienced, it can be difficult to love, forgive, and serve one another. That’s the reality – we are all sinners who encounter conflicts and inflict pain on one another.
However, in Matt. 12:50, Jesus says “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus reminds us that we are not simply a community of believers, but that we are one family and one body of church, called to love one another and serve Christ in all we do.