Mary Ellen and Kate try to get together once a month a for coffee. They use their time together to catch up on each other’s lives and share in each other’s struggles. They always end their time by praying for each other.
Three families from the Your Town Christian Church get together every Wednesday night for Bible study. They show up at the church each week at 6:00 promptly and by 7:00, the study is over. When asked why they meet together, they share they do so because “that’s what ‘good Christians’ do.”
Mathias heads up a group for young adults in his church that meets once a month. The group has a short devotional, then plays board games together. Afterwards, many of the group go out to the local Dairy Queen for a treat.
When you consider these three scenarios, which of them do you think represents a Christian community? Would it surprise you to find out that the coffee get-together and monthly youth night were closer to the spirit of biblical community than the Bible study?
The Bible tells us in Matthew 18:20 that, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” That means that when a group of people intentionally get together to experience God’s presence and invest in each other, community is “happening.” Any occasion for interaction provides space for intentional relationship-building (that is, the development of trust, care, support, etc.) and is a place where community can develop, where God’s presence can be experienced.
Because of this, community may look different than what you have previously thought. Community might occur by:
- Calling a friend to let them know you are praying for them;
- Playing soccer or football with a group of friends;
- Running with a couple of friends on a weeknight;
- Getting a cup of coffee or ice cream cone with a friend;
- Serving on the church board;
- Singing with your church’s choir; or
- Sharing a meal together after church.
Now, if you are struggling with the idea that the Bible study may not necessarily represent a “Christian community,” and is not holistic in its nature, let me clarify: this particular study did not exemplify community because the mindset of the group members was wrong. Bible studies are a great place to foster Christian community, but a mindset focused on tasks alone kills community. If people are not investing in each other, digging into the hard parts of life together, authentically sharing their own joys and sorrows, and encouraging each other in the Lord, community (as presented in the Bible) does not and cannot occur.
Consider your own experiences with Christian community. Have you been involved in true community, or have you simply by ticking off the box by doing “what good Christians do?” If you desire to engage in authentic Christian community, how can you take concrete steps to ensure that happens?
Across the next few months, our blog will be examining different facets of Christian community. We hope and pray that you will come along on this journey with us and commit to make changes in areas where you may currently struggle. The path may be arduous, but the destination is well-worth the struggle.