Community generally means people who gather together in a specific place, a town or neighborhood, with common interests, backgrounds, or causes. A more elevated meaning involves care and love. The concept of community reaches back to the beginning of time and was taught in the early church as a foundational principle. It’s still essential, even though some people have stopped attending church in local communities.
The Bible has much to say about community in both testaments, primarily through the examples and words of Peter, Paul, Jesus and others. The writer of Ecclesiastes suggests that people are designed to live in a community because community brings support and friendship in times of adversity, detailed explicitly in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Jesus expanded the scope of community, telling His disciples to start their outreach and testimony in their backyard, then reach out outside of their city and then into the world.
As Christ-followers expanded their outreach, other people would see the power of community at work. Small community groups of believers in the early church met in house churches. Even today, local churches may add life or small groups to meet regularly in homes for Bible study, service or fellowship. To function correctly, small or life groups should work as extensions of the larger church body for more significant growth and connection. They’re not meant to remove the group from the oversight or authority of church leaders or replace Sunday worship services.
With massive corruption and flagrant evil in modern culture, Christians must band together for encouragement and courage. This can occur outside of the church and in parachurch ministries, but Christians are strengthened to face the world as they constantly rub shoulders with other believers in the church. Here are some reasons why community is essential to Christian life.
It fosters connection.
When we pray for each other while gathered in a small group, we feel closer to each other than ever before. It allows us to establish trust among each other. As you spend more time together, people will share more intimate prayer requests instead of superficial ones that let us stay emotionally shallow with each other. It allows you to go deep and share your doubts, fears, and concerns about our lives and what God’s role is in our lives. This is where the church shines the most. People are starving for community and connection. In this technologically advanced world, we’re more alone than ever, and each person should be in a small group to achieve the community and connection they long for.
It holds us accountable.
We should have partners who can hold us accountable when we fall into sin. Accountability means checking in with someone regularly and telling them how they’re doing in your spiritual life. This doesn’t mean perfection from sin but rather a need to repent and participate in righteous behaviors that bring us closer to Jesus’ likeness.
It helps us be more vulnerable.
In our profession, we must be as professional as possible and not let our personal lives interfere with our work. If you’re married, you may or may not have an intimate, good relationship with your spouse. You must maintain a parent-child relationship with your kids. The church is where we can be vulnerable with one another. This may be hard for some people, but we must become more self-aware of our issues that need resolution. When we choose not to deal with our issues, we impact our spiritual lives and those of others around us. We must attempt to be as healthy as possible. We can’t bury our life issues but rather deal with them, expose them to the light, and fix them. There’s nothing in our lives that Jesus can’t help us overcome. We should be examples of people willing to look at our issues and take responsibility for our actions. We must change our lives from one of separation from God to those living with an interdependent relationship with Him.
Community lets us speak into others’ lives.
God promised that the world would fight us. Because we have shallow relationships, we don’t have the right to speak into someone’s life when they’re doing something sinful or wrong. Community helps us earn the right to speak into someone else’s life. When we can spend enough time with someone and mutually resolve the problems within our souls, we can speak into people’s lives and pray for them. This allows people not to feel judged but convicted in a way where they don’t feel alone. Our convictions should lead us to Jesus, not make us feel separated from Him. We need people who love us through our problems, flaws and all. Community helps us find people mature enough to help us when we’re wrong, help guide us when we stumble from sin, and rejoice with us in our victories.
Community helps us worship.
When we’re close to other believers in Christ, we can go to church regularly and worship freely together. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us not to give up on meeting and encouraging each other. We should keep our relationship with our local church. The local church isn’t only the place to give our money, resources, and time; it might also help us when we need it most. For example, if we’re struggling financially, churches might be the people who can help us. They might give people who want to help us out of a horrible situation. When we live free lives, we can also worship Jesus. That’s what God wants for each of us. He wants us to worship Him with all of our hearts and soul. God never wants us weighed down in the mire of sin but rather to live freely as His children.
We understand God’s love.
When we have people we can go to for accountability, prayer requests, and celebrating the successes in our lives, we can understand God’s love. There will be a day when we’ll reunite with Jesus and do that freely with Him. But, as we live our earthly lives, we must worship God in every area. When we have a genuine community with others, we can acknowledge that God loves us and that His love covers every sin in our lives. Nothing can separate us from God’s love because of Jesus’ sacrifice. If we live this way daily, we’ll understand God’s love. The community can assist us with that.
We’re not meant to do this life alone. Find a church body to let you be who you are right now. Not only that, but it’ll allow you to stay that way. Through their love, understanding, and wisdom, the community helps us increase our faith, understand who God is and become shining examples of Jesus to others.