And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. -Acts 2:42-47
The Bible has a lot to say about community.
I mean, look at how we live. Independence is pushed, we have “social networking” but how often do we actually see the people we network with. We try to go it on our own. We live in isolation from others except when required at work. We are taught from a young age to do things on our own. To not depend on others.
We are taught in the church to be a community, but are we really? I think sometimes, we think we are being a community. Sometimes we really are. But many times we aren’t. We see one another on Sundays, we greet each other, we tell stories, we pray or eat… But aside from that, do we have genuine relationships? Is there genuine support?
I have been blessed to be a part of a church that promotes genuine community. To be able to share honestly. To be able to receive support without judgment. To be able to give without obligation, but out of true desire. To promote community through small groups and with the greater body.
I think the most important part of this community has been becoming connected with a small group or life group or whatever you want to call it. At least that is what it was for me.
Before moving here, I didn’t see a lot of value in small groups. I was involved with the campus InterVarsity movement, which valued small groups, but the exec I worked on was my small group. And for the first few years, the group was so small, it was a small group. I had many close friends who I went to church with an InterVarsity with and well, everywhere with. I didn’t need community, I thought. I had community. And I did. Its just it is different from the community I was about to find.
But, upon moving, I lost my community. I had no Christian peer support. I had my school friends, sure, but no real “church” friends. I bit the bullet and contacted a small group at the prompting of Patrick (my then fiancé). The group I got plugged in was a small group of university-aged women. All of whom were lovely, and it was led by one of the deacons at the church I attended. It was not an intentionally all female group (except the man who led it). He called us the “disciplettes.” I got to know and love these people. We shared meals, went to movies and discussed the Bible. It was the closest thing I had to real community since moving. Plus, the introduced me to The Princess Bride… Clearly a winner group!
The next year, when Patrick moved here, I told him how great said group was. But, the church was trying to encourage those of us in this group to start our own groups, as we were mostly capable leaders. I was rotted. What were we to do…
Somehow, we got hooked up with another couple who we had never met. A new med student and his girlfriend. And another couple who I met once or twice the year before. We started meeting. It was awkward. Yet, over time we became comfortable. We started inviting people in, pointing out we are not a couples only group, even though we were strangely all couples. Our group has grown. We are still the core 6. We went to the med student and his wife’s wedding. We celebrate birthdays together. We celebrate exams and new jobs. We are able to be blatantly honest. To share our joys and struggles. To talk about what we fear most or struggle with. To tell about a great day and our worst nightmares.
It is a “safe place.” (This became an inside joke, after one of the studies we did said to promote that the group is a safe place… The phrase became overused and a source of laughter.)
The beauty of such a group is that we always have each others backs. When I am away, they have Patrick over for meals. When someone has a bad week, we have extra treats. We pray for one another through report cards and exams and difficulties with work. We advise each other in surviving med school or substitute teaching or traveling. We go on mini-vacations together. We act as family away from family and have holiday meals together. We learn more about God and we help each other grow in our faiths. We encourage each other to read our Bibles, get involved in our community and trust God more and more.
We stretch ourselves to reach out. To invite more people in. To go beyond our comfort zones. Growth is difficult. But, as a group it is easier. We have been told we are welcoming and that we are a go-to “send people to that small group if they are new in town” group. As much as new people freak me and the others out, as a whole, the community welcomes and loves and enjoys the growth.
We are “just babes in the woods.” (This phrase was brought to use by The Message during a study of Ephesians. It implied that we need to be growing… But babes in woods are just plain hilarious.)
Tonight, we are having a pizza/games night to celebrate the match. It is bittersweet. Patrick and I are leaving in June. And though I know we will stay in touch, it is changing our community. We are basically losing our community. Next year, one of the other couples will also have to move compliments of residency training. I guess the thing is that communities change and grow. I know we will find a new community. That we still have our old community. But, it is still sad.
The group we have is the most Biblical community I have had. I am grateful for the experience. I try to convince everyone I know to become in such a community, as I feel it is valuable. That it teaches you more about yourself and your faith and the love of Christ. That is promotes a faith-based lifestyle. That the support network is invaluable. Especially when so far from home.
As a result of being so connected with each other, we are more connected with the church as a whole, as we are all involved differently throughout the church. We have different strengths and ministries and it is neat to see how things play together. It is interesting to actually know what is happening throughout the church.
I am grateful for community. For people to share inside jokes with. For friends who are tone deaf and still play SingStar. For people who pray for and with you and always have a reason to get food for celebration. For friends who volunteer to come and visit wherever you move. For God who brought the group together.
We aren’t a perfect community. I know we can be more open, more loving, more involved. But, I love that we can strive to be a community as exemplified in Acts. I love that God is preparing us a community where we go next.
Being a community is something that needs to be intentional. You need to seek out others. You need to seek out God. You need to trust Him to build up the group. You need to lead and follow and cooperate. And have a few good laughs on the way.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. –Hebrews 10:24-25
How is your community? What are your takes on Christian community in churches or within small groups?