Community, or lack thereof, is an epidemic sweeping our nation. We’ve replaced face-to-face conversations with text messages and quality time in the company of other people with time on Facebook. The contrast between these things cannot be overstated. There is a generation of Millennials who seem to value relationships less than previous generations and who give them less time.
A group of twenty and thirty year olds at my church–singles, marrieds, and those in between–discussed this question: what does community look like to you? There were a lot of different definitions of community. Some had only experienced community in family, some had experienced it only in church groups or other non-church groups, others had experienced it in combinations of groups. Some had never fully experienced community at all, having what I call a “Lone Ranger” mentality or existence. Because there were so many different definitions of community, there were different expectations of what it should be or what it should provide.
With the young adults ministry I lead, there is naturally a diverse group of people. The young twenties are still in college or just out of college, trying to start careers and lives in the real world. Our late twenties are starting families, and our thirty-somethings have older kids. It is a challenge at times to reach people in such different stages of life and maturity, with many different hobbies, passions, and interests as well. Because of this, it was hard for our group to gel at first. I tried to get the group to really bond, but it wasn’t happening.
One day, God began speaking to me about how to get breakthrough. The truth is most communities are built around one thing: a similar focus. A community is built around a “common unity.” It’s usually easy for people to find others of like interests. Unfortunately, this young adults group didn’t have many like interests; in fact, there was only one: Jesus. This led us to let our focus and hunger for God unite us. We celebrated each others’ differences—graduations, new jobs, new babies—but we allowed our time together to be pointed towards the Lord. It’s often easy for us to spend time with people who are like us, but when we celebrate others who are different than ourselves, we step up to another level of community.
Community allows you to thrive and stay healthy in tough times, and it’s community that provides strength. Proverbs 13:20a (NASB) says, “He who walks with wise men, will be wise.” In other words, he who walks in the community of wise men will gain the strength and wisdom of those men. We need people around us who know us fully, who can tell us the truth, pray for us, and give us support. The beauty of community is that you share strength and grow in ways you wouldn’t grow on your own. Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV) says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
In community, people build each other up. I believe this is truly what the body of Christ was created to do. As Christians we should never grow complacent about where we are, and that’s another role of community: people can see into your life—your gifts, the calls on your life, and, at times, the things you’re struggling with. When you allow a community of people to see into your life, they can encourage you, call you to a higher place, and come under you when you’re weak.
We need the best of others because at times, our best is not enough. When God said one could put a thousand to flight but two could put ten thousand to flight (Deuteronomy 32:20), I believe he was referring to the strength of community. Corporately we have greater strength than we do alone. Proverbs 11:14 (NKJV) says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” If we want to live purely, if we want to live wisely, if we want to walk out the call on our lives, and the ministry God has for each of us, we need the best of others. The truth is this: we have wisdom and experience, and other people have wisdom and experience, but no one has it all. The exchange of these things happens in community.
What you are looking for you will find. If community is a core value in your life, you will do what it takes to find people with the same focus as yourself. May Jesus be your focal point, and may you always find others who burn for the Lord to warm you, inspire you, and, if needed, start your fire.