A quick Google search reviews millions of references to the notion of Community. It’s a buzzword today with everyone seemingly trying to capitalize on the relational allure. We are relational beings. God created us to know and be known. So it makes sense. But it's also true that at no other time in history have we as a society been more connected because of modern technology. Yet, people have never felt so isolated and disconnected from people being a caring part of their lives.
We don’t usually think of practicing community. What’s there to practice? You either like someone or you don't. You either have regular contact or don’t. But community is more than if we simply like someone, agree with them, have the same socio-economic status, or enjoy the same things. Community is so much more than a familiar face or even a history together, though those are significant. Community also requires proximity, a “standing appointment” of sorts, so that we can be current in each other’s lives. I think God’s intention for Community is the where we work to discover our potential and find our contribution. The two go hand-and-hand. It’s where we can grow and get better through mentoring, accountability, encouragement, and teaching. But it’s also the place where we find a way to make others or the group better through serving, leading, sacrificing, and giving.
My wife, Laurel, is a marathon runner. Impressively, she runs at least one a year. A couple years ago, after training with a friend, they set out to run a race together. As Laurel told shared with me afterward, “she was trying to get rid of me almost the whole time”. Realizing she wasn’t as prepared for the race, her friend didn’t want to hold Laurel back so she kept trying to get her to run ahead. But for Laurel, it wasn’t about pushing herself to set a personal record or qualify for Boston. It was about running together. Laurel described how in supporting her friend all along the way actually energized her. What was fun was receiving a call on Monday from her running buddy. She began to thank Laurel saying, “Without you, I would’ve just walked. But you stuck with me and kept encouraging me. I couldn’t have done that without you!” There is something about being in relationship when we’re able to get better AND make others around us better too.
So what does this mean to be a faith community? The New Testament includes about 25 different references to “one another”. This is significant instruction of what God intended our collective faith to look like. It’s things like “live in harmony with one another”, “carry one another’s burdens…”, “forgive one another”, “Offer hospitality to one another”, and “have fellowship with one another”. The bottom line, church is more than an event we attend on Sundays. Church often becomes limited to Instruct, build up, sing songs, and teach one another. If all we do is attend on Sunday’s we might be inspired but we’ll miss impact. The impact of a faith community is when we begin to discover our potential and find our contribution.
Faith is something that's supposed to be both shared and practiced. And while faith is deeply personal, it's not something we're supposed to work out in isolation. The practice of community, that is the church, gives us a laboratory to know and be known. To grow and contribute. To receive while giving. To lead and to learn. This is the Power of Good. Works.