Building Community: Getting a little definitionNov 06, 2019
When Jon and I were first married, I felt like the new kid in town. Although we lived just a few miles from my hometown, I had been away at college for a few years and had lost touch with most of my childhood friends. Our marriage was new, our home was new, our church was new (to me)–I was starting over in almost every sense of the word.
I didn’t realize quite how lonely I had become until Jon cut me off in the middle of a sentence over dinner one night: “Honey, we need to pray for God to give you some girlfriends.” It seems insensitive when I see it here in black and white, but I laughed and nodded emphatically. My poor husband absolutely was (and is) my confidant and best friend, but I had come to rely on him for pieces of friendship he just wasn’t made to fit. I needed the friendship, perspective, and support of a girlfriend or two–I needed a community.
Today we begin a series on this idea of community. What is it? Why do I need it (and DO I really need it)? Where do I find it? What if I lose it? Let’s delve into this together.
What is community?
Community has become a bit of a buzzword of late, especially in Christian circles. Community groups meet in churches and homes. Bible studies teach about fostering community. Pastors encourage community outreach alongside global missions.
But what is community exactly? For many years, your community simply meant your hometown, the people in the homes and businesses around you. As technology has brought our world together, though, the word has taken on new meaning. A community can be made up of people across state lines, national borders, and continental divides. Some communities may be full of people who have never even seen each other in person.
A community is simply a group of people with a common thread or interest. While this commonality may be a geographic location, it may also be a religion, parenting style, or even admiration for a particular author or musician.
Working toward a common goal
A healthy community builds itself around a common thread. A local community will seek the best for its township. A community built around an author may show its support by helping to promote books. The members may be diverse in nature–different ages, races, genders, backgrounds–but their common ground unites them.
Keep in mind, just because everyone wants to support their common interest doesn’t mean they won’t have disagreements about the best way to do this. A local community may be divided over whether to build new schools or invest in the existing buildings. That doesn’t mean some members care more than others, just that we are still unique, imperfect beings coming together the best we can.
Rallying around each other
A healthy community also works to meet the needs of the members in it. When one person falls, another reaches out a hand to pull them back up. We see this in spaghetti dinner benefits, Go Fund Me accounts, cookies delivered by a neighbor, and even a Starbucks gift card sent from another state.
Shortly after Joey’s diagnosis, I found myself completely overwhelmed. Depression plus running to doctor and therapy appointments plus the everyday needs of three small children left me absolutely spent. But pride kept me from asking for help. After all, everyone has their own problems, right? No one needs to worry about mine. But my small group at church disagreed. For the next few months, someone would show up at my house once a week, usually armed with something yummy, and dig in to life with me. They folded laundry, did dishes, swept my floors–all while loving on me and my kids. They provided tangible help and listening ears to help me process the complex emotions of loving a child fiercely while grieving the loss of the “typical” life we thought we had.
And here’s the really cool part: serving each other doesn’t just help the person on the receiving end. The entire community is strengthened by it! Relationships intensify and compassion grows–in both the one being served and the one(s) serving. Loving your neighbor is good for everyone. (It looks like that Jesus guy really knew what He was talking about! Who knew!)
Communities exist to work for the good of their members and their common goal. Whether with the couple across the street or that friend across the ocean, we were all meant to live in community. Come back next week and we’ll talk more about why.
What does the word community mean to you? How have you seen it at work in your life? I’d love to read your answers in the comments!
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