“There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from immersion and embrace of community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, is the setting in which Christ is at play.” – Eugene Peterson (Christ Plays in 10,000 Places)
Growing up I remember how lonely it got in my middle school years, not having grown up in the town we were living in, trying to adjust to new relationships at school, and really struggling to find a friend. It wasn’t until I got into ninth grade that I found the community and friendship I was looking for.
I joined our “Jr. High” football team that year and got to really get to know some guys on the team. Throughout my freshman and sophomore year in high school, I played football, ran track, and just got involved in a lot of stuff. I went to church every week with my family and got to make some good friends at the youth group meetings there. Community became very important to me.
Now that I’m an adult, with four kids of my own, I’ve come to realize how absolutely critical it is to have some people my wife and I can share life with. Every week we have a group of people from our church that gets together to talk about life together, to pray together, and to just hangout together. This is a small group that exists for the purpose of just giving us some real relationships that we can safely and honestly share our stories and our lives with on a regular basis.
Small group is a great thing.
Today I want to just give you 3 reasons why you need community. I hope this will challenge you, if you aren’t in relationship with some people, to get into it. Dig in. Roll up your sleeves, and begin.
- Community gets you connected. In our highly individualistic culture, the temptation for most of us is to try and go it alone. We have self-made millionaires, celebrity leading men and women, and one hit wonders. Our culture values the individual above all else. We have one American Idol each year, we have one Voice champion each year, and we have one Dancing with the Stars winner each year. We love to see the individual rise to the top… but rarely do we see the community around them that helped them get there. Often times, we see that person very lonely at the top, and we never see the angst that they are going through as they struggle with that position. Community gets you connected to a group of people who aren’t like you who you can bounce ideas off of and who can begin to see who you really are over time.
- Community acts like a mirror. If done right, being in community with other people can actually help you see yourself as you truly are. You can be in relationship with a group of people who accept you for who you are and also who aren’t afraid to call you out when you are in the wrong. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes. You need people who can mirror back to you what you are putting out there. And you need them to show you your flaws so you know what and how you can change.
- Community is how you follow Jesus. You can’t be a follower of Jesus Christ and not be in community with a group of people. I know this is going to offend some of you reading this today.. but it’s just the truth. Whether or not you believe it, you need the church community to grow in your faith. You aren’t going to simply grow spiritually because you read some books or listen to some audio sermons. You aren’t going to magically become a mature believer by isolating yourself from relationships because you are afraid of risking your heart again. Growth happens primarily in struggle, in risk, in pressure, and in relationships. You are going to find people that rub you the wrong way. Instead of resisting relationship with them, press in. Jesus traveled with 12 young men who apprenticed themselves to his way of life. I guarantee they didn’t all get along all the time. Scripture gives witness to this truth. Being in community is how you follow Jesus. There is no other way.
I hope today was an encouragement again, even a challenge to your thinking about being in community. A lot of us have found ourselves distanced from the church because we are afraid to get back into unhealthy relationships or even misguided teaching and unauthentic community.
I want to push back against this human tendency to avoid risk in relationship. There is a treasure of community waiting to be found in the church in your town. But first you must risk your own comfort and your own heart to jump into relationship and community with other people.
You cannot ever fully be yourself by yourself. So get connected, get seen, and get into community.