Community. We hear this word so much. What does it mean? What does it look like? There are a hundred different books by a hundred different authors who could give you a much more academic explanation, but practically speaking, these are some things I’ve learned (and am still learning).
It Takes Giving Before You Will Get
It’s easy to think ‘I’ll just wait till they invite me’, ‘I need to talk but I’ll wait till someone asks me how I’m doing’, ‘I want to get to know them better but I don’t want to impose, so I’ll let them take the first step.’ We all think these things. For the majority of people I’ve talked with, these are recurring thoughts that they struggle with. We have to set some of our cultural social rules aside and just jump in. Some of us are naturally outgoing and fluent in conversation. Some of us (raises hand) are pretty awkward at initial conversation with someone. But I’ve learned you just have to fake it and go for it. Invite someone over for dinner. Suggest getting together for coffee. Stay a little later at small group then you normally would. Express interest in someone’s life. Share that random tidbit about your day that you think no one else really cares about. Most people (like you) are simply waiting for someone else to take the first step.
It Takes Work (A Lot)
Once you establish community, you have to maintain it. But you are attempting to maintain it with a varied group of people who have different personalities and communication styles, not to mention different ideas and understandings of how community should look, on top of different schedules, lifestyles, circles of influence, wants and needs.It’s complicated and hard work. You have to pursue realtionships with people and seek out opportunities to share life. You have to maintain the mindset of humility, love, self-sacrifice, and serving -looking out for the other people in your community who are in turn looking out for you. The moment you turn slightly inward and begin thinking about yourself, the whole thing falls apart.
It Takes Ownership
Community isn’t something you go to or attend. You can go to a community group without it being your community. We have to invest in our community. We have to be willing to sacrifice our time and money, but not just sacrificing it, seeing it as an investment. Whether it means cooking a meal, listening to someone, having people over, it’s all an investment in the growth and development of the community. We also have to take responsibility for our community. How are the people in your community doing? How might you be of help? Are there ways that your community could improve? Are you living out what you say you want your community to be about? We can agree with all the right concepts without actually feeling the burden and taking on the responsibility of playing our part to make it happen.
It’s Going To Look Different For Different People (And that’s okay)
You won’t have the same depth and type of relationship with everyone in your community. You will find some best friends, some close friends, some people you admire but don’t talk with as much, some people that you pour into, some that pour into you-and that’s okay. That’s how it’s meant to be. A common misconception about community is that everyone is best friends with everyone and everything you do and share with one person, you should be doing and sharing with all people. Jealousy and envy easily can creep in here. Don’t get stuck in the trap of comparing your relationships with everyone else’s (or what you percieve everyone else’s to be!). Community really isn’t about finding people to hang out with, and it’s definitely not another social club. Which leads us to..
It’s Not About Me (Or Anyone Else In The Community)
Community isn’t a social activity for us to find things we enjoy doing and fill our extra time (who has extra time?) It’s not a place primarily for me to have my social, emotional or even spiritual needs met. Community, like all aspects of the Christian life, is a reflection of our King and His coming Kingdom. We represent the gospel in the way we interact with each other. We represent the gospel in the way we fail each other (sin), the way we reconcile (forgiveness, grace), the way we sacrifice on behalf of one another (like He sacrificed on behalf of us). Community is a stirring up of our hearts that are ever prone to fizzle out. It’s not just a place to confess where we’re failing, but a place where we can push each other forward and remind each other ‘Don’t settle, keep going, there’s more, we have a mission and it’s worth it.’