When you think about the word community, what comes to mind? Barbecues, going out to restaurants, movies, hanging out at a friend’s house? I love hanging out with people and I’m always looking forward to the next opportunity I’ll have to do so. In fact (and I know not everyone’s like this) much of my energy is directed towards sustaining my community.
Then there are times where I have some down time after skipping from social event to social event and I think, “Am I missing the point?” While these things are good and it’s healthy for us to be with other Christians, having “good clean fun”, God outlined community to be so much more. Community should encourage us, challenge us, and be utilized for accomplishing God’s work here on earth. It should have purpose and direction.
Check out this biblical reference to community, describing the early church:
“ Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.  And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.  There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold  and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
– Acts 4:32-35
The early church had a radical community of people we in our society might deem as hippies. Even if they were wearing bandannas, driving VW buses and flashing peace signs, this radical group of early Christians lived with purpose.
Here’s 3 things you can observe from them:
- They shared and were generous with their possessions, really not even viewing them as their possessions (vs. 32, 34-35)
- They were sharing what they knew about Christ (vs. 34)
- They were unified (vs. 32)
Take a look at the group of people you hang out with and what your time together looks like, and what the product of your time together looks like. Are you just hanging out to hang out, or is there more to your time with people? Is “great grace” upon all of you? Are you locked into a Christian bubble or are you spending time with non-believers and sharing your faith? Are you encouraging and challenging one another? Are you sharing your possessions and giving generously? While the expression of community the way God designed it will look different in the context of our modern culture, the heart of it remains. So look for ways to do God’s work with your Christian friends. And when you are just hanging out with other believers, look to meet needs, tangible or intangible. Look to welcome the outsider. Look to speak truth and pour grace upon your friend who is struggling. Look to encourage your friend when you see something good. Ask how you can help someone.
The truth is, we’re left on this earth for a reason. For those of us that have trusted Christ and are assured of our salvation, why wouldn’t God just take us home to Heaven at our moment of conversion? Because we’re meant to stay and have an impact on our world. We’re meant to be generous and share about Christ to a lost and dying generation. Praise be to God who designed our community so we can do this alongside others who encourage us and allow us to do more together than we ever could apart. But we must not waste time doing community that takes us nowhere. I’ll leave you to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians: