When I first began ministering to young professionals in their 20s and 30s I sought to understand what things were highly valued among this age group. One word that I heard mentioned repeatedly was community.
Borrowing from various explanations of what community means, here’s my definition: A community is a group of people of any size that shares common values, and exists in a given geographical area. It’s a group that is connected by enduring friendships, that defines their relationships with each other as important to their identity and worldview.
Genuine community was the hallmark of the New Testament church. They were a persecuted group of likeminded folks who clung together in love and support of each other, as they grew stronger in their faith. Francis Schaeffer said that “the early church practiced two things simultaneously: orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of visible community.”
One might think that any church or church gathering automatically produces community, but that’s not the case. Many Christians claim to want genuine community, but only want it on their own terms, when it’s convenient, and when it demands nothing from them. What they really want is a sort of club or fraternity where they pay their dues for services rendered.
Given the characteristics of genuine community, what are the practical implications? Scripture is full of the requirements for community, however, the most concise list of the essentials is found in the “one another” passages in the New Testament. These passages tell believers to:
- Love one another (John 13:34, 15:12)
- Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
- Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
- Comfort and agree with one another (2 Corinthians 13:11)
- Serve one another (John 13:1-20; Galatians 5:13)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
- Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
- Be honest with one another (Colossians 3:9)
- Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Confess to one another (James 5:16)
- Pray for one another (James 5:16)
The bottom line is this, if you are not practicing genuine community as a Christian, you are failing to “fulfill the law of Christ, which is to “love one another.”
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18