I often write about the importance of being in meaningful community with other followers of Jesus. I also lament that churches frequently fail to provide significant community. While many churches offer superficial community, few are able to provide a deep, nurturing, caring place. I long for this level of spiritual kinship – and right now I don’t have it.
However, I must remind myself that community isn’t the goal; it’s the means. While it’s comfortable to bask in the embrace of people who care for each other, groups with an inward focus don’t last. They need a greater purpose. Here are three:
- Spiritual Growth: Our spiritual community should spur us on to a deeper understanding of God, intensifying our connection with him and our interdependence. I’m not talking about another class or more Bible study. We don’t need more knowledge; we need more experience. The result of growing spiritually is to put our faith in action, not inaction.
- Minister to Others: Within community, we become ministers to one another. Then we move beyond our community to minister to those outside it. We teach through doing, and we model by our actions. We learn to listen to God’s Holy Spirit, doing what he says, when he says. He might not always make sense; it may be scary and will sometimes require risk. But God isn’t asking us to play it safe; he wants us to make a difference.
- Serve Others: A third reason for community is as a platform for service. Through service, we demonstrate the love of Jesus to the world around us. When we serve without agenda or expectation, we surprise people by loving them as God loves us. Though we hope to point people to Jesus through our actions, the motivation isn’t to proselytize, it’s obedience.
But, you ask, isn’t this what the church is supposed to do?
Yes, it is, and we are the church. So let’s go do this; it starts with community.