“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47)
When my husband and I got married, we committed to always being engaged in a small group of believers that would intentionally gather to pray, and live life alongside of each other. Over the years, we have found that the safety net of community has exponentially strengthened, challenged, and encouraged us. We share life with other believers, we desire to truly know others: their struggles, their joys, and to share in “doing life” alongside of one another. I am convinced that more than once our community group saved our marriage, saved our families, and pointed us to Jesus like a lighthouse guides a ship safely to shore. These friends became family to us, and they got their hands dirty investing in our lives. When we moved to another part of the country, one of the hardest parts was saying goodbye to our “family.”
My husband and I recently joined a new community group through our new church. Adam and I had the opportunity to sit down with the other couple that we are leading this small group with, and really cast a vision for where we hope to grow and what type of group we want to develop. One of the most important things that we shared during our meeting was that we don’t need to have “just another Bible study.” We absolutely should delve deeply into God’s Word; I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t. But we don’t just need another chance to read and study the latest church leader’s bestseller. Instead, we need authentic community. We need a small group of believers that seeks to meet each other's needs, to pray together for the real things in our lives and not just a quick prayer that checks it off of a to-do list. We need intentional intercession on each other’s behalf. We need God’s people in our lives so that when the bottom falls out, we have a safety net of support. We need God’s people deeply invested in us, and vice versa.
If you are a part of a church, you may be like me: it is far too easy for me to get comfortable. It is so easy to enjoy my Sunday coffee and donut and completely miss the point. Church isn’t another club. Church is God’s people empowered by the Spirit of God to change the world for His glory. This doesn’t happen by being comfortable and being a part of a club. This happens by willingly and intentionally getting our hands dirty in each other’s lives and committing to authentic discipleship, as well as owning that the Great Commission is a call to each of us.
As Christ followers, we are engaged in a real battle for the souls of men, and for each other. Can you imagine a Marine in the trenches eating a donut while his comrades fought on the front lines? Let’s go a step further and imagine that this marine was suited up, and one of his comrades asked him what he was doing in the trenches, and he simply replied, “I’m not called to the battlefield.”
My friend, if you have trusted Jesus, you are called: called to follow Him at all costs, called to love His people, called to serve, called to live engaged in His mission. Jesus Himself told us that the world would know Him by our love for one another. So why don't we seek out opportunities to do just that? Most of us are busier than we want to be. I get that---time is rarely on my side. But the fight needed to carve out time to be involved in authentic Biblical community is well worth it.
Within the Church, marriages are floundering. Single moms are lonely and in “survival” mode. Children are suffering. We don’t need another Band-Aid over a gaping wound; we need the Church to be the church, and we need all believers involved in the living Gospel of the Body of Christ.
In Acts 2, we see that individuals within the New Testament Church sold their belongings and gave to one another out of their own abundance. No one was left hungry or in need because God’s people stepped up and gave of themselves for the sake of others. It was because of this that the Church continued to grow in numbers every day. There weren’t always extravagant speeches. The printing press hadn’t been invented yet, so reading the next bestseller in Christian non-fiction wasn’t an option. Instead, they followed Christ’s command to love one another, and to reach out to each other, live in community, and to allow God’s kingdom to come to earth. I believe that “outsiders” wanted in because as people, we are hungry to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, and yet we also desire to be known intimately and to live in the context of relationships. They saw that Christ-followers had both of those things, and they wanted “in.”
How can we intentionally live in community with one another? We live in a generation that honors and glorifies independence. We have our own houses, our own playgrounds, our own “stuff.” We juggle everything that the world tells us to juggle, and it is a shameful thing to ask for help (though I’m sure I am not the only one that needs it…often).
What if we were to allow God’s spirit to move us into Biblical community with one another? What if we went out of our way to intentionally live and serve one another the way that Christ and the early Church modeled? How would the Church be redefined? How would families grow? How much more secure would we feel, seeing faith in action in our own lives and being affirmed that there are people that would do anything to take care of us, pray for us, and make sure that we aren’t alone? I believe that living in authentic Biblical community is one of the greatest ways to overcome anemic faith, and one of the biggest obstacles that the modern church must overcome to continue carrying out the Great Commission. We must move beyond only attending “big Church” on Sundays and into the lives of other believers.
How are you “doing” community? How has this impacted you?