I love parties, events, and big to-dos. They’re fun and everyone has a good time, but they are momentary. They don’t last, and their impact is short-lived. What really makes something special, though, are the people at the party. They are what make it. You can invest so much time, energy, and resources in tasks and programs, but at the end of the day people are what really matter. I see women’s ministry this way. For a while I focused my efforts on events, but a couple of years ago I came to realize that meaningful community was being neglected at the expense of activities.
So I put the calendar down and looked around me. I could then see.
There was a longing for connection- to be known, understood, affirmed, encouraged, and inspired. To be prayed for, grow in Christ together, and have a good laugh now and again. So, we started new groups, met regularly throughout the year, and joined together in a network Bible study. Women from multiple generations and walks of life meet together and share their stories. We began a partnership with a sister church in our area for community and ministry. There is accountability, vulnerability, and support. These things just do not come about naturally in isolated events.
Attendees, Groupies, or True Community?
In any opportunity for connection, you often see one of three types of people. First, there are the “Attendees.” These are the people that are just there. They are at the party, chat with a few people, have a couple surface conversations, and then they are out the door when the party is over.
Then there are what I call your “Groupies.” These folks like a crowd. They select a certain group of people to be in their circle, call it a “clique” if you want, but they gain their security by feeling superior to those in their circle. Once their lesser groupies discover this, they leave the party. And then the groupie leader selects another batch of people to control, and then the cycle continues.
And then there is true community. This is different. It is breaking bread together, confessing sins to one another, outdoing one another in showing honor, and seeking the interest of others. True community says “I struggle. I need a friend. I have your back. Me too. Here are my scars. Let’s talk about Jesus.” Why do we not do this well? We’re the church for crying out loud! Could it be that our expectations of ourselves and those around us are too high? Could it be that we are afraid? Could it be that we have misunderstood the church for the world? True community is different, because we, the Church, are different. We have Christ who has saved us and the Spirit who unites us. If anyone should lock arm in arm together in life it should be us.
So what does this look like really?
There comes a point in relating with each other that we have to turn the T.V. off, stop bragging about ourselves, switch off silly mode, and get real. You may be the first person to do this in your circle of church friends. It takes vulnerability. It takes guts. But you can do it. Because God may use you to break down the walls that we so often put up between ourselves in community. It involves admitting the struggle, the sins, the fears, and our real need for good friends. Sometimes we act as if we don’t need anybody. But we really do. The church supplies us with the best friends we can possibly have, so why do we hide? It is time to get out from behind the rock of self-protection and engage in true community.
Get together with one or two people and meet together on a regular basis for prayer, accountability, and Bible study. You may be in a group that meets for game night. Move them deeper beyond the surface. You don’t have to get all heavy on them. You can begin the journey with sharing prayer needs, and then move forward from there. It’s that simple. It may not be easy, and it will take time and patience, but soon enough you will discover depth in your relationships with other believers. Christ did not call us to hold each other at a distance, but instead He called us to invest ourselves, share ourselves, and sacrifice ourselves for the sake of the gospel. As Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). True community is not only for us, it is for the world. True community evangelizes. It says “I was alone in the struggle, but Christ saved me, and now I am his and so are his children. And they are my sisters and brothers. We’re family. Want to join us?”