Four years ago, I wrote a post called “When ‘community’ hinders community.” God is building a community of his children, bringing together those who are saved by Jesus Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. However, we can build a true community that actually hampers the work that God is doing in building his community. This happens when we build community on our own or when we find our “common unity” in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ.
Community is hard work. But, are we doing the hard work of living in God’s community, or are we doing the hard work of building a different kind of community?
This is my second post in the “Community” synchroblog that is taking place this week. My first post was called “Community is unnatural today“. Glenn at “re-dreaming the dream” organized this synchroblog. Posts will be added to this synchroblog throughout this week by various individuals. If you’d like to take part in this synchroblog, write your post and leave a comment with a link on Glenn’s latest synchroblog info post called “Community Synchroblog“.
Community is simply a group of people connected by some common bond. It is possible to relate to other people as community based on many different things: location, vocation, hobby, age, children, school, etc. Within the church, it is popular to build community based on meeting location, rules, doctrines, and human leadership. However, these types of commonality are not the foundation for the community that God is building.
Instead, God builds his community (perhaps a better translation of “ekklesia”) on the person of Jesus Christ and the common fellowship that his children have with him through the Holy Spirit. The community that God builds begins with a relationship with God himself through Jesus Christ and the Spirit. But, community doesn’t end there. God continues to build that community through relationships with one another. In fact, you could say that these interrelationships are the outward signs that God is building community. But, it must begin with God himself – both his work and our relationship with him. Finally, God’s community does not end with interrelationship among his children. Instead, God’s community reaches outside itself and welcomes those who are not yet part of the community.
The outward-looking and outward-loving aspect is perhaps one of the most peculiar aspects of the community that God builds. In almost every other case, community because a boundary, both for keeping people in and for keeping people out. When community is not based on loving God, loving each other, and loving others, then the community quickly becomes isolated and independent – the opposite of God’s community.
But, what happens when God’s children decide to build their own community based on meeting location, rules, doctrines, or human leadership? Again, the community turns inward and becomes more about who is outside of the community than welcoming people into the community. Differences and disagreements and struggles, even among those who are brothers and sisters in Christ, become justification for not welcoming or accepting someone into the community. The “community” ends up hurting and isolating themselves from the very people that should help them form the community.
Thus, it is possible to build a “community” – a true community in every aspect of the word – that hinders the community that God desires to build – a community that is centered on Jesus Christ and a common love for God, each other, and others. In fact, I believe that many who write of loving Jesus but not the church, or who write of being hurt by the church, or who write of being disillusioned by the church, are living the after effects of a community that is based in something other than Jesus Christ – the type of “community” that expels easier than it welcomes.