Dictionary.com defines “community” as: “1.a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common. 2.A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
Christian community can be defined as “sharing a common life in Christ” (www.Bible.org)
Have you ever noticed that when Jesus started his ministry, one of the first things he did was form a small group–a Christian community? He chose 12 men to be by his side, eating, drinking, sleeping, traveling together day-by-day, moment-by-moment. They literally roamed the country together. Jesus was definitely the leader, but he was teaching the disciples how to do what he did–he was multiplying his ministry, knowing that when He left this earth, the disciples would be the ones to carry on his mission.
Another example of Christian community in the Bible is in Acts 2. Starting with verse 42 we see “And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” In these verses, we see a new kind of community group. This one has believers teaching others about the Gospel. They are sharing meals and going to temple together. When one has a need, others sell their possessions to provide for it. I think it sounds a little bit like heaven on earth! People living together, with a single purpose, providing for the needs of those around them, sharing meals, sharing the Gospel.
But maybe you think that sounds like a commune. Others selling their possessions to provide for one another? Signs and wonders? On Long Island? In this country? Or maybe you’re thinking “Sure, in Bible times, that was the standard practice. But in this time and place–no way.”
But who wouldn’t want to have a group of friends, close enough to pray for you on a regular basis, or to offer you help when you need it, or in your life enough to speak the truth in love? Because that’s what Christian community in the 21st century looks like. It’s a small group of people, gathering on a regular basis, centered on our belief in God and the desire to become more like Jesus every day. True Christian community is where we live out the “one another” commands of the Bible. Things like “love one another” (John 13:34), “encourage one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11), “offer hospitality to one another” (1 Peter 4:9), “accept one another, just as Christ accepted you” (Romans 15:7). Christian communities are where people worship and praise God, not just in a corporate worship service on a Sunday, but in their living rooms, surrounded by friends, sharing what God has done for them this week. Real life Christian community is where the rubber meets the road–where what we are currently learning about God through reading the Bible and in our Sunday services, is applied to our real-life situations.
Today’s Christian community might look something like this: A group of adults meeting weekly, house to house. They share a meal together and then gather in a circle in the living room for worship and praise. As they sit down, they share stories of what their week has been like, maybe even sharing where they’ve gone astray from God’s word. As they listen first, then speak in love, they share words of encouragement (possibly a similar situation they’ve had) and choose to seek God’s answer to the challenges they’ve shared by the studying of the Word. As they close their time together, they ask for prayer for those things on their heart and commit to pray for one another in the week ahead. They go home with a sense of being an active part of the body of Christ and connected to a group of believers who walk with them in spirit, every day.
As I often share when I meet with newcomers to our church, we hope that you aren’t just meeting up with other believers on Sundays. My desire is for every person to interact with a small group at least once during the week. A common theme for the small group world is “You were not meant to do the Christian life alone”. A little overused maybe, but still so true. If Jesus felt that he needed a small group, shouldn’t you?
-Cindy Compitiello | Small Groups Coordinator at Island Christian Church