Community, Church, and Close Friends
Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door, and … WHERE’S ALL THE PEOPLE?
I have been to quite a few churches in my lifetime, heck I grew up as a pastor’s kid. I feel like I got this whole church thing down (kidding). It wasn’t until college that I realized the importance of community. I’m not talking about the neighborhood you live in. I’m talking about the people you surround yourself with and choose to do life with. The people who are there for the nitty gritty, the grime, the muck. The people that don’t just laugh with you (or at you for that matter) but they hold your hand and cry with you. They just love you. They aren’t people who love you because you offer them something. They aren’t people who covet you. They are just people doing the same walk you’re doing and are there to share it with you.
Recently, I have been reminded of how awesome having a strong community is. My husband and I have been blessed to be members together at two super incredible, Jesus-loving, God-fearing, obeying-the-word, love-to-love-people kinda churches. One was in Bryan/College Station called Restoration Church, and the other is our current home church, Bayou City Fellowship.
We have seen individuals at these churches love extensively. These people love when it’s not convenient for them and love when it hurts. They truly believe in the betterment of your good for God’s glory. They see you. They seek you out. They listen to you. Most of all, these people love Jesus, and I’m not saying that just because we go to church together.
I began to think of all the ways that have cultivated this incredible environment. I truly believe that it starts with Jesus and leaders who are willing to put their agendas aside and let Jesus move in whatever capacity he wants to. Besides these important factors, I felt like it was important to tune in on some of the other qualities that are important to be maintained to cultivate healthy and affective community.
Humility: “Who is the Greatest?”
Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18: 4
I believe one of the reasons I’ve seen my church do community and welcoming others so well is because they aren’t asking the question, “who is the greatest?” When we stop competing with one another or caring about who is the “better” Christian, we can begin to appreciate and be thankful for the gifts that others have been given.
I see the leaders in my church humbling their spirits like a child and admitting their dependence upon Jesus. They humble themselves before the congregation and aren’t afraid to delegate or ask for help.
One of the things I think that makes for an affective community is when people see people. Almost every person who visits my church voice that they feel seen. They feel welcomed. They feel treasured.
This requires people to open their hearts to those who are different than them. The body of Christ is made up of many many different kinds of people, personalities, skin colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds. I believe it’s natural to draw nearer to people who are similar to you. But one of the coolest things about church is that sometimes the only common denominator you have is Christ and what he’s done for you. Sometimes you can’t find one dad gum thing in common, and that’s okay.
Isn’t it neat to get to know more of the heart of God when you get to understand others who are so different than you? The depth and the vastness of Jesus is too great to put inside one person, or one kind of person. Therefore, open your heart to get to know someone who is different than you. You are getting a further glimpse at the Father’s heart.
Realness: Stop Faking it till You Make it, Cause You Ain’t Makin’ it
I am always amazed when I open my heart to a group of people who truly care at their compassion and their sympathy. The fear of being rejected or judged dwells heavy and follows me around. Sometimes it keeps me from sharing some of the most formidable burdens I have ever had to carry and whispers to me to walk in them alone. But when I release the fear and let down the walls, I am in awe of what God chooses to do with an honest and vulnerable heart in the midst of community.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
I think this specific aspect of friendship and community is one of the most difficult. I can certainly relate to the feeling of betrayal and deep sorrow when trust is broken. I am sure some of you can relate. My friend, what that person did to you, spoke against you, was wrong. I know that none of these words can bring healing to your soul overnight, but I can promise you that Jesus is a restorer. He brings all things together to work for the good of those who love him. Don’t let the twisted soul that stripped your trust prevent you from experiencing the fullness of being known and being loved.
Pray for those you do life with. Praying for those you do life with refines your heart and teaches you how to love that person in the way God loves them. Amazement and awe come upon you when you choose to study the teachings, fellowship, and pray together. (Acts 2:42–43) When hearts come together to agree on the things of God, miracles are performed.
I love listening to my friends pray. It brings my heart so much joy to listen, watch, and learn how they approach the Father. I learn more about God and the gifts my friends possess. I’ve seen Jesus heal broken hearts and bodies, restore marriages, and save lives through prayer in this week alone. When we choose to approach the throne of God and admit our weakness and dependency upon his mighty hand to move, our hearts are strengthened in faith. When we choose to do this with one another, our bonds of love are knitted tighter together. Jesus loves prayer.
I asked myself multiple times throughout writing this blog if this was even worth being written? Isn’t this common sense? Although I hope every church strives to cultivate a community like this, I don’t think there’s any harm in being reminded of what Jesus intended this to look like. I think sometimes it’s easier to get caught up in surrounding yourself with people who make you feel good, rather than people who make you better. We look around us and feel alone and don’t feel like anyone cares.
Now I’m not saying you have to go to one of the two churches I talked about previously (although they are super awesome churches), because this type of community can start with you. It can start with a prayer, it can start with vulnerability, and encouragement.
I pray this is something you strive for and find. I pray it’s something you find fully, because the goodness and the richness found here is worth it all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:12–15