Churches are communities. Congregations are collections of Christians, coming together to live and love the Lord and one another, right?
Like many churches, my home church is defining its mission, purpose statement and values. Recently, one of the lead pastors asked me to serve on a committee to brainstorm culturally relevant phrasings to express the church’s own self-description.
We have a plat of survey and the building’s blueprints, but the church is so much more than that. Aren’t we all about community?
For three sessions, our values formulation discussions kept circling back to community and what that really means. Is community supposed to drive evangelical outreach or internal discipleship and care ministries?
Personally, I’m all for reaching worldwide with the biblical message of life. But I’m wired more for service within the existing church community, as followers gather to grow and serve. Surely, God tailors each of us to the paths on which He calls us.
Still, I have to wonder.
Must expansion and deeper development be mutually exclusive?
Ask Carleen about community.
Having walked with Jesus since her early teen years, Carleen has been a long-time supporter of her local church. She’s taught Sunday School, led teen discipleship groups, sung in the choir, trained adult small group leaders, served on the women's board, and developed new ministries.
Carleen has been on prayer, policy, promotional and practical service committees over the years. She’s manned tables for church craft fairs and holiday festivals. She’s prepared and delivered meals to shut-ins and new mothers and stitched up cozy blankets for soldier care packages and homeless shelters.
Carleen is a trooper, especially when it comes to community.
But look what’s happened to Carleen!
Everyone seems to see Carleen as a champ … or maybe just a chump. She never seems to have any problems of her own. Or does she?
Behind the scenes, Carleen lives with a chronic health condition that threatens to take her very life someday. She’s raising a couple of special-needs children. Her husband’s business is teetering on the edge of closure. She has lost three dear family members in the past 18 months.
Last year, Carleen was hospitalized twice, but no one from her church even knew. She was confined to her home for recuperation for over a month. Several encouraging messages appeared on her Facebook wall, penned by friends far and wide, although none were seen from her home fellowship.
However, the church website now sports a bright banner on the front page, announcing 250 new members and 25 water baptisms this year.
That’s great news.
But what about community?
Carleen’s gonna be OK. She’s a fighter, as they say. What’s more, Carleen has taken her trials and turned them into a desperate devotion to the Lord. God redeemed her isolation and drew her closer to His own heart.
She’ll be serving in her church again in no time – unless she’s finally burned out on community this time.
Hey, it happens.
I know Carleen and plenty like her. In fact, I’ve been Carleen. Maybe you have too. Or maybe she’ll be sitting next to you on Sunday.
What does the Bible say about community?
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone -- especially to those in the family of faith.(Galatians 6:10, NLT)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.(Romans 12:9, NLT)
What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.(Psalm 55:14, NLT)
Love is the business of Christian community.
This verse from a hymn by French Mystic Madame Guyon (1648-1717) seems somehow appropriate today.
Love is our only business here,
Love, simple, constant, and sincere;
O blessed days, thy servants see,
Spent, O Lord! in pleasing thee!
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- Working in Words
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Hugging by Mark Wolfe
FEMA photo – Public Domain
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