I really can’t tell you enough how beautiful Christian community is when done right. I’ve been on the other side of that fence many times. I’ve seen the dark side of Christian “mock friendliness” and have been on the receiving end of just down right wrongful actions.
But I am convinced there are things you can find in Christian community, gifts buried there, which cannot be found anywhere else or in any other sort of relationship.
This week group of us at seminary took time to share our stories of how we were called into seminary and the struggles we faced along the way. But this wasn’t your average Sunday “pray for me because I struggle with reading the Bible.” We laid it out: deep dark and dirty. But this vulnerability did not lead to mocking or judgment – it actually encouraged the openness of everyone in that room. God showed up. He gave us words to encourage one another; he gave us strength to share honestly; and he even gave me a powerful prayer to close our evening.
Our experience of God will never be everything it could until we enter into community. Matthew 18:20 is not a suggestion, it’s a promise. When we show up with expectation and vulnerability, God shows up with provision and power.
A large portion of our church body has been in a season of pain and poverty. Of our leadership team, nearly half have faced unemployment in the last year. Personal and physical problems have plagued our elders and deacons. And most recently one of our fellow college age students lost their primary parent.
Pain seeps its way into all our lives. But God wants to show that he is stronger – that when he steps in and seeps in he dominates, he comforts, he heals, he provides. Apart from the body we are left to fend for ourselves, delving into Scripture for answers and waiting on our knees for something to change. What the church can do is walk with us during that time. They can remind us of the simple truths we overlook and offer themselves as examples of those who have survived similar situations. They lighten the burden. They are God’s touch when we do not feel that he is close.
This sort of community only comes with much prayer and commitment. I’ve invested three years now and countless prayers – and am only beginning to see the fruit sprout. Be assured it is there and it is good.
I really hope you have a community of believers that you can build into and who can build into you. God likes an audience present for his greatest works.
What benefits have you experienced from being in Christian community? Have they outweighed the hurts?