Without community…we tend toward deterioration. I see plenty of stories unfold like this: A person goes through an earthquake-to-the-worldview change, like accepting God’s grace, or (to a lesser degree) a first dip in a foreign culture, or a statistic on how many young people get trafficked every year. His jaw hangs slack, he frantically blogs and shouts to the world, his heart pounds with what must be a lifelong conviction, and he proclaims, “I will never be the same!”
Then he goes home.
Months pass. He finds a thousand other ways to spend his time. His passion fades like the memory of last month’s grocery list. He always has a channel of outstretched arms tugging him away from what truly matters. Some tugs offer nice logical reasons; some bring lousy reasons. If he wants to push through, he needs help.
That’s where community comes in. We need like-minded, knit-together people living for Jesus. That’s what church is made to be. The church is where we get together with people who believe the same kinds of things we do to remind each other that we’re not crazy (or that we’re crazy in good ways). Sure, in the church we’ll find people who rain on our passion parade and give those sideways glances that say they really do believe we’re crazy in not good ways. Fine, so they’re in their own place along a journey, and not everyone is learning just the same thing I’m learning right now. If I look at the global church—the people spread all across the globe following Jesus and being his lips and lungs and fingertips around the world—I find no shortage of people who inspire, understand and even like me. It’s worth finding a local church—a group I can see a few times every week who I can join with in a warm petri dish for growing inspiration. God wired us to need that kind of unity, and in a crazy sort of way, even God needs unity. We worship an incredibly unique God: three separate but unified persons of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is a God who at his core is all about unity.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book about community, Life Together, stresses that community will not fulfill every idealistic dream of emotional bliss and harmony. When a community instead deals with the disillusionment of being a bunch of imperfect people, that community, “with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.” As a community of believers we live out the reality God created us to live. We all need a revolutionary community.
My friend Vanessa wrote her master’s thesis on how church communities can support single moms. Since then I’ve noticed how we’re all in different ways walking around as broken families. Without a community, we try to meet all our own needs or all the needs of the people closest to us, when really none of us has everything we need. God gives us more sisters, brothers, moms, dads and cousins to complete our family needs.
No one should have to learn to ride a bicycle alone, and no one should have to live without community. When in the year after we returned to the United States I felt like I would do anything to escape the dark little cave of our home where I was shriveling up, I had to keep reminding myself that this desire, uncomfortable as it felt, was steering me in the right direction. God made all of us to get out of our caves. If I lose that desire, something has gone very wrong. If I stay away from people so long that I stop craving honest conversation or stop looking people in the eye, I’m burying my natural needs. I become like an anorexic believing she’s fat when in fact she’s starving. Without community, whether we recognize our hunger or not, we starve. The ancient Greeks had a word for those who just lived for the “id,” for themselves. They were called "idiots."
Taken from This Ordinary Adventure by Adam and Christine Jeske. Copyright(c) 2012 by Adam and Christine Jeske. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com