I'm in a musical mood this week, don't ask me why. Here's one of my favorite tunes from Old Crow Medicine Show, a bluegrass band with an unbelievable range. This video is the best version I could find sound-wise. Also, I want to say that I do not endorse all the views of the band that you may find in other songs. The key line is this: "We're all in this together/walking the line between faith and fear."
One of the key pieces of our growth as followers of Jesus is community. The word itself - "community" - is as muddy as a stirred riverbed but to clear that up I want to offer a simple definition.
Community is being engaged in the life of other people to the extent that they contribute to our becoming like Jesus and vice versa.
In this, there are some assumptions. Community doesn't mean Bible study. Community doesn't mean prayer. It doesn't mean eating together, being in the same room together, even doing works of service together. It means growing to be together in such a way that we are planting seeds of Christlikeness in each other.
It can mean reading Scripture.
It can mean prayer.
It usually means eating together.
It should always include works of service as a group.
Those are all great elements but they should be intentional put to work to serve the purpose of taking our brittle and sharp-edged souls and laying them gently under the hand of the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) to be molded, corrected and built up. I don't discount the fact that community is also about enjoying the company of others and laughing together. One of my favorite experiences of community at this point is a group of friends who are a part of our church but we come together to know each other better and pick each other's brains.
However, we're starting to feel that challenge as we know more about each other's lives - are things the way they should be in that person's formation into Christlikeness?
At this point in the calendar, heading towards the new year it is probably good to take inventory of where we are in our life in community with others. Here are some questions that should help you get perspective on your experience of community:
1. Are you more or less like Jesus as a result of being involved in the lives of others?
2. What do you know about God's grace, forgiveness, and faithfulness that you would have missed if you weren't involved in this community?
3. When was the last time you prayed specifically for God to reveal something to you through the community you're a part of?
4. Are you more or less open to the opinions, direction, or correction of your community members than you have been in the past? Why or why not?
When we move away from community and isolate ourselves, we begin to lose that natural training ground of relationships and we miss out on opportunities to learn how to forgive and shoulder each other's burdens.
I encourage you to think through how 2013 can be a year of growth for you by moving into intentional, accountable community.