It was the best of times and then it became the worst of times. It was something beautiful and then it turned into something ugly. It was a season of love and marriage and then a season of dissension and separation.
About three years ago, I was part of a church community that had shared many milestones with each other. We were working professionals in the prime of our lives, loving Jesus, passionate about causes, and connecting in community. Many of us had journeyed together for almost a decade, from singlehood to marriage to parenthood. But like a Jenga puzzle, it began falling apart as one by one, two by two pulled away.
Some of us had discussed after the church had closed down that it would be difficult to find that type of community again. It was special and in the season of life when we were discovering ourselves.
To a certain extent, I would agree. I will not find that same community again ever. However, I have changed over the years and others have too. And hopefully, as we have learned to love others, our capacity for loving more & different types of people has enlarged.
And even though it brought much pain and grief when the community broke apart, it was truly wonderful when it was thriving and that makes finding community a worthy risk and investment.
Why should we be in community?
Jesus surrounded Himself with community. He walked with his disciples, doing life with them. He told them and us to “love one another” (John 15:12). The early church also gives us an example of community: they had everything in common and were worshipping and eating with other believers day by day (ref. Acts 2:44-46). Many bible passages detail how we interact with other believers, which is done in community. Here are a few:
“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. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” Colossians 4:12-16.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” Ephesians 4:32.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” Hebrews 10:24-25.
When is the right time to find community at a new church?
A wise woman of God at EFree recommended that my husband and I should visit EFree at least three times before deciding that it is our home church. So a good time to find community is right after you decide on the church.
How do you find community?
The easiest way is to join a life group or a Rooted group. Both of these groups are already designed to allow members to share their lives together. However, there are other ways: Serve in a ministry. Go on a short term mission trip. Attend a women’s event.
Who could be in your community?
We may naturally gravitate toward people in our own life stage and age group because we would share many common experiences with them, but don’t limit yourself only to that. There is much to be learned from different life stages and the older can teach the younger (ref. Titus 2:1-8). I love observing how parents of older children teach them in the ways of the Lord. By being in life group with these parents, we see examples lived out in front of us week to week, which leaves a much stronger impression than hearing instruction or reading about parenting.
What does community look like?
Authenticity. In the very first life group meeting we attended, members were asking for prayers regarding their struggles. When we heard that, we knew immediately that we were in the right place. In Rooted groups, each member shares their life story which makes everyone feel a little closer in a short amount of time. Knowing one another, accepting each other as is, praying through each trial, confessing to one another, keeping the sharing confidential, rejoicing together, grieving together, encouraging, exhorting, challenging, affirming, forgiving and even correcting in love — all are marks of true community.
A final note: Yes, it takes some measure of courage to put yourself out there. It may be awkward to attend an event or join a group where you don’t know anyone. However, it is only uncomfortable for a little while. The benefits of finding community far outweigh any self-conscious feelings you may have. It’s worth it.
Written by Lisa Wong