So much of our lives are spent chasing after community. Often times we don’t even recognize it. Loneliness, depression, insecurity, quitting, and many other things are often symptoms of something larger than you. They typically stem from a lack of community or the wrong community or misunderstanding your community. There are Christians that feel like they have to distance themselves from non-believers because they don’t have the same view on how to live life and then there are some Christians that create no distance and thus fall into poor habits displayed by their non-believing friends. A community is not always easy to find and it’s not always easy to navigate.
So what does it look like to be in community? I think for starters it looks like being very intentional about your motives. Last week I wrote in part three that we should tell others. We have to be upfront so that people know where we are coming from. This does not mean bible thumping, it just means honesty. Example: “I am living this way and still love you but I can’t be a part of certain aspects of that lifestyle anymore. There is zero judgment but I am making this choice for me.” Many times we are afraid of this step because we don’t know how people will take it. Unfortunately, this tactic can sometimes be viewed as judgmental in its nature. “Well if Kelly isn’t doing this with me anymore then he must not like me, or I don’t want him around because he’ll judge me.” This is bullshit and it just takes time and consistency to ensure your people know you are genuine.
People need to know about the journey you are on. It makes each step a little bit easier. We all need comfort and encouragement in our lives and that is what a healthy community should give you. A community is about being connected to someone(s) else. When life is all about you it can be lonely or egocentric. You will either love yourself to the point of disabling yourself from connecting with others around you or you will struggle to connect with others because you have not yet addressed the problems you have with yourself. Now, I know that there are some deeper emotional things at play here, things I am unequipped to address. However, even as an introvert, I see the value in being connected to other people. I see the need for community. In the end, this is what Jesus wanted. He wanted His people to connect in a way that could overcome all differences. Heaven is a place where community is the strongest and we are called to make heaven on earth, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
The next Christians find community in both the light and the dark. There is no place that is off limits. In an earlier blog post, I relayed that culture can be created in bankrupt places. From that culture comes community and that community never stops growing and reinventing and adding and restoring. This is the call of a Christian, to create a community of people that love one another in a way that Christ loves us.
What I am learning to figure out and what the next Christians are living out, is a balance, a balance between a community that restores and a community that needs restoring. Now, please don’t hear this as a community that needs saving, because that is not my place. However, I do think that through restoration God can do the work of salvation. Or in many cases, the restoration is all that’s necessary. Some communities just need to be reminded. I’ll go out on a limb and say the majority of Christians need reminding these days. That’s the purpose of the book Next Christians, to highlight an old way that is being restored by the next Christians.
I think there should be a constant balance between your Jesus friends and your non-Jesus friends. If you don’t have Jesus friends then you may not have someone holding you accountable. You need to have people that will pour into you on a soul level. And on the other side, if you don’t have non-Jesus friends then you aren’t following Jesus the right way. I know that for a fact! This is the balancing act. Find people that nourish you but also find some folks that you are nourishing just by being present. This collective group is your community and no one should know the difference by how well you love them.
**Non-Jesus in this context is simply referring to people that do not confess that Jesus Christ is their Lord. In no way are they to be thought of as less than or wrong**