Community what really is it? How do you create it? How to sustain it? Is it really something that can be grasp? Is it really something that I want to be apart of? These are all very good questions. I guess there are many different answers and levels to those answers for each question. When it come to the basic question what is community? I might consider the city I live in Shreveport is a community or maybe the neighborhood where our house is. That is community. Or maybe our Church, Grace Community, is a community. It should be it has the word Community in it!!! Or maybe the youth ministry, maybe the small groups or maybe the little pockets of friends all over the world are our communities? I guess the this just raises more questions about community. And what about the Internet and the creation of communities like Facebook and Myspace and now Twitter. There is a language and understanding within these communities that is foreign to the rest of the world.
For example I am sitting right now writing this Blog and Starbucks. The great coffee chain that has changed the way we drink, interact, work and socialize around a Billion dollar enterprise all at the center. Across the courtyard there is a group of young people I say mostly middle school students and few high school who have gathered after school. But these are not a group that is hanging out after school together. They have a leader and they are speaking their own language and interacting with each other as a community. Maybe a bit dis-functual but still engaged with each other. Yes its a youth group. I have been in the middle of such group before, but as I sit quietly and try to write and ponder this question of community I am barraged by noise and laughter and often the strange off the wall comment from a 12 year old. This is a completely different Blog and conversation. Let's get back to community. So I don't know about you but I think I am just more confused now.
Here is what www.Dictinary.com says,
–noun, plural -ties.
1. a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.
2. a locality inhabited by such a group.
3. a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually prec. by the ): the business community; the community of scholars.
4. a group of associated nations sharing common interests or a common heritage: the community of Western europe.
5. Ecclesiastical . a group of men or women leading a common life according to a rule.
6. Ecology . an assemblage of interacting populations occupying a given area.
7. joint possession, enjoyment, liability, etc.: community of property.
8. similar character; agreement; identity: community of interests.
9. the community, the public; society: the needs of the community.
—Synonyms 1. Community, hamlet, village, town, city are terms for groups of people living in somewhat close association, and usually under common rules. Community is a general term, and town is often loosely applied. A commonly accepted set of connotations envisages hamlet as a small group, village as a somewhat larger one, town still larger, and city as very large. Size is, however, not the true basis of differentiation, but properly sets off only hamlet. Incorporation, or the absence of it, and the type of government determine the classification of the others. 8. similarity, likeness
So does that clear everything up? I suspect "NO"! So where do we go from here? How do we make sense of this much broader and loosely used word. It describes so much and quite frankly will mean different things to different people. So this is where I think we need to look. We need to rediscover what God's view of community is. What He is calling us to and what are our responsibilities when it comes to building and sustaining community? What power and life giving nourishment does community create for us? And what am I going to do about it?
I feel that these topics are to large for tackling all in one entry. So lets just look at a biblical picture of community first. I want to begin to look at the book of Acts and how Christian Community was formed and how it grew and was sustained. But we may have to backup and acknowledge that Christ had His own community already formed within the disciples. The 72 down to the 12 and even a inner 3 (small group) was formed. In Acts we see that Christ is immediately taken up before them. Peter and the rest of the disciples are left with each other. But that's the point. They are together. We see they already have common experiences, language, customs and understanding that links them together. At the center of their community is Christ. And soon they will have the Spirit of God resting on them. I want to jump ahead just a bit, past the anointing of the Spirit and Peter's great first sermon that brings in three-thousand people into this community. Picking it up in Acts chapter two.
"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." -Acts 2:42-47 (New International Version, ©2011)
Here we see a few things that builds community and sustains their community. First they were devoted to the teachings and to their fellowship. The scriptures and the Truth of the Gospel were central for them. And they wanted to be with one another. They were devoted to each other. We can devote ourselves to all kinds of things. But what it means is that we take that serious, we are invested and that we are going to work at it. They made a commitment to each other that the other was important. I like the second part of vs 42 they broke bread together. They ate with one another. They share meals together. There is something special when we just simply do that. Think about the last time you had a meal with friends. The community and friendship that were strengthen around food. Like back yard barbecues or like us in the south Crawfish boils! And take for instance our holidays. What is one of the most central things in common with the celebration of our holidays? Yes, FOOD! We love to eat and share with each other. Then we continue to read that they had everything in common and looked out for each other. If someone needed something they provided by the selling of possessions to meet those needs. They didn't stop meeting together but continued that practice. Both large (temple courts) and small (homes).
Who knew that simply gathering together and sharing a meal would connect people. They had common experiences, customs, desires and were one. They continued to praise God and enjoy favor with each other. Now we could talk about what caused division among them and what splintered this community. But I think we need to take what is central here. So go and practice community. Have a meal together, spend time with one another, me of like minds and praise God for He is good.
You are the one who creates community. It takes initiation by you and others. It is sustained by you and the rest of your community. You must not neglect meeting with one another. Sharing with one another. Taking care of one another. And loving each other.
With that said I am going to go and share a meal with my Monday night friends at Grace and work at sustaining and building community. Need some friends? Maybe a warm belly? Join me at Grace Community tonight for a meal, conversation and some good ole Community building.
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