Sharing life with others is a universal desire although the number of people at any given time and the amount of time expended in such endeavors fluctuates widely from person to person. Strange it is that such a strong universal desire is not pursued in proportion to the desire. Why do people not pursue community?
The pursuit of community has its risks. Our participation in a group or only with another single person is not always wanted or perhaps apathy is the response received. Who enjoys rejection and indifference? The mere thought inspires fear and a consequent reluctance to seek community or fellowship.
The fact is community building is hard work. It can be inconvenient. People often misunderstand what we say or what we meant by what we said. People can be crusty, rude, and fickle. Time is in short supply and who does not have enough stress already?
Community is worth the risk and the effort, however. In times of need the writer of Ecclesiastes points out the benefit of having friends. Have you ever been betrayed or had your life turned upside down by house fire, loss of someone close to you, or unexpected unemployment?
Community makes us better, challenges us to maximize our potential, and reminds us that life is about more than ourselves. James, the brother of Jesus, knew every human other than Jesus would blow it from time to time. When that happens, he said admit it. Wholeness and healing will follow.
Communities, like teams, are composed of different people possessing different abilities and gifts. Together, the sum of the whole is greater than the sum of individuals. Teams help individual parts discover what their abilities are and where they can use them to the greatest effect personally and corporally.
It is natural to take for granted the blessings of friends, opportunities, and special occasions we all enjoy. Life lived in community is a life frequently impressed by the shortcomings and needs other people are faced with. That realization is a cause for gratitude and an opportunity to help which leads to a sense of personal purpose and fulfillment.
Communal laziness abounds even among Christians. What a tragedy that is! Jesus Christ came to help everyone have life to the full. He offers direction, help and gifts to make the possibility reality with one provision; we have to accept what He offers. Revelation 3:20 pictures our invitation as a door we open to invite Jesus to come in and do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Psalm 33 says the Lord fills the earth with His love. His presence is everywhere, but it is most profoundly found in His body, the Church. Consequently, that is where the richest community possible is found.
The church is not a perfect place or an easy place to live. Flawed fallen humans live there just as they do all over the planet. The difference maker is the presence of God. Kevin Miller says: “If [the church] isn’t hard, then that’s a sign you probably haven’t entered deeply enough into community. Because God’s deepest work in us is to teach us how to love. And love doesn’t mean much until it’s tested by someone who is cranky, narrow-minded, bigoted, critical and harsh.”
When you think about not going to church, remember this. Life outside community is one definition of poverty. And, the best community is found in church. Sometimes great community has been lost or not yet attained in church. If that is what you find when you go, perhaps it means the gifts your presence brings are lacking.