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					Week 3: Community AKA "Who's Got Your Back, Jack?"

John Wesley was traveling down a lonely road one day and met up with a stranger. They
began to discuss spiritual matters and the stranger remarked, "The Bible knows nothing
of solitary religion." In today's terms he might have said, "The Christian walk was
designed to be walked together, in fellowship with other believers." The truth of that
statement stuck with Wesley and he became an outspoken advocate of the need for
Christians to be actively involved in community with one another. In fact, he bacame the
father of the modern small group movement within the church.

That statement should also strike a chord within us and should challenge us to see what
the Bible does say about the need for Christians to be in community with one another.
(See Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor 1:10; Heb 10:25.) (Also note that Jesus Himself established a
community with the twelve disciples and that apparently they spent a lot of time
together.)

First, let us address the question of what it means to live in community with other
Christians. When Christians live in community with one another, it simply means that
they share life together. In other words, this group of Christians makes an intentional
effort to be a part of each other's lives. They spend time together; they pray and worship
together; they share their struggles with one another; they share their victories with one
another; they cry together and laugh together. True community, Biblical community,
takes its members through the shallow waters where only superficial issues are discussed
and leads them into the deep waters of relationship, where people share their deepest
hurts, struggles, dreams, fears, and passions. Withiin this type of community, believers
truly become like Jesus and truly become a family.

From looking at what it means to live in community we can see why God wants us to be
in community. We were created as relational beings and God knows that we need
relationships where we can share our deepest needs and have those needs met. In other
words, people thrive when in healthy relationships and struggle when alone or in
unhealthy relationships because their needs aren't being met. When Adam was created,
God said that it was not good for him to be alone (Gen 2:18). So, He created Eve. This
was before sin had entered the picture and even then man needed community. How much
more, then, do we need community in a fallen world?

To continue, God wants us to be in community with other Christians because there are
certain things we can only experience and learn when we are in close fellowship with
other believers. For example, in community we learn how to forgive and how to ask for
forgiveness. We can be encouraged and encourage others. We can exercise our spritual
gifts, thereby strengthening ourselves and others. And only in community can we truly
learn what it means to love our neighbor as ourself and to become selfless as we are put
in situations where we see our selfishness and are challenged to die to self. We can then
learn how to be humble and how to put others before ourselves, just as Christ put us
before Himself (Phil 2:3-8).
This is only a short list of things that we learn through sharing life with other Christians.
But already we can see that in order to become the people God created us to be, in order
to be a people who walk in love and humility, in order to become Christlike, we must
invest ourselves in a community of believers.

Another reason why God wants us in community with other Christians is because He
desires for us to partner with Him to advance His kingdom on this earth. Paul uses the
analogy of the church as being the "body of Christ" on earth and that the members of this
body must work together in order to be healthy and to accomplish what God has for it to
do (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Therefore, when Christians live in community they not
only benefit themselves by becoming more like Jesus, they benefit the entire world by
advancing God's kingdom on earth.

Having established that we are called to be in community and that being in community
enables us to enjoy the abundant life that Jesus desires for us, we should also understand
that living in Christian community is often difficult and messy. One might think that
entering into the deep waters of community with a group of fellow believers would be
smooth and fun, but in fact, many times it is the exact opposite. Remember, God is using
community to make us more like Christ and for us to become more like Christ we have to
be purified. To use an analogy, community is like a crucible. A crucible is a container
where metals are melted down in order to remove impurities. God uses community as a
tool where our impurities, our sins and imperfections, can be addressed and fixed. And
many times when these imperfections are being addressed and fixed it results in difficult
times within the community. But if the community will stay together and love one
another through the process, the end result will be that its members truly become more
like Jesus.

Summary:
The only way we can truly become the person we were created to be is by living in
community with other Christians. Simply put, there are areas of spiritual growth that can
only be found while living in community with other Christians.
We all play a crucial part in the body of Christ and He is depending upon us to fulfill our
role so that His kingdom can be advanced.
When we become isolated from community, we become easy targets for Satan and we
have a harder time resisting temptation and spiritual decline.
Helathy community requires love, selflessness, vulnerability, and commitment to
spending time together.
Healthy community is likewise hindered by pride, selfishness, a lack of
honesty/vulnerability, and a lack of commitment to spend time together.
Because we are not perfect, living in community is sometimes very difficult and messy.

Possible Questions:
Can you think of a time in your life when you were in close community with a group of
people? What kind of effects did that have on your life?
Can you think of a time in your life when you felt alone for awhile? What kind of effects
did that have you?
Do you think it is easy or difficult to live in community with others? Why?
What are some of our needs that can only be met in community with others?

				
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posted:8/23/2012
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