How Community Forms the People of God
Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Over the past four years, I have spent my summers involved in camp ministry. While all vastly different, my summers at camp have each brought such a sweet community that has encouraged me and pushed me to grow in my walk with the Lord.
During this time, fellow believers have sharpened, stretched, and challenged me in how I view myself and others in light of the gospel. I have come to see an immense amount of grace and revelation of my own sin as I have learned to rely on others. This has given me the perspective to truly see the body of Christ at work. Through my experience, I have come to see the importance of community in a believer’s life and how it is a way to experience growth and grace in a believer’s life.
Why is Community Important?
Community Brings Encouragement
First, community brings encouragement into believer’s lives. There will always be times in our lives when we feel distant from the Lord or “spiritually dry.” However, it is during these times where community will help us to continue in our walk with the Lord. While we are not to rely on others fully for our spiritual nourishment, our brothers and sisters in Christ can help encourage and challenge us by publically living out their faith. Romans 1:11 says:
For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
We see in this passage the place of community in a believer’s life. Community with others is a way to bring mutual encouragement by seeing one another walk with the Lord. Seeing the Lord use others as His vessel, and seeing Him use their different gifts and talents for His purpose and Glory will encourage us in knowing how the Lord has made us equally unique for His glory. In 1 Corinthians, Paul discusses this in reference to the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 reads:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
-1 Corinthians 12:4-6
Community is an incredible picture of the body of Christ at work. While we see others’ differences and gifts, we can be comforted in knowing we serve the same God and see a glimpse of His nature.
Community Brings Accountability
Community not only brings encouragement, but it also brings accountability. When we surround ourselves with fellow Christians, it will be easier to notice our own sin. However, we should not grow discouraged by this. At camp, we have the phrase “It’s a privilege to see your own sin.” This simple phrase has grown to become a sweet reminder to me in my walk with Christ. It is a privilege because, in the revelation of our own sin, we can take comfort knowing the Holy Spirit is at work. In John 12:46, Jesus states that “whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”
The work of sanctification in a believer’s life is one that continues to draw sin out of our lives and shine light into the darkness.
When we notice our sin, it is not just a privilege, but a comfort, as we see our need for Christ. Charles Spurgeon put it well when he stated that:
The person who is a sinner is the kind of person Jesus Christ came to make clean.
When we see our own sin, we see our desperate need of a savior. Community helps in the revelation of this. As we are in a relationship with others, God uses others to show us our faults and point us back to the gospel.
We are also called into accountability through community as we are pushed to be more like Christ by finding people also seeking Christ. Proverbs 27:17 speaks of this when it states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
When we choose those chasing after Christ as friends, we can be brought into accountability with our own weaknesses. As we speak truth into each other’s lives and pray for one another just as Scripture commands, we will be challenged to become more like Christ, and held publically accountable for the recurring sins in our life.
What is True Biblical Community?
Community is a way in which God brings about spiritual growth among believers. Without community, we lack both accountability and encouragement. True biblical community is one that constantly and consistently points to Christ while displaying the grace of God to others in their lives. Community that seeks to glorify Christ should be united, prayerful, and Christ-exalting.
When we are striving to live for Christ together, we should be striving for unity. Community brings about an opportunity to both extend grace to others and receive it from them when we fall short. It is easy to get caught up in our differences, to focus on the faults of others, and to remain in our division. However, we should strive to seek peace with fellow believers. In Colossians 3, Paul reminds us of this by saying,
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.
Secondly, we can be brought into a deeper community with believers by praying together. God promises that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). I have seen the Lord most clearly at work when believers pray together. If you are discouraged by pre-existing division or attempting to find God-honoring friendships where you are, I suggest that you start praying with and for people.
Ask others how you can pray for them and set aside time with them to pray specifically for them. Prayer can be a tool for God to bind us more closely together. When God uses prayer to bring us together, we are shown our collective need for Him. There is unity when believers come together in the adoration of God and humbly place their needs before Him.
Lastly, community should be focused on exalting Christ. Community allows us to see a glimpse into the kingdom of God as [ultimately] the goal of it should be the glorification of Christ and a celebration of His work on the cross. When we experience a genuine, Christ-exalting community, we see a foretaste of what’s to come in eternity. We see a glimmer of Revelation 7, which says:
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
What a picture of what is to come and what believers must long for! How gracious that our loving Father would give us each other as we continue to walk in our faith. It is essential that we know we do not have to do life alone, but we are able to lean on each other, bearing with one another our burdens as we continue to point each other to Christ. The song “We Will Feast In The House of Zion” illustrates this, as it says:
We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more
May we all seek a community that is centered around Christ, unified in His love, and aimed at bringing glory to Him, for this is a picture of eternity.