Biblical Community – Ask SWO Anything
“In college I experienced true community and rapid growth as a believer. Spending my summers as a SWO staff member only solidified my relationship with Christ and made my faith deeper. Those times were formative for me in shaping what I see as true Christianity. However, now that I am out of college with many responsibilities and demands with my job, my contact with true Christianity and community is rare. I don’t have as much time to listen to a John Piper sermon or journal about what God is teaching me as I did back in undergrad. It’s easy for me to idealize my college and SWO experience. Perhaps God was preparing me for the real world. But my question is–How do I not idealize my college and SWO experience and deal with reality as it is? Do you have any suggestions for dealing with feeling jaded by the world (like you’ve been plowed over by Mac truck by demands of the world) and not just have nostalgia for those easy days in college and a camp?”
This question is one I think many people ask, not just former staff of Snowbird, but Christians all over America. Acts 2:42-47 describes a scenario that is far too unheard of in the American church. People coming together every day, selling their stuff to help those in need, evangelizing, worshiping God together, going to other’s houses to fellowship and encourage one another, etc. This sounds like specific times in our churches, but not the norm. So I want to answer this question by quickly laying out what Biblical community should look like, why it is so hard to find in our churches, and a few practical ideas to help this get started in our lives. So first what is Biblical community?
To understand what Biblical community is we should look very briefly at the truths of the Trinity. That’s right, the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Scripture teaches that our amazing and all-powerful God is One, but He is also three. He is fully God the Father, fully God the Son, and fully God the Holy Spirit. Now if you can not seem to wrap your brain around that, that’s okay. The truth of the Trinity does not depend on our understanding to be true, it simply is true.
Within the Trinity you have perfect community. God the Father honors the Son and Spirit. Son honors Father and Spirit. God the Spirit honors God the Father and Son. We see in Hebrews that God the Father honors the Son and praises Him.
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” (Hebrews 1: 8-9 ESV)
The Trinity displays perfect community, because there is diversity yet unity in purpose and nature. We see this model of community within our most intimate human relationship, marriage. We have two people who, under the authority of God, become one. They have one purpose in that marriage, to bring honor and praise to God through their marriage. Marriage is a real and tangible representation of the Trinity.
Biblical community is similar. We are many people, made one in the Body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” Through the redeeming work of Christ on the cross He makes those whom He saves, sons and daughters of God (John 1:12). We become many yet one within the Body of Christ, under the blood of Christ. Simply stated, Biblical community is the common identity of all those who are in the Body of Christ with a common purpose, to glorify God. This can be fleshed out in many different ways, but ultimately the reason and foundation of Biblical community is the common purpose that God gave the church. That purpose being to glorify His name through righteous living (1 Peter 1:13-16) and global evangelism (Matt 28:18-19).
So why is true Biblical community so hard to find? We could try to place blame on many factors within the church today, but the ultimate reason for the lack of Biblical community is that the American church is not unified in the Biblical purpose of the church. The Trinity is unified in nature, a marriage that is unified in bringing God glory is a successful marriage, and a church that is unified in purpose is a church that will be marked by Biblical community. The world will look into the doors of our churches and see it and know that we are God’s children by it (John 13:35).
Many people who have professed to be Christians have turned from the purpose that God gave them. The Lord saved us for His glory (Ephesians 1:3-14) not for our prosperity or temporary happiness. When God brought us into His family He gave us a new identity (Christ is now our identity) and a new purpose (to praise His holy name). When individuals are pursuing other things rather than the universal purpose of the church, then we are divided and community will suffer.
Although Biblical community is hard to find, I do think that we see and experience glimpses of it at times. For instance, mission trips, extended times of ministry, times of suffering or grief/loss, etc can offer this type of community. I also believe that Biblical community is a natural part of being a believer, and can become the norm as opposed to the exception.
Here are a few ideas that can be implemented to help foster this true God-centered community:
1. Personal pursuit of holiness. Biblical community can never truly be achieved if the members making up the Body of Christ are not pursuing personal holiness. Community only happens when each member is being transformed by the Scripture, fighting sin, and living a life that is Gospel-centered. Just like a marriage, when husband and wife are enjoying a deep relationship with the Lord on their own, the marriage will reap the benefits of that.
2. Gospel-centered conversations. When we have deep and meaningful conversations about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the theological truths of Scripture there is a community that forms that will not easily be quenched. God loves to be the center of our conversations. We should strive to make Him the center of our lives and conversations.
3. Humble accountability. Since the Lord demands that we be holy as He is Holy (1 Peter 1:13-16) our fight for holiness and purity is something that can build community. As we fight along side of one another for the purpose of glorifying Jesus, there is a bond that is built that is beautiful and strong.
4. Common ministry. When the people of the church are fighting sin along side of one another and spreading the Gospel to a lost world along side one another Biblical community is almost inevitable. Often our programs at church are based on corporate competitiveness as opposed to unity in purpose, therefore community suffers.
5. Communal Worship. Jesus did not establish the church to fill up a day on the calendar. Jesus designed the church to be a body of encouragers and a part of the sanctification process. Hebrews 10 tells us not to neglect meeting together with the saints. When we come together it should not be to consume what someone has prepared for our entertainment, but rather it should be each of us worshiping God for His awesomeness and encouraging one another.
6. Intentional investment. So many times we get caught up in our own lives and do not see all that is going on around us. If we do see the hardships and suffering we do not make it a priority to bear one another’s pain (Galatians 6:1-2). Many times we are quick to point out someones failures, but slow to intercede for them. Remember we are a body. An investment in the foot does good for the whole body. When we invest our time, our homes, our food, our emotional energy, etc in others in good times and bad, there is bond and trust that is forged.
7. Preferring one another. Romans 12:10 calls us to prefer one another or outdo one another in showing honor. When we put other believer’s needs and desires above our own in genuine humility, God is honored. When all believers do that God is honored and the world takes notice.
Biblical community is not some magical idea that can only be experienced in certain ministries or specific times. Biblical community is the idea of church, many becoming one for a common purpose. Biblical community starts with each of us individually pursuing the Lord and living to accomplish our God-given purpose, and then living that out with other believers. It is easy to idealize a season of strong community, but we must understand that Biblical community is possible at all times in our life so long as we are tethered to a solid local body of believers.