Month: May 2022

  • You Were Made For Community

    They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42, NIV

    I grew up in what I refer to as a “Cheers” town, not because everyone was always cheerful, but because everyone knew my name, just like the theme song from the TV show. The town I grew up in was not only small (population 750), it was also the town where my parents grew up. So for me, community wasn’t just about having one or two people in your life, it was about having a whole town of people in your life.

    As a teenager, I didn’t really like this because it just felt like my parents had extra “spies” to keep me from having too much fun. But as an adult I now see how blessed I was. My family had people who we could lean on, like my mom’s best friend who let my mom drop my sister and me off at 6:00 am so that she could get to her job. Or our next-door neighbor, who would come blow snow for us when the snow was piled high on the driveway, asking for nothing in return. Or a whole town of people who surrounded my family with love and support as my dad battled cancer. Friends, family and even some strangers during that time would cook us meals, clean our house and eventually help us celebrate his life.

    Looking back, yes it was a “Cheers” type community, but more than that it was an Acts 2:42 community. Often when we read this scripture, we think of fellowship to mean chatting with someone over coffee on Sunday morning or attending a small group bible study together or hanging out on the weekend to shop deals and share cheesecake. While these are all great ways to be together with your tribe, the type of fellowship that is described in Acts 2:42 is not about social activities, but rather about sharing a spiritual life together– encouraging for one another, helping each other through trials, praying for one another, and reflecting God’s love to one another.

    We were designed for community. In his book, Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, Paul Tripp writes that “we weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects.”

    So much of Scripture clearly reflects that we are created for community. We see Mary and Elizabeth, Ruth and Naomi, David and Jonathan, or Moses, Aaron and Miriam and even Jesus himself lived life by taking along 12 friends. Jesus was completely capable of teaching, healing and traveling by himself and yet he chose to be in a community.

    In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it is written, “two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

    Being in a community helps us in so many ways. We have friends to encourage us when we are feeling low or doubting ourselves, someone to provide emotional support as we wrestle with a problem, people to help us stay committed to our faith, our goals and our purpose, and a place where we can be ourselves and give of ourselves. C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too?’” Being in community reminds us that we are not alone as we experience different seasons and struggles in life.

    Yet knowing that we are designed for community and that we need community, why are so many of us doing life on our own? What keeps us from engaging in real community? Here are six things that might be stopping you from building community. As you read each one, ask yourself, “Is this what’s keeping me from living in community?”

    Trust: You have been hurt in the past by a friend and so you are skeptical of trusting anyone new. You don’t open up easily anymore and you are really cautious about letting anyone into your life.

    Time: You feel like you don’t have time for community because you work long hours, you devote all your time to your family or you just have no space on your calendar for one more activity.

    Insecurity: You doubt whether anyone will like you or if you are good enough to be a part of the group.

    Introversion: You are more comfortable being by yourself than being around others because hanging out with people for long periods of time drains you. You also are looking for others to take the first step in creating community.

    Rejection: You are afraid that if you put yourself out there, others may judge you negatively or you worry that you will not be accepted as you are.

    Rational: You rationalize to yourself that you just moved, you have health issues or have another challenge that prevents you from building a community.

    I no longer live in my small town “Cheers” community. The past three and half years God has been calling me to new places. Along the way I have been discovering how to build community even in the midst of a pandemic and job changes. I could certainly use my relocation as an excuse for not having community in my life, but what I have learned is that I crave community. We live in a world of instant access, instant meals, but friendships and community are not instant. They take intentionality, time and a whole lot of grace.

    People are not perfect and there will be hurts along the way. Even if you are in an Acts 2:42 type community there will be struggles, challenges and wrongs, but through it all we can lean on God and each other. Being involved in a community has way more benefits than hindrances. If you aren’t connected with a community right now or find that you need to get back into one, I encourage you to spend some time in prayer, reflecting on what is stopping you from living in community.

    As people of God, we have a choice, we can either fall and remain there without anyone to help us up, or we can fall and be surrounded by a community who will help us back up. I pray that you will choose to live in community, letting go of what hinders you, so you can walk alongside, encourage and spur others on in faith. For you were made for community, not isolation.

    Heavenly Father, we thank you for your caring provisions and for creating us for community. You know what has been stopping us from engaging in real community and we ask that you remove any hindrances. Bring into our lives people who we can fellowship with, break bread with, and pray for one another. The truth is we need each other and we need you. Amen. 

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  • Called Into Community

    I used to love getting ready to go places. I’d put on a cute outfit, maybe some booties, jeans and a cardigan with a long necklace. That was my go-to outfit before the pandemic. Now, my new daily outfit consists primarily of sweat pants and a hoodie. I find it harder than I used to to want to get dressed in normal attire and go out into public. I used to actually go into stores or out to eat in restaurants, but I find myself feeling like that is just too much effort. I’d much rather stay in my car, grab take-out and do the drive-up store pick up (I mean, that way I can still wear my sweats and I don’t have to break a sweat!). Anyone else in this boat??

    Do you have some new pandemic habits that have stuck even after you may no longer “need” them?

    Coming out of the pandemic, it seems we are all learning how to re-engage in life and in community after two long years of isolation and a daily rhythm that was anything but normal. After having to be separated from others and careful about keeping our distance, it is understandable that we may be hesitant to jump back in. For some people, there is a real need to continue to be cautious in order to keep their loved ones who are vulnerable safe. But the truth for most of us is that we have simply lost the habits we once had, like getting together with family and friends, volunteering at our kids’ school or going to church in person.

    We are creatures of habit. They say it takes 21 days of doing something to create a new habit. Well, we’ve had 2 years to create a whole new set of habits we’ve all gotten used to!

    It’s pretty normal for most of us to keep doing the things that we are used to doing until something interrupts them and we are forced to do something new. The pandemic forced us to change the way we did things and how we lived our lives. Out of necessity we had to create new ways of doing the things that were once normal, requiring us to stay home more and see people less. Whether we liked it or not, it was the way it was.

    Now as we are coming out of the pandemic, we need to recognize that some of the new ways of living that were once a necessity, may now no longer be helping us but rather hindering us. Some of our “new normals” are keeping us from the life in community that God wants for us.

    At first, online church made it possible to worship together, even though we were apart. But at some point it became easier to just stay home. We didn’t have to get out of our pjs or go anywhere. Working from home became the new norm, which can be great, but we also don’t have the same opportunities to interact meaningfully with others. The drive-up pick up became a thing everywhere and we had even more reasons to never talk to anyone or ever get out of our car. Are you seeing a trend here? 🙂

    The pandemic made it easier to escape into our own holes and ignore the world around us. Our new pandemic habit has been to “do our own thing” and to be honest, it can be so much easier than dealing with others. Relationships can be hard and socializing even harder, especially if you are an introvert. And while there are people we look forward to seeing and spending time with, there are also relationships in our lives that require a little more of our energy and patience.

    The problem with some of the new habits we may have acquired over the last couple of years is that they tend to only further isolate us and keep us from community. You see, community was created by God and for our good. We were always made for community–its God’s plan all along. It is through community that we best see Christ’s love displayed. As we do life together, we get to experience the abundant life Christ wants for us.

    Although we feel like staying home in our sweats because it is easier than being out in the world and in community, is it what we need? It is so much easier to let convenience and comfort become our biggest priorities. What we think we want, isn’t always what is best for us though. We need to be intentional about interrupting unhealthy rhythms and getting back to the abundant living God invites us into.

    Being in community helps us be our best selves because it requires us to give of ourselves, to think outside of our own mind and opinions, to serve others, to experience love and joy, forgiveness and kindness.

    Even God lives in community as the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). God’s plan for us has always been to live out our lives and faith in community.

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

    Hebrews 10:24–25

    I know sometimes when we hear this Scripture we can focus on the middle part and hear it in a guilt laden kind of way. Instead, as we look at the context, we see that this Scripture is reminding us what community is for–to spur one another on, to show Christ’s love, to serve one another as Christ would. The church is the body of Christ to the world.

    I believe the author of Hebrews is warning them that it can be easy to focus in our own stuff, especially in the world we live in today where it is super easy to keep to ourselves. But the author of Hebrews goes on to remind them just how important it is to stay in community because that is where the abundant life is. He wants them to remember that we need each other. When we are isolated and on our own too long, self-doubt and false narratives begin to fill our heads. It is when we come together in community that we are reminded of God’s truth and find encouragement to keep going when we want to give up.

    Being in God’s community helps us remember not only who God is, but who we are in Him. It is in the community of believers that we see a fuller, more comprehensive picture of God Himself. As the body of Christ, together we reflect God’s character of love and hope to a lost and lonely world.

    We’re our best selves when we’re experiencing life’s highs and lows with others. Being in community gives us the chance to be around people at different stages of their faith journey—and to bear their burdens alongside them (Galatians 6:2). That’s awesome because everyone has something to teach and to learn.

    Community helps form our character and gives us the opportunity to reflect Christ, offering and receiving love and forgiveness from one another. It smooths out our rough edges and refines our hearts in ways that self-reflection in solitude cannot.

    I know my endurance for socializing and being in community isn’t what it once was. Maybe you feel that way too. It may take some time to build and develop those social muscles all over again, but it begins with getting back out there. It’s going to take a willingness to break free from our “new normals” and step out of our comfort zones. It may even require you to ditch the sweat pants. 😉 But it will be SO worth it!

    So what are some baby steps each of us can take to get back into community?

    The best first step is to begin with prayer. Praying for a willing heart, saying  “Lord help me to want to be willing, even if I’m not right now”. Praying for God to open your eyes to the need for community, and give you a fresh appreciation for His people. Asking God to open your eyes to the fears that may be holding you back and help make your thoughts and actions obedient to Christ.

    As we get back out there, we have a chance to reprioritize the things that we are adding back into our lives, according to God’s Word and His Will. Some things may look different than they did before the pandemic, but that’s ok. Just keep leaning into God and His direction in your life, and He will lead you to where you are supposed to be–straight into His abundant life for you.

    This may look different for different situations (especially if there are special unique situations you are facing), but we all can find ways to connect to the outside world. It’s ok not to jump into it all at once. Just take the one small thing that you feel God is calling you to add back into your life. Maybe it is to call that friend and get together for coffee, or it is to try out that new church, or go back to church, or maybe it is inviting family over for dinner. It could even be as simple as bringing a neighbor some flowers.

    Take some time this week to pray about how God might bring you one step deeper into a life of community. There is abundant blessing waiting for you found only in a life lived together!

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