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.