In March 2020, when Americans found themselves suddenly isolated at home, they discovered they craved community.
That’s why residents of apartment buildings opened their windows and sang the song “Lean On Me” together.
That’s why people started attending Zoom meetings with friends.
That’s why celebrations took place as car parades.
MIT researchers studied the effects of social isolation during COVID-19.
According to Rebecca Saxe, the John W. Jarve Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, “People who are forced to be isolated crave social interactions similarly to the way a hungry person craves food. Our finding fits the intuitive idea that positive social interactions are a basic human need, and acute loneliness is an aversive state that motivates people to repair what is lacking, similar to hunger.”
These neurologists simply recognized what we already knew about how God created us – we were created for community!
Why Community Matters
NavPress explains, “Christian community is simply sharing a common life in Christ. It moves us beyond the self-interested isolation of private lives and beyond the superficial social contacts that pass for ‘Christian fellowship.’ The biblical ideal of community challenges us instead to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God.”
A communal life with God is discovered when I have, intentionally and purposefully, positioned myself within a family of people following Jesus alongside each other by the direction of the Holy Spirit.
We can see, hear, and feel the Kingdom of God, here on Earth, when we practice community.
Me and Jesus
The problem is that being in community with others is a little scary.
The closer you get to someone, the more they know about you. And the more they know about you, the less perfect they think you are.
Many Christians are disinterested in any kind of actual, open life in community. They are unwilling to open their schedules or their hearts enough to live in community.
So instead of practicing community, we choose to practice hyper-individualism.
Hyper-individualism is the robust ideology of self-regulation, self-dependence, self-reliance, self-supremacy, and self-benefit, even, occasionally, to the detriment of the community.
It’s the “everything in my life should serve my own perspective, purpose, desire, and benefit” mindset. Anything that isn’t doing that is worth removing. Anything that is slightly inconvenient or hard can be put off.
In individualist America, we have taken on, in the church, this “Me and Jesus” mentality.
Me and Jesus are doing our own thing. I have my own community - just me and Jesus.
“Me and Jesus” eventually equates to just “me” because often, our faith is led not by anything to do with Jesus but by my own intuition and convenience.
The thing is – you need both a personal relationship with God and a communal life with God to grow in your faith and flourish in the Kingdom of God.
Go Deeper In Community
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47
It is important to understand that having a community requires a little more than attending church a couple of Sundays out of the month. Simply put - it’s difficult to have any depth in your relationships when you only participate in a large gathering.
That’s why we encourage church members to join our community groups. Community Groups at South Bay exist for following Jesus together and building a better community.
As you come together to share a meal, discuss a topic, laugh, and pray together, you will strengthen bonds. These small, intimate relationships are the types of community that will help you flourish in life with God.
Community groups are where we find encouragement and help for the journey. A community, such as this type of small group, gives you ample opportunities to practice your faith, such as loving others, forgiving others, and carrying one another’s burdens.
Community is the gift of God to us for life and renewal.
Confession and Celebration in Community
There are two core disciplines that we take up in our community: Confession and Celebration.
- Practice Communal Confession: In a short passage on prayer and community, James writes, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). We should practice the discipline of confession as James suggests. In communal confession, we bring what has been in darkness into the light. We are exposing what has been hidden within us. In practicing confession, we break out of isolation and find ourselves in community. We escape from our greatest sin, which is pride, and we humble ourselves before God and our brothers and sisters. We find mercy and we, eventually, find joy.
- Practice Communal Celebration: When we gather in community, we celebrate. We celebrate salvation and new life. We celebrate the redemption of God in creation. We celebrate the work of the Spirit within us. We celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our King. We celebrate the beauty of our community we’ve been given. We celebrate the promise of forever with God. We sing. We dance. We serve. We give back. We speak. We listen. We laugh. We take up the bread and the cup. We worship. We give testimony and rejoice.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:13-16