Community. What does that word mean to you? Hopefully, it is more than just a hit TV show and personally, as I reflected upon the idea, I wanted to share an example of how I recently experienced community in a way that was different than I ever had before. I experienced true community, or fellowship, one evening recently at a fellowship called Slingshot Church.
No one sat me down and told me they were having community, no one announced the fact that they were different, but I could see a few key markers that let me know that true community was actually happening. Here is what I experienced: First of all, they were gathered because of Jesus. Jesus himself told us, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am also” (Matthew 18:20). Each person around the table was acknowledging their desire for Jesus, their need for Him in their lives, and giving Him the praise and the glory for the way that He, and only He, had put their lives back together.
Secondly, each person there also had a role to play. Some greeted at the door, some led a few songs, others prepared food to share. No one came as a consumer to church, that night; they came as participants. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us in verses 4 to 6, “ There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Each person there came to bring a gift, and I listened quietly as they prayed for each other, shared testimony of what God had done in their lives that week, and shared how God’s Word and the Holy Spirit had led them.
For many of them, the gift they brought was much like the gift they were given: their voice. Each person around that table, no matter their background, education, financial status, race, gender, or past, was given a platform to share. No one was cut off or hushed. No one was short-changed or put down, and everyone was free to be a part of the conversation. Sadly, some of those wonderful folks have no other place where they have a voice.
This night, the community made it a priority to take the time to listen and to love each one gathered there. Finally, each person was given affirmation and love for being there and being part of how God is building His Kingdom. The pastor who led the meeting closed the night by telling them they were awesome and that he was so blessed that they chose to come to church. He inspired them as he cast a vision for them to be “Dripping Jesus” (their lingo for sharing the gospel) on those around them in their everyday lives, sending them on their way with prayer, celebration, and an open invitation to return and to bring others with them.
The three ways I saw community, that night is by no means a complete list. There are many other ways to experience community. So, I must ask, how have you felt community within your Christian context? And furthermore, how have you contributed to that sense of community personally? My prayer for you is that you find the community you seek and provide it for others as we follow after Jesus together.