13 Jan Community Is Not a Product to Be Consumed
Last Sunday I had lunch with a close friend. And as we ate the topic of conversation turned to the discussion of community. During that conversation my friend said something very profound about community. He said, “community is not a product to be consumed.”
This statement struck me so deeply and brought to mind all kinds of images and ideas.
Community Not Affinity
First, many people bounce from church to church looking for what they call “community”. In reality they are looking for “affinity”.
- Affinity—common interests
- Community—common identity
When many people say they are looking for community they aren’t really looking for enduring and edifying relationships built on their identity in Christ. Rather they are looking for people with whom they have common interests.
They are looking for people who look, dress or decorate like them. Those who eat and shop at the same places they do. Friends who enjoy the same entertainment and hobbies, and have the same kind of disposable income to travel to the places they want to go. While many people say they are looking for community they are actually searching for affinity.
Biblical community consists of enduring and edifying relationships, built on our identity in Christ. These relationships dig beneath the surface of our lives resulting in the shaping of who we are and how we live. While there is nothing wrong with affinity do not mistake it for Biblical community. If you’re looking for Biblical Community, one place to find it is Life Groups. Find one today>>
Community Shaped by Consumer Culture
Second, even those really looking for community have a hard time finding it. Because the way they see it has been so shaped by our culture they look to consume community rather than cultivate it. The consumer culture we live in has so shaped the way we see that we walk into and out of church after church looking for people to consume.
We look to enjoy people based on our expectations of them—not who they really are and what God is doing in them. One of the many issues with seeing community this way is that, unlike most every other product we consume in our culture, there is no big box store where community lines the shelves. We cannot walk in and purchase enduring and edifying relationships.
Community Depot and Community R Us do not exist online or in any brick and mortar location. Biblical community cannot be purchased and downloaded online or scanned and bagged at the self-checkout kiosk. Community is not a product to be consumed. Rather it’s the fruit of relationships that have been cultivated.
3 Steps to Cultivating Biblical Community
The kind of community the Bible speaks of cannot be consumed but can be cultivated. So how do we cultivate community? Here are few steps:
- Cultivate In Unlikely Places
Even the hardest clay can be productive soil with the right cultivation: soil amendments, irrigation, and time. Often times real biblical community is cultivated in unlikely places among unlikely people. One of the markers of a vibrant church—it’s composed of people with no other reason to be connected apart from Jesus’ saving and sanctifying work in their lives. Just because you wouldn’t vacation with someone, doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate Biblical community with them.
God in Christ shattered the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile and brought them together as one man in Christ [Ephesians 2:14-16]. Surely He can bring together those with different tastes in fashion, food, and music. If community is going to be more than affinity it must be cultivated in unlikely places.
- Cultivate with Vulnerability
In order to cultivate Biblical community there has to be a moment when we move from projecting and protecting a “consumable” image to sharing the real state of our hearts. It’s always risky to share the real you because you never know how the real you will be received.
However, let the good news of Jesus set deep roots in your heart. You’ll come to know and love a Jesus who saves sinners like you. Then, the security of being loved and received by a good God because of Jesus will move you beyond the uncertainty of how people will receive you.
In order to find the kind of enduring and edifying relationships that shape who you are and how you live you have to risk being real. If community is to be edifying it must be cultivated with vulnerability.
- Cultivate with Humility
Finally, the cultivation of Biblical community must be done with humility. If you are going to have enduring and edifying relationships with people you have to come to terms with the fact that you are not always right.
In order to cultivate with humility you have to grow in your capacity to suspect yourself. It’s human nature to be suspect of other people’s motives, attitudes, and actions and to defend to the death our own.
However, for Christians who take the Scriptures at face value, the doctrine of human sin teaches us that none of us is as bad as we could be. But every part of each of us is infected with and influenced by sin.
If we really believed the doctrine of sin, it’s not that we would stop being suspect of others. But we would be just as suspect of ourselves as we are of them.
If you are always right and refuse to be suspect of your attitudes, motives, and actions, you aren’t really applying the doctrine of sin to yourself. If community is to endure it must be cultivated with humility.
Have you mistaken affinity for community? If so, dig deeper. Are you searching for Biblical community? If so, make the move from consumption to cultivation. One great way to do this is through Life Groups.