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Community – What does that word mean?

August 2, 2012, 1 Comment

Community. What does that word even mean?

Sometimes a word is used so often that it begins to lose any sense of impact with us. It happens all of the time. Think about the myriad of business terms that come in and out of favor each decade. Vision. Mission. Team. Brainstorming. Entrepreneur. Paradigm. Win-win. And one of my favorites: Cutting-edge.

At one time, they all had significant meaning, if only for a season. Now, they fall in and out of favor depending on who is your boss-of-the-moment. Sometimes passé and sometimes brilliant, we wield such words like a Samurai warrior with his sword or a kid with a toy light saber.

Maybe that is why so many people began using the word “community” rather than “fellowship.” The latter was once a word with rich meaning of lives shared, burdens relieved, and joys distributed. As a boy growing up in a Southern city and regularly attending a revivalistic church, it usually meant a big dinner with lots of fried chicken and casseroles. And that was fine with me. Especially when the homemade chocolate pies were brought by the senior adult ladies.

Over time, fellowship did not mean what we thought it should mean. So, a new word has become the go-to word to communicate an old meaning. Community. To some, it means the geographic place where they live. “I live in the Silver Spring community just north of D.C.” But to those in a small group at church, it is increasingly meaning something else. It has become a signpost of life shared.

Now, this is where a definition could be inserted into a blog post. But, restraint is perhaps a better course. Instead, I think you should become the subject matter expert. Sure, we could tear through a list of “must haves” and “must avoid” for better community but first your church must define community before it can act in community.

So today’s blog entry is a challenge for church leaders: Define what community means. Search through passages from Genesis to Revelation. After all, God is seeking community with us and setting us up for community with one another. Adam and Eve had it in Genesis 2. Moses is stretched in Numbers 12 to keep it. Ruth and Naomi find an unexpected level of it. Mephibosheth never thought he could have it, but freely receives it. Job seeks it only to be silenced by its arrival. Isaiah celebrates in it while Jeremiah finds refuge to lament in its presence. Hosea and Gomer provide one of the oddest illustrations for it. Jesus offered it to twelve men who followed, questioned, doubted, believed, and most gave their lives for it. Paul constantly wrote about it. The church both excelled and stumbled in it. And one day, Christ will perfect it.

So what is it? Theologians, saints, and sages have given a multitude of definitions. But you are the community expert in your church. So initiate the conversation in your small group this week. Throw it out there and then throw open your Bibles. Let the conversation fill the room about life, sharing life, and doing life together. Let God’s kingdom-expanding grace leap off of the pages of scripture and bring it to light and life to your own community. This week, rather than hope for community—lead your friends to define, describe, and dedicate themselves to it.

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