by Crystal Brooke:
Good, healthy community among believers is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been a part of. In an earlier post, I wrote about how one of the benefits of being involved in a parachurch ministry while in college is that they offer community with other like-minded Christians. I want to expand on that idea. As Christians, I think we frequently forget how important community is. We get caught up in trying to do everything by ourselves. Constantly trudging along the paths of life, blinded to the fact that we have brothers and sisters in Christ walking the same paths as us. Maybe part of the reason why we do this is that we haven’t really learned what community is and we haven’t personally experienced community with others. With that in view, let’s look at what community is, what istlooks like, and how a parachurch ministry can provide it.
What is ‘Christian community’?
I love looking at the meaning of words and I tend to just start with good ol’ Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster defines community as “a unified body of individuals.” How interesting it that Merriam-Webster chooses these exact words to define community. How closely the definition of community follows the words that Paul penned his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians. Romans 12: 4-5 “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Corinthians 12:27 “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” I don’t think this is a coincidence. As Christians, globally we are all a part of the body of Christ and whether we realize it or not, apart of one of the most diverse and beautiful communities ever. We are a body of individuals unified by Christ. We are a community of Christians.
What does community look like?
So, community is a group of individuals unified by common interests or characteristics, they are unified by their commonality, but what does this look like? Rich, healthy community happens when its members come together to fellowship with one another. An absolutely beautiful example of this is found in Acts 2:42-47,
“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.”
So many lessons can be learned from this passage, but here are a few points that stick out to me in this passage. Community involves fellowshipping with others, regularly meeting with other Christians with the purpose of studying the Word, praying together, and worshiping the Lord. Community is living in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is caring for each other and being cared for by others. Community brings glory to the Lord.
How can a parachurch ministry offer you community?
The answer to this is quite simple; parachurch ministries bring individuals of different backgrounds and walks of life together and unites them under a single cause. Parachurch ministries by nature offer an accessible, unified community. Now I would like to clarify and say that just because parachurch ministries offer community, doesn’t always mean that it is a healthy or life-giving community. The Bible nicely lays out what healthy, fruitful community looks like but as fallen, broken individuals we will all fail from time to time. If you come across a parachurch ministry with healthy community, I encourage you to go for it. This type of community will encourage you to grow in your faith by reading the Word, praying, and worshiping the Lord. In this kind of community, you engage with others who will lovingly point you to the truth of the Gospel and keep you accountable. When I was a part of a campus ministry, I found friends that I could share my deepest fears, struggles, and doubts with. Other people constantly reminded me of the truth found in God’s Word, that my identity is in Christ alone, that prayer is powerful and that regardless of how I feel, God is faithful and good. In the ministry, people dispensed grace quickly and lived in harmony and unity. When I messed up, which I did frequently and still do, grace and forgiveness would be extended as I communicated the struggle; friends eagerly and willingly walked alongside me and lovingly pointed me back to Christ.
Life is hard. Regardless of what phase of life you are in, you don’t have to do it alone. If you are a current college student, I strongly encourage you to seek out good community. If this is at a local church, awesome! If it is in a parachurch ministry, awesome! College offers an abundance of opportunities and new experience. When you think ahead to your life two, three, or four years from now, what do you want to be true of yourself? How do you want your life to be defined? The company and community you surround yourself with can have a large impact in how your college years go.
The Lord used good community to impact my life in ways I never thought possible and I know, He can do the same for you!