“Jason, I can’t tell you how much IV Church has impacted my life… I didn’t realize while in Isla Vista how important community was. I took it for granted, even at times got really frustrated by it, but now I realize it was the missing ingredient to my walk with God.”
This text or something similar to it has been sent to me countless times. It always strikes me as a great reminder that community truly is the soil that our faith in God grows best in. Community is common unity. It is unity around King Jesus and running after His purposes together. It’s a fellowship, fellows-on-the-same-ship. It’s not just a bunch of Christians living together, but believers postured towards Jesus and His heart for family.
Sure, we can grow without community, at least for a season. But, I have noticed that those who live isolated from it grow a whole lot slower and usually a whole lot more independent from God and others (not a healthy or sustainable place to be). Growing up, my parents had a crazy vine that grew on the side of our house. This vine took on a life of its own. Yet, once they put a lattice behind the vine, it grabbed onto the lattice and took on a better life. The Christian life was meant to work in the context of community. Community serves as our lattice to help us grow and mature in a healthy way. From the beginning with Adam & Eve, to God calling a nation (Israel) out of slavery, to Jesus picking 12 disciples, and (may we never forget) the Trinity, the heart of God has always been for family, community, and fellowship.
One observation I have made is that those that do best are always those that stay connected to community. Being a pastor for over a decade, living life as the house dad of a community house of 20+ believers for over two years, and being a dad of 6 kids now, I have seen this over and over again: those that allow God to use community as a place to be refined and to learn to serve (“regard one another as more important than yourselves”) are the beleivers who do better and stay healthier in Jesus.
You see, family has a way of bringing the best and the worst out of us. Literally. Real community brings the best out of you and helps you to shine like Jesus. It also brings the worst out of you and helps it to stay out. Everyone wants to become gold refined by fire, we just don’t want to experience the fire that turns us into the gold.
Community at some level is this fire and it prepares us to love more like Jesus. I can’t tell you that I’ve celebrated every trial, fire, and squeeze that living life with others has brought, but I can tell you I would never have it any other way. God has used community to shape me into who I am today and show me clearly His heart as a family man. A heart that loves family and welcomes all people into family.
For those reading this who are in community: keep your eyes on what is working and know that the grass really isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it. For those who are disconnected from community: continue to pursue it. I am convinced, because of who God is, that if you pursue community He will provide it.