Dive On in, the Water Is Just Right!
As we wrap up the first month of this new year, unfortunately 2021 looks a lot like 2020 with COVID-19, political unrest, media ups and downs, Zoom meetings, the necessity of wearing masks, and social distancing—and summer seems such a long way off! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog as there are many other things you could be doing with your time. Ironically, there is no better time to dive into community than now while our world is in a deep pause. We have seen how much we miss community and gatherings. We have more time to self-reflect while trying to cope with the negative outcomes of social isolation. Businesses are struggling or closing down, mental illness is on the rise, people are losing their jobs and homes, churches are struggling to stay open, people are dying alone, the Zoom world has taken over, and relationships are falling into silence.
God has wired our lives for community. This topic appears ever close to God’s heart from the beginning of time when God created Eve (Genesis 2:21, 22) so that Adam would not be alone, have a helper, and have someone to procreate with; hence, bringing God’s creation into fullness. If community was not such a big deal then, why didn’t God just stop with the creation of Adam? Adam and Eve grew a large community because it was God’s plan, but it was not all that easy. They first had to repent after God called them out on the carpet in the garden which led to consequences and lessons for life ahead. Though we do not see Scripture that specifically states they verbally repented of their sins, to have a faithful and righteous son in Abel suggests that faith and repentance was established prior to Abel’s birth.
Community Leads to Growth—Time and Risk Required
Even though there have been many negative effects from COVID-19, we have had the opportunity to look for the positives within this storm. Throughout this past year I have repeatedly asked myself, “How do I still take part in community during this storm?” I have not wanted to allow Satan to win by completely isolating me from others during this time. God desires that we grow physically, mentally, cognitively, and spiritually—perhaps most of all in our relationship with him. Jesus assures us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV).
What a reminder that Christian community brings growth and it does not have to start in large numbers—with God, two or three are sufficient. I love the way Ryan Atkins reminds us of the need for community in his book, One Step Closer:
“Human beings are simply not meant to live in isolation without any sense of purpose or meaningful work. We desperately need connection with others. We need a reason to get up in the morning—our physical well-being literally depends on it.”
In Acts 2:47 we find that Christian community involves praising God and enjoying each other’s company. The positive return is this: God will add to the number of those who are saved. What an awesome opportunity to be a part of something much greater than ourselves. The first church, captured in the book of Acts, provides a great visual of daily life experiences which were so joyful and simple. How pleasing it must be for God to see the community move, a soul saved, and the church grow. Community is required to increase growth in God’s people, which in turn brings glory to God. Wow, if we could only make that our heart’s desire!
Reflecting on Acts 2:47, I have asked myself the question: “Where has the corporate church stumbled?” A Barna Group study that was done in 2000 indicated that 45% of Americans were found to be practicing Christians. The same study was completed again in 2020 and revealed that only 25% of Americans are practicing Christians. The data suggested that some of the reasons for the 20% drop in twenty years was due to the electronic and technology surge, coupled with a generational divide. I think one could deduce that there is an issue with unity due to isolation and separation.
Why the Divide, What Is Missing?
Do you recall the 2000 movie, Cast Away, with Tom Hanks as Chuck Noland who had one trustworthy companion, Wilson? One of Chuck’s classic comments to his volleyball friend was this: “Don’t worry Wilson, I’ll do all the paddling.” Chuck’s comment reminds us that he was trying to survive with no support and no real community.
I know some people who have avoided community because of fear. Some dread the idea of being transparent, taking a risk, or even feeling as if they must fake it like Chuck Noland did. Let’s be real, to grow as a person and stretch yourself you must sacrifice time and take risks. In order to take the promotion, learn to play an instrument, go to college, volunteer to lead, or even start a community group you must take some risk. In community, we all take the risk as we all must contribute in order to see God move. We all contribute in different ways as referenced by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:17-19. As one body, all Christians are created with different abilities and talents, but we do it all to glorify and worship God. We need each other because we help to fill one another’s gaps—and we all have them!
What Does This Mean for You and Me?
The goal of followers of Christ should be to constantly strive to be Christlike in our thoughts and actions. Our world today is in desperate need of seeing the joy, peace, and light that shines through when we are Christlike in our attitudes, conversations, and decisions. The Bible tells us that community comes from the Creator. We were made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Even at the creation of the universe, community was already taking place as we see in Genesis 1:26: “Let US make mankind in OUR image . . .” (NIV). God our Father, Christ his Son, and the Holy Spirit were already present during creation, in perfect harmony with one another. Wanna make a difference in the lives of those around you? Demonstrate in some very practical ways what real joyful, fulfilling community looks like.
Personally, I have enjoyed finding community at Christ’s Church at Mason through several avenues: Through my involvement in Man Church, serving coffee with First Impressions, and being involved in various community groups. Others find community within our women’s groups, in the senior adult ministry, rocking babies in the nursery, High School Ministry (HSM), His Hands Bear Ministry, teaching youth with CC Kids, joining the worship team, or by starting a new community group.
Can I challenge you today to sign on for the Christlike growth that comes through community involvement so that you can shine God’s light brightly and disciple others as we are commanded to do? To see some of the current opportunities, CLICK HERE.
I guarantee you that communing with God in prayer and in his Word, along with serving with and for others will lead to spiritual growth, as well as numerical growth for God’s kingdom. Let’s practice on a daily basis what we find in Acts 2:46, 47: “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” (NIV).
The water is warm. There’s plenty of room for you. Jump on in!
Gary Herbert and his family have called Christ’s Church home for nineteen years. He is currently an elder, community group leader, and is involved with the First Impressions ministry. Gary is employed by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as the Senior Patient Advocate.