WHY DO I NEED COMMUNITY?
Community. Is there a greater buzzword in the church or in popular culture in general? It seems like wherever people go—from college campuses to local coffee shops, to bars and high school cafeterias—everyone is looking for community. But, why? Why do we need community, especially as followers of Jesus?
Jesus knew community was important in his life; in fact, it was essential in order to accomplish what the Father had given him to do. Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), accomplishing salvation for all who would have faith in him, but before he gave his life for us, he showed us how to live.
Jesus sought community. He gathered twelve disciples around him and walked through life with them for three years. Starting in the small outpost of Galilee, Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James (Son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot. The journey he called them to was one marked by self-denial (Matt. 16:24), faith and trust (Luke 17:6), daring courage (Matt. 14:29), radical obedience (John 14:23) and hopeful patience (Rev. 22:7).
These traits Jesus called them to exhibit are some of the most unnatural to our human nature. We are all naturally demanding, worrisome, timid, and hasty. The disciples shared in our common human condition—Judas even betraying Christ—yet, Jesus chose each one for his community.
Without this community, the disciples would not have taken ahold of Jesus’ teachings and example of how to live. Within this community, they had the opportunity to actively practice what Jesus was preaching. When Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ, the whole community grew in faith (Mark 8:29). When Jesus called Matthew, an assumedly greedy tax collector, the whole group learned about the grace of God toward sinful people. When Judas fell, the disciples understood the consequences for disobedience and sin. Their experience of community birthed godliness and spiritual growth throughout their time with Jesus and after his resurrection.
Community breeds growth and richness of life when done right. Jesus modeled this by choosing twelve people to join him on his life’s journey. As we journey in life towards Christlikeness, we need people around us who can encourage, speak hard truth, celebrate with us, and always direct us to Jesus as the Bible reveals him to us. As I look back on my life, I can see that I grew most rapidly in my relationship with Christ when I was surrounded by a community walking together toward Christlikeness. As we begin the New Year, let’s build community into our lives as we walk together in becoming more like Jesus.