The Value Of Community
By Certified Consultant, Dan Abbatiello
If nothing else this recent corona virus pandemic has caused me to take a look at something I have, at least in part, taken for granted. At times it seems we have to lose something before we truly appreciate what we had. Not being able to assemble for church, having church activities being considered “non-essential”, schools being closed, some having to self – quarantine, people wearing masks and the mandate for social distancing has caused me to appreciate the value of community a bit more. Although I have grown to appreciate the electronic advances and what the internet affords, I for one miss face to face personal contact. Without personal human contact, I think anointing with oil and the laying on of hands would, shall we say, take on new meaning.
The good news is that this corona situation will not last forever. However, the “experts” are saying that the corona virus pandemic will create a new normal; things will in some way or another be changed forever. If that is true there is one thing I hope changes. I hope there will arise a new appreciation for community – authentic Christian community.
Acts 2 says that they devoted themselves to fellowship…and all who believed were together… in the temple and from house to house, (Acts 2:42-46). Hebrews states, “…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as it is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
I would like to offer a reminder of the value of community by recommending two books. The first is Feels Like Home by Lee Eclov and the second is Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton. Read together, these two well-written volumes will be an insightful look into the importance and benefit of community life in the church.
The fact is we live in what can be considered, the most consumer driven and individualistic culture on the planet. These two realities militate against true Christian community. Unfortunately, too often the church world falls prey to these cultural pressures and equates programmic participation with authentic Christian community. Both Eclov and Barton believe that Christian community must reach beyond transactional consumerism. We must form communities that enable us to be transformed into the image of Christ. Barton says,
People can come together in unity around many things; they can participate together in a variety of causes. What makes a community distinctly spiritual is that we gather around the presence of Christ, mediated by the Holy Spirit. We are unified by our commitment to be transformed in Christ’s presence through the work of the Holy Spirit so we can discern and do the will of God as we are guided by the Spirit, (page 77).
Eclov says something similar but in the context of the church being a family – a community of care for one another. Eclov writes,
The family members are the primary concern in a healthy home. So it is in the church. It sounds nearly heretical to say so, but the lost are not our first concern as church leaders nor as church members. Our first responsibility is to God’s household. Peter told the elders, ’Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care’ (1 Peter 5:2) … (then) When the church family matures in Christlike qualities we naturally develop Christlike concern for the lost. A healthy church family creates a kind of gravitational pull toward the gospel, (page 24 & 26).
I believe that every believer desires to experience transformational Christian community in the context of a healthy church family. I also believe that unbelievers long for this as well and will be attracted to it like moths to a flame. To me transformational Christian community is a “pearl of great price” we must not neglect or substitute for anything less.