God created us for community. He wants the human race to be His dwelling place. That is the goal of everything. Everything He does is toward this end. And He’s accomplished what He set out to accomplish. We are in Him. He is in us. For all who believe, we are all one in Christ. It is finished.
But there’s still a matter to deal with. It’s only expressed fully when something happens to His people. As I dive into more deeply in this post, it’s to be built together into that dwelling place.
It’s what we were made for. It’s our biggest challenge. It’s the highest achievement a Christian can attain.
Because it’s God’s ultimate purpose, it’s also the thing the enemy wants to keep from happening more than anything else. We can be a part of making it happen.
Here are 12 components necessary to being a part of it…
A group of interconnected people
If your desire is to be built together in biblical community, your life has to be interconnected with a good amount of people. If you reserve your time, attention and resources to only those people you really like, it’ll never happen. There’s not enough of those people :).
And even if there were, many of those people won’t really like each other as much as you like them.
Godly community must be rooted in a fundamental lifestyle of being part of a large connected group of people. Deeper community will involve less people and more involvement than you will have from that larger pool of people.
But the sustainability of deep community comes from the constant participation in a larger group of people. If you hope to build biblical community, it has to start with a wide network of people in your life.
Most of the humans that have lived on our planet have lived a village-type existence where a large group of people care for and depend on one another to some degree.
Some cultures like the one I live in (USA) don’t have this for the most part. Therefore, we must be more intentional about making sure this is part of the infrastructure of our lives.
If you’re trying to be in close-knit community with people you’re not physically close to, you’ll fail every time. When it’s just between you and another person, that’s one thing. When you’re talking about a group of people, that gets magnified.
Close-knit community only has a chance of developing between those who live physically close to each other.
The world’s system operates in a hierarchical structure of relationships that establish tiers of importance. Authentic Christian community takes the shape of a circle and operates in ways in which everyone feels indispensable.
They’ll feel the freedom and the accountability to be a co-equal participant among those that are part of the group. That equality will come in presence, contribution and responsibility.
It won’t feel like there are one or a few more important people that are working with less important people to help them. It will feel like the whole group is peer-led.
You won’t have close-knit community with people you’re not working on something important with. When we try to fulfill our life’s purpose and then add the work of relationships on top of that, it isn’t plausible or sustainable.
When your purpose and your relationships exist in separate spaces of life, neither of them gets your best.
Close-knit community only happens where people are working on a bigger mission together. Community must be about something. This is where the strongest relationships form.
Most people would use the term “accountability” here. But I’m not a big fan of that word because of the connotations that underly it’s meaning. To keep an account is to keep a record. But love keeps no records of wrongs.
Instead, we’re to continuously call and support each other to be the best versions of ourselves. Instead of being like an accountant, we’re to be like editors of a book for each other. We’re there to provide gracious truth to one another.
We’re only built together when we’re sharing the responsibility to help each other. When this happens one way in relationships, people aren’t built together. It must go both ways. It must be shared.
Jennie Allen says this in her book Find Your People…
The last thing you and I need are friends who do nothing more than cosign our stupidity. If I’m about to careen off a cliff and you choose to stand there cheering for me, we’ve got a problem. I don’t need acceptance when I’m being a fool; I need help.
God’s way to protect us from the enemy and sin is to share responsibility with each other—our people fighting for us and us fighting for them.
We must share the responsibility to be open and honest with each other and then edit each other in our pursuit of growth. People that don’t share responsibility with each other don’t grow in authentic biblical community.
Guess what will happen if you always wait for others to initiate. They rarely will or they’ll stop.
Close-knit community doesn’t appear out of nowhere and doesn’t last if people aren’t initiating consistently. This is one of the shared responsibilities. You won’t feel strong connection with one another if you don’t share in initiating with one another.
When the same people are always initiating, they get tired. They start to think you don’t actually want to be in community with them as much as they thought you did.
Even if it feels unnatural to you, you have to do your part and choose others that will do their part in making sure you all do life together.
People don’t always think about how their physical environments affect their lives. You have to have functional places for people to meet together where it’s easy to have meaningful conversations.
What personal spaces do you own or could you create where it’s easy to consistently meet with people? Make sure you have spaces to meet that provide an atmosphere where community can develop.
Everyone has 168 hours in their week. You’re busy, but you’re not busier than anyone else. Everyone is 168 hours busy in their week. We just choose the ways in which we fill those hours.
If you are serious about being a part of close-knit biblical community, you will choose (and find and focus on others who will choose) to dedicate time to each other.
You will have to say no to some things you’d like to do or be a part of. Some good things. But community is costly and time is the primary asset that pays for it.
One of the best ways to make sure time is spent together is to involve each other in things you’re already going to be doing. You’re going to eat, relax, work on the yard, go fun places, etc. Why not do it together some of the time?
We need to use the time doing things we’re already going to be doing to be with those we’re committed to doing life together with.
Allen also says…
If you are trying to make friendship (community) an addendum to your busy schedule, it will never work.
Most people don’t typically get transparent unless they’re prompted to. Good conversations are typically unlocked by the asking of a good question.
Not only do good questions communicate your care to a person, they offer permission to them to open up about life.
We’ve established a tradition in my household at dinnertime. We always ask each other “What is your high and low for the day?” We could sit and stare at each other and talk about if we like the food or not. We may end up talking about what’s going on with the weather or what we feel about gas prices.
But asking a question like this invites us to share about the things that have affected us throughout our days. Consistently, this question leads us to longer, deeper conversations we would have never had if we didn’t ask that good question.
People have to feel like they can be themselves. If they don’t, walls will stay up. Thoughts and feelings will stay in. The inevitable community-dividing conflict will come out.
Those that are catalysts for building community have a way of making people feel safe and accepted right where they’re at in life. It’s this safety that leads to vulnerability and ultimately, community.
True biblical community is built on the foundation of learning to sacrificially love one another how Christ loved us. We can only love another if we know HOW we need to be loved.
Each person is unique and needs love to be expressed to them in different and unique ways. When we share what we need from each other, we create the opportunity to love one another better.
This doesn’t mean you share these things with everyone in the large group of interconnected people you’ve become a part of. You have to find the safe people that will be in your inner circle of close-knit community for this.
But to find them, you will have to take some risk and will for sure get hurt. It’s an unfortunate part of the journey in our fallen world.
Especially in my culture, you have to build time together into the rhythms of life. If there isn’t expected gathering times that people plan for, it’s hard for people to consistently stay on each other’s calendar.
If you commit to days and times when you will consistently be together, it will help make sure time stays a priority.
People can be built together when they believe that community is what they were made for. This must translate to the mindset that it’s more important than anything else in life.
This mindset is what gets people to use conflict to be built together instead of be broken apart. Conflict can be the soil of community growth.
Yes, sometimes relationships must end for different reasons. But if a sincere effort is made by everyone to live in grace and truth together, this should be quite infrequent if you committed to the appropriate, safe people in the first place.
They should be people that are willing to embody all the previous components above.
It takes practice
Some of the components above will come more naturally than others. Most of us need a lot of practice at many of them.
But if you’re willing to count the cost and find others that are willing to do the same, your practice together of these components will result in close-knit community.
You’ll do your part in fulfilling God’s ultimate purpose of being built together to more fully express His Life in the world.