“It’s hard to find community,” they say. I sit across from them at Starbucks or at my dining table and listen to them share about the difficulty of finding people they connect to, people with whom they can build a solid friendship and grow together in faith. “They” have been college students, single young adults, and married couples. “They” have been both laypeople and staff members, newcomers and long-standing members of the church.
I’ve wondered why this is the case for so many of us, why it’s so hard to find the community we all long for, and over time, I noticed several patterns in our expectations of church and in our relationship with her.
I saw this video a couple of months ago, and Tim Keller nailed it. This quote punches me in the gut –
The younger generation doesn’t want to make the sacrifices that enable community to happen… They want community, yet they’re not willing to pay the price.
I used to think that community was something to be found. That you search for kindred spirits like yourself and keep them close. It may still be partially true, but what I’m finding to be truer for me these days is that community isn’t something to be found but something that is made.
We are all in different places in life, and maybe, what was said in that video doesn’t really apply to you. Maybe your old community was lost because of a move or because of hurt. Maybe the season you’re in doesn’t allow you to have the time or the energy to keep up with the community you once had. Maybe the kind of work you do doesn’t allow you to be in the same place for very long. Maybe you’re really trying to make community happen, but no one else seems to want to make an effort.
But, maybe, what was said in the video punched you in the gut, too, because he’s talking about you. About us. Maybe we’re not willing to pay the price to make community happen because it takes too much work. Too much vulnerability. Too much patience. Too much time. Too much _________. Some days I wish it were easier, that everyone was on board to dive right into deep conversations and bonding in Christ. But as with everything in life, time and work are prerequisites to creating beauty, and the beauty of community can only happen with these two things in place.
Community takes work and grace and pushing through awkwardness. It takes commitment to one another. I’m wondering now if it’s not unlike a marriage commitment – where you promise to love and to cherish each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health. You are in each other’s lives to sanctify one another and to urge each other towards Christ. And through the entwining of lives, you get to see more of Christ. Community then, like marriage, is a preview of heaven that can only be seen as you invest in one another and grow together through the bond of Christ.
Maybe this will help us look at our current communities with different eyes and different expectations. Other people can never fully understand us or meet all our needs. We know only Jesus can do that. But He has chosen to use other people to show us that He is our all in all, and that is why we need each other and why it’s worth putting in the time and the commitment to make community happen. Through community, we get to see more of Jesus, and isn’t He worth seeing more of?