I’ve said this previously, but I will restate it here again: deep community is not the ultimate goal of the Jesus follower… communion with God is. Deep community is a place where people are honest with one another about sin issues. It’s where I go to confess what I’ve done, accept love and grace, and often times counsel towards a preferred way to live. All my work towards finding these relationships is not the ultimate reward… the out pouring of what comes from this is my goal: to become the man God has made me to become.
Now, whenever I write about community, I hear back from several people about how their church doesn’t provide deep community for them. I want to put this out there: I’m starting to think that it’s not the church’s job to form that for you. That’s like me taking Malachi (our 5 week old son) and putting him on a bicycle and telling him to ride. you can’t force the growth of a human and you can’t force the development of relationships. I don’t think a church can manufacture community. I used to… I think God wanted to heal me from that though. I think the role of the church is more about creating environments where people encounter God and one another.
A quick example: When I first got to SA, I just wanted to be around South African Christians. I didn’t want to contribute to a church, or frankly, to be deeply known by anyone those first few months. I just wanted to hear the word of God being preached, and be around people who love Jesus too (who weren’t American). So we started attending 3rd Place Church. Eventually, I made some friendships with people, though it really only stayed in the “casual and pseudo” environment. With a simple handful of people from that community, two years later, I have experienced moments of chaos and truth telling with them where I would say I have deep community. The church did NOTHING to harbor this. It wasn’t their place to…
it was mine.
It’s my responsibility to tell the truth to others and to receive truth about me from others. If I’m not willing to do that with someone, I will not experience deep community. I will only participate in neat Bible studies that are helpful for my growth. That’s the only thing small groups, Bible studies, etc… are SUPPOSED to do. Deep community in a small group only happens after individuals risk telling the truth and hearing the truth from one another. I’ve been part of plenty of small groups that ended as great Bible studies but relationships didn’t formalize into deep community. Only about 2 or 3 “group life” experiences out of about 50 have ever led me to what we’ve been discussing here. And honestly, it’s because I didn’t want it to progress so I didn’t work towards it.
Final word: deep community is not something we all need to have with every person. It’s insane to think we can do that. Jesus had 12 disciples, but I’d argue only 3 of them did he have the deep community with. Don’t let the pursuit of community be your ultimate spiritual pursuit. Chase after the presence of God and the deep communion with Him. Deep community only serves as a tool towards THAT end.