Community: The Anti-Alone

Intro

INTRODUCTION
How in the world do you develop a sense of community when you or the people around you are always moving? You may think that it’s just too hard. Besides, it can be painful when you separate. But stop and think. Isn’t it really worth it to have deep friendships with people who really know you and need you and give themselves to you? Actually we need community; God says that we were made for it! Dive in here to get a glimpse of others’ experiences and advice on community.

 

Story

At some point in my life I made what many people call their best friend. It’s a strange thing really, how two people can come from totally different places and become such good friends. While I don’t know for sure when we became best friends, we both agree by third grade we were the closest thing each of us had to a best friend.

 

While we didn’t go to school together, we did go to church together. It was just the two of us. By this point all of our other friends had moved onto bigger churches with bigger youth groups and the only other students left were two years older than us, or my little sister (someone I did not appreciate at the time). So, it was just the two of us. While the older kids didn’t have many nice things to say about her or me, we let them be, and most of the time they let us be. That was one of the reasons our bond was so strong; we faced those kids together, stood up for each other and supported one another. She was my PIC (Partner in Crime) for snow days, sleepovers, Saturday cleaning days and games. We spent as much time together as we could and talked on the phone every chance we got. She was my best friend, my confidant, and nothing could have ever separated us.

 

 While I was never a military kid and don’t have first hand experience in the military environment and all the unique issues that each of you face, I do have experience in community, friendship and leaving people behind, just like each of you. Like you, I feel the deep pain of change.

 

 As my best friend and I approached seventh grade, her Dad, a world traveler, got news of a transfer for him and his family from Chicago to Philadelphia. It hurt so bad to have her leave. We had banded together and faced so many different challenges together and now it felt like she was being ripped away. The person I shared all my secrets with, the one who knew my strengths and weaknesses, she was leaving me.

 

 I didn’t know what to do. In fact when she left, I never even said good-bye. Our family went down to visit my Grandparents in Florida and when I came home, she was gone…

 

 All these years later, she still lives in Philly and I’m in Chicago, our friendship never did return to what it was…for a long time I felt betrayed. My best friend had left me, our inside jokes had died, and I was left to face the older kids alone. I had trusted her; she held so many of my secrets and I had trusted her with much of my heart.I was bitter and didn’t want to open up to anyone again because the pain I felt (though I didn’t understand it at the time) cut deep.

 

While our friendship never went back to what it was, it got better. I’m not saying it was easy, I’m not saying there weren’t months and months that passed by without us talking sometimes. All those things happened; but what didn’t change was the connection that we shared because we had something in common, our background and our faith in Christ.

What my best friend and I shared was basic community. Each of us has come from different communities, some of them good, some of them not so good. You have the community from the last place you lived before you PCSed, the one before that, maybe even the one before that, as well as different sports teams, church groups, school clubs, family and anything else you are involved in. But true community runs deeper than just surface level connections. True community, healthy community, knows you for who you are. Kind of a scary thought. You may be thinking what I thought, “Why would I open myself up like that again?”

 

When God created us, he made us to be in relationship with one another. We see in Genesis that it was not good for man to be alone. While I may not always understand it, I think the creator of…well, us, probably knows what he is talking about. You see, it’s in community that we learn more about who we are. Try this little exercise with me: Think of one of the happiest days in your life...got one? Now consider this: You weren’t alone in that memory, were you? When we allow ourselves to enter into a healthy community with others, we learn more about ourselves. Your strength is often my weakness, and vice versa. So, we need each other. You see in me what I can’t see in myself, and together we become stronger; we grow in all areas of life together. Iron sharpens iron, and so, you sharpen me.

 

Sure, there will be people who hurt you, break your trust, but as C.S. Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia) points out, when we lock out hearts in a box and throw away the key, we slowly suffocate ourselves. Not only that, but, when we lock out others, we also lock out God.

 

Though building community can be hard and scary, especially over and over again, it is our friends who help bring us life. When friendships and communities are cared for, saying good-bye again is hard, but the best of friends stick with us forever. They have changed who we are and how we see the world for the better.

 

Today is not forever; don’t let the troubles and sorrows of today stop you from living your life and looking toward the future. Relationships are beautiful. Allow yourself to be open so that you can experience the community God desires for you.

Bible intro

Nehemiah is one of my favorite people to study in the Old Testament; and while there are tons of lessons we can learn from Nehemiah about prayer, faith, obedience and other things, one of the coolest things that we see through his account is just how powerful community can be.

The Israelites have been scattered yet again and when Nehemiah hears about how his home country has been left in shambles, the wall to protect Jerusalem destroyed, he cries out to God, and God answered. Nehemiah faced some tough challenges before getting back to Jerusalem but he had faith, and God was faithful. Now with Nehemiah back in Jerusalem he examined the wall and began the work of repairing the walls. But he wasn’t alone; that would have been an impossible job! God was leading Nehemiah to complete this project, but not alone. When we look at Nehemiah chapter 3 we see the names of over 20 different people and groups who repaired different parts of the wall.

 

If you would like to take a look at the actual list, check it out!

Personal Questions
1. Have you ever noticed yourself backing away from a healthy community? Why do you find yourself backing away?
2. What do you think would have happened if Nehemiah decided to do it on his own? How would it have changed what happened?
3. We all dream about different things. What is one dream that you had and saw through? If you had help, who helped you?
4. What bad things, decisions, character traits, etc. has a bad community brought into your life? How would getting plugged into a good community and sharing those bad choices with them help you heal and become more the person God created you to be?
Prayer

Father God, I know that when I enter into community, I am entering into something good that you made for me. Give me courage Father;it’s hard not being in any place long and losing friends when they move, but I also know that these are people that you put into my life. Help me to learn from those around me, to trust those around me, and to learn to love those around me. Give me wisdom as I enter into new communities; help me to see whether or not these new communities will be healthy ones for me and guide me to those who can help strengthen me. Father, I know that sometimes I may get hurt, but I also know that you are good and you will be there for me to pick me back up when I feel alone. Guide me, Father, in the name of Jesus.

Amen

411

Here is a look at the definition, distinction, and history of the word Community. Consider how that plays into God’s plan for you and all people to find a place of love, support, and completion within his community of the Body of Christ.

 
Etymology and definition of the term "community"
The word has been in the English language since 14c., comes from Latin; became established in English in a range of senses:
1. the commons or common people, as distinguished from those of rank;
2. a state of organized society, in its later uses relatively small;
3. the people of a district;
4. the quality of holding something in common, as in community of interests, community of goods;
5. a sense of common identity and characteristics.
 
Senses 1-3 indicate actual social groups.
Senses 4-5 indicate a particular quality of relationship.
---
Community versus Society
Community versus Formal Organization
Community (from 17c.) was felt to be more immediate than society. An attempt to distinguish the body of direct relationships from the organized establishment of the state. From 19c. the sense of immediacy or locality was strongly developed in the context of larger and more complex industrial societies. It has been joined by commune (French) and Gemeinde or Gemeinshaft (German) to express particular kind of relationships.
The contrast, increasingly expressed in the 19th century, between the:
 
Relationship of Community                                AND                      Relationship of Society
 
- more direct                                                                                                  - more formal
- more total                                                                                                     - more abstract
- more significant                                                                                       - more instrumental
 
Community was influentially formalized by Tonnies (1887) as a contrast between Gemeinshaft (community) and Gesellshaft (society).
 
"Community" has been "the warmly persuasive word to describe an existing set of relationships; or the warmly persuasive word to describe an alternative set of relationships.” It seems never to be used unfavorably and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term.
 
Complexity of the term "community": Relates to the difficult interaction between the tendencies originally distinguished in the historical development: on the one hand, the sense of direct common concern ; on the other hand, the materialization of various forms of common organization.
                                                                                               
source: http://people.ucalgary.ca/~bakardji/community/definition.html

 

Challenge
Quizical

Check out this quiz, which will help you figure out your spiritual gifts! Now remember to answer the questions as you are and not as you wish you were. Hopefully this will help you pinpoint some of the gifts God gave you so that you can build them up and use them to help others. One of the best places to develop your spiritual gifts is in a community of believers - youth group, small group, church, family, etc. God blessed you with these specific skills because he wants you to help others grow closer to him. Isn’t that cool? We were all created with certain natural abilities that are meant to help others grow! I encourage you to take these results and talk them over with a trusted adult like your leader, chaplain, or parent.

Ephesians 4:11&12

It was he who “gave gifts to people”; he appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers. He did this to prepare all God's people for the work of Christian service, in order to build up the body of Christ.

 

Scripture

Proverbs 27:17 – In community we learn more about ourselves and the world around us.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Community is an amazing blessing but not all communities you may find yourself in are good. How is each community affecting you?

Ephesians 4:25-3 – We know we need to seek out good community, but what does that look like and how do we need to act in community?

Romans 12:3-13 - Here Paul talks about how as a community of believers each of us has different gifts that we can use to strengthen one another.

Ephesians 4:11-13 – Paul again talks here about how we strengthen one another.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20 – A body is like community; it is made up of lots of parts, but it is still a whole unit that relies on the other parts.

Video

Though this video is used for a company’s training, it speaks to our own lives as well. Consider Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 as you watch

“Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because there is no one to help him. If it is cold, two can sleep together and stay warm, but how can you keep warm by yourself. Two people can resist an attack that would defeat one person alone. A rope made of three cords is hard to break.”

Life Questions
1. Look at your life in the past. What are different things that have kept you from trusting? Write down 3 things that can you do to initiate good community.
2. Make a list of five things you look for in a good community. Are those things apparent in your own life? Keep the list and come back to it each day this week. Ask God to help you find these things and show these things in your own life.
3. Make sure to appreciate the good communities that you have been a part of in the past. Was there one person who made it particularly good? If so, what did they do? Can you find a way to thank them or appreciate them? (send an email; write a letter; send a small gift; take them to lunch. Be creative, but show them you’re thankful) and remember to thank God for providing that community and bringing that specific person into your life.
Reflect

Do you remember the Disney movie Cinderella? There is a part where the group of mice decides to help Cinderella’s deepest dream of going to the ball a possibility by making sure that she has a dress acceptable to wear to the palace. Each mouse by themselves is completely unable to climb up the mannequin, drape fabric, cut and sew this elaborate gown, but when they work together (and sing as they work) they are able to create a beautiful dress and help their friend. (Warning: they sing as they work!)

Consider how God has created you to be part of the community of Christ. He doesn’t want us to struggle and attempt to lift things completely beyond our scope. He intended for us to have others to help us, and for you to be there to help others. Think of how you make yourself available to the people in your life who need help, and think of how you respond when others offer you a hand. Ask God to lead you and reveal his intentions for you and your community. He loves you and wants you to succeed and knows that community is a huge part of that.

1 Corinthians 12:25-27

“And so there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another.  If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it.”

Lol

Take a look at these funny commercials for a bus company - the message is the same whether you are dealing with life or transportation: