Somewhere along the way, American culture became focused on individual units instead of communities. People have stopped having relationships with their neighbors. We hear stories of people who have been dead for years before anyone knew. We have just become so disconnected with one another.
Community is a simple idea and is something that is very important to us. I don't want to brag, but we are reeeeallly fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing community of people. Savannah and I were in a unique situation when we started looking for a new church. We were practically starting over in terms of relationships with other people. God clearly wanted us at this new church and it quickly became our home. The friendships that we have built there are so genuine and strong. If I need anything at all, I don't even hesitate to ask because I already know the answer. There is such comfort in knowing that I will be supported by my friends no matter what. We couldn't be more thankful to be in a place where the idea of community is so strongly emphasized. This is a place were ideas aren't just talked about. They are actually carried out.
Community is hard work but it is so rewarding. It can flow naturally, but you definitely have to have the right expectations and frame of mind. Even though it's challenging, nothing can compare to being a part of a God-centered community. Now we are no experts on community, but if you asked us how we do it, this very organized list would be our answer.
Obviously love has to be a part of community,but the kind of love that exists in authentic community isn't the kind of love that fades. This kind of love is the kind that can withstand absolutely anything. Love in a community requires total denial of self and loving in a way only God can provide.
2. BE GRATEFUL
Basically if you want to be better at anything, start at being grateful. This is the basis for peace, and being at peace with oneself is crucial for being part of a community. Your discontentment will cause grief within community. Having a grateful heart is something to seek every day. There is always something in which to be grateful.
3. PAY ATTENTION
Savannah and I have family group (weekly Bible study) with people from our church every Wednesday, and food is always involved. Everyone knows that I have celiac disease and therefore cannot eat gluten and they always accommodate me. I have never had to ask and every single week someone has made something I can eat. This may not seem like a big deal, but it's so refreshing. Try to remember the big and little things about people. Pay attention and people will appreciate that you noticed and remembered that detail.
This should definitely be #1, but here we are. I'm sure lots of people would tell me you can have successful relationships without God, and we'll just have to agree to disagree. Honestly, I suck left to my own devices, and without Christ I'm a completely self-absorbed, manipulative, crybaby. That person does not make a good community member, and this is why God must be at the center of relationships. People in Christ-centered communities naturally have conversations about how God is working in and around their lives. This is how community grows- by watching God move in each other. When God is the focus of my relationships, then I am not the focus nor is anyone else. Everyone does better when you are not the center of your relationships. Also, God simply deserves to be at the center of everything, so there's that.
5. BE HUMBLE
Ugh. This one is hard. Pride shows itself in way different ways, and it is always divisive in community. Humility is yet another thing to seek daily. I don't think anyone is ever cured on Earth of pride, but we can always be better. In prayer I often ask God to show me the pride in my life. That's definitely a painful process. However, I always end up better for it. Community thrives on humility.
Duh. Communicate your expectations. People can't read your mind. If you feel something, then you should say it. However, I am a firm believer in not communicating in the heat of the moment. There is a saying about never making a promise when happy and never making a decision when angry (I butchered the saying, but you get the idea). Definitely never speak in anger, but you must let the other person know you are angry. Simply, relationships die without communication. Before having a difficult conversation with someone, I often ask God to give me the words. He always does and the conversation always goes better than I could have imagined.
There is no room for holding grudges in community. We must forgive. When this is hard, remember how God has forgiven you. If that doesn't help do the unthinkable- pray for the person. Ask God for the strength to pray for the person if you have to. Just take the necessary steps to forgiveness because forgiveness is vital in community.
8. CONSIDER OTHERS
When you are a part of a community, you have to think about your decisions and how they affect others. For example, Savannah and I will pretty much be living commune style in about a week. If I decide to move out, they are greatly affected. Another example is if I know someone struggles with drinking, I should consider not drinking around them. Basically, I have to be conscious of how my words and actions affect others.
9. BE FLEXIBLE
Your community will be ever changing and growing and those require flexibility. There are people that want to do things just because that's always how they've been done, and that can often hold community back. Don't be that guy.
Pray together. Pray separately. Pray. Pray. Pray. You cannot do community without prayer. People in your community will tick you off. Guaranteed. You should definitely pray when you're ticked off with a member of your community. You should also pray and thank God for your community. Pray to see the people in your community through His eyes and not yours. Pray to love them more. Pray to love God more. There are endless opportunities for prayer within community. Just do it!
This is not an exhaustive list and I'm sure I've left something out. A good rule of thumb is simply don't be a jerk. Easy, right?!
I hope you are part of a loving and supportive community like we are. If not, pray for one! God absolutely wants us in community. If you are in Nashville and are looking for a church, hit us up. We'd love to have ya at our church, The Eden Gate.