By R.J. Aitken
The Importance of Community.
A few years ago I volunteered to coach a basketball team of 2nd and 3rd graders in a league my church ran. We had one player on our team who was pretty talented for his age, but he never wanted to pass the ball to anyone else. He was a classic ball-hog and his teammates began to resent him for not sharing. As a coach, one of my jobs that season was to help him see the importance of playing as a team. We were never going to do well if we played every game 1v5.
When I was in college it felt like being Greek and Christian were two very different parts of my identity, and it was hard to see how they could go together. Furthermore, my Greek friends & Christian friends were two very different groups as well. I felt like neither group really understood the other part of who I was. Although I was fortunate to have had many friends in college, I look back and wish that I had pursued more relationships with other Greek Christians. I was just like that ball-hog in college, thinking I could play 1v5 ball.
Christianity is a team sport, not an individual sport, and to thrive in our faith we need to surround ourselves with like-minded teammates. Without a strong community we are not setting ourselves up for success.
Coach Jesus & the 72
Jesus shows his followers the importance of community in Luke 10 when he sends out 72 of his followers on their first ever mission trip. He doesn’t send them out alone, but sends them in pairs because he knows they need teammates. They were about to be challenged and rejected; they needed teammates they could depend on. They would also experience great joy- and who wants to have a party alone? When pains are shared amongst friends they decrease, and when joys are shared amongst friends they increase!
When pains are shared amongst friends they decrease, and when joys are shared amongst friends they increase!
Waving to someone at church is not the same as actually having a relationship with them. Relationships are the building blocks of community. Without relationships, community will not happen. Relationships require effort and don’t just appear on their own: they need initiative!
I learned a lesson about investing in relationships my freshman year when I was pledging my fraternity. It was a Sunday night and we had just finished a pledge class meeting when a few guys in my pledge class invited me to go shoot hoops with them. I was tired and still had homework left to finish, and to be honest I’ve never been very good at basketball (that’s why I coached elementary school kids). Yet I knew that getting to know the guys in my pledge class was important and would require actually spending time together. Looking back, some of those guys are now my good friends so it was time well spent!
Build Your Team
Who do you have on your team? Do you have people who can help you grow in your faith? If not, pray about who you can invest in relationships with. There weren’t many other Christians in my fraternity (especially my sophomore year) but there were other Christians in Greek life. I should have reached out to them more as I’m sure they had similar experiences and struggles. I could have done better with more teammates than I did by myself.
My senior year I started a prayer group where a few Christians in different chapters came together on Tuesdays to talk about being Greek and Christian and pray for each other and the people in our chapters. It was really life-giving! By building relationships with other Greek Christians I wasn’t playing life 1v5 anymore but was now part of a team.
-- Who is on your team?
-- How do your teammates help you grow in your faith?
-- Who are other Christians that you can invest your time in building relationships with?
I pray that God will bless you with teammates who will help you grow in your faith and the time and energy to invest in relationships to build community.