What do you think of when I put the words "Christian" and "Community" together? Do you hear those words and celebrate? Or do you inwardly cringe a bit and recoil; possibly, in the extreme, throw up a little in your mouth? Either way, I want to take a second and thank you for reading this blog post; hopefully, it has something for both groups.
A question posed by many students in college, especially Greek students, is why should I go to a Bible study, or God-forbid, church when I can chill out in a lovely coffee shop and listen to a podcast or digitally watch a sermon from the comfort of my bed? First off, I want to clarify that those aren't bad in and of themselves. But if I we limit our Christian experience to the classic formula of “Jesus and me, myself, and I” then we won't be entering into the fullness of a gift that Jesus has for us.
What is Christian Community?
One of my favorite scripture references to Christian community comes from the book of Acts. In Acts 2 we see what the earliest Christians were up to after Jesus ascended to Heaven. We read in Acts 2:42 a simple response to what Christian community should look like. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Christian community, in its purest form, is learning the truth of Jesus together, hanging out together, sharing meals, and praying together. Basically, Christian community offers us three gifts that isolation does not.
3 Gifts of Community
When you're alone, you can't pick yourself up if you fall or slip. You just kind of hit the dirt. But if you have a friend nearby, they can either help catch you or help you up. While this is an elementary metaphor, the truth holds in our life with Jesus as well.
In Ephesians, Paul instructs the church there to be gentle and humble with one another when one of their Christian brothers or sisters stumble. Beyond that, they needed to conduct themselves by "bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:2-3)The benefits that Paul is writing about are still applicable in 2020. Why should we need to bear with one another in love? Why should Christians practice humility and gentleness? Because the Christian life is never just about me, it’s about caring for those around me- assisting my community as we work together to follow Jesus.
I love being a brother of Delta Tau Delta and I love the Greek System. Yet, I'd be a liar if I said everything about being in a fraternity was super duper conducive to being a "good Christian." So, a gift that God gave me in college was being an active member of Greek IV. The Greek InterVarsity community offered me the valuable gift of accountability while celebrating being Greek. If my Greek IV friends and Christian brothers saw me in a situation that they knew wasn't helpful or something that I stood for; they knew how to talk to me about it. They would remind me that there was more to life, and then speak truth to me that helped get rid of unhelpful things like lies and shame.
We see this in the letter to the church at Galatia:
"If someone is caught in sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently... Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:1&2)
I know that this concept can seem intimidating, but in reality, it's a comforting promise. When we are in Christian community, we aren't on our own! Paul invites Christians to restore one another when we stumble. We aren't called to bludgeon or shame, but to "restore that person gently." Nor should we abandon or leave behind, rather we should wisely "carry each other's burdens." The imperative isn't just a cute or cliche thing to do, but Paul says it "fulfills the law of Christ." Being in Christian community isn't just helpful for accountability; instead, it is something that is commanded, brings fulfillment, and reveals Jesus to others.
Before you slam your laptop shut in denial or swipe your phone to a different screen, please hear me out. When we visit Acts 2:42-47, we see a few things. The first thing the author Luke highlights is that they share meals. I don't know about you, but meals are something I look forward to, and I typically only share them with family and friends.
So, to me, meals are celebratory; good food, laughter, and company fill some of my most beautiful memories. Moreover,people didn’t really dine alone in 1st century Jerusalem. Meals were a mark of deep belonging and friendship. So, Christian community is supposed to feel like a celebration or a nice dinner party. We also see in verse 46 that they not only shared meals together, but they did so in each other's homes, and "ate together with glad and sincere hearts." Christian community should feel welcoming and celebratory.
Three Invitations to Community
To be fair, it's great to find a quiet corner and deal personally with the Lord; whether you do that through listening to worship, a Sermon over a podcast, journaling, or simply reading scripture. However, if that's all we limit ourselves to then we are missing out on beautiful, generous, and precious gifts from God. Please do maintain personal times with Jesus, but also remember that, while faith is deeply personal; it shouldn't be private. The question then is, "What can I do (or what should I do) now?"
See if there is a Greek InterVarsity chapter on your campus, and, if there is plug in! We may be surprised to find that the thing we are looking for is just one quick search away.
Commit to going to a local church. It may be a stretch, and there is a unique and powerful beauty to joining a church filled with different generations, ethnicities, and careers with the singular purpose of worshipping Jesus and sitting in His teaching.
Start a NEW Greek InterVarsity chapter! Sometimes the hard truth is that you may be longing for Christian community in your Greek System, but there may genuinely be very little in that regard. It doesn't have to stay that way, you could be a catalyst for change and could be a piece of building the very community that you are looking for.
None of us can do this Christian thing on our own. We were designed to follow Jesus together, as a community. Our hope is that you get plugged in to a community of Christians today!