Where Community Goes Wrong
There’s a lot of emphasis on community in church-y circles.
Whether it is making sure you have a solid group of Christian friends, accountability partners, the right-fit small group, etc., the overwhelming message is a Biblical one. We’re meant to be a small cog in the wheel of doing life together, unified to the same goal.
But I wonder if after we’ve found our community and checked that box on our godly to-do list, we neglect an equally Biblical understanding of the role of the believer as part of the body - that of correction and instruction of each other in the faith.
Like we see Paul instruct Timothy:
“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2
Let’s call it kingdom-minded “calling out”.
It’s pretty counter-cultural these days, even for myself. I love to talk in big sweeping gestures about “the world” or “others”. I admittedly feel like I have a pretty good grasp on how to live as a believer. But do I choose to have those hard conversations with those around me when I see their lack?
I feel that pull of not wanting to offend or be labeled a hypocrite. I let my busy schedule, wasted moments on social media, and the need to be liked eclipse the desire to come alongside those around me to help them pursue our Savior.
Basically I ignore the Holy Spirit in disobedience.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, I also readily admit to not being the type of person who well receives being called out by someone else. I’m one of those people who always thinks they are right and have things together. So, when others do offer to give me correction or instruction my gut gets defensive, and I tend to make excuses or deflect to something else.
Anyone else the same way?
I think most of us, whether we like to admit it or not, have felt similarly. I believe it reflects something that is pervasive about the understanding of community by believers at large in modern society.
We all LOVE community, but it seems to be a surface love. It looks real nice when we post pictures of our small group bible study (guilty), deliver meals to new mamas, or meet for coffee to catch up.
But is it a love that is willing to delve into the difficult and uncomfortable on behalf of each other to truly see stronger and healthier relationships with the Lord?
There’s an incredible transition between Ezra chapters 4 and 5 that gives us a glimpse of what happens when community does just that.
“Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” Ezra 4:24
“Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.” Ezra 5:1-2
At the end of Ezra 4, the people of Israel were so defeated that they stopped rebuilding the Temple. They had been attacked by enemies, and my guess is that they were tired, depressed, and gave up doing what God had sent them to Jerusalem to do.
But then enter Haggai and Zechariah who speak up and prophesy over the Israelites. As a result of their message from the Lord, the people of Israel are rejuvenated, returned to obedience, and set to work to rebuild the house of God.
When I first read this, it felt too simple. People in sin, prophets prophesy, people stop sinning/obey, and BOOM all is well. What did those guys say, anyway?
Here are some of the words of Haggai:
“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.” Haggai 1:5-8
I love these verses for how they lay out plainly the effectiveness of Kingdom calling-out. They give us some effectives tools to use in true community.
- “Give careful thought to your ways.” This small warning was a reality check. Sometimes I’m so wrapped up in life, I don’t even realize I have neglected my faith and become disobedient. In these moments, having someone notice, speak up, and point out where I’m at can force me to see my own stumbling.
- “You have planted much, but harvested little…” Next, there is a reminder about where sin leads. The outcome of my disobedience will always result in unfulfillment and insecurity, but it is easy in life not to dwell on the end results while I am currently “ok”. Having someone lay out the future repercussions of my sinful choices brings perspective.
- “Go up to the mountains and bring down timber and build My house…” Haggai gave the Israelites an imperative, and sometimes I need my community to remind me what to do. You don’t have to be a prophet to reinforce what obedience looks like. More than likely, I need the reminder to go back to pursuing the Lord in spending time with Him, reading His Word, and doing what it says. Any believer can do that.
- “So that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord.” Finally, there is a reminder about God’s character, that He will take pleasure in and be honored by obedience. In any correction and instruction, there also has to be edification and encouragement. We serve a God who is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, and it is that kindness that leads us to repentance. When I am corrected, I need that picture of my Lord to woo me back to Him.
Community is a wonderful thing, but its purpose is much more than just to make us feel included and a part of something greater.
The people we surround ourselves with who are following hard after the Lord are barometers for our own faith. When we allow them to speak into our lives and embrace their instruction, God can use them to grow us closer to Him. And when we allow the Holy Spirit to speak through us, giving encouraging correction, we can do the same for them.
It’s proof of the great effectiveness of true community.
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20
Amy Bufkin has loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. Even though she basically lived at her local church growing up, her faith and relationship with The Lord was incredibly shallow until her early twenties. It was then Amy learned how to study her Bible, began to truly commune with God, and her shallow faith began to deepen as she got to know her Lord and Savior. Now her passion is to communicate the same truths that changed her life to young women in as many ways as possible. You can find her on Instagram | Facebook