Are You Experiencing These Three Benefits of Community?

Our family is hitting several milestones this year: both my wife and I turn 50, Claire turns 18, Courtney turns 21, and my grandson turned 1.

And there was another big event as well…my youngest graduated from high school. And so my wife and I are transitioning into a new stage of life as parents. And one of those new stages is Claire is now going to college.

C-O-L-L-E-G-E.

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How is this possible? How is it possible that my little cutie, who was so immersed in the Barbie movies and American Girl Dolls as a young girl, is now getting ready to study interior architecture?

One of the realities of college is the expenditure and how it is going to be paid for. I have loved seeing how God has provided in my girl’s lives to faithfully supply them with work to save for their college days ahead.

For Claire, her summer is going to be spent working as a counselor at Lake Lundgren Bible Camp, just about a 15 minute drive from where we live. This is her first year working camp, but I had no doubt that she would not just like it, but love it. And my inclinations have not been disappointed.

Claire is in her element. Lots of people. Lots of activity. Lots of interaction. Lots of gospel. It’s her fit. She has been in training for about a week and a half, and the other night we sat outside and just chatted about her week, what she is enjoying, and how God is growing her.

As I listened about the relationships she is building, the training she is receiving, and the excitement that was bubbling over, I was beaming inside just listening to her. She was really hitting her stride.

And as she was laughing and smiling her way through each story, I was starting to tie together the threads of what she was describing. And it hit me why the synergy of the week for her was greater than any of the individual parts.

Claire was simply describing what we refer to in the gospel as community. And more specifically, missional community.

What do I mean by missional community. I am a big fan of Jeff Vanderstelt’s material, and he says it well…

A missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family. They see God as their Father through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit.

This means they have and know of a divine love that leads them to love one another as brothers and sisters. They treat one another as children of God deeply loved by the Father in everything – sharing their money, time, resources, needs, hurts, successes, etc… They know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strength and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and its application to all of life.

They speak the gospel truth to one another, regularly building each other up in love. They also love the people around them as if they were part of the family, showing them what the love of the Father looks like and in so doing inviting them to experience life in the family of God.

I am also a big fan of Lake Lundgren and how they are getting it done. My daughter is not only learning what it means to invest in others, but the the camp is creating a type of biblical community that is becoming very appealing to Claire. She has seen it in her church, and now she is seeing it elsewhere.

What is interesting is that I believe this experience for Claire is going to give her a taste for what Christian community could be like for her into the future.

Here is what I have noticed about the ploys of Satan. He likes to pick people off, isolate them, and live life outside of community. Now I am not saying that solitude is wrong. I enjoy solitude at times and need it to recalibrate my own thinking. But my flesh is masterful at moving me away from biblical community and into thinking of just me. And then even worse, self counseling myself.

My daughter’s world this summer is a noteworthy model for me to observe because in the busyness of my life, it is easy for me to forget that, as a believer, I was wired for community. And so here are some observations, or maybe reminders, that I took away after listening to Claire Saturday night that reminded me of biblical community.

1. Living life together

A missional community is a group of believers who live and experience life together like a family.

Claire is making new friends quickly. And part of the reason is that this group of counselors are living life together.

Their training is together. Their meals are together. Their activities are together. They are around each other in the common times. And it is in the living of life together that the walls start eroding and authentic life can be lived.

We forget that biblical community does not have to be this big planned get together. It is merely doing the simple things that you are already doing. But now just doing them together. I think sometimes we have made community too difficult with too many rules. And with too much effort required, we continue our aloneness and squelch any momentum.

2. One Father pursued

They see God as their Father through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ and the new regeneration brought about by the Holy Spirit.

Claire’s “tribe” has received multiple days of training all centered around the gospel and how this gospel is central to all that they do at camp. Every week, every age group, one gospel. It creates unity and a common pursuit for not only the counselors but also the campers.

Another aspect of community for the believer is that we are following the same God and the same Jesus, filled with the same Spirit. Oneness creates a unity that transcends our cultural, ethnic, and economic differences.

And even our preferences that we like to elevate to dogma.

3. Ability to be transparent

They know each other well. This knowledge includes knowing each other’s stories and having familiarity with one another’s strength and struggles in regards to belief in the gospel and its application to all of life. They speak the gospel truth to one another, regularly building each other up in love.

As Claire was describing her last few days, part of being in community with other believers meant being OK with living life in the raw. They practiced case studies of what counseling would look like in various situations. They were viewed and critiqued by others for how to handle the situation in the most profitable manner.

In addition, these kids are living and doing together 24/7. You can only “put on” for so long. As tiredness sets in and emotions get stretched from long days of training, “the real you” comes out.

And this is good.

That means it is OK to talk about my own brokenness or have others see me in my rawness. If Jesus is my pursuit, I can stop with the perfect image business because I am clothed with His righteousness and His grace.

And realize this – because of my pride, my inclination is to keep the real me to myself. Shame, regret, remorse…any of these tempt me to close up, put on the “doing fine” face and continue to live in isolation from the community that God designed for me.

I was conversing with a friend recently and he was talking about his own frustrations with other believers and their “glossing over” the realness of their life, their struggles, and their failings. And he made a profound statement – he said that when transparency did not exist, he was left to conclude that he was the only one “messed up” with his problems and that he was failing in the good race. He was the only one who did not “get it.”

Wow. That was an accurate conclusion when everyone else was seemingly doing fine in their spiritual walk (or so was thought).

Powerful observation.

Are you getting the danger? Community allows us to struggle together and reinforce gospel truths to each other. Without community, we can tend to self counsel ourselves right into despair.

It was really gratifying to listen to Claire the other night. At the age of 17, she is experiencing something far greater than simply a summer job. She is living out one of the key teachings of scripture and one of the valuable benefits of the gospel.

True, authentic, life-breathing community.

You are in for a treat this summer, Claire. Go girl.

I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.

If you know someone who would be helped by reading this, please share it using one of the social media links below. Thank you for doing this! 

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2 thoughts on “Are You Experiencing These Three Benefits of Community?

  1. Great truths, Antone! An outward fake facad is pointless if we are living in the forgiveness and righteousness of Christ. We Christians do not have to live in the darkness of a fake, perfect image but can instead outwardly celebrate that God has forgiven us and had clothed us in His grace. A godly community accommodates that kind of celebration!

    • You’re so correct Matt. I think sometimes we have been programmed in our church lives to act like everything is OK so that we don’t have to talk about our brokenness. Thank you so much for the comment. I appreciate it.

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