April 17, 2013
5 Ways to Live in Community
No, not the Community you see at Greendale Community College. That's another topic altogether.
Just what is all this talk about community? If you're running in Christian circles, I'm sure you've heard it a trillion times the last few years. For some, it brings up images of the root word, commune, and they picture a bunch of hippies living in tents without running water and the stink to prove it. Others understand what community entails but feel that sort of stuff is best left to full-time Christians like pastors and missionaries.
But really, living in community just means being involved in the lives of those you live with.
In rural Latin America, we've learned a lot about community. The fact that most daily living takes place outside the walls of the house and the front yard becomes a living room, means that you automatically see those in your neighborhood. Houses are a bit closer together, too, and folks tend to rely on each other for daily necessities.
It's a bit like I imagine life in my granny's youth--men-folk coming together to build a barn or bring in the crops, ladies sitting around a quilting bee, kids playing chase and catching fireflies. A sort of interdependence that came from no one really being self-sufficient. They needed each other. I'm not sure that wasn't part of the original grand design for life on this big round ball.
These days, we know a whole lot more people, but on a much more superficial level. So how can we build relationships that open the door to share God's love with our world?
How can we, in busy, modern times, get a sense of community?
1. Step out of your comfort zone and get to know those around you.
So you know your coworker's name--but do you know how many children she has? Do you know what the person on the bench beside each Sunday morning has to face come Monday? Take a few minutes to ask personal questions, the kind that don't have yes or no answers, and then really listen. Invite them to your home, and show up at their little girl's ballet recital.
Philippians 2:4 Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
2. Reach out when you see a need.
Your neighbor had surgery? Take a casserole over or cut his grass. Your Sunday School teacher's dog died? Pay her a visit or send her a card.
**NOTE: While social networks and email have made communications easier, they can't take the place of face-to-face time. Don't hide behind your computer or cell phone if you are able to visit someone in person or send a handwritten card. The extra effort goes a long way.
Proverbs 12:25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.
3. Plan a get-together on a regular basis.
Sometimes there's a certain awkwardness with one-on-one hangouts. Say you invite Joe Schmoe to lunch because your kids are in t-ball together, and, well, you just don't have much in common. Minimize this weird vibe by adding more people to the mix. Small groups are super for this--supper club, Bible study, scrapbooking session, card night, book club, you name it! To really build relationships, try to keep the group the same so you'll get to know one other better each time you meet.
Hebrews 10:24-25 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
4. Pray for those around you.
Take an extra minute before you leave on lunch break to silently pray the name of each person working around you, asking God to make Himself known to them and use you if He sees fit. And mean it. Pray for your neighbors as you walk past their houses (or jog, if you're so inclined!) Then take it up a notch by asking if there's anything specific they'd like you to pray about.
1 Timothy 2:1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.
5. Let people know when you have a need.
I'm not talking about being a mooch on a regular basis, but reach out when you have a genuine need. When the pastor says, "Take the hand of the person beside you and pray for them as we close," well, tell them you're struggling with an ingrown toenail. Share your addiction to shopping with your quilting group, and ask them to help you be accountable.
**CAUTION: Use common sense about what you share with whom, but don't be afraid to let people see your flaws and weaknesses.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
Now I know it may not be feasible to do this with those you live around AND those you work with AND those from your church, but the point is to step out of your bubble and interact with others in a real way. Find a group of people that you can be real with.
Community really boils down to knowing and being known. The feeling that you belong. That you can be yourself. That you are there for each other.
And there's no better way to do that then to just live life together with those around you--the good times and the bad times. Be available when someone needs to lean on you a bit, and humble enough to lean on others when it's your turn.
Do you have a group of friends you can call your community? How do you maintain that feeling of togetherness, and how do you "motivate one another to acts of love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24)? Share what works for you in the comments.