The older you get, the more responsibilities you have, the harder it is to experience real community. Real community is a lot of things, but convenient ain’t one of them. If you want to see real community become a reality in your life, I’ve found that there are a few steps that need to be taken. In the first post, I argued that we need to pray for real community, define real community, and create community building opportunities. Here are the other four.
Look In ALL The Right Places – Often times, Christians just look in some of the right places. They rightly look to their church for community. They go to the events provided for them to connect with people. But, unfortunately, many Christians don’t spend time with unbelievers regularly. God’s called Christians to have real community with Christians in a local church and with non-Christians outside the church. If Jesus created time to hangout with believers and unbelievers, so should we. If you don’t have non-Christian friends, chances are you are putting too high a relational expectation on your Christian friends. Don’t feel guilty missing out on your 4,648 bible study this week so that you can spend time with an unbelieving friend. While some Christians need more time with Christians, I’ve found that most Christians struggle more with finding time with the unbelievers God has placed around them where they live, work, hobby, and more. God advances his mission and meets our community needs when we learn to look in all the right places for community.
Remove False Expectations – We’re all a little like Legos. We only have so many relational slots that can be filled. This relational limitation means we won’t be able to experience real community with as many people as we’d like too. It also means there will be some social circles we aren’t in. We will be left out. This fact is exasperated by the presence of social media. Social media is community porn. It isn’t real. Sure, social media can be great when it helps us keep up with friends, communicate with each other, and more. It’s terrible when it fosters discontentment with our lives, resentment towards others, and unrealistic expectations for community. We weren’t invited to that awesome party with the awesome pictures. We didn’t get to hang out at the coffee shop with that person. Why does that person have such a great, Instagram filtered life? If we aren’t careful, our false expectations—whether created by social media or not—will hinder our pursuit of real community. It could fracture what community we do have. No one creates a slow motion video of the argument they were in with their spouse, the yelling match with their kids, or anything else for Instagram. We have to be careful that we don’t resent other people for having great moments. We need to be careful that we don’t set unrealistic expectations on the community God, in his providence, has given us. Let’s not look for something horizontally that can only be found vertically in Christ.
Identify Your Community Killing Tendencies – We all have community killing tendencies. If we don’t identify them, experiencing real community will become much more difficult. Here’s the truth: We all tend to overlook and forget our mistakes, while highlighting and mediating on others’ perceived mistakes. This ability enables us to create victim narratives in our head—“nobody cares about us,” “people are cliquish”—without recognizing the significant ways we are contributing to the problem. When these ideas have popped into my head, I’ve found it helpful not just to listen to myself, but to question myself: Have I ever turned someone down? Why was it okay for me to do this but not for others? Why is it the case that my turning down of community was really for pure reasons unlike the person I’m frustrated with? Put yourself in the “dock” and question yourself until you identify your community killing tendency. Or, perhaps, your community killing tendency isn’t this, but it’s your busyness. One of the greatest community killers is busyness. If you and your family don’t make community a priority—meaning you don’t miss out on activities you wish you were at—then you won’t experience real community. I remember my wife and I talking about our desire for and lack of community at one point in our marriage. Then someone stopped by and stay longer than we wanted. Our selfish frustration led to conversations that allowed us to see that we were our main problem. We wanted community in the 30 minute time frame we decided 20 minutes before we wanted it to occur. Not gonna happen. Can you be busy and experience real community? Yes. But it’s not easy. Identify and disarm your community killing tendencies so that you can experience the community you were created for.
Trust God’s Timing – If you’re in a season where you don’t have as many friends or the kind of community you wish you had, avoid the temptation to resent God and others. Instead, trust that God has you right where you need to be and where others need to be—even as you plead with God for community. When you rest in God’s providence for you, you will be less tempted to resent God or others of whom you are envious. God is in control of your life, he loves you, and he knows what’s best. Don’t miss the lesson he’s teaching you now as you look for the life you think he’s failed to give you. God often uses “desert” experiences to cause us to learn to depend on him more and appreciate the gifts he gives us. Trust him. Learn from him. Rest in his purposes for you.
If you want to experience community at a level your heart needs, follow these 7 steps and watch what happens!