Community — Authentic or Artificial?

There are always buzzwords in Christianity.  And like all buzzwords, they get used ad naseum.

One of these words is community, as in “I am encouraging community, “ and “I am seeking community.” 

The concept of community is a great one, because God did indeed put us into families and churches.

Imagine a community without the likes of Mrs. Oleson. Wouldn't life be boring?

But I think that the concept of community, like all good things, has been used by satan to bring discontentment into women’s lives, because, you see, we are not seeking community,we are seeking the perfect community. You know, the community where everyone thinks like I think, believes what I believe, shares my interests.

Custom made, like-minded community. Authentic. Except it isn’t. In fact, it’s artificial.   

It is way too easy to create our own little community via electronic devices. We arrange ourselves into little groups: on Facebook, Twitter or via blogs.

Not that these groups are inherently bad, in fact, many of them are helpful and good. But these electronic communities are never meant to isolate us from, or take the place of the people that live in our actual communities.

And though it is easier to follow the woman online with the glossy, soft focused pictures, rather than making life work with the woman at church whose warts and prickles we are all too familiar with, real life is where God has placed us for a reason.

I have to be honest with you, my idea of ideal friendships would never have included visiting old ladies in nursing homes, because, ya know, old ladies lying in hospital beds aren’t that flashy or fun. But this is one area of community that has been the biggest blessing for me and my family.

 

God has put us where we are in order to change us. Yes. You read that right. Not to pamper us. Not to coddle us. To.change.us.

 

So next time you pass that ridiculous neighbor that is always miserable, remember that there is a bigger picture–God is trying to teach you humility. Are your actions reflecting Christ?

 

That outspoken, self righteous woman at church? The one who takes charge and comes into the room mouth first? Yes, God has you in community with her for a reason and our reactions need to be an example of a God honoring heart and tongue.

 

We are here to advance God’s kingdom, not our own mini-kingdoms.

 

And when we manipulate life to fit our mental idea of what it should look like, aren’t we saying, “God, you’ve done it wrong. I’ll do it right?”

 

When you are unhappy with your community, and you are convinced that these people around me are just so this or that lackluster,

remember…

It’s HIM, not THEM.

 

There is a reason. It is for your good and growth. And HE has ordained it.

15 comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    This is the best post I’ve read in a long time regarding community! This is where the rubber meets the road. Making life work with the people we actually see each week at church. Thank you for the wonderful admonition!

  2. Yes! And this is why the local church cannot be emphasized enough. that is where we meet people of different ages, socio-economic status, backgrounds, interests, etc.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      I agree. Church relationships should be a priority!

    • Larua says:

      It’s th “loca church” where I have felt ostracized. After all, I’m the wife of th pastor. I’m not supposed to belong. Because of the way we’e been treated the past few months, because I have gotten tired of going to church and not actually feel as though I went to church, and because Im the one who gets to keep my four-year-old and 21-month-old quiet and still (with minimal success on a good Sunday), I have all but quit going. hat’s the point when I don’t feel included? What’s the point when I feel as though the hour would be better spent at home in our pajamas? When I don’t have much faith in God? Once winter hours begin again and Sunday school resumes, I will return so that my daughter can go. However, I don’t expect much.

      If it’s God and not them, then God doesn’t seem to b doing much

      • Sarah Beals says:

        Oh Laura, I feel for you. I have to encourage you to keep pushing through. I know during times of trials that sometimes retreat seems like the safest option, but closing ourselves away is not a permanent answer. It is okay for a time, to regroup and find your bearings again, but then, be bold and try again. I understand the hurt. We are in the ministry as well. :) But God is doing something for your good, I am confident of it. He is too good not to. Praying for you.

  3. Absolutely…
    And I think in my life, His plan has absolutely been to use long-haul-relationships.

    Not that there NEVER is a time for change, but that in general, as a society, we are quick to drop and run when we don’t enjoy something (or we’re bothered a bit).

    We quickly change churches, or small groups, or schools, or neighborhoods, or jobs…or unfortunately…spouses.

    Because it’s difficult to stick-it-out and trust Him to redeem and mend and grow relationships. Of course, their are times when God absolutely nudges us to make a change (aside from the spouse category)…but I’m fully convinced…it is much less often that we think it is.
    I think God is honored by the stick-it-out-ness that real relationships demand.

    Instead of community…I like to think in terms of relationships. And those take a LONG time to build.
    And they require a lot of sacrificial love…and patience…and the faith that God can bring about change.

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Yes, sacrifice for someone else is rare. Actually, true love is rare. That is why so many never have biblical relationships with other people…it is like they don’t know how to love or give love. They seem to need to look out for #1 to the detriment of everyone else.
      BUT, even in all that, God is using it to change us. Thx for your comment, my virtual friend, who I am very thankful to have in my “community.” :)

  4. Aimee Byrd says:

    God taught me this lesson by bringing our family into a church where there didn’t seem to be anyone “like us.” We came from a church plant with many young families and common interests, but the doctrine in worship got out of hand. It took years for me to get to know some of the people in my church now, but they are such a blessing! I am grateful that God allowed me to go through that loneliness for a while, to lead me into the diversity of his family.

  5. Susan McCurdy says:

    Excellent thoughts. Thanks so much! I’m sharing this with some of my “electronic” communities.

  6. Ashlie says:

    Sarah, I’m obviously a little behind on my blog reading :) But this post really caught my eye and I love what you shared here. There is a lot of “buzz”, as you mentioned, about authentic community, but I often find what you said to be exactly true – it causes discontentment to flare up, specifically in women. God has given me a passion for this cultivating of true community, but it is so easy to cross the line of placing “community” on a pedastal instead of remembering that the purpose of it is for edification, sharpening, and bringing us closer to God through each other, not the reverse.

    Community is difficult and messy, and requires SO much humility, sacrifice, dying to flesh, and relaligning of one’s heart to God’s because it’s ONLY through His love and by His grace that we can live in community with fellow faulty humans ;)

    And, yes, I think so many times for us as women, it’s easy to seek out community like a buffet line (social media, etc, which God definitely uses, too), when God has placed us smack in the middle of the “community” we need to be in if we will just look around. I’ve found that it’s in the REAL life circles…in churches, school, neighbors, that so many lonely and broken silently suffer. I’ve been there. ;)

    Sorry if that was rambly…just love your heart and your writing! xo

    • Sarah Beals says:

      Ashlie, you are such a joy. Thank you for writing. Yes, community is messy, and sometimes not our ideal. But, God knows what He is doing when he plans/appoints our “borders” and puts us where we need to be. I love “rambly.” Ramble here any time. :)

  7. Christa says:

    Thank you for this. My husband shared this with me and, I admit, at first I was slightly offended that he knew I needed it. ;) Thanks for letting the Lord work through you to be a blessing to me.

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