Three truths about Christian community

Written by Jenny Marcelene
Published on May 05, 2023

The desire to connect with others consumed my thoughts as I played with my toddler at our apartment’s playground late one summer afternoon. My prayers had consisted of pleas for God to provide community in a big city where I had no family or friends. I was desperate for meaningful relationships and to be known.

A mother pushing a stroller stopped in front of the fence and interrupted my musing. Her brown hair was pulled up in a loose bun. The bags under her eyes revealed she was a parent of a newborn.

“Hi! Do you live in this apartment?” the woman asked. I nodded. “That’s great. I live across the street.”

And within minutes, I met one of my closest Christian friends for the next four years in that city. Together we connected with other Christian moms in the neighborhood. Though we all had varying denominational backgrounds, we formed a weekly small group. God provided what I had longed for in a new place––a circle of women who truly knew me in the trenches of parenting little ones.

But sometimes community involves struggle. Having moved more than I care to admit, I’ve experienced times when Christian friendships were a battle to build. Sometimes community looked nothing like I had imagined, but was worth the effort. Here are three truths I’ve learned about Christian community over the years.

1. Biblical community revolves around Christ.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of getting to know a college-aged Southeast Asian believer at my church. One year we invited her to share Christmas dinner with my family. This sister in Christ brought a traditional dessert that my youngest child didn’t like and, to my horror, proclaimed his dislike repeatedly to her across the table. As I navigated my son’s unkind response, we had a front row seat to how spending time with differing cultures can involve some bumps. Later, when our guest sat crisscross on our living room floor to play a game with my boys, we glimpsed the beauty of the gospel.

In Acts 10, God broke into Jewish thinking that the Messiah was only for them. He sent Peter a vision that “anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (10:35 ESV) and can become followers of Jesus. This teaching went against all the Jewish traditions and customs (Leviticus 20:24–­26). God was bringing unity among those who had nothing in common—except Christ.

The gospel redefines how the world bonds and replaces it with connection centered on Christ— not finances, social status, life stage, education level, political views, culture, denominational preference, or parenting styles.

2. Community can be messy.

Years ago, a friend and I stumbled into relationship tension with another dear sister in Christ from our moms group. This sister hosted a growing group in her home each week. But a year and half later, we noticed signs of hosting burnout. Despite our offers to share the burden, she declined. During one of our meetings, our sister announced she’d received permission to hold our moms group at a local church in the area. My friend and I were disappointed because we wanted to keep the group inside our homes. We decided that while we may not see eye to eye on the issue, our stance wasn’t better than the path our sister had chosen. Rather than making waves, we supported her idea.

Jesus’ disciples also struggled with community. “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest” (Luke 9:46). If the men hand selected by God to be the first leaders of Christianity found community messy, then we should expect a similar path.

Like the disciples, we can want others to think we’re the best, or we can assume our viewpoint is superior. But Jesus reminds the disciples—and us—we aren’t competing to elevate ourselves over others (Luke 9:47–48). Instead, Jesus is training our hearts to make him great as we live in community.

3. Community takes intentionality.

While the strength of a relationship can deepen over time, spending time together doesn’t always result in connection or a solid community. While I wish building community was like baking cookies, no recipe exists to get the desired result by following the right steps and waiting a  specific amount of time. But when we look for how God is working around us, we can see the paths he’s carving out for us to move toward others.

Years ago, a new family moved to our church and I connected with the mom. In the season she was in, she lacked the capacity to think about planning meetups. The responsibility to grow our relationship rested on my shoulders. But our friendship grew as I intentionally let our kids play together after church each week so we could talk and invited her to parks for playdates. We even found pockets of time to meet without kids at a coffee shop and grab lunch together. As we intentionally carved out time, our relationship deepened.

Community is a gift where we can find beauty in relationships forged through the common denominator of Christ—even if it doesn’t come with ease. As we seek to connect with believers whose views on every topic or schedules don’t align with our own, we magnify the greatness of God to the world around us. And we become known—and loved—by our sisters in Christ along the way.

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Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene helps families explore God’s greatness across the street and around the globe and is an aspiring children’s author. Her publishing credits include a variety of print and online articles, including The Gospel Coalition, Gospel-Centered Family, Lifeway’s ParentLife, and Truly. She works as a writer for Oakseed Ministries International. You can connect with her online by visiting her website.

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