I'm planning on musing over the ins and outs of intentional community over the next month and I'm eager to talk it out with you. Be forewarned, I'm no expert on community. I've just been reminded lately that if I want to experience the heart-deep, life-giving relationships I'm hoping for, I'm going to have to be intentional about it. And, so here I am, trying to be intentional.
Here we go...
So, as I mentioned, I've been thinking about community. I've also been thinking about George Clooney's Italian wedding, pumpkin spice lattes and my love/hate relationship with skinny jeans. But, mostly I've been thinking about community. I've been wondering how to go about it, I've been feeling the lack of it here and there, and I've been mulling over what actual community is supposed to practically look like. And then there's the question (perhaps mixed with fear) of whether or not the kind of community I want and need is actually attainable.
In light of all this pondering, I did what most grammar nerds do and that's look up the origin of the word community. You do that too, right? Interestingly (or maybe not so much), when you type in "community" in the Google search bar, the name of a quirky television show pops up first. I think that's a little ironic, considering the potential role of media (in my humble opinion) in the demise of real, actual, in-your-face community.
Turns out, the word community comes from the Latin word, communitatem meaning "society, fellowship" and basically a commonality of "relations or feelings." (Thank you, Online Etymology Dictionary.) You can wake up now if you fell asleep when Latin was mentioned.
What about you?
What does the word community do to your heart?
What images run through your mind when you read that word?
What disappointments does it remind you of?
What hopes does it stir up in you?
Even as I remember times and places where real community happened almost effortlessly, I can also find myself recalling places where community was ridiculously hard or out of reach or just simply non-existent.
For Christians, the kind of community I'm talking about is better described by the Greek word koinonia. A very simplified definition of this multi-faceted word is: " The idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the body of Christ."
This special type of community is mentioned at least twenty times in the New Testament and its defining characteristics are pretty much all the things most of us find ourselves quietly hoping for when we hear that somewhat ubiquitous word community: partnering, sharing, fellowship, intimacy, vulnerability, giving, family, bonding, inviting, welcoming, etc.
All those things and more are encompassed by that full-bodied, incredibly hope-giving word koinonia.
The Bible describes community, or koinonia, with beautiful simplicity in this passage about the fellowship of believers in the early church:
Acts 2:41-47 (The Message)
41-42 That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
How much do you want that kind of community? I know it's what I ache for every long, diaper-filled day of my somewhat solitary stay-at-home mom life. A life together that includes shared prayer, family/friend dinners, shared experience, full hearts, joy, worship, unselfishness, and people discovering and believing in Jesus.
Let's talk about how to get there together these next 30 days of October.