Community - A group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and shares social cohesion.
We all need community. We need interaction with people who share our values and convictions. We need to know we're not alone. In fact, we are wired with an innate need of doing life together. You can see it throughout history. You can see it in your own life. And you can see it exemplified in Acts 2 with the account of the first New Testament church. It says that "all who believed were together and had all things in common." If one person or family had a need, other people would give them what they needed - even sell off some stuff to make sure everyone else had enough. (NOTE: This wasn't enforced or regulated by the government. It was propelled by the Holy Spirit!) They prayed together, ate together, went to the temple together. They were doing life together. And at face value this sure seems like the prime example of community. That's because it was. But it didn't get this way because everyone set out to "cultivate community". Community wasn't their aim. There was something of much greater importance that fostered, cultivated, and grew that community: MISSION.
The verses beforehand (Acts 2:41-43) tell us that the first "Christians" were "devoted to the apostles teaching, the fellowship, and prayer. And awe came over everyone, and wonders and signs were being done..." The driving force of life for these first followers of Christ - the first recipients of the Holy Spirit - was mission. The thing that brought them together - the thing that fostered, cultivated, and grew their "community" - was the all-consuming power of the Holy Spirit and the mission that Christ had set before them: "Go and make disciples".
That mission He gave them is still our mission today.
The Great Commission is what draws us and binds us together.
Yet, we still so often set out from square one trying to build community. This is completely redefining "putting the cart before the horse". This is staring at your cart that has NO horse attached it, wondering why it won't go anywhere. As Reggie McNeal pointed out in his book Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, "When we (the church) aimed for community we got neither mission nor community. But when we started to aim for mission - community that is centered around the Gospel - we got both mission and community."
When we talk about common mission, most certainly this may manifest itself in some tangible way: building wheelchair ramps together, feeding the poor, tutoring at-risk kids after school. We may all come together in some way to serve others. But this is not THE mission. The mission is the Gospel - that Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection has brought us from death to life and that He longs to do the same in others lives. When you read Matthew 28, Acts 2, and Romans 10 you get this distinct idea that the mission isn't something that we figure out where to squeeze in after the fact. Everything else has to conform to it. The mission isn't a slave to our extra-curricular activities and hobbies and busyness, they are slaves to the mission. At least they're supposed to be. And this is for a very good reason:
The mission is JESUS!
Thinking in terms of community - your need for it, your pursuit of it - are you aiming at and focusing on community, or are you beginning to understand that it all begins with the mission? Common mission. The Gospel.
What does this look like in your life?