BY Kim Bredenhof

5 Reasons Why Community is Important

Ford had Edison, Ela Fitzgerald had Marilyn Monroe, and of course, C.S. Lewis had J.R.R. Tolkien. Whether you’re introverted, extroverted, or extroverted-introvert, we all need meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

Recent studies have found that 61% of young adults, 51% of mothers of young children, and across all demographics, 36% of people report living with “serious loneliness.” In the UK, and likely Canada, 2/5 of older adults regard TV as their primary source of company[1]. On top of this, loneliness is associated with many health problems, including depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease[2].

Loneliness is not the result of an absence of people in your life but rather the lack of deep, meaningful relationships. Whether you consider yourself a follower of Jesus or not, we can agree that these statistics are not okay, and something needs to change. We are not living abundant and healthy lives when we are living independently and isolated.

Let’s go back to the beginning, right to Genesis. When God created the world, he said it was good, except for one thing, that man was alone. Even in the garden of Eden, before sin entered the world, God said it was not good for humans to be alone (Gen. 2:18).

So, as we consider the importance of community, let’s look at it through the lens of the One who created it and us. Then maybe, it’s not only a question of if it is important but rather a declaration that it is essential to our discipleship and the key to experiencing a fully abundant life.

1. God exists in community, the Trinity, and created us in his image (Gen. 2:27) to exist in relationship with him and others.
We should care about community because it’s important to God, who created us (physically, mentally, and spiritually) to live in community. Study after study has found that strong social ties increase life expectancy by 50% [3]. We are finite humans who rely on each other to be reflections of humble submission to God.

1 Corinthians 12:15-18 says that one part can not say to the other that they do not need each other. Like in the human body, all parts are affected when one part is unhealthy. Whether or not we like it, we need others, and they need us. When we choose to live outside of community, there will be negative implications because it’s not how God created us. Community is important because we serve a relational God who created us to be relational.

2. Being in community is living out the gospel.
Because of God’s love for us, he could not stand the sin that separated us from him, and because of that love, he sent his son for us. He adopted us as sons and daughters (Hebrews 1:5). Zone in on that word adopted. When we are adopted by God, we not only get to choose him as our Father, but we also gain brothers and sisters. And if you grew up with close siblings, you know these relationships can get complicated and messy. They are both magical and messy. Community is the gospel lived out through family.

3. Love can only exist in a relationship. As followers of Jesus, our community is the space where we grow in love and become conduits of God’s love to others.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”
Hebrews 10:24

We cannot be people of love and grow in our love unless we are stretched to love, even those who may be hard to love.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:34-35

The main identifying characteristic of a disciple is love. But love can’t exist without a recipient. We cannot be people of love if we don’t have people in our lives to receive the love. Community is a space for us to not only display love but to grow in it and receive it as well.

4. Community is an essential part of our own discipleship and our sanctification.
There are over 100 times in the New Testament where we see the Greek word “allelon,” which means “one another, each other; mutually, reciprocally.” Over half of these commandments relate specifically to how we are to live in a relationship (teach, encourage, exhort, love one another, encourage, share what you have, speak the truth, confess your sins.) Community is important because it is where discipleship happens. Take, for example, fighting back against sin. We are to confess our sins to one another to experience healing (James 5:16).

“In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner. The psychiatrist must first search my heart and yet he never plumbs its ultimate depth. The Christian brother knows when I come to him: here is a sinner like myself, a godless man who wants to confess and yearns for God’s forgiveness. The psychiatrist views me as if there were no God. The brother views me as I am before the judging and merciful God in the Cross of Jesus Christ.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

5. Community is how we bring a taste of the kingdom to others.
Let’s take a quick look at the word “kingdom.” It is the domain of the king where the inhabitants of the land live according to the laws and decrees of the king. So, when we are ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we follow Christ into the places and spaces and create community there. Being in community is inheritably missional by restoring relationships in a broken world that is far from God. When we can display what an albeit imperfect but Jesus-centred community looks like, we give hope to the broken world that there is a Saviour who wants to restore all things! Jon Tyson, a Pastor in New York City, sums it up as follows,

“Jesus created pockets of love in a culture of fear that formed a new kind of community in the world, something he called ‘the church.’ The church was to exist not as a haven from the world but as a place of hope for the world.”

Community is important because we participate with Jesus and bring hope and restoration to others through it.

If you are a follower of Jesus, purposely start creating pockets of community that so profoundly reflect the heart of God that anyone passing by can’t help but wonder, “what is different?” What if, through the way we build community, we are not only drawn closer to God and experience a fuller life, but others can see the heart of our relational God, who wired and created all people for relationship. When God sees his people alone, he says it is not good. He wants us and invites us to join him in a relationship with him and others.

[1] Age, U.K., 2014. Evidence Review: Loneliness in Later Life. London: Age UK
[2] Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., The Potential Public Health Relevance of Social Isolation and Loneliness: Prevalence, Epidemiology, and Risk Factors, Public Policy & Aging Report, Volume 27, Issue 4, 2017, Pages 127–130)
[3] Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med. 2010 Jul 27;7(7):e1000316. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316. PMID: 20668659; PMCID: PMC2910600.

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