One is the Loneliest Number: Why Community Matters
Are you an introvert? Do you love the idea of making plans with people, then when the times comes to actually DO the thing, you think of everything possible to get out of it? Community can be hard because community means intentionally - not passively - spending time with people. This takes hard work, time, and a whole lot of courage if you err on the side of introversion. But why does community matter? Isn’t it easier to just shy away from community, find refuge in your own home, and avoid social interactions especially ones in church?
If this resonates with you - you’re not alone. Our Creative Team Manager, Sam Carey, shares some honest insight about how and why community is a vital part of our life, even if we don’t want it to be sometimes!
Real talk: I’m a huge introvert.
I’m not one of those stereotypical, painfully shy, hermit-bookworm-type introverts though. I’m just... an introvert. I get my energy from alone time so spending too much time with too many people exhausts me more than a 5-mile run.
If you are as obsessed with the Enneagram personality assessment as I am, I guess you could say I am a “5 with a 6 wing.” I love to think, analyze, and learn. I’m one of those people who would much rather be alone than in a huge crowd. On the flip side, I am still extremely social although I find myself feeling awkward and anxious when talking with someone I don’t know well. I’m relational yet skeptical; I’m in my mind 99% of the time yet I love to converse with others. What a divine contradiction, am I right!?
For someone like me, the idea of community can be absolutely terrifying. As much as I genuinely love people, it’s stressful and taxing for me to spend too much of my time with them. So when I was first introduced to church and we would greet each other before service, I would quietly sit in my pew, activate my proverbial invisibility cloak, and pray no one noticed I was avoiding them. It was hard for me because I didn’t understand how to be a part of a community.
Being alone is much easier but being alone is not necessarily healthier.
I can spout off all of the statistics about how isolation contributes to depression and a variety of health problems (I’m a 5, remember?), but I know most from my own personal experience. Isolation may seem like the answer, but it slowly kills your soul. That is why I don’t believe the opposite of depression is happiness, it is connection. Depression makes you feel alone, hopeless, isolated - but being connected in community brings about togetherness, encouragement, and comradery. For me it has been the antidote for many of my issues with unhealthy isolation.
Community matters. I truly believe that being involved in community is the way that God has intended for humanity to live and thrive. I want to give you 4 simple reasons why community is so important and also give you a better understanding of why God called us to be a Church of many and not just a church of me.
1. Community is God’s idea
From the beginning of Scripture, we see God not as some individualistic being - He is a communal, triune God who exists as one God, three expressions. (Talk about confusing, I am still trying to grasp this!) He refers to Himself as We and Us in the creation story. He also does something so interesting during creation. After God created the first man, Genesis 2:18 says “Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.”
God knew from the start that community was essential. God and Adam could have just kicked it in the garden of Eden forever without anyone else, but God chose to impress His image on mankind, have us multiply, and plunge us into community. It is so beautiful to reflect upon - God didn’t need us, He wanted us. And He loves us so much that He gives us a family, a spouse, and even children to further reflect His communal nature.
This idea of God for community extends far beyond just humankind but it extends to His Church. Here is what God desires for us as Church:
To live as one body (Romans 12:4-5)
To live together in unity (Psalm 133:1)
To gather and learn, eat, laugh, have things in common, share with each other, and bring more people into the community (Acts 2:42-47)
To be as one heart and mind and to be generous with each other (Acts 4:32)
To not forsake gathering together (Hebrews 10:24-25):
“And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities. Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.”
2. Community is a place for encouragement and love
There are so many places in the Bible where the idea of encouraging one another is emphasized. And that is the point of community.
Community exists to build each other up, not put each other down.
In fact, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says exactly this. Ephesians 4:29 also says “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
When you are in a healthy community, you will find yourself feeling an overwhelming sense of love and encouragement. Healthy community can serve as the greatest hype-man ever! I have found that since being a part of the church community that I feel confident, supported, and uplifted. Being at church for me was the first time I truly felt love from others and love from Jesus.
When you are all by yourself and alone in the pangs of isolation, there is no encouragement. And if you’re anything like me, your “self-talk” kind of stinks and you beat yourself up more than you build yourself up. But when you are with others, you can be encouraged in the truth instead of beaten up by lies. That is why community is vital to lift your spirits and unite you will those who actually genuinely care about you and see to it that you are never alone.
3. Community brings us into the light and carries our burdens
I have always been a private person. I would rather not share my feelings with someone unless I’m paying them per hour to do so, specifically in a small room with a tissue box and a lumpy couch. There is something intimidating and terrifying about talking about the heartache and hurt that we experience. But God has given us a place to truly lay everything out in the open.
Church community is exactly the place that is safe enough to share our burdens with one another.
Galatians 6:2 calls us to “carry one another’s burdens.” It actually says we fulfill the law of Christ when we do so a.k.a. we do the one thing Jesus told us to do - love one another. Carrying someone’s burdens means getting acquainted with their baggage. Understanding their pain. Diving into the depths of their struggles. This isn’t easy, especially because we all have our baggage. But the beauty of community is that we are all on this journey together. We need each other to lean on, and when we receive the comfort that truly comes from God, we can comfort one another (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Sharing burdens is an act of “walking in the light” as spoken of in 1 John 1:7: “But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt.” We walk in the light not just to expose our stuff, but to actually have fellowship (or community) with each other! When those deep dark things are finally exposed, we are able to better connect with others and heal. James 5:16 even emphasizes this point by saying that when we confess our sin to one another, and pray for one another, we will be healed.
4. Community is a place of belonging... and fun!
I love a good party (especially when there is good food). As an introvert, parties can be a bit scary at first but I usually warm up. But the best thing about a party is that there is always a place for everyone - the loner, the social butterfly, the storyteller. Even if bringing out your dance moves isn’t your style, you can still enjoy simply being in the presence of others. There is comfort in knowing that a community is not made up of all of the same types of people, but it is a beautiful mosaic of all of the different personalities of a ton of different unique individuals. We are “one body with many parts” as 1 Corinthians 12 explains. But the beauty is that we are all different parts and necessary parts.
You matter. You are vital. You belong. No matter your quirks, baggage, struggles, you name it - when you find good community, you belong there.
Out of all of the incredible things that God has promised us in community, one of my favorites is the fact that community is just plain fun. Laughing over a meal with friends, sharing stories over coffee, going for a hike or going swing dancing - these things are all done in the context of community. And if you ask me, it’s all pretty dang fun.
God never intended for His people to live in isolation because He knows how powerful it is when we gather with one another. The enemy hates it when we are involved in community. When we are alone, he can whisper his deceiving lies and plunge us further and further into isolation.
When we are in community, we are surrounded by loving friends who won’t allow us to struggle alone or go on believing the lies of the enemy.
Community is absolutely key to our growth and joy as humans and as believers in Jesus. So who are your people? Where do you belong?