What's Your Community?
What’s your community? Who are your people? To whom do you belong and who belongs to you? Community can be experienced through a myriad of realities. Such as religious beliefs, educational aspirations, sexual orientation, political party, genetics, race and even something as simple as proximity.
Everyone is part of some kind of community. In fact, if you take the time to connect the dots, you will realize that you stake a claim within several communities. Groups with which you identify.
For community is defined as “Fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.” Notice that community isn’t defined as merely something in which you believe or something in which you hold an interest; that is also shared by others. Even though you can be in community, based on what you believe and what interests you. The most important aspect of community is the fact that it requires “Fellowship with others”.
Let me give you an example. You might politically lean one way or the other. Yet, unless you are seeking out fellowship with others, who politically lean in the same way as you, you aren’t in a community. You simply hold beliefs, similar to others, that direct your personal choices.
Not that there is anything wrong with that. You just need to understand, when determining what community into which you belong, that simply holding common beliefs does not a community make. The main ingredient of community is “Fellowship with others”.
Yet, there are three aspects to the dark side of any discussion about community. And they pertain to your motivation to be in a community. You can find yourself a part of a community, even if you don’t necessarily share common attitudes, interests and goals, with that community.
First, you can be in a community simply because you like the people in that community. Your connection is totally relationally based. And has nothing to do with sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.
Worse yet, you can be in a community for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you want to be seen as a member of a specific community. Thus, the only shared attitude, interest and goal you have with a specific community is the desire to be seen as part of that community. You are in fellowship to feed your own personal appetite. You identify with a community simply for what you can achieve, by being seen as a part of a specific community.
Sadly, you might be a part of a community because you have no other choice. Your participation is what is expected. For the decision to be a part of the community or not isn’t up to you. The fellowship that you have with others isn’t based on common attitudes, interests and goals. It’s based on some other outside factor like family, political, financial or cultural pressures. Yet, there you are. Identifying with a community in which you truly don’t identify.
Why does all of this community stuff matter? First, because we are created in the image of God. And God is community. Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You want to talk about “Fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals”? That’s God, the three in one.
Thus, being created in the image of God, you need community. You have an inbreed desire to fit somewhere with someone. And you will search and search until you find your community.
Second, community exists not for its own sake, but for the sake of the members of the community. It’s a way for you to not only find identity, but also to find purpose. For in community is where you spread your wings. Where you learn and grow. Where you live into who God has created you to be.
This second reason is exactly why you must be aware of the dark side of community. For your life, lived in the wrong community or lived in community for the wrong reasons, robs you and the world from experiencing truly who you have been created to be. For you can only discover who you are in community. Yet, if you are in the wrong community or you are doing community for the wrong reasons, you will never truly discover who you have been created to be.
So, your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to identify your community or communities. Remember, community is “Fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals”. Identify your community or communities, based only on this definition.
Next, do you agree with and like your list? Why or why not? Ask yourself if you are a part of a community for the right reasons or for the dark side reasons? And if you find some dark side community connections in your life, what can you do today to start to make changes?
So, now you have determined to pay attention to your community connections. You have also determined to make the necessary changes, in relation to any dark side community connections in your life. What is the next step in response to your determinations? Get up, go out and participate. Don’t just claim your community. Live, learn and grow as a vital part of your community.