Recovering Community

The past couple of months have been difficult for most of us, even though we all have our unique difficulties. Some of us have faced job changes, pay cuts, or even job loss. Some of us have been forced to postpone events we’ve been looking forward to for a while. Some of us have had to take on the weighty burdens of homeschooling to keep our kids up to speed.

Challenges like these are significant. But perhaps the challenge that we have most shared is the absence of community and deepening relationships with others. The culmination of “stay at home” orders, wearing masks over our faces, and staying socially distanced has naturally pushed us away from one another. We’ve leveraged some digital tools, like Zoom and social media, to stay connected. But we all know, deep down, that this isn’t the kind of connection God created us for. Community cannot blossom over a screen.

We’re probably feeling more isolated and more unknown than we have in a long time, maybe ever. It’s important for us to see that this is not the kind of life God wants for us. In the second chapter of the Bible, God admits that there is one thing that is “not good” about His creation: when man is alone (Gen 2:18). The reason we miss gathering as a church is something hard-wired in us. It is the realization that we need one another.

We are on the verge of gathering together again as a church family, and praise God for that. Still, there are significant challenges in terms of community with one another. Some are not yet comfortable with returning to services. Some feel we should continue to wear masks around one another, while some do not. Some believe a larger gathering in someone’s home is totally fine, while others consider it irresponsible. How do we work through these tensions of community? How do we recover community with one another?

First, we should acknowledge that we need to show grace to our neighbors who have different convictions than we do. The issue of wearing masks, for example, is not a first-order gospel issue. It does not define whether or not we belong to Christ, and therefore, is not worth breaking Christian fellowship over. Still, this issue affects how we meet together. So, let’s exercise a lot of grace with one another. Let’s be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. This is new territory for all of us.

Second, we should see this as a wonderful opportunity to re-engage with others. Things are still a little grey right now, and that’s okay. It may require a little more thoughtfulness and being proactive than before, and that’s okay, too. We should be wise in how we meet together. But as a church, we want to provide chances for you to re-engage in community. Because it matters enough, and is worth the work it may take.

For example, maybe you’re not a part of a Community Group, but you would like to be. Or you’d like to potentially facilitate a Community Group, but you’re wondering if this is an appropriate time for something like that. The answer is yes.

Brothers and sisters, it is appropriate and understandable to have legitimate concerns and reasons for being cautious. That’s one thing. But it is easy to use our times as an excuse to neglect important Christian practices, such as gathering together (Heb 10:24-25). And this kind of willful neglect of community is unloving to our neighbor.

We cannot leverage the uncertainty of our times as a way to be spiritually lazy. The importance of being a part of the body of Christ remains, no matter what we face. Think of the early church in Acts, who prayed for boldness in the face of threats and persecutions (Acts 4:18-31). If anyone knew the dangers they faced going outside, it was this group! They could have rationalized plenty of reasons to throw in the towel and grow apart. But they chose to be bold, endure, and keep striving.

We are only in the beginning stages of unraveling this virus’ impact on our lives and the lives of those in our community. We think we need one another now — it will only be more clear as the weeks and months go on. So, in summary, we encourage you, as you are able, to press into community and re-engage with the body. Join a Community Group. Participate in one of our midweek studies. Be present for upcoming events. Life is richer because we journey together, serving and being served, loving and being loved, knowing and being known.

— Pastor Zach
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