God has been an advocate for community from the beginning. I define community as a group of individuals walking through life together. The first evidence of community can be seen in God Himself existing as a triune God with three separate identities. Bilezikian states in his book that, “Indeed the first three verses of Genesis reveal that God is a community of three persons in one being (Bilezikian, 1997).”
A second evidence for the importance of community can be seen in God’s establishment of the first institution. When the creation of everything on the earth was completed, God now had to establish how things ought to be in the pre-fall perfection which was manifested in the Garden of Eden. God established the institution of marriage. This community was the answer to man’s inadequacy in being alone. Marriage is held in high regard throughout Scripture probably in no greater way then in the New Testament where Christ is pictured as our groom and, those who have placed their faith in Him, His bride. This was the first institution and it was rooted in the principle of community. A third great development in Scripture was the setting apart of the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.
A study of the Pentateuch reveals that as the nation was set up by God there was going to be great differences between Israel and every other nation. The primary reason for all these differences was to bring glory to God by setting these people apart. Set apart from others? Yes. Set apart unto God? Definitely. But they were also set apart unto each other. The laws taught them how to interact -- the holidays were to be celebrated as a nation, even the way the camp was arranged showed a community of families within tribes focused on God. Community was at the heart of God’s plan for Israel.
Also in Jesus’ own ministry the importance of community can be realized. Much of His teaching was directed toward how His followers are to relate to one another. To illustrate from the life of Christ how community is important, consider how ministry was carried out in His three-and-one-half years of recorded ministry. Jesus gathered to Himself 12 men who became more than disciples -- they were the apostles. They lived life with Jesus day after day. Every time He spoke they could hear; every time He walked somewhere they walked alongside. For them the great commission was clear: when Jesus said, “Go and make disciples”, He was telling them to live life with others and in so doing develop others into the image of Christ. Finally, as these same men began to form the church following the day of Pentecost a vivid picture of community can be seen.
Acts 2 provides very descriptive verses that reveal a strong sense of community where the well-being of the community went ahead of any particular individual and where the church’s desire for togetherness united them in this new institution of the church. Acts 4:32-37 continues this proclamation of unity when it states, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”
These illustrations were not meant to be prescriptive of what today’s church must look like in order to be a practicing biblical community, but there are lessons to be gained from these truths. What should be understood is that we were created by a relational God to be relational beings and God’s plans have forever included a facet of being relational within a community focused on glorifying God. My encouragement to any reader is to connect face to face with a Christ centered community.