I found myself sitting outside by a campfire under the starry sky of South Africa. As I was being warmed by the fire and looking at the hundreds of stars shining their light back at me, I was suddenly aware of the situation around me.
On that Friday night, there sat 30 young adults, crowded around a fire all singing along with the person who had brought a guitar. And what were they singing? Worship songs to the One that created those stars. To the One that gives breath, life and community.
This struck me for a number of reasons. If I think about the general demographic of people aged 18-25, I can easily think of a lot of activities they could be doing on a Friday night. Most of those things are not healthy and are certainly not worshipping the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
This scene started me thinking about the value of community. The reasons why Christians come together on a Sunday morning to worship and be with each other.
With a society that can be accessed from the comfort of one's own house (if the online world somehow represents society), then the idea of community has drastically been decreased from its original intent. Or think of church services. Churches now have live feeds of their services on Sunday's and many people stay home to watch them.
Is the internet creating a false sense of community?
If I go online, sometimes I have this subconscious idea that I have connected with people. That I have gained some insight into their lives based on my newsfeed and therefore don't need to interact with them. My evening can easily become one spent completely alone. Even though I have watched TV and gone on Facebook, seeing people through a screen.
Galatians chapter 5 verses 22-23: "But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
I'm currently with an organisation called Youth with A Mission (YWAM). One of the key aspects of this Christian mission organisation is community. We sleep in dorm style rooms, eat, do ministry and live life together. And let me tell you, it's a lot easier to have a Facebook relationship with someone who lives in a different house than you, than to live with them 24/7.
There is conflict. YWAM is not filled with perfect people. They have different habits, weird corks and more that will test our fruit of the Spirit, especially patience. But, if we have the Spirit in us, then it should be working in us to produce those 9 fruits mentioned in Galatians.
Christians aren't meant to be isolated from each other. They are meant to do life together and to support one another. To laugh, cry and hold each other. To sharpen and challenge each other to be growing into the person God is creating them to be.
Yes, there are challenges in community. But they are few and far in between when one considers the benefits. If a community is allowing God to move and work in them to be transformed into His likeness, then all the "tough times" are worth it.
Each person doesn't need to be transformed into the likeness of his or her neighbour. As in, they don't have to mould themselves into being like someone else in order to please their fellow Christian. But they do need to honour, respect and love that person for who they are.
Challenge: Let's try and see community from God's perspective and consider the benefits that real community has. If someone is hard to get along with, let's serve them rather than complain about them.
Jason LaLone was on staff at YWAM Brisbane and is currently in South Africa working with YWAM. He is passionate about discipleship, taking Jesus' command to make disciples a practical reality that he can live on a daily basis. He loves lasagna, cats and used to dislike Monday's, making him most like Garfield.
Jason LaLone's previous articles might be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Jason-LaLone.html