The Spirit of Community
Community sounds great…on paper. Lived out, it’s messy. We can see how investing in our relationship with God pays off, but relationships with others? Yes and no.
The book of Acts is a game-changer. It shakes us up, pointing us to sacrificial, faith-shaping community. At least, until we hit the end of the chapter. Or our phone chirps. Or someone needs something. Or we decide to read Romans again.
So, we put our heads down and sink a little deeper into the ruts we’ve dug ourselves. It’s amazing that a full life can often be such an empty life. We’re always running, always tired. We soldier on day in, day out, trudging toward goalposts that keep shifting. (And let’s be real, we’re the ones shifting them.) Meanwhile, God’s goal for His love to be shared and felt stands unfulfilled.
The disparity between what we see in the New Testament church (Acts 2:42-47 offers a great summary) and Christian communities today invites a few questions: What was so different back then? Why can’t my church be like that? What spurred on believers in the early church to love and serve each other so prayerfully and faithfully?
“What spurred on believers in the early church to love and serve each other so prayerfully and faithfully?”
First and foremost, God was at work. And there’s good news. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, who healed the multitudes, who multiplied bread and fish—He lives in you. You. Busy you. Tired you. Redeemed and transformed you. The heartbeat of love coursing through the early church was fueled by the Holy Spirit. Praise God, that Spirit hasn’t faded or faltered. And He never will.
The New Testament isn’t a string of miraculous accounts of churches who managed to do the impossible and get along for short periods of time. Those churches didn’t will themselves to be cooperative. They didn’t white knuckle their way to unity.
Re-read the epistles. Or just read ahead a few chapters in Acts. These were gatherings of broken, hurting sinners like the rest of us. They had lives and responsibilities like the rest of us. Sure, their culture and communities looked different. They were less individualistic, less prone to isolation. But, honestly, how well has dogged self-reliance panned out in the West anyway?
“Honestly, how well has dogged self-reliance panned out in the West anyway?”
God knew we could never love each other the way He loves us. He knew we could never win victory over the flesh through behavior modification. So, He sent Jesus. But He didn’t stop there. He didn’t just walk among us, dust caked on His feet. God sent His Spirit to live in our hearts, overpowering our innate desire to oppose Him. Without that Advocate, we’d be lost.
We also can’t overlook the fact that the New Testament churches faced constant persecution. When you’ve been forced to give up everything in pursuit of Christ, priorities change. Meaningful community means that much more to someone who’s lost it—someone who thought they’d never find it again. That sort of gratitude only magnifies the Spirit’s impact.
I promise, none of this is intended as a guilt trip. But I do hope it’s a wake-up call. Everyone’s life and circumstances are different. We’re all in different seasons. And we all need community. We all need seasoned believers to pour into us. And we can do the same for children. We need more communities who pray for each other, serve one another, and display Christlike love and challenge always. Deep down, I think we all instinctively want that. We just need to start asking for it.
Here’s the best part: God knows and understands the intricacies of our lives and schedules. And when you muster the courage to pray, “God, what do You want me to do today? Whom can I love today?” you’re inviting the omniscient King of the Universe to do the heavy lifting—just one more opportunity for Him to be glorified as all strength in our weakness.
“When you muster the courage to pray, ‘God, what do You want me to do today? Whom can I love today?’ you’re inviting the omniscient King of the Universe to do the heavy lifting.”
Tasks may shuffle. Plans may change. But God will always find a way to use you if you’re willing. Busy you. Tired you. Spirit-filled you.
Will you ask Him?