If you don’t mind, I’ll start by being a little transparent.
About 80% of the time, I wish I didn’t need community.
As a self-diagnosed introvert, I wish I could be a healthy and effective follower of Christ just by reading books and praying in a dark room, just like Jesus said. To make matters worse, I was homeschooled and the 4th of ten kids so I was cursed with social awkwardness and social anxiety stemming from wanting to be ignored and included simultaneously.
We all know community is a vital part of the Christian life. If you have been in the church for any time, you probably have all the answers to why community is essential. You might even bring up scriptures like Acts 2:42-47, Colossians 3:16, or Hebrews 10:19-25 which are some great texts that teach us about the function of the Christian community—how we should treat each other, and the purpose of our gatherings. In all honesty, you probably thought, “I already know community is important,” and maybe already scrolled by this. That’s fine.
I “knew” it too. I grew up in the church, with the Bible on my shelf and in my homeschool curriculum. For years this was another one of those things that I could give all the right answers about, but it never really hit me at a heart level. If you’re still here, let me tell you how God taught an introvert why he never intended for us to do life alone.
As I said, I grew up in a large homeschooled family. My dad was a youth pastor at a church of maybe 75 people in Miller, Missouri. A youth pastor at a tiny church in a tiny town. We did not have money. My clothes either used to be my brothers or were bought from a little thrift shop in Miller during their annual $1 per bag sale. It’s thinking back on this time that God showed me the first reason we need Christian community. And it’s exactly what we see in Acts 2. The Church saw and met our physical needs. Every December for several years in a row, a family in that church paid for me and my, at that time, 5 siblings brand new shoes. It was the greatest blessing. I don’t think I realized at the time how meaningful it was to have a pair of shoes that no one had worn before me. The Church gave that to me and my brothers and sisters.
Let’s jump to a much more recent time. In the spring of 2021, my family went through hands down the hardest time we’ve ever been through. It was one of those things that even almost two years later we’re dealing with aftershocks and learning to live with a new reality. I remember talking to several close friends during that time, and invariably, as we’d get up to part ways, they would tell me, “I’ll be praying for you and your family.” This is such a special thing. Knowing that in a time when I hurt more than I ever had before, so many were regularly going to the Father on behalf of my family and me. The Church (even though technically I didn’t “go to church” with most of these people) met our spiritual needs. My great friend Gage Smith never missed an opportunity to ask how my family was doing and to ask how I was doing. On the anniversary of the event, he texted me to let me know he had prayed for me every single day for that year, and for all I know he still prays for me every single day. He was and is the Church, meeting spiritual needs.
Shortly after he graduated high school, my good friend Jordan Duncan joined YWAM (Youth With a Mission). He spent a few months being trained in Mexico, then spent a few months traveling through a few different countries meeting needs of the communities there and telling them about Jesus. He ended up spending a couple of years with that organization, eventually becoming a mentor to new members. For the majority of the time he spent with them, I sent Jordan $20 a month, which was sometimes all I had left after paying tuition and buying gas. Because this is another thing you get to do when you’re part of a community. You support and encourage and meet needs in return.
Community is an essential part of following Jesus. So if you’re like me and think lone-wolfing it sounds pretty neat, just remember what happens in every movie ever after the main character growls “I work alone.” Never goes well, does it?