I’ve noticed lately that it’s cool in some pockets of Christianity to have a bad attitude about Proverbs 31. The logic goes that the chapter sets an unreasonable standard for a woman’s performance, godliness, housewife-liness, etc. It makes us feel inadequate in comparison, so it’s OK to thumb our noses at it. I never really understood that reaction, until I realized that I used to have the same kind of resentment for Acts 2:42-47. This almost-utopian description of community in the early church felt painful to me because I wasn’t experiencing it in my own life.
I shared some of those frustrations recently — how I spent a lot of college miffed that Christian community wasn’t materializing for me the way I expected it to. Especially at a Christian university that placed a big emphasis on community. Don’t get me wrong. I graduated with several girlfriends for whom I am eternally grateful and whose lives continue to impact mine today. But that sense of a whole body of believers living and growing together in Christ seemed to be lacking.
Several years later, I read Acts 2 again, and it hit me in a new way. As it turns out, the chapter isn’t setting an unrealistic standard, but illustrating what happens when we actively build community. And the chapter itself shares some incredibly practical ways to do so.
1. Learn together.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”
Study Scripture. Discuss it. Challenge each other. Disagree. Work through your disagreements by digging more deeply into Scripture. Study other stuff. Apply Scripture to it. Learn from others in the community, each bringing your own unique areas of expertise and experience to the group.
2. Spend lots of time together.
“…and to the fellowship…”
It may seem obvious, but perhaps it’s so obvious that we overlook it: Intimacy can only grow as shared history grows. Do life together. Cook together, clean together, play together, serve together. Get to know each others’ families.
3. Eat together.
“…and to the breaking of bread…;” “…and breaking bread in their homes…”
Apparently this one is so important that it gets mentioned twice. That might sound funny, but there’s a reason why food and community are often connected in Scripture and in the modern church. There’s something about eating together that draws us together. And so much the better if the eating together happens in your home. Hospitality is a lost art these days, so when we extend it and experience it, it goes a long way to bless people and break down barriers.
4. Pray together.
“…and to the prayers…”
Carry one another’s burdens. Pray for each other when you’re together and when you’re apart. Of course, the point of prayer is not to grow community. It’s to obey, seek and communicate with God. But the growth of community is often a byproduct of our shared prayers.
5. Be generous with one another.
“And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Caring for others through generosity builds community in several ways. First, it heightens our awareness of others’ needs and takes our focus off ourselves. Being others-focused is an essential building-block of community. Second, both giving and receiving (when we do them well) require a special kind of humility that makes us vulnerable to each other and builds connections between us.
How have you put these things into practice in your community? How have you see community grow as a result?
Copyright 2013 Lindy Keffer. All Rights Reserved.