You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoys its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor. – James 3:18
I am not a huge Rick Warren fan (author of The Purpose Driven Life ), he is too much of a Calvinist for me - especially when it comes to predestination. But he once said something about cultivating community in a Christian context that caught my eye: “It takes both God’s power and our effort to produce a loving Christian community.” What are those efforts? Warren gives some good advice:
• Cultivating community takes honesty. In other words, speak the truth in love. Don’t gloss over tough issues or pray that they go away. In the end, people like honesty better than flattery.
• Cultivating community takes humility. Being stubborn, being self-important, and being prideful destroy fellowship and community at lightning speed. Humility builds community. In the words of Paul, paraphrased: “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t try to act im-portant, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all.” Being humble, Warren says, is not to think less of yourself; it is to think of yourself less.
• Cultivating community takes courtesy. We have to respect our differences, be consider-ate of others and their feelings, and be patient with others – even those who irritate us.
• Cultivating community takes confidentiality. Only in safe places will people share their hurts, needs and mistakes. God hates gossip… and yes, sometimes a “prayer request” for someone else is gossip. What is shared in your prayer group or Sunday School class should stay there. “Gossip is spread by wicked people; they stir up trouble and break up friendships.” (Proverbs 16:18)
• Cultivating community takes frequency. In other words, fellowship needs to take place often, because relationships take time; deep relationships take a lot of time. Shallowness in churches is often due to a lack of spending time cultivating relationships. We need community for spiritual health.
Most of all, community requires commitment, just like families require commitment. And in the Christian context, the family of God is the Church. We have to ask ourselves continually: are we committed to cultivating community?