In the 1990s the pub quiz scene was changed forever when ‘buddy sitcoms’ hit TV. Friends and Seinfeld took over the airways for a time as millions of people every week would tune in to see if Ross and Rachael would ‘finally’ get together, or for their weekly fix of Kramer-isms. In the 2000s the trend continued with shows like How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, Scrubs and Community. All these shows have soaring ratings and huge viewership, ensuring profits for their respective networks.
Each one starts with an eclectic bunch of young people with something in common—either their apartment block, New York City or their workplace. What they share draws them into a tight community, when otherwise they would have remained complete strangers.
What interests me is why these shows are so popular. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the one thing that links them is community. We are drawn to community. We resonate strongly with the bonds of friendship. We laugh at the hilarity of the dysfunction, and cry when their love for each other overcomes any obstacles that threaten the group. We inwardly long to feel that sense of belonging that comes with community.
Called to Community
Of course as Christians this comes as no surprise. God himself is Trinity, a community – 3 persons in 1 God. So love, friendship and community are intrinsic to God’s character. People are drawn to community because humanity was designed by God to reflect his own nature. God created us in his image and so naturally we will also share his desire for intimate fellowship.
In Acts 2:42–47, we are given a glimpse into the life of the very first Christians. They were living life together, caring for and loving each other, meeting each other’s needs, eating together and hanging out every chance they could get. The Bible says that this resulted in three things. Firstly, ‘Awe came upon every soul’; then they had ‘favour with all people’. Thirdly, ‘the Lord added to their number daily’. Being in God’s community isn’t just a heap of fun; it also leads to the growth of the Kingdom!
United in Christ
I am so grateful that I have been able to experience this myself. I’ve had the great privilege of leading a Community Group for the past two and a half years. We started as a bunch of literal exiles living in a strange land; almost our entire group came from places other than Melbourne: Geelong, South Africa, USA, England, Adelaide, Brisbane and even the wilds of Tasmania! We had nothing in common to begin with but Jesus. However, we have found that having Jesus as the thing that unites us is more powerful even than living in New York.
God has formed us into a group which does not hesitate to think of ourselves as anything but ‘family’. I love my CG and consider them to be among the closest people in my life; people I would not hesitate to go to for help or to confide in with my deepest difficulties. This didn’t happen overnight; it took a lot of time to develop this sort of trust. Yet I stand in awe of God’s goodness in giving Jackie (my wife) and me a place in such an awesome community.
A Place We Can Call Home
This even pales with my thankfulness for being part of God’s Church across the globe and throughout history. One of my favourite verses in Scripture is 1 Peter 2:9. We are a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession’. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people! We do not face the struggles of life alone. God has graciously ordained that one of the most important spiritual resources we have is ‘each other’. To emphasise this, the writer of Hebrews has this to say:
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The community of God is a place that we can truly call home. Let’s take responsibility for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, continuing to live lives together for our good and God’s glory.
Pete is the planter and pastor of Inner West Anglican Church in Kensington, Melbourne (part of the St Jude’s Church network). He loves his Saviour Jesus Christ, his wife Jackie, his church family, his dog Loki, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and really hoppy IPAs – in that order.