As Directional Leader to Women at Irving Bible Church in Irving, Texas, Julie Pierce wants all women to experience encouragement through Christlike community. Whether through small group Bible studies or serving one another and the global community, her goal is to drive deeper connections among women. Why? She's experienced the power of Christlike community in her own ongoing spiritual transformation. Kyria asked her to tell us more about the importance of this discipline.
What does healthy Christlike community look like?
It consists of truth-telling, listening, improving each other, learning from others, and helping each other out of the pit. We celebrate milestones together and say, "You're a different person today than you were a year ago."
How does the discipline of building community connect to our spiritual formation?
Sometimes you may not be able to see what God is doing in your life, but others can say, "Look, this is the hand of God." They can help you see your own growth.
It's also beautiful to pray with others and hear what comes out of their hearts. We carry one another this way. That can't happen in isolation.
So healthy community enhances our understanding of God?
Absolutely. God created us to be in community because he's constantly in community in the Trinity. And in community, we learn that he loves us relentlessly and forgives greatly. I see those attributes of God played out, imperfectly, in those around me with whom I've chosen to go deeper.
Also, others can point us back to truth when our fear keeps us from it. They can reflect God's imminence and character. At times, I've not been able to give myself God's grace, forgiveness, or mercy. But people in my community have said, "That's not of God; that's you. Let's get that out of the way and then maybe you'll be able to hear that God has already forgiven you."
How did you discover healthy community building?
About six years ago, I was isolated relationally because close friends had moved away. So I asked God to bring someone into my life, and he gave me a dear friend. Then God led me to several other key friends. We all made the choice to be more intentional with our time and to share the hard stuff, becoming part of each other's stories. Community doesn't just happen. You have to work at it.
What's the biggest hindrance to doing that?
At times we're too careful. We pray for someone but don't get involved. Sometimes you have to be willing to get messy. Look someone in the eyes and say, "What you're listening to isn't truth. Don't listen to that lie. You're going down a crazy path. Stop. I'm not going to let you go there."
Those lessons and experiences have been life-changing for me.
Have you discovered anything else about yourself by intentionally practicing community?
I'm great at listening to others and being there for them, but I'm lousy at letting others come alongside me. It's hard for me to be real and let my guard down.
I think that's true of a lot of women. It's been good to have some strong women and men in my life who've said, "I don't think you're telling us the whole story. What's really going on?"
And what have you learned about the church?
We can't do this life alone. Those of us who are competent, strong, and accomplished think we don't need people alongside us. But Paul's example of the body of Christ is so accurate. I'm only one part of the body, and I need the rest of the body to be complete. And they need me too. If we aren't together, we're limping along without the rest of the body parts. Experiencing community has shown me what that analogy really means.
What are some ways busy people can engage with community?
If you're volunteering through your church or community, try developing something with the people you serve alongside. If not, you may need to cut something from your calendar to join a small group or regularly get together with some other women.
How does community as a spiritual discipline differ from other types of social interaction?
The discipline of community is intentional. Being in one another's lives has a spiritual purpose. It's different from just meeting someone at the park or going on a walk once in a while. We're not going to leave our spiritual formation on the side until it enters the conversation; it is the conversation.