You've probably heard the phrase, "No man is an island." That's never been more true than in the context of our faith. God didn't create us to be loners. He created us to be interdependent, to need one another in order to fully understand and be blessed by him. So for a few moments each morning, meditate on that day's community building thought or prayer. Then try to keep it in your thoughts throughout the day, prayerfully asking God to help you apply what you've read and to mold you into a woman who seeks and develops authentic relationships.
Lord, help me to move against my natural tendency of putting myself before others. Help me to reach out when I most feel like turning inward and moving toward isolation. Give me a love for others that reflects your mission on earth. Amen.
What would it take for you to connect with one new person this month? Decide on who that person would be and make a phone call or send an e-mail to encourage her.
Make the words of the old hymn, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds" your prayer.
"The body of Christ, especially in well-functioning, small, intimate groups, is the most healing body in the world; yet we do not treat it as such. We wouldn't think of relating to a medical doctor with the same reserve as we have in the healing body of Christ. Would we say to a doctor, "I have this unspoken illness"? Of course not! But we often use this term, unspoken request, in sharing our needs with the body. Would we try to deceive a doctor into thinking our hurt is nonexistent or in a different place than it actually is? Of course not! Would we say, "I am here for a friend—examine me and diagnose him"? Of course not! Yet we treat the church with such distrust and fear. We choose to hide."— Gayle D. Erwin (Servant Quarters)
Write down why you tend to shy away from getting involved with others. Now write out a prayer asking God to help you overcome the root of that.
"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not."—Samuel Johnson
When the next opportunity arises to be involved with someone else, pray, "Lord, help me to love this person as you do."
How would you apply this to the body of Christ? "Assuredly there is but one way in which to achieve what is not merely difficult but utterly against human nature: to love those who hate us, to repay their evil deeds with benefits, to return blessings for reproaches. It is that we remember not to consider men's evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them."—John Calvin
If God places someone on your heart today, stop and pray for that person. Then call her to see how she is doing.
"Though I know intellectually how vulnerable I am to pride and power, I am the last one to know when I succumb to their seduction. That's why spiritual Lone Rangers are so dangerous—and why we must depend on trusted brothers and sisters who love us enough to tell us the truth."—Charles Colson, from Breakpoint
Is your schedule keeping you from participating in true community? "My wife, Cathy, has to remind me on occasion, "We have a Messiah. He's doing very well, so don't replace him!" If your schedule is consistently out of control, then I highly question how your primary relationships-God, spouse, family, friends, and even your own body—can be in order."—Jim Burns
Reach out to someone who is hurting today. Letthem know they are not alone.
"There are many things which a person can do alone, but being a Christian is not one of them. As the Christian life is, above all things, a state of union with Christ, and of union of his followers with one another, love of the brethren is inseparable from love of God. Resentment toward any human being cannot exist in the same heart with love to God. The personal relationship to Christ can only be realized when one has "come to himself" as a member of His Body, the Christian fellowship."—William T. Ham
Consider and act:
"Make it a rule, and pray to God to help you to keep it, never, if possible, to lie down at night without being able to say: 'I have made one human being at least a little wiser, or a little happier, or at least a little better this day.'"—Charles Kingsley
"Forgive us if this day we have done or said anything to increase the pain of the world. Pardon the unkind word, the impatient gesture, the hard and selfish deed, the failure to show sympathy and kindly help where we had the opportunity, but missed it; and enable us so to live that we may daily do something to lessen the tide of human sorrow, and add to the sum of human happiness."—Frederick Brotherton Meyer
"In a Christian community, everything depends upon whether each individual is an indispensable link in a chain. Only when even the smallest link is securely interlocked is the chain unbreakable. A community which allows unemployed members to exist within it will perish because of them. It will be well, therefore, if every member receives a definite task to perform for the community, that he may know in hours of doubt that he, too, is not useless and unusable. Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak. The elimination of the weak is the death of the fellowship."—Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"If you are having difficulty loving or relating to an individual, take him to God. Bother the Lord with this person. Don't you be bothered with him—leave him at the throne."—Charles Swindoll, from Insight for Living
"I need Thee, O Lord, for a curb on my tongue; when I am tempted to making carping criticisms and cruel judgments, keep me from speaking barbed words that hurt, and in which I find perverted satisfaction. Keep me from unkind words and from unkind silences. Restrain my judgments. Make my criticisms kind, generous, and constructive. Make me sweet inside, that I may be gentle with other people, gentle in the things I say, kind in what I do. Create in me that warmth of mercy that shall enable others to find Thy strength for their weakness, Thy peace for their strife, Thy joy for their sorrow, Thy love for their hatred, Thy compassion for their weakness. In thine own strong name, I pray. Amen."—Peter Marshall
"Never believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true; never tell even that unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary—and that God is listening while you tell it."—William Penn
Most of us experience community in a variety of settings, such as at church, work, our neighborhood, or in a Bible study. Where do you experience community in your life? Are the quality of relationships what you want them to be? What can you do to deepen and strengthen bonds you have with others?
"How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!" (Psalm 133:1). Pray this for the communities you are part of, whether it's your own family, a small group, or neighbors on the block where you live.
Many people don't think the church is critical to their spiritual growth and life in Christ. What role does the church play for you? If you're not plugged into a faith community, why not?
Write about the ideal community situation for you. What does it look like? In what ways can you brainstorm making that ideal a reality?
Cultivating community requires risk—risk in making ourselves transparent and vulnerable to others, and affording others this same freedom. Intentionally reach out to one person in your life and spark a conversation to learn more about her.
Practice active listening today. In the times when you're tempted to interrupt or share your own story about something, take those times to keep quiet and simply listen.
"God, bring to mind moments when I've avoided community and help me understand that through my avoidance I may have caused someone else to miss out on a blessing in some way. Help me to push through my avoidance to firmly plant me within me a desire to go deeper with others. For Christ's sake, Amen."
This humorous video, "Killer Community Tips," gets at the heart of a lot of issues within community-building. Are there any "tips" you practice regularly?
Since the church is global, community isn't just about your local church community, but the church worldwide. Spend some time today praying for those Christians around the world who are being persecuted for their faith. Ask God to strengthen them in the face of their persecution.
In the blog post, "The Facebook Fast," uber-blogger Anne Jackson says the web creates connection but not community. Do you agree? Why or why not?
The video "Sacred Everyday Life" looks at women who live in intentional community. What aspect of that lifestyle can you apply to your life?
Read and act:
"This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another."—Zechariah 7:9
Read and journal:
"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." Write about a time when someone showed Christ's love for you. How did it affect you? In what ways can you show love to others?
Jesus told us in Matthew 18:20: "Where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." See if you can get together with one or more people and spend time just praying for one another.
Make this prayer your own: "They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love."
"We go to church so as not to be alone—along in our joys, alone in our suffering, alone in the everydayness of our lives, alone in the important passages of our lives …. We go to church to tell people we love them, and hopefully, to hear them tell us the same thing."—Ronald Rolheiser
Spend some time writing how the Triune God teaches us about community.
"I am writing these things to you … so that … you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth."—1 Timothy 3:14-15
Look up the "one anothers" throughout Scripture. Choose one and make a point to practice it today. What is this practice like for you?
Ask God to bring authentic friends into your life who will stretch and grow you for his kingdom.
List the benefits of true community building. For example, you might list: seeing Jesus in the lives of others; moving from independence to interdependence; growing in love for others. Write down how Jesus works through community to grow his kingdom and impact the world.
"Community as discipline is the effort to create a free and empty space among people where together we can practice true obedience …. To create space for God among us requires the constant recognition of the Spirit of God in each other."—Henri Nouwen, in Making All Things New
Write about what is appealing and unappealing about being independent.
Act and journal:
If you have something against another Christian, go to that person and reconcile. Journal the experience.
Send someone a handwritten note today and tell her how much you appreciate her.
How does your life right now reflect the value God places on belonging to his family?
Send someone a prayer for their life. Practice doing that every day for a week.
God, show me my gifts today and how they can be useful to your body.
Write about a time when you were hurt by someone in your community life. What would it take to forgive and move forward in a relationship with that person? Or what would it take for you to release that person to God and ask him to heal the situation?
"No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love."—Henri Nouwen
"For as long as it's still God's Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn't slow down your reflexes."—Hebrews 3:13, The message
This video, "By Our Love," presents a powerful look at the importance of unity in our relationships.
"Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts."—Colossians 3:15-16
"God's one plan for reaching the world is rooted in the community of broken people who gather with a desire to love him and bring in his kingdom. We will never be perfect people; but imperfect people committed to a radical Spirit-empowered love can change their relationships and their world."—Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook
When has the local church or close Christian friends nurtured and sustained you? What was that experience like for you? In what ways can you return that nurturing?
Begin a thank-you list. Thank God for each person and ask a blessing over them.
What gifts do you bring to your community? In what ways can you offer those?
Lord, help me to be aware of those around me so that I can include them in my life. Help me not to be afraid to reach out to others.
Ask a friend to show you places in your life where she has seen God working in and through you.
Consider and pray:
Who would you like to grow with in your spiritual life? Ask God to bring a few names to mind or to bring those people into your life.
Thank you, God, for showing me the importance and power of the body of Christ. And thank you for giving me gifts that will help build and strengthen that body. Help me use them to the best of my ability now and always. Amen.
Copyright © 2011 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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