It seems that most Christians I run into long for it but are not sure how to get it or even what it would look like if they had it. It seems to be ever-elusive. But the problem with community is not that it’s elusive, it’s that it’s difficult and inconvenient. To tell you the truth “community” is the nice way of putting it. It is also known as “commitment,” “awkward conversations,” “serious conflicts,” and “cutting things out of your schedule and budget for the sake of others.”
Well, when you put it like that, the crowds disperse and people are not nearly as interested. If you want contrived intimacy and closeness, complete with feelings that you are valued, listened to, and that someone will always be there for you—but you don’t want the inconvenience and burden of valuing, listening to, and being there for others—you want a therapist, not community. It’s not easy to keep showing up, having your “free time” and “personal space” invaded, often by people you love being around, but maybe just as often by people who drain you. But this is the way of Jesus, not to guard your life, schedule, and money, but to give it away freely and passionately.
Not only is community hard because it requires your time and attention but also because it requires your emotions. Those who feel they are valued and loved are those who are willing to risk being rejected, those who open up and are vulnerable with those they wish to be close with.
So, perhaps the reason people aren’t finding community, even or especially in churches, is because they are looking for something that doesn’t exist—all the benefit of intimacy without any of the burdens of commitment. They want to feel close to others but can’t seem to carve out more than an hour a week to spend with them or can’t seem to manage to open up to them about what’s really happening in their life.
From the life of Jesus I gather that if we want to belong to a community we must first grasp what it means to open ourselves up to life, to give away our schedule, money, and task and accomplishment-driven mentality. Or as Jesus says it, “23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” —Luke 9:23–25