What is a Community?

community_colorfulI'm intrigued by how the word community is used in so many applications. It's often in a nebulous sense, such as "the international community." Just who does that include? Who determines who gets included? The U.N.? Mainstream media?

A non-distinct group of corporations could be considered "the business community."

Again, who determines this? I bank at a credit union with the name, First Community. What makes it first? First of what? Alright, enough with the questions!

When I think of a community, I tend to think of a town or a locale within a town or city that has some identifiable connection. This connection makes it distinct in some way from other places or groups of homes and businesses that are part of another community.

In the 60's, planned communities emerged. These ranged from huge land developments that included schools and shopping centers, as well as housing, to environmental sanctuaries. They were designed for a purpose.

Israel—the Community

In the Old Testament Scriptures, the nation of Israel was often referred to as a community. Israel was promised a land of their own, but existed as a nation and was called a community by God before they possessed a homeland of their own (see Exo 12:3 NIV).

What made them a community? Yes, I know some will say, "Because God said so!" Yeah, okay, but why did He call them a community? What was it that made them a community distinct from other peoples?

Israel did become a nation by God's choosing and purpose. After a time, He gave them a set of laws to follow that would make them distinct from other nations, other ethnic groups. But why? For what purpose? Was it the laws and similarity of ancestry that made them a community, or was there something more?

How it started

I often find it helpful to go back to the beginning. How did Israel's identity as a nation or community begin? It began with a promise. A promise to a man named Abram (later called Abraham). The promise included these things— God would develop a great nation through this man, God would bless him, make his name great, make Abraham a blessing to others, grant him great favor and protection, and provide a blessing through him for the whole earth (Gen 12:1-3).

That's quite a promise! It's easy to see all the great things for Abraham's sake, but what catches my eye is how the whole earth would be blessed. How would that happen? It certainly didn't happen right away, as Israel's history reveals.

Fast forward thousands of years. "They," whoever *they* are, create specialized communities designed around certain parameters with certain intentions. But my question is this…Is the whole earth blessed by these communities? Even as a whole, not so much.

A Community of Believers  And yet, there's another community that God designed, a community of believers (1 Peter 2:17 NIRV). A group of people God also designed to be a blessing to the whole earth. Did this ever happen. Well, yes and no. It did happen, it still happens in many places, but not always.

What was this community? A community of believers called the church.

We catch a glimpse of God's grand design in the early days of its existence (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35). I've heard lots of teaching and preaching about all the things they did that we ought to do, but I believe that misses the point of what made them a community.

What they had in common

Where does the word community come from? What gives it a sense of meaning? It's root meaning is *to have in common*, or just the word common. It's the same word in New Testament Greek that communion comes from— to have in common.

It isn't about all the things they did as a community, but why they did them.

So, why did they do these things? What do you think?

What's your experience with community?

Are you looking for the perfect place, the perfect church, or group of people? That's a futile search.

So, what makes a community of believers special? How does it become special enough to bless the whole earth?