Theology Thursday: God in My Community

Shot of a group of friends putting their hands together in prayer

The gathering together of those who claim to follow God is as ancient as the formation of humanity. In fact, even before man’s creation, God dwelt in community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the Trinity. It would stand to reason, therefore, that Christian community would be the expectation of the followers of God as well.

The psalmist stated it well with the words, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1, ESV). This psalm further proclaims, “For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore,” (Psalm 133:3). In the environment of Christian community, life happens. In community, healing, teaching, correction and miracles happen. The book of Acts records the amazing signs of life that ensued when believers dwelt together for a common purpose.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. — Acts 2:46-47, ESV

The gathering together of believers is the community of Christ, the family of God. A place of fellowship and family. Dietrich Bonhoeffer saw this as being root in and accomplished through the person of Jesus Christ. To Bonhoeffer, Christian community was the “telos” of life.1 In the familial gathering, no matter how brief or long, powerful spiritual formation and lasting transformation can take root in the life of the Christ follower. Let’s consider three ways through which this happens.

In This Article:

God in Community Connection

Connection is the act of linking or joining together in relational intimacy. For authentic connection to take place, the community must be a place of transparency, vulnerability, honesty and safety. These elements are representative of sacred community and are only truly possible in Christ. As the Bonhoeffer quote above stated, “We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ,” and in relationship to Christ and through Christ, we can trust others to be their best and do their best, for the greater good of the community.

The Apostle Paul speaks of the interconnected responsibility through much of his biblical letters. In the letter to the Ephesians, he lays out what relationship entails in such relationships as husband and wife, children and parents, and family of God. He states, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” (Eph. 4:2-3, NIV). In the letter to Corinth, he lays out the dynamic components of unconditional love when he writes;

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance — 1 Cor. 13:4-7, NLT

These verses, and many others, lay a firm foundation on which sacred community is built together in Christ and in Christian love and fellowship.

God in Community Correction

In a culture in which individuality reigns and personal responsibility is often overlooked or undermined, the idea of correction can get a bad rap. Correction is the act of rectification or making right something that is in error or inaccurate. This is a good thing, and in Christian community there is profound duty to do so in love and humility.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. — Gal. 6:1-2, ESV

It is a work of love to point out error in the actions or beliefs of a fellow Christ follower, and its acceptance empowers the offender to course correct. This gift enables the opportunity for greater connection to God and others and offers the opportunity for spiritual growth, emotional maturation, and healthy self-direction. Those who are in Christ appreciate a community whose goal is the glory of God and the betterment of the individual.

God in Community Growth

In the Genesis narrative addressing the inception of humanity, God declares this blessing over his creation, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth,” (Gen. 1:28, ESV). This command to multiply is not concerned with offspring only, in essence God is exhorting his crowning creation to be fruitful and become great.

It is a given that growth is a sign of health in every living thing. Babies become toddlers and teenagers and adults. Relationships deepen and expand. Churches reach communities and develop disciples. These are all signs of life and growth, and the community of God is a living organism connected to a loving and life-giving God. In this state, it cannot help but grow. In the fourth chapter of the book of Ephesians, Paul reminded the church that God had provided gifts for growth in the offering of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the family of God for works of services, bonds of unity and fullness in Christ (see Eph 4: 9-13).

When the body of Christ stays connected to God and each other the attributes of sacred community and wholesome growth are evident to everyone. One of God’s greatest gifts to the body of Christ is sacred Christian community. This community provides the safe space needed to connect, correct and grow and is an essential element in the life of every believer.

Read more Theology Thursday blogs and check out other degree programs and theology minors. Visit GCU’s College of Theology and fill out the form on this page to learn more. 

1 Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Samuel. Life Together. SCM Press (2015), pg. 10.

Approved by faculty for the College of Theology on March 14, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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