It’s a serious and honest question that needs to be asked – especially in our culture today: Is Community Possible? Honestly?
It’s a question that’s certainly related to the difficulties we have suffered these past 12 months. But our longings for and struggles with true community are bigger and deeper than what we’ve experienced and suffered during COVID-19. It is true: one of the most difficult aspects of this past year has been social isolation. Twelve months ago this week, on March 15, 2020, we cancelled gathering together in person for worship and had our first live-streamed service. For 12 long months, our personal interactions and participation in community have been seriously diminished and limited. As we long for and anticipate the end of our COVID-19 isolation, one of the things we are looking forward to is being able to be with people again. As human beings, we long for community, because we were made for community. That’s why this past year has been so deeply dehumanizing and difficult.
But the breakdown and fracturing of community in our culture and time, which was on a downward spiral before March 2020, seems to have accelerated in many ways. It seems like we are even less able to have civil discourse than we were a year ago. Echo-chambers and tribalism have increased. Social Media feels more and more like it’s actually “Anti-Social Media.” But, as I’ve said, community was a struggle before COVID-19. What will it be like when social isolation is no longer required? Will anything change? Will our loss of, and longing for, community lead to new priorities and lasting commitments?
There is reason for hope. There are discernable signs and trends. Responding to the lessons of COVID-19, large numbers of people are already physically moving closer to family and community. Many are seeking out new churches that might offer a deeper connection to community. So, in the midst of the challenges, the losses, and the potential for “a new-normal,” it’s a good time for us to ask, “Is Community Possible? Honestly?” This is the question that 1 Corinthians asks and answers. And that’s where we are going to be as a church family for probably the remainder of 2021. (1 Corinthians is not a short book!)
1 Corinthians is also brutally honest about the difficulties, struggles, and imperfections of the new community of the local church. As isolating and lonely as they can be, one of the “advantages” of larger (mega) churches is that church-community is almost impossible. Being part of a large, and largely anonymous, group means you don’t have to deal with the conflicts, struggles, and difficulties of the interpersonal relationships that a local church community, with its varying levels of friendships, involves, necessitates, and requires.
If we read 1 Corinthians honestly, we should wonder if local church community is possible or even worth it. I encourage you to take some time to scan through the book yourself. If you just skim through the chapter headings themselves, it’s overwhelmingly and relentlessly messy and conflictual! It should make us wonder if God, maybe, made a mistake in organizing and gathering his people together in local church families. Is the risk worth the reward?
God, in his Word, does not offer us the secret keys and steps to unlock the door to conflict-free, perpetually affirming, and undisrupted harmonious community. Instead, he guides, commands, and points the way to something deeper, more profound, and a reality even more beautiful. Messy, difficult, imperfect, but beautiful.
So, as you prepare your hearts for worship this Sunday, take a few minutes to read this insightful personal reflection on local church community, and then read and reflect on 1 Corinthians 1:1-3 and Acts 18:1-18 (the account of the birth of the church in Corinth).
I look forward to walking together with you on this journey.
Yours in Christ’s love,