I’m a sentimental creature. I love old notebooks, drawings from the third grade, letters given long ago, and my dad’s old sweaters. I also love reminiscing on times past, and sometimes that includes stories that completely captivated me that I was told but didn’t actually experience.
I remember sitting at the dinner table when I was a little elementary schooler, living vicariously through the stories my older siblings recounted about their youth group experiences. They were at the church a lot. It’s where their best friends were. It’s where they went to play Nukem and volunteer their time cleaning out old fridges. It’s where my sister sang on the worship team with the guy she would marry. It wasn’t just a place where they knew a few people and attended Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. They lived life together. They encouraged and loved each other. It was also one of the most spiritually enriching times of their lives.
I’ve always dreamed of really experiencing that for myself, but I feel like my experience has always fallen short of the picture I have in my mind of what Biblical community is supposed to look like.
Acts 2:42-47 gives a clear picture of what true Biblical community is:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 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.
These people were eating together, they were supporting each other and giving to one another. They were truly loving each other.
I recently spent five weeks at a camp for urban youth called Kids Across America, and I experienced something that I feel was similar to the Acts passage and the youth group tales I grew up listening to. First of all, we didn’t have our phones. When things got hard, and they definitely did, we couldn’t call home and talk to our friends and family. We only had each other, and we had to rely on each other and be vulnerable with each other. On top of that, we were working alongside each other to further the Gospel, and anytime that’s happening, your relationship is going to deepen dramatically. Even the first week I came to camp, people were already showing me incredible generosity. I forgot a pillow and a blanket (I know, I can’t believe myself) and within the first day two different people let me use what I needed without me asking them. If you ever needed anything, some one would give it to you without hesitation. It was pretty incredible.
Even though the picturesque youth group tales and my time at camp may seem pretty far fetched, I believe they’re more than just times seen through rose colored glasses. I believe that we can experience it in our churches today. True, authentic, and boundless community. I believe it starts with us. Each individual person and their seeking Christ. It takes initiative and investing time in others. It takes being vulnerable. It takes generosity. Can we do this on our own? No way. It will take a lot of prayer and the Spirit working. But I believe it’s out there and we don’t have to do this show up and put on a pretty face thing. Our community has the power to attract people to the Gospel and the power to strengthen our walk with the Lord and push us forward. As the Church, we should be the most unified and strong example of community out there, and if we can do that, then it will ultimately point people toward the gospel in a way that words can’t.
words by Savannah Cooper and photo by Tianna Munro