Community: Creation Starts with Cultivation
Here at Greenville University, we often hear the word community thrown around. When you hear the word community, what crosses your mind? Maybe it is a group of people getting together for a canned food drive, or a bake sale for children who cannot afford the school supplies that they need for the year. These are just a couple examples of what fostering community can look like. Although knowing examples of this is great, there is a more important question that needs to be addressed. What do we need to do if we want to ensure that we are fostering the kind of community we envision?
Well, as the church, our community should be foundationally biblical. As we go about defining our community, it’s focus should be Gospel-centric. What I mean by that is, we should strive together to model the love of Christ and embrace the “good news” that is presented to us through scripture. We must embody the characteristics and beliefs that we desire for the community if we want the end result to mirror those qualities. Luke 6:45 reminds us that how we cultivate our hearts directly correlates to the kind of spiritual fruit we produce. He says, “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” While Luke is not directly referring to communities, I think this still speaks a lot of truth that should be considered as we look to cultivate the heart or “soil” of our community.
Now take a moment and just imagine with me. You are in the kitchen, trying to recreate a delicious dessert that you saw on Food Network. You know what it is supposed to look like and you can imagine how it will taste based on the chef’s description. For whatever reason though, you cannot remember two or three of the ingredients and the recipe is not posted online. If you do not put in the right ingredients that the recipe calls for, it is likely that it won’t turn out very well. The wrong ingredients will, as a result, have a negative effect on the final product. It is the same with cultivating our communities. We need to put in the right ingredients–the pieces that will help to create the healthy, thriving, culture that we want to build our community upon.
So, what are the key ingredients needed to create such a community? Well, there are many which can feed into the cultivation process. There are, however, a couple that I would like to focus on here. These “ingredients” are confession and repentance, accountability, and Christian love. A confessing and repenting community is crucial if we are seeking to create a rich “soil” that fosters spiritual growth and development. It is something that should be taken seriously, as we remain attentive and faithful to the Gospel. Integrating accountability into our daily or weekly routines is also imperative to our well-being, both as individuals and members of the community. It keeps us moving forward in a positive direction, toward being more Christlike in deed and thought. A community that can call one another out in love and keep each other accountable helps to prevent plateauing and becoming stagnant in faith. Finally, unconditional love is arguably the most important of the three ingredients. Paul writes to the church of Rome about what such love should look like. Romans 12:9-10 says, “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
Here, Paul is telling us to not only be genuine in our love but also love one another more than we do ourselves. The selflessness and humility which are required to put others above ourselves is powerful. All of these “ingredients” (and many others) are important things to think about when considering the culture of our communities. How will you be intentional about cultivating the community you wish to live in? Just remember that communities start with cultivation, and that cultivation can have a positive or negative effect on the culture you want to create.