By Richard Gretsky
After I turned 30, my church small group had a sleepover. Five married couples (and myself), all between the ages of 26 and 30, laughed, played games, enjoyed one another's company, and all—I repeat, all—slept in the living room (single guy gets the couch!).
What could possibly entice a covey of young adults to partake in such an activity? Too much sake? An abundance of immaturity? Forcible coercion?
Nope, the answer is rather simple: community.
What does that word even mean anymore? Most people first think of the neighborhood they live in. Others quickly reference the popular television show by the same name. Webster has lots to say, but none of its one-dimensional answers—though correct—hold the intricacy of biblical togetherness.
Community is not just living in a place with people, or sharing particular defining characteristics with those people. It's living life with people in a manner where we become like a fabric of interlocking fibers. We are individuals, but we are part of a whole. That whole is not just about what we're doing or who we've been, but about how we interact with one another. And that interaction can be described in one word: unconditional.
In true community, our interactions are defined by our intentional desire to plunge into life with others, regardless of the circumstances or outcomes. We leverage our strengths, our giftings, our resources to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Plus, we just enjoy being around one another. That's why my friends and I had the sleepover. That's why we challenge each other. That's why we make a point to spend quality time together.
Community is at the core of life. It lifts us up and draws the best out of us, making us better. It won't matter if you get to the end of your life and have the nicest house in your neighborhood if you stepped on people to get there. It won't matter if you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and 'made something' of yourself. Or if you have all the notoriety, or autonomy, or whatever it is you covet. Simply put, it really won't matter.
We're designed to work best as groups of engaged individuals and families who are invested deeply in one another's lives for the benefit of all. Strength for weaknesses. Encouragement for troubled hearts. Affection and listening ears to learn and grow from trials and to rejoice always.
We're with each other, and we're for each other because that is how God cares for us. And in the process, we are challenged and refined more in our character by the collocation of different individuals with varying strengths and proficiencies.
It's true, I don't really think you can have these type of affectionate, bold associations without a common purpose. And ultimately, I believe that purpose rests in seeking our personhood in Jesus. This community is a picture of how we interact with Him and find our wholeness therein.
But regardless, it’s clear that when people are truly invested in rolling up their sleeves with one another, great, and wonderful, things happen. I'm thrilled that I have 10 dedicated small group friends (and many other friends outside that group) who are willing to learn, serve, have fun, and seek purpose together.
Age nine, 29, 109, or any other, the value of community is immeasurable. If you don’t have it, find it. If you do have it, cherish it, and make it the best it can be. Because when we weave our lives together, not only do we get a tapestry that is stronger than any one fiber could be by itself, we also get an extra blanket—which really comes in handy when you have 10 people sleeping on your floor.