The word community is not one that everyone relates to. For some it has unwanted associated ideas and can be confusing to people as to exactly what it means. To avoid misunderstanding, let us clear up one common misconception.
Community is not about living in a commune, or the church sharing in some kind of vegetable pool, or well-off believers putting tyres on the cars of those poorer. You can do these things if you wish, but it won’t give you community in the New Testament sense of what God wants.
Community is not life in a monastery, nor is it having a church made of cell groups. Neither is community necessarily living together with other like-minded people, as do the Amish. Community in terms of how God sees it, cannot be defined by any physical or concrete thing you do, think, or say.
Community is a heart thing.
What we are speaking of is the change, through grace, that God can make in the heart of a people that will totally shift the way they see each other – and in a single act God the Holy Spirit can do this for a local church corporately. There can be no guarantee that every last individual can become the beneficiary of this, but a church as a whole certainly can when God moves like this.
The kind of community we are talking about here is about a change in the heart between people. It is something that can be hard to explain and see, until it happens to you, and then it is very real. It is something that takes a group of people and makes them one. From this time on, these people are a community. They love each other, work together, serve one another, and do it all from a cheerful heart and with consideration of each other with love for Christ. They don’t have to live together in the same place to be of one heart. They will have various differences in their lives, occupations, work hours, habits, and even culture and language, and yet there is a sense of community between them. That community is difficult to define as it very experiential.
If you try to inspect it and explain it in practical terms, it becomes law to the people, loses its life and ceases to be community. In the Bible, such an experience of community is described in Acts 4 when it says all the people had everything in common. However trying to make everyone be like the description in Acts will fail unless there is life from the Holy Spirit given to help.
It can be difficult in getting people to see that this is real – or that it might be different to what they already have. This requires eyes to be opened to see something not visible; and often eyes don’t want to be open. However the community being described here is precisely what happened to the believers on the Day of Pentecost. This is the community we are preaching and have experienced ourselves.