Updated: May 25, 2018
One of my favorite things to do is have friends, new and old, at my house gathered around a board game and some cheap Walmart snacks. I love hearing the belly laughs come out when someone does something goofy. I love seeing relationships built. I love community.
But community is only something I have recently experienced. For years I longed for a Christ centered community, but it never seemed to happen. If you are human, like me, i'll bet you crave community, too.
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25
God created you and me for community. Introvert and extravert. If we ask God to send us people, He will. And chances are it may be in ways you never expected.
Years ago I asked a wise guy named Mark how to find a community that would be Christ centered and encouraging. After being rejected, forgotten, and out of place in so many relationships and communities, I had reached a point of frustration and desperation. The next words Mark told me would change how I saw everything. In four simple words he told me, "Build your own community." I'll admit I had no idea what he meant and it definitely was not what I wanted to hear. But this statement has changed me. What is means is that you have to build the community you want. Be the friend you want. Invite and include the people who don't have a community. If you want a Christ centered community, then be Christ to others and invite the uninvited. Here are a few practical tips on where to start:
1. Don't assume they have a community.
If there is someone you would like to get to know more as a friend, ask them to lunch or coffee. The worst they can say is no, and that is very unlikely. Lisa-Jo Baker, who is the author of Never Unfriended, says, "The cardinal rule of friendship: you have to be willing to go first."
2. Be okay with being rejected.
Reality is, not everyone is going to be your friend. Everyone has their own personality and baggage and sometimes it won't align with yours. Don't beat yourself up about it and let it define you. Know that God is the only one that can completely fill you and not someone you find. God wants you to be in community but first and foremost He wants a community with you. When you have God as your ultimate provider of all things, it will naturally flow out into your other relationships making people want to get to know you and their Creator more. Knowing who you are in Christ also helps soften the blow when you do get rejected or hurt. God will help you see them through His eyes and things are so much easier.
"You are necessary. You are not invisible. You are named and seen, and please don't erase your relevance because you think you're not relevant to the people you pass by on a screen." -Lisa-Jo
3. Stop trying to sit at the popular table.
Learning this one has helped me the most. If you are trying to build your own community, you can't recruit people who are already in a community. Find the people who are new, outcast, and alone and invite them in. This is exactly what Jesus did while on Earth. His best friends were the people no one else wanted to be around. If you do this, I believe God will bless it and grow it bigger and better than you ever planned. "We can obsess over who didn't talk to us or we can focus on the woman right in front of us." -Lisa-Jo. Ask God to open your eyes to who He has placed right in front of you.
God hears you and knows your heart. He cares for and loves you more than any one you will ever meet. Lean into Him as your guide and provider and I promise you, the community is on its way.
To learn more about community, read "Never Unfriended" by Lisa-Jo Baker.
"While we might have defined friendship our whole lives by what others do to us, in the end it's what we do for others that will define us as friends or not."