As Christians What Does “Community” Mean?


What Does “Community” Mean?Over the past few years the word “community” has been popping up a lot in churches. I’ve been thinking about it and I honestly don’t know where it came from or originated. It didn’t come from the Bible…at least not in the versions I searched…

Does anyone know the history or the reasons this word has come into such high usage in Christian churches?

It actually seems to be a pretty general term:

com•mu•ni•ty \kə-ˈmyü-nə-tē\ n
pl -ties often attrib [ME comunete, fr. AF communité, fr. L communitat-, communitas, fr. communis] 14c
1 : a unified body of individuals: as
a : state, commonwealth
b : the people with common interests living in a particular area broadly : the area itself the problems of a large community
c : an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location
d : a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society a community of retired persons
e : a group linked by a common policy
f : a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests the international community
g : a body of persons of common and esp. professional interests scattered through a larger society the academic community
2 : society at large
3 a : joint ownership or participation community of goods
b : common character : likeness community of interests
c : social activity : fellowship
d : a social state or condition

Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary., Includes Index., Eleventh ed. (Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

3 Responses to As Christians What Does “Community” Mean?

  1. Ben says:

    For one thing, it’s probably the best translation we could get for ekklessia.

    unified body of individuals
    “Let them be one as We are one”
    “You are all members of one body”
    “Do not forsake meeting together”
    “Spur one another on towards love and good deeds”
    “Make disciples”
    “The believers had everything in common”
    “Love one another as I have loved you”

    etc.

    Community is a good way to describe the concepts illustrated in these verses.

    And most of the real business of Christianity just isn’t possible outside of relationship, in my opinion. Maybe this is psychology poisoning my brain or something, but I find that it’s a lot easier to speak truth into each other’s lives, support each other through trials, and spur one another on toward love and good deeds when we are growing together in a climate of love, trust, care, and a common goal of seeking God.

    When that “community” is not present, speaking truth becomes an offensive weapon, spurring on toward good deeds becomes a glib and self-righteous power trip, and attempts to support through trials end up as shallow and uninformed. I have experienced both sides of the coin, and would infinitely prefer “community”.

  2. I agree with Ben regarding “ekklesia”, and I would add the much can be learned from the word “koinonia”. Both of these are helping working toward a theology of “community.” The word itself is only as important as the truth it signifies. The word “Trinity” as we all know is not in the Bible, but that does not mean that the truth it represents is not in the bible.

    There has been a trendy emphasis on this notion of “community” recently, some of it bad but much of it good. The fundamental biblical truth is that believers need each other and God designed it that way. Call that “community” or “fellowship” or what have you.I think in a biblical sense, “community” could be defined as something like “a gathering together of those united to Christ for the purpose of encouragement, exhortation, instruction, worship, and love” (or something along those lines).

  3. Tato says:

    I agree with Ben and Danny about the nature of community and would add that the trendy nature of the term has been applied mainly to the church’s focus being that of “the community” instead of creating a community. Most churches neglect an intentional effort in helping people foster relationships with other believers that pragmatically help people grow in Christ more than most other “spiritual activities”. People need consistent influences in their lives from other believers and you can see that especially in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hebrews 10 talks a lot about being partners with people in suffering, compassion on people in prison, etc… which shows a uniformed nature in what they were going through… and earlier on the writer talked about “stirring up one another” and “not neglecting to meet together”. I know that we all know this… and rightly so since it is good theology and an important observation.

    I think where churches fall away from this is the shift in focus from building up community of believers to taking the word and applying it to building up the community around them. The efforts of that are probably well meaning – seeking to expand the kingdom and bring people to Christ. However, I wonder if our call is really to throw block party BBQ’s, or to personally build relationships with people outside the church and bring them into the community of disciples.

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