Thanks to the internet, access to Facebook groups, Twitter chats, and a myriad of other online circles is at our fingertips 24/7. Despite this abundance of platforms and devices that help us reach out to each other, many Christian women struggle with feelings of isolation now more than ever.
Although we’re fortunate to participate in many uplifting and encouraging online communities, this “loneliness epidemic” evidences a desperate need. We need to step from behind glossy glass computer screens and step into transparent, authentic relationships—specifically with people capable of holding us accountable to Christ’s command to love one another (John 13:34).
Where to begin
For those of us who are more accustomed to a digital social life, are discouraged by past attempts, or simply don’t know where to begin with real-life relationships, Christ’s call to gospel community can feel impractical, inconvenient, and imposing. Virtual “community” through online Bible studies and blogs feels more convenient and non-threatening; it doesn’t require the commitment or patience face-to-face relationships demand.
The ease of cyber relationships can entice us to shy away from in-person community altogether. As believers, how do we cultivate a biblical love for face-to-face community when doing life together doesn’t come naturally to us? Consider this practical wisdom from Scripture to help you step out and begin making connections with others.
Love like Christ.
Community is essential to the expression of our Christian faith. We know this because Jesus taught that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). In Galatians 6:2, Paul exhorted the church to bear with one another’s shortcomings and “so fulfill the law of Christ.” Finally, John wrote that “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
To cultivate community, it’s first necessary to love others as Christ has first loved us (John 13:34). However, this isn’t something we can manufacture on our own, but a gift God gives us as we ask Him (Ezekiel 36:26–27) and imitate His incredible love for us.
Become a safe place for someone else.
Stepping out of our comfort zones to connect with and trust others can be nerve-wracking. One key to cultivating a flourishing community is maintaining an inviting atmosphere in which others feel welcome (Romans 15:7). Are you a safe source of community to people around you? Here are a few simple ways to be approachable and build trust with others:
- Use your words to build up and encourage rather than slander or tear down (Proverbs 11:9).
- Be transparent about your struggles, so others don’t feel pressure from you to be “perfect” (1 John 1:8; James 5:16).
- Have compassion (Ephesians 4:32).
- Exercise patience and forgive faults (Colossians 3:13).
Belong to a community.
We learn how to do community by being in relationship with one another. So, we become the best community cultivators when we first belong to a community. As Christians, Christ calls us to belong in the local church where we become the physical hands and feet of Jesus to serve and love our neighbors (1 Corinthians 12:27; Hebrews 10:24–25).
If you’re not yet a member of a church, begin your search today. One convenient tool for finding a good match is the “Church Search” function of 9Marks. Or why not start a conversation about gospel community with a friend or loved one by asking for their recommendations for a good church family?
Division is the enemy of community, and unfortunately this enemy is often aided by us. As members of our church and citizens of our nation, we can stand united with others by choosing to find commonality with one another and rejecting self-serving attitudes and behaviors.
In Philippians 2:1–11, Paul taught that unity is a byproduct of imitating the humility of Christ. Though Christ is God, He did not use this to His own advantage, but sought the welfare of others (vs. 6–7). When we are of the same mind and love of Christ, we reject gossip, selfish ambition, the need to prove we know it all, and other divisive behaviors that destroy fellowship.
Connecting with others to create community can be messy, risky, and uncomfortable at times. There will always be the temptation to remove our discomfort by stepping back and engaging safely from a distance. But while the ability to fellowship with others virtually is a blessing, it can’t replace the depth of intimacy we feel when we step out of our comfort zones to have coffee dates with a mentor, go shopping with a friend, or study God’s Word with church family. Without accountability and fellowship, we can’t completely express our faith as Christ commanded. After all, the Spirit uses living, loving, and learning in the context of community to mold us more perfectly into Christ’s image.
Your Friend, Titiana
Meet the Author:
Titania Paige, affectionately known as “Nia,” is the animated wife of her best friend, Gerald. Known to shake things up with her passion and transparency, Nia’s messages are down-to-earth, energetic, and Bible-centered. When she isn’t writing or vlogging, she’s convincing her husband to take her out for Thai food, studying Japanese, and learning Korean pop dances. Connect with her on LifeBeforeEternity.com or TitaniaPaige.com.