I professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior at a young age. On Christmas Day 2005, my brother and I were baptized together at the church we were raised in. But in our small town, it was difficult to find a “Christian friend.” At the time it seemed unimportant. Through those crucial middle school and high school years, God wasn’t discussed in my friend groups, and this theme continued until college. Like many young adult Christians entering college, I was totally submerged in an environment of wounds and misconceptions sustained by non-Christian relationships in my teenage years. It felt like I had to somehow earn approval from others, to fit in and not stand out, that a record of wrongs determined my worthiness.
I spent years in Sunday school learning about God through Bible stories of David, Jonah, and Jesus. But I didn’t know Him on an intimate, personal level. God hadn’t made it into my daily life beyond the walls of the church building. I didn’t understand my deep need for community within the family of God. Biblical community eventually made all the difference in shaping my personal relationship with God. I came to learn this by growing in my faith alongside a community of Christian friends.
Thankfully, upon entering college, the Lord led me to Cru, a campus ministry at many universities. I cannot even put into words how revolutionary that first gathering was in my relationship with God. There I was, sitting in the same seats where I studied Chem 115, but this time surrounded by a bunch of college students worshipping God. Shortly thereafter, I joined a small group Bible study and my life was never the same.
What is biblical community?
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with joyful and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47 CSB)
Devotion to Christian Teaching
How can we shift from knowing about God to really knowing God? The word “know” in the original Greek is ginosko. It means to understand and perceive through knowledge.
The people I met through Cru were not only my biblical community because they were Christians, but because we committed to the study of biblical truth. That should be the primary purpose of such community, like the early Church believers who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42).
To truly know God we must learn about His character through the study of His teachings in the Word of God. As I grew to know—ginosko—Him more, my feelings of devotion and love followed. Jen Wilkin said it well in her book Women of the Word: “As we grow in the knowledge of God’s character through the study of his Word, we cannot help but grow into an exponentially deeper love for him.… If we want to feel a deeper love for God, we must learn to see him more clearly for who he is. If we want to feel deeply about God, we must learn to think deeply about God.”
Fellowship and the Breaking of Bread
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is seen sharing meals with others and teaching them about God. A recent sermon series challenged me to change my perception of fellowship.
I am a sociable introvert who loves to be home 99% of the time. Prior to listening to this series, it would be very rare to find me inviting people over to our home on a regular basis. But the Holy Spirit convicted me that I did not revere this practice; rather, I dreaded the idea of it. Acts 2:42,46 say the believers were devoted to breaking bread, from house to house, with joyful and sincere hearts.
My husband and I felt called to start a small group for married couples. We even decided we would eat a meal together each time we met. Mind you, we live in a 300-square-foot studio on the side of a friend’s house. Seating is limited, people! But the fruitfulness that has come from these times of Bible study, fellowship, and breaking bread has been mind-boggling. Our group is a tribe of imperfect people that pray, serve, and love each other. The intimacy we share comes from sincere hearts that rejoice in practicing what God intended for us.
Not only do we learn and share meals together, but biblical community motivates us to be part of a local church and participate in serving others. Acts 2 says the believers were “meeting together in the temple” (v. 46). Fostering a community of believers does not replace gathering together as a church body and praising God each week. Hebrews 10:25 says to not neglect gathering together. Why? Let’s look at this verse in its context.
The prior verse reads: “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (ESV). We often avoid community when we need it most. It is easier to stay home and wallow in pain or worry. But I find that the best remedy for discouragement and sorrow is going to church on Sunday to join the Body of Christ in praising God in song, listening to teaching, and receiving encouragement from believers.
Living in a community of believers
I cannot imagine a day going by without discussing with my husband what God did during my waking hours. I cannot picture a week going by without joining other believers in praising God with one voice. It is unfathomable to go one day without encouraging or receiving encouragement from a sister in Christ via text or phone call.
Without intentionality and commitment, this fellowship of believers doesn’t just happen.
The wounds sustained from ungodly relationships will heal. There are days I wrestle against the desire for approval from others. Other days I writhe against boldness, wanting to fit in rather than be the one standing out. Some days I tell myself I am not worth all this trouble.
But, day by day, it is easier to fight against these chains of bondage alongside community, and instead choose to do the will of God. It is far better than fighting alone.
By participating in genuine biblical community, we allow others to see into the depths of our heart and receive the encouragement we need to overcome sin in our lives through accountability.
Together, as we study who He is, our knowledge and affection for Him grow. When we choose to believe the truth of who we are in Christ, we can resist seeking the approval of man. In being part of a biblical community that serves and loves one another, we can boldly declare the Good News without fear of standing out.
What is holding you back from living in biblical community? It is of utmost importance to your soul, so take the leap. Your community will catch you.
Your Sister, Kaleigha
Kaleigha is a coffee-loving, book-devouring, sun-bathing pastor’s wife living and serving Jesus in sunny Miami. She writes about prayer, community, and the Bible on her blog, More Than Rubies. She is also a certified Holy Yoga instructor with a passion to lead others to encounter Jesus with their entire being: heart, soul, mind, and strength.