On Sunday morning two of our students were baptised and it was such a lovely moment as they made that step of commitment to Christ, but also to being part of the body of Christ that makes up our church. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, ‘For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body…’. This made me really think about the community of church and what it means to be in community with one another. At the moment we are seeing lots of new students to Durham exploring which communities they want to get involved in, and also building new communities with each other. We are particularly trying to help Christian Freshers to find a Christian community that will grow and strengthen their faith. But why is it so important to be in Christian community?
Throughout the Bible we find countless examples of community. Eve was made for Adam so that he would not be alone; Abraham left his homeland surrounded by family like Sarah and Lot; Moses led the people out of Egypt with the help of Aaron; when the Israelites were exiled to Babylon, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were able to support each other in an environment that was hostile to their faith; and in the gospels we see how Jesus spent his ministry surrounded by his community of disciples.
Christian community has many benefits which I won’t spell out here, but hopefully you have experienced the love and joy of living life alongside other Christians and helping each other grow in faith. However, community can also be very difficult. As Christians we don’t have a great deal of choice in who we are united with. People from all ages, nationalities and cultures are part of our church family, and it can be hard to get on with all of them. Additionally, being accountable to one another and serving each other can put a real strain on us. It can sometimes feel like it would be easier if we didn’t have to walk alongside fellow Christians and indeed it might prove more fruitful in evangelism if we spent all our time with friends who don’t yet know Jesus and invested in them.
When I first came to Durham in 2015 this was definitely my mindset. I was only really interested in my personal relationship with God and I wanted to fit church around my schedule rather than the other way around. I thought that by getting more involved in sports and social activities I could proactively share my faith and be more constructive than spending my time with other Christians. However, it didn’t take long to find that this was not sustainable. As soon as things got hard and my relationship with God wavered, I found that I had no one to turn to. I found that suddenly non-Christian friends were having more of an influence on me than I was on them. I had not invested in a support network that would help me get through the tough times and which probably would have helped me stay on the right path from the very start. The last couple of years have been a big journey for me of getting more involved in church and finding the real joy of serving and being served.
Trying to live life without a stable Christian community as a base might seem easier and more immediately productive. But it doesn’t take long to realise that if you want to go far and have a healthy sustainable walk with Jesus we really need to be surrounded by others supporting us and helping us.
Who do you have supporting you in your faith?
How can you make the most of Christian community?