by Sam Stinson
"The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting." (Numbers 10:1-3, ESV)
What does it mean to be a member of a community? A certain hardware store moves its offices from Detroit to St. Louis, so the office manager leaves the first community and becomes a member of the second. The process of adapting to a new environment is assimilation. Assimilation occurs when we actively participate in the community. Being a member of a community is about participating, sharing, and communing. Let's say this particular manager doesn't find herself participating in the new community. After a few weeks, the family does not assimilate and wants to move back to Detroit. What might cause this? Perhaps she and her husband work too much, each working seventy hours a week on the job. After raising the children and keeping the household, there is little time to socialize.
Likewise, the local church is the community, congregation, of Christ in a certain location. It is a colony of the Lord's people who serve God, one another, and strangers (Galatians 6:9-10). The same principle applies with respect to the church, as Paul exhorts us to live in harmony, each member associating with the other without distinction wherever we might be found living (Romans 12:16). Paul's exhortation recognizes the social nature of the church, the daily interaction of saints with saints, saints with unsaved.
How might our efforts to colonize through evangelism, edification, and benevolence, be improved through further focus on community? There is a social dimension to all communities that must not be neglected in order for the community to be maintained and grow. Who is responsible for this? This begins as a personal responsibility between each of us and the Lord. (Hebrews 13:2; Romans 12:13) Let us choose to recognize our community, and our role in it, and to actively participate, not just once or twice a week when we assemble to worship at the church building, but to interact with members of our community in our homes, workplaces, or events throughout the week. Start by setting aside one hour a week to visit your brethren. Invite them into your home, eat a meal together, and go for a walk (in warm weather preferably!). All things must be kept in perspective: Let us worship as scripture directs us when we are assembled, but let us look to the community at all times, and be hospitable to one another in our homes. What cake was ever baked in a cold oven? We must turn up the temperature to cook our food. Let's keep our community warm and ready to bake. Our eyes should indeed be set on heaven, but let us not lose sight of the community we presently live in.