Finding the Unity in Community

When I was a Youth Pastor, I took a group on a mission trip to Texas. We were sleeping on the floor in an apartment, we were working hard all day to serve local apartment complexes by providing VBS in the apartments for elementary school-aged children, and we had a blast! It was a true joy to watch the students serving others. The incredible thing was to watch as we grew closer to God and to one another. I thought to myself, “I can’t believe the trip is going so well!” You don’t always know with youth!

The last day I had planned to take them to Six Flags in Dallas. A well-deserved treat for how hard these students had worked. I pictured this being the most fun day of the trip. Boy was I wrong! The entire day was miserable! The lines were long, everyone was hot, the students were all hungry, and everyone was annoyed with everyone. What had happened to the group that had worked together so harmoniously and had been so close as a unit just the day before?

Philippians 2:2-4 says, “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Paul is encouraging this church to be united. The way he encourages them is to consider others. In the original language, it literally means “others who are not like you.”

Here’s the lesson: Community is built by being on mission together. As a church, we are BIG on community. Although we are a big church, we want everyone to have meaningful relationships where we are being intentional to challenge one another to walk with Christ in our daily lives. However, the purpose does not stop there. The purpose of coming together is not for one another, but for a greater purpose of loving other people to Christ and helping them in their journey with God and each other.

We often talk about the importance of getting connected to a home group. The reason you need to be connected is not only for your sake, but also for the sake of others. We all need community for ourselves, but we also need to be in community to serve others - others who are not like us. Many of my most meaningful relationships in the church are people who are not young adults!

When the youth were at Six Flags, they were focused on their own pleasure, and they were miserable. When the youth were focused on others at the apartment VBS camps, they were united. They didn’t have time to focus on differences between them because they were focused on others. Having a common purpose gave them unity. May we be a church that is so focused on others that we do not have time to notice the differences amongst ourselves. Community is not found in aiming for fulfilling relationships. Community is found in being on a mission together.

Have you seen this played out in your community? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

1 Comment

  1. Michael, in the networks I am apart of we have often talked about this aspect. I have encouraged youth leaders, that if you’re doing to do a “fun treat” for the students on the way to or from a mission trip, it may be smarter to do it on the front-end instead of the back-end for the very reasons you name.

    Transition home and into our mission back in our own Jerusalem is key! Though the circumstance may be different, the outward focus, serving others, etc, can be the same stance we take back home after a trip. That “common purpose” you wrote about.

    I just came across your blog; thanks for your thoughts!

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