Blog by Jennifer B. Shupert
Community can be defined in many ways. (Oh did I mention I am a lawyer so I like words and definitions and such? Consider yourself warned!) The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online) includes the following in its definition of “community”:
A unified body of individuals
People with common interests living in a particular area
A group linked by a common policy
A body of persons having a common history or common social, economic and political interests
The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word “community” is the community of believers that I belong to: my close friends, the people I attend church with, the people I serve at church with. We are a unified body of individuals, and a group linked by a common belief in Jesus as the Savior and the Bible as the Word of God. We all have an interest in seeing the lost be found, the weary be revived, and those on the journey be encouraged along the way.
These are the people I look to when my world gets stormy. These are the people that look to me when their world gets stormy. This is the group where that whole “iron sharpens iron” thing happens. The Bible encourages us to gather together for worship and instruction, to encourage each other to love and to do good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). One of the reasons I love Devoted Conference so much is because I get the opportunity to gather with so many strong women who have so much wisdom to share. By the end of the weekend, I feel like I am ready to take on the world!
But to what end? What is the purpose for the strength that we get from being in a community of believers? That’s where Ecclesiastes 4:12 (AMP) comes in:
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
The united community of believers brings strength into every battle. The battle for souls. The battle for health. The battle for family. The battle for prosperity. We look to the sister on our right and the sister on our left to stand with us in these battles. (Now I don’t like math, but I believe that makes three!). And when we stand together, that is when we are strongest. Side note: this scripture is obviously not just for men, as we all know women braid the best!
But God has placed each of us in a larger community than just our Christian sisters. Whether it’s your family, friends, grocer, hair stylist, boss, co-workers, or beyond, your community includes those with common interests or common geography.
This can be intimidating to think about at first, especially when we are thinking about how we should be influencing our community. We feel like we are supposed to be some spectacular shining light to all who cross our path, showing them the way to Jesus by our amazing deeds and divinely inspired words. (Or maybe that’s just me!)
But I want to encourage you to think a little differently about this larger community and your role within it.
First, remember that you can BE the strength in your community. Let your life and the way you live it be the arrow that points to Jesus. And not just an arrow that is new and shiny and gleaming in pristine condition. How about the arrow that is used, dusty from a rough road, and perhaps has borrowed a few feathers from some sister arrows? Your influence in your world may not be a great sermon. It just might be the way you always have a smile on your face. Or how you offer to help a neighbor in need. Or how you parent your children in public (do NOT get me started on this one…we might all have to go to the altar together!). Sometimes the little choices you make each day can impact those in your world even more than an invite to church or homemade fortune cookies with a scripture in the center.
Second, remember to allow your community to have an influence on you. Consider the people that cross our path that have been through something we haven’t. That are from another culture. That believe a little differently than we do. One of the reasons that community is so important is not just so that you can impact others, but so that others can impact you!
If we are only looking for the ways God might use us, we might miss out on the way that God could teach us something instead. Challenge yourself to look for opportunities to learn from those around you. We should enter conversations with an open heart to hear what the person is saying and to understand, not just to provide a response. When we do this, I believe we give God the opportunity to work in anyway He sees fit.
I am looking forward to finding strength in the community of women that attend Devoted Conference this year. But I am also looking forward to seeing God work in my larger community, both through me and in me.
YOU BELONG at Devoted Conference 2017