Last week, I shared some reasons why community is so important. But like in every aspect of life, balance is key. As believers living in a socially connected world, we should be careful not to pendulum swing by making community our primary focus.
Like Tony said over and over at The Movement Conference in Detroit, “First... Heart to God, heart to God, heart to God. Then... Spread the stoke.”
Here are three dangers I've had to watch out for in regard to community:
I sat, one on one, with eight young Christian women last weekend, and the issue of comparison surfaced on a regular basis. This girl compared herself to that one, and that one to this one. Comparison is certainly an epidemic amongst women, but I don’t think it’s a female-only condition. According to my husband, men struggle with it too. Like any other form of insecurity or pride, comparison is a human condition. And we must go to war with it.
I recently heard a pastor relate sin to mold. If kept in the dark, both grow and spread and cause disease. But if sin, like mold, is brought into the light and treated, it loses its power. The same goes for comparison. Comparison, left untreated, festers, taunts and destroys. It must be called out and treated with the truth.
If you struggle with comparing yourself to others, 1) call it out. Remember Paul’s command to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. Then 2) speak the truth. As one part of Christ’s body, you were uniquely created for a unique purpose. If you’re the “ear” don’t waste time trying to be the “finger.” If you do, the body won’t benefit from what the ear has to offer.
Ask: How has God equipped me specifically to play a role in His Kingdom?
The Bible tells us to meet together. It encourages community, right? Yes. But as soon as spending time with your community becomes more important than spending time with God, personal intervention needs to happen.
Ask: Are you replacing your relationship with God with your relationships with people?
If so, perhaps your social schedule is running you into the ground. You may be relationally maxed-out or spiritually empty. If you're an extrovert, you're probably loving life. Either way, you're likely so busy attending small group activities, meeting up for coffees, and grabbing dinner with friends that you have no time and energy left for God.
He is your source for life to the fullest. While community is super important, you must hold space for worship, prayer, introspection, communion and so on.
Oswald Chambers once said, "It is not wrong to depend on Elijah as long as God gives him to you." In other words—it's ok to rely on a mentor or friend if God brought him/her into your life for that season. But know that like Elijah, your mentor or friend can be moved in and out of your life as God wills.
I'm reminded of Daniel and his three buddies—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And I'm also reminded of my best friend Jennifer. There was a point in time when Daniel was walking side-by-side with his three amigos, and there was a time when Jennifer was a stone's throw away from me. But a time also came when Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and I had to stand, with God, on our own two feet. So God moved Daniel to the Babylonian palace, and He moved Jennifer to Arizona.
Ask: When it comes to counsel and guidance, do you place more value on what your mentor or friend says than you do on what God says? Do you even take your questions to God? Or do you bypass Him on the way to your buddy's front door?
Friends, mentors and community are great, but even the encouragement, challenge, advice and counsel you receive from them need to be taken before God for confirmation.
I might as well get the word “balance” tattooed on my forehead because I talk about it often enough! I really do think it’s that important. You see, we humans naturally gravitate to extremes. Extremes are the easiest places to be. But God calls us to walk in the hard center, and like my wise friend Jennifer once told me, “Only by the guidance of the Holy Spirit can we find our way to the middle ground.”
I hope each of you has a truly awesome week—one full of healthy community and solid one-on-one time with the Lord, your Father.