In my last post (What Redeems Culture?) I stated that community redeems culture, but communities are failing. As a result, culture rules in the ruins of community.
One question this doesn’t answer is, “What is community?” That’s a logical question, but the fact we have to ask it is evidence that communities, as we know them, are failing.
Communities Are Failing
Communities have been failing for a long time. Small towns are shrinking in the face of hard economic times. Small churches struggle to stay alive past a dying generation.
Even our neighborhoods lack a feeling of being connected to each other, and belonging to something together. Isolating during the pandemic has only made this worse.
These small, personal communities have been replaced by large, impersonal ones. There’s talk about “the Christian community,” or the “business community.” And yet, it’s harder and harder to know who makes up that community, and what responsibility they feel towards others who are in it.
What is community?
A community is a group of people who are bound together by a common identity.
It seems strange to ask that question because community has always been part of our lives. We can all think of a community we came from, even if we’re not certain we belong to one now.
That description explains why we are talking about community now. Our sense of identity is at the heart of our deepest divisions. Instead of drawing us together, identity is fracturing us in unimaginable ways.
Identity has become the trump card in any social or political disagreement. It’s the unassailable truth, but that truth can only be defined by each individual.
This view to identity makes each one of us autonomous. As autonomous beings, we must choose with whom we will identify. With this approach, identification cannot be forced on us. Doing so violates our very humanity.
In that light, it’s understandable why communities are failing. A community is bound together by a common identity. But if identity is determined by each of us, and we each must choose our community, that bond is weak to the point of being non-existent.
Communities Come Apart.
Communities were intended to be a source of strength in our lives. But instead they come apart. Rather than being a refuge we find ourselves handling them like a ticking bomb.
How do we get communities back? How can we return communities to a place that solves problems instead creating them?
Communities were intended for good, not by us but by God. God, as he is described in the Bible, is a community of Three-In-One. (Read more at FaithCulture.org)
God created the world to be a place that allowed those created in his image to grow in community. But sin entered that world, and sin has led us to where we are now.
But there is hope. God sent his Son to pay the penalty for our sin. But he also established a new community, the church.
The church, as it is described in the Bible, is uniquely equipped to grow in the hard places left by sin. And, by growing in hard places, the church allows other communities to grow as well.
So, how do we do that? That should be a simple question to answer, and according to the Bible, it is.
The way to grow community is this: Work for the good of those around you.
This solution is so simple we already apply it in our businesses and organizations. And it works whether you believe the Bible or not. So, why has working for the good of those around us become so hard to do?
Something else has confused our idea of community. That something else is culture. Communities create culture, but superficial communities create destructive cultures (I wrote about this in my previous post).
This creates a spiral. Culture confuses and weakens communities, making them superficial. These superficial communities create destructive cultures. As this cycle has increased in speed and intensity our focus has shifted from strengthening communities to resisting destructive cultures.
In fact, we are more aware of culture today than we are of community. And that’s part of the problem.
Instead of focusing on the bad out there, we need to grow the good right here.
Then community can redeem culture.