The Power of Community
by Sharon Betters
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
When Rachel's husband announced another promotion that required another move, her thoughts quickly jumped to grief over losing her circle of friends coupled with the task of finding a local church in their new community. Her husband’s job required lots of travel, which meant she carried much of the parenting of their two little boys. In between painting the new house and settling in, her family visited several churches. Each church offered sound biblical teaching and the pastors seemed nice but neither Rachel or her husband felt drawn to a particular one. Shortly after the birth of their third child, her husband resumed traveling and Rachel not only had two active little boys under the age of six, but also now had a new baby, an extra special little boy diagnosed with Down Syndrome. Exhaustion covered her as she added the care of her precious son and his medical issues to an already busy life. Friends and family had come and gone. Phone conversations frustrated her because the urgent needs of her boys never failed to pop up just when she started to relax with a long distance friend.
Lonely and desperate for relationships, she searched the local newspaper for a church with weekly women’s Bible studies and children’s activities. A small nearby congregation offered not only these services, but a free dinner, too! Rachel arrived late but an older woman warmly greeted her, guided them to a table and prepared plates for each family member. The older woman entertained the little boys, the baby slept and Rachel enjoyed eating a complete meal, including dessert, prepared by someone else. Soon the little ones ran off to their activities. Frazzled and desperate for a few minutes of quiet, Rachel gratefully accepted the other woman’s suggestion that they sit out the Bible study and get to know one another. Then the older woman asked if she could hold Rachel’s little baby.
Many years later, Rachel tearfully described how she handed her baby over to this kind new friend, in awe that the Lord had led her to a safe place where someone wanted to cuddle her new little boy and she didn’t have to prepare a meal one night a week. That night was the beginning of a multitude of life-long friendships that helped fill Rachel’s lonely heart with support, kindness and wisdom. Rachel did not just accept help from these new friends, she in turn offered the same kind of help to others and to this day watches for that lonely mother who needs an extra pair of hands and heart-felt encouragement.
Read Today’s Treasure again. These practical words written to a fearful and hurting congregation and Rachel’s story give us a glimpse into one of the reasons God created us for community. The fires of persecution drew near to this little church plant and some had already left out of fear or perhaps just weariness. The writer of Hebrews reminds them that coming together helps cultivate an environment of help and hope for hurting people. They needed encouragement from one another as they continued their pilgrimage toward Home. Similarly, Rachel needed a cheering squad and she found it in a little local church.
Before Rachel’s needs exploded with the birth of her third son, her habit was to intentionally pursue community through a local church. When life turned upside down, her auto response was to find a faith-based community that could help keep her steady as she walked the pathway God had marked out for her. God answered her need by leading her to a small church dedicated to loving anyone who walked through their doors. Rachel’s new church family warmly welcomed her and in turn, Rachel poured her own love, encouragement and skills in to her new family as well.
Our devotions this week encourage us to remember the beauty of community and how community energizes weary pilgrims.
I would love to hear about your community and so would others. Share your experiences and thoughts by clicking the link below.
Treasured by Him,
Before you go to church this morning, ask the Lord to open your eyes to that one person who needs an extra set of hands with children or is new to your congregation. Introduce yourself and find a way to make the morning a little more comfortable. Ask the Lord to show you how to welcome others to your church the same way you would to your home.
Are you the new person, uneasy about attending a new church? Ask the Lord to prepare the way as you go and to connect you with someone who also needs a new friend.
As the pastor preaches, note Scriptures and comments about community and how the message applies to your personal life. Commit to reviewing the scriptures and notes later in the context of personal worship and praise.