This seems like a strange thing to write about, because it is more of a cultural issue. HOWEVER, my conviction on this matter comes primarily from Scripture, and its backed up by psychology.
Last year was a struggle for me. It was a struggle because I had three feet stuck in three different places; Truett (where I go to school), home (where I’m from and where my family lives), and Snowbird (the camp I work at every summer). I found myself trying to juggle three spheres of life, each with its own huge group of people that I love very much.
It was exhausting trying to keep up with all of those relationships. I didn’t want those people to think I loved them any less by neglecting time or communication with them, but I just found it drove me crazy. First of all, I’m an introvert: people can exhaust me. Secondly I HATE when I don’t feel like I’m fully understood or known. I’m not the kind of person that can have many relationships that are 1 inch deep. I would much rather have a few relationships that are at least 10 feet deep.
So I started to think about what is biblical. I understand that we have cars now and we can travel a lot more and its great, but should we? I’m not talking about going on vacation or going on a weekend trip every once in awhile. I mean constantly moving, constantly restless, so much so that you aren’t involved in a church in your community on a deep level. How do we think we can accomplish the fellowship and unity in Acts 2 when we are constantly driving to other cities, visiting other people we hardly ever see on a regular basis? Acts 2 says this;
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Act 2:41-47 NASB
Now don’t get me wrong, some people are called to a life of travel. Like the apostle Paul. BUT even when you read Paul’s letters you see how he totally and completely devoted himself to the churches he was with. He knew them well and when he did see them they were times of refreshing reunion. However, what I see happening to most college kids is that they are stretched so thin that they never really get deeply involved in a local church. And by deeply involved I mean they may go to a church building on sunday, but they never really know THE church. The people of God in that community.
It seems like this is a problem for everyone my age. Most of the students on my campus go home on the weekends, never allowing themselves to be deeply involved in the community at home or at school. The reality is the deeper our involvement is in the church in our community, the harder it should be to neglect fellowship with them.
Why is this a big deal? (you may ask)
Because if we stretch ourselves so thin, and are never fully known by anyone (even if you tell someone everything they still can’t see how you walk on a day to day basis) it leaves us open to continue in sin. This leaves a huge gap where it is VERY easy for sin to enter in. Just take the average college student as an example. Lets be real, we never even open up fully about our sins to our church back home. How in the world are we going to find accountability when we go to school?
I know for me, when I go for a certain amount of time without seeing some of my church family in Cleveland/Dahlonega I find myself growing prideful. I forget about my sin struggles. I find myself thinking that the gossip I participated in yesterday was really just a repetition of information. But when I meet the church at our building and one of my close friends asks me, “How are you doing with your struggle with gossip?” or “How are you handling your fear of rejection?” suddenly the Holy Spirit shines a light on those dark places in my heart and all is brought to light. And I am given the opportunity to confess and repent with that friend. These conversations usually lead to more conversations about what it is in my heart that is causing those outward sins.
I’m still working all of this out. I don’t think I have found a balance yet. I’m not in Cleveland as much as I would like to be. BUT on the other hand, going up to camp and going home are refreshing times for me. I can’t go to those places too much, or I will fall into the dangers I mentioned above. But there are many times when I’ll go up to camp to work a retreat simply to be refreshed. To see people I love, to hear the teaching of the Word of God, and to counsel students. Many times I can see my own struggles mirrored in the students I’m ministering to, and as I speak truth to them, I speak it to myself. Sometimes I need to go home to take a break from Truett. Home is where I am most comfortable and where I find the most physical rest.
My point is this: stay in a place long enough for other believers to see the gross parts of you. Take off your mask and be vulnerable. Be known. Wherever you find yourself, whether its a day, a week, a month, or two years, be all there. Don’t let social media or your cell phone take you away from the people you are physically with. Community is all about walking through life together, following Christ together, and forgiving the sins we see in each other as Christ forgave us. Know the poor in your community and serve them. Make that a part of your daily life. I don’t have this all figured out, but every step I take in going deeper with the people I am around everyday, I find more joy.