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A couple of days ago I wrote that Community is a Gift from God. I’d like to spend just a little time working on a definition of “community.” At least community as I understand it.

The word “community” can be used to describe a number of things – loosely defined as “a group of interacting organisms sharing an environment”. This could describe nearly anything from a bacterial culture to a city to the entirety of the earth’s population – human, animal, and plant.

I’d like to be a little more specific – I’ll be working with a community of people. I’d like to look at what we might consider some of the generic elements of communities of people.

Here’s my working definition of community:

A network of human relationships built fundamentally around proximity and sharing.

First, a community must contain more than one person.
This is nearly a given. A community must be a group of people. Anything less cannot be a community.

Second, a community must involve sharing.
At the very least, a community must share an environment, though most communities share much more than just an environment. Whether voluntary or involuntary, explicit or implicit, sharing is involved.

  • Shared Location – House, City, Land, Meeting Place
  • Shared Resources – Natural, Intellectual, Spiritual, Financial
  • Shared Identity – Ethnicity, Morality, Name
  • Shared Goals – Achievement, Purpose, Direction

As we look through different examples of community – families, educational communities, municipalities, spiritual communities, online communities, ethnic communities, professional communities, and gated communities – we see both relationship and sharing. Some relationships are mature and balanced. Some are not.

In an “ideal” community, we would see sharing and depth of relationship as described in Acts 2:42-47. A place where people are called to action by love and submission to the will of God, not by the constraint of man or the fear of the Law.

And with that I’d like to leave you with a few questions.

  • As you think through your relationships and communities, how well do you share?
  • Are your communities “tight-knit” or loosely bound?
  • Are they healthy? How healthy? What makes them healthy?
  • Are your communities marked by liberty or law? Must behavior be legislated?
  • Do you trust God in your communities?
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