Many Christians are familiar with the phrase "authentic community." The first time I experienced authentic community was on a Summer Project with Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru).
There were 23 peers of mine, living in one condominium building, eating meals together, working part-time jobs with one another, sharing fears, struggles, hopes, and prayers with each other, and studying God's Word together. It was one of the most satisfying and freeing summers of my life. I learned from the people I was surrounded with and loved them. Back in the real world (non Summer Project) authentic community is a bit harder to find.
There are many different facets of that authentic community that are vital.
Friendship and accountability. As Christians, we need to surround ourselves with other believers who can be an encouragement to us, come alongside us in prayer, and help us grow into more mature disciples of Christ. "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..." - Hebrews 10:24-25
Discipleship. We also need to have more mature believers pouring into us with wisdom and teaching. With this, we will have a model of mature Christianity to follow after and have a safe place to ask questions about the faith we may not ourselves know the answer to. "Be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned..." - Titus 2:7 We then also know what to teach others as we grow in our faith.
Transparency. It is important that we experience the "authentic" aspect of community. From my experience, I find that this happens when people are open, honest, and vulnerable with sin/struggles in their lives. "Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed..." - James 5:17 Having this type of connection and bond with others, allows us to ask for help when seeking the Lord and aiming to walk in the light.
Christ-like attitude and humility. One of the more challenging aspects of this authentic community, is to "...have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind." - 1 Peter 3:8 Living closely with others takes a great deal of selflessness and love - which can only be obtained from the Lord.
This is where I may find some opposition.... I do not think we EVER grow out of our need for this. Sure, it may look different with changing seasons of life, but I absolutely see where God desires this for us, in His Word. As believers, young or old, leader or follower, I believe we all need to be experiencing authentic community through discipleship, accountability, and living life together.
Do you know this authentic community? How can you take a step to get closer to saturating yourself in community with believers?
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will life ip his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!" - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10