The Gift of Community

Authentic Community is a core value of our church. While some of us struggle with authenticity, there is unfortunately a large population among us who don’t belong to a community at all. A subset walking alone. Drifting anonymously in and out of our presence on Sundays. God’s very own children, some harboring guilt or shame so intense it paralyzes them from taking relational risks. Lonely people desiring fellowship with others yet resigned it may not be available to them.

When I first set foot on an SBC campus 19 years ago, I wasn’t particularly hopeful I’d find community. At the time, my wife and I were struggling in our marriage because of my selfish workaholism that drove us into a ditch. I didn’t have a relationship with Christ, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to hang out with anyone who did. But at the urging of some of my wife’s friends and an acquaintance of mine, we wandered into a marriage enrichment class. I felt uncomfortable there. Like I didn’t belong. I considered myself a relational failure amongst spiritual giants.

I felt uncomfortable there. Like I didn’t belong.

My wife took to the social elements of the group far more readily than her husband. She kept urging me to go back with her. We did. Week after uncomfortable week. As the weeks turned into months, I bonded with some of the men. I learned about Jesus and Christian living, and a few months later I gave my life to Christ. My wife met with some women outside of class, and I started meeting with a group of guys twice a month. The months turned into years. I connected deeply and authentically with these men. It wasn’t always easy though.

So many times, as we piled into the car with our kids to head to church, home fellowship, or service projects, I wished I could’ve stayed home to watch football or do yard work in the 115-degree heat. But we persisted and met people. We found ourselves going out to dinner, serving together with our families, and eventually, doing life together in a home fellowship group.

So many times…I wished I could’ve stayed home to watch football or do yard work…but we persisted and met people.

In a 2008 blog entitled The Difficulty of Community, Timothy Keller wrote, “Many things in our culture work against the maintenance of real community. We are conditioned in countless ways to think and act as individuals only, not as members of any body…”  Keller was right. We are conditioned to think and act as individuals.

I often wonder what my life would be like had I not followed the lead of my wife’s friends and my acquaintance (now a dear friend)—leading that encouraged us to show up and plug in with other young families. And what if my wife had caved to my insecurities and given up in the early weeks and months of our time at SBC instead of encouraging us to show up even when we didn’t feel like it?

The author of Hebrews nailed it when he said, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Somewhere along the way, as my wife and I gathered with communities of believers, our marriage turned a corner. My life turned a corner. C.S. Lewis once said, “God is love, and that love works through men—especially through the whole community of Christians.” It was God and His amazing love that we felt through the body of Christ at SBC. It was God’s love that brought our marriage back to life. Love that we experienced in community with others.

It was God and His amazing love that we felt through the body of Christ at SBC.

If you haven’t yet found community, don’t give up. Keep trying. It sometimes takes a while to discover. If you have found community, look for someone on the outside to invite into your circle. I speak from experience when I say that the greatest gift we can give others is to avail ourselves to them relationally. It’s what Christ has done for us. It’s what others need from us.


Michael Tooker

Pastor of Central Ministries