I believe God created us with the desire and the need for community – first with Him, but also with one another. What I want to share today is what I’ve been learning about community within the church – specifically women in the church. I’ve seen a wide range of how this can look, from observing deep, close friendships (grown over time and experience) to attending Bible studies at a large church where – although the intention is good, and the study is biblical – it can be really hard to grow deeper relationships.
On a very personal level, I’ve seen the tendency in myself to invest in a friendship only so far as the other person does. If they appear to be backing off, it’s tempting to cut and run in self-preservation. This isn’t a great model – it’s transactional, self-focused, and noncommittal. It certainly doesn’t lend itself to developing great community, and it often creates distance where there shouldn’t be any.
These experiences have come together in an interesting way lately, as God’s teaching me what Christian friendship should really look like.
Have you ever felt like something was missing? You love Jesus, but there’s still something off?
My family is part of a small church planting team. We’ve been doing this for several months, and it’s great. God is working, we’re learning, and it’s an exciting process to be a part of. Before it started, a couple friends and I were meeting regularly for Bible study, accountability, etc. This was my first experience with close Christian community. It was so worthwhile, and played a role in all our spiritual growth during that time.
When the church planting work began in earnest, we expanded our group so that the handful of women working in church together would all meet. This is when it got more difficult. Due to limited resources of time and energy, along with being unsure of how an official “women’s ministry” would need to work with our brand new church, we fizzled out.
But you know what? It’s really hard to be close to my friends, to encourage one another and to grow, if we aren’t really talking to each other! If we aren’t making a concentrated effort, it’s so easy for those relationships to morph into acquaintances we see each Sunday and Wednesday. We have brief conversations, catching up on what’s happened that week, what our kids are doing, whatever. It’s not that this is a bad thing. Casual interaction is fine, but is that it? I couldn’t shake the sense that we were missing something – that I was missing something I should be doing. I wasn’t sure what to do, though, so I just let it go. But, clearly, it wasn’t over yet.
The Wake-up Call
I got the opportunity last month to attend a mom’s retreat for a weekend. The list of what I gained and learned is long, but I’ll leave it at this: God was busy.
I’ve seen over and over again that when I actually, honestly open my hands and surrender control, meaning it, He shows up to do something. It wasn’t a gentle “reminder”, but rather an abrupt wake-up call to the fact that I (my time, effort, emotions) am not my own. The good news of the Gospel means that Jesus bought me. And while that means salvation is mine, it also means that I am His. It led to a distinct, in arguable call to step up and create what I desire so strongly to be part of.
Then, when I got home – more confirmation. I couldn’t have kept my mouth shut if I wanted to. And when I explained what I was hoping for, the response was overwhelmingly encouraging. The women in my church wanted the same thing. At the time of writing this, we’re headed toward establishing the community we’ve been looking for. Someone just had to make the first move.
The Next Step
The great thing about God calling me to do something is that we’re no longer relying on my own confidence or natural ability. It’s just obedience. Friendships aren’t actually about me and what I’m getting out of them. My responsibility is to reach out first, letting God handle the rest. That sounds scary even typing it. It sounds like I even know how to do that.
But I do know how. And so do you. You see, as I’m digging into this, trying to learn what the next step is, and how to honor what is being asked of me, I know where to look. We, as sisters in Christ, aren’t just friends. We aren’t just women. We’re the church – at least the female percentage of it. So where should we be getting our example of how to be in community? Scripture tells me what I need to know.
“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)
The book of Titus speaks more specifically about women relating to one another in the church:
“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored.” – Titus 2: 3-5 (ESV)
I think that’s a good place to start. A group of Christian women, Gospel-focused, allowing God to work through us to create real change in our lives – to make us more like Christ and more useful to His kingdom.
My encouragement to you is this:
- If you’re lonely, you are not the only one. Chances are, if you ask, you’d find that many of your friends or acquaintances are longing for the same quality community you are.
- If you feel a tugging from God to make the first move in creating those relationships, trust Him and pray about how to best do that!
- Lastly (and I’m talking to myself here!), in this isolated feeling, sometimes it’s best to pause the inward reflection and turn your gaze to someone else’s needs. Try to be that friend (the one you wish you had!) for someone else!
I would love to hear from you!
If you’re involved in a thriving community of women, what wisdom can you share with us?
If you don’t have that community in your life, what’s your biggest struggle in finding it?
Ivy is a follower of Jesus, wife of 9 years, and mommy of 2. She currently spends her time homeschooling, blogging, painting, church-planting, and teaching group exercise. She’s passionate about developing community among women and encouraging one another to develop our gifts for the glory of God. Daily necessities include coffee, a good book, and a good laugh.
You can connect with Ivy online at IvyNeal.com