We all crave meaningful community. We want to have deeply connected relationships with one another. We are not satisfied with shallow and empty acquaintance. We want to be a part of something, to belong to someone, to be cared for and to have someone to care for. We were made to have relationships.
Many who have left the institutional systems of the church have done so for this reason. We were tired of the Sunday morning "how are you" that never got much deeper than "see you next week". We discerned that the busyness of church life distracted us from what really mattered. So, we set out determined to focus on building relationships with other believers where our love for one another was the bond that held us together, not confessions and covenental statements.
Still, our zeal for finding community is met with frustration when we realize that relationships take a lot of time and effort. There is also a lot of pain involved. When the distractions of programs and religious practice are out of the way we begin to see the beauty and the beast in each other. So we get to work building each other up. We begin to discern what is of Christ and what is not and we praise the Christ in you and rebuke the man of flesh. It's not easy and not fun but it is well worth the discomfort.
This experience was unattainable within the confines of institutional religion (for me anyways). Looking back it seems there was always a book, a program or a teaching that got in the way of really connecting with one another. Yes we knew what a few people thought about such and such a doctrine or such and such a bible passage but we had no idea who's marriage was struggling or family was in turmoil.
If you are a part of a community of believers that have found a way to overcome this obstacle and build meaningful relationships with each other within a religious institution, I'm very happy for you. I welcome you to share your experience here. If you have set out to gather with others in a more simple fashion seeking this kind of community let me encourage you. Relationships take time and they can't be forced. Let Christ dwell in you richly and together you will be built up with others according to His timing. He will build His church.