Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions 3 Reasons to Cultivate Community BEFORE Facing the Unexpected

3 Reasons to Cultivate Community BEFORE Facing the Unexpected

For over 10 years, Karen and I have led small groups in our home. We’ve walked with friends when storms rolled into their lives. Whether it was a job loss, doctor’s diagnosis, relational conflict or any number of disruptions, our community was there to encourage, pray and support. But we never thought we’d have to be on the receiving end.

When I unexpectedly found myself in the hospital earlier this year [you can read my story here], we never knew what kind of difference our community of family and friends would make in our lives. Through this journey, we discovered a powerful truth: You must cultivate community before, during and after the storm.

Perhaps you don’t see the need for community. Maybe life is good, and you simply don’t see the value in authentic relationships where you can belong and become. You might even be scared at what community will cost you.

But today I want you to know that community is worth every deposit of time, energy and emotion. You may not need to make a withdrawal today, but one day, you will. And when that day comes, the question’s going to be answered: Has your community account been building interest all this time, or did you never even open it?

To experience community, we must be intentional about it. Community doesn’t just happen. It takes time and effort on our part to build close, supportive friendships. So what does it look like to cultivate community? It plays out in three ways:

1. Invest in Community Before the Storm

In the Old Testament, King Solomon makes a powerful case for the value of doing life together. He writes:

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NLT).

Each one of us will walk through seasons in life where we “fall.” The fall might show up in our relationships, our finances, our health, our work or any number of areas. Yet as bad as that fall is, Solomon says there’s something even worse: falling alone.

When I was in the hospital, my friends Shawn and Michelle came to visit me. Upon their visit, they were emotionally shaken by my condition. I had tubes and wires connected to my head, neck, chest and mouth. I was sedated and intubated, unaware of who was even in my room. And then I had a coughing fit.

My lungs were compromised by the fluid that collected on my lungs when my heart’s Mitral valve suddenly ruptured. My hands were fastened to the side of the bed so that I wouldn’t pull out the tubes or wires. Needless to say, I didn’t look my best.

After leaving my room, Shawn met another friend in the waiting room. Then he broke. At that stage, my situation was rather dire. The doctors had said I was between a rock and a hard place … simultaneously experiencing heart failure and pulmonary failure. Reflecting back on those dark hours, Shawn said something to me that I’ll never forget:

“Having the right people, in the right place, at the right time made the difference.”

When he said that, I thought, “Wow! What a great picture of community.” But the only way you can have the right people, in the right place, at the right time, is if you invest in community before the storm hits. Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson captured it well: You need to invest in community today so you can reap the benefits during tomorrow’s seasons of deprivation and loss. As followers of Jesus, we belong in community with other Christians. The apostle Paul described it like this:

“Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian” (Ephesians 2:19, TLB).

Perhaps you’re a bit hesitant to embrace Paul’s words. Or maybe you’re downright resistant because of the pain other Christians have caused you. Some people even go as far as to say, “I love Jesus, but I hate the church.”

But there’s a problem with statements like that. Scripture describes Jesus as the “head” and the church as the “body.” How can you love the head but hate the body? Scripture further describes Jesus as the “groom” and the church as the “bride.” How can you love the groom but hate the bride? Rick Warren observed that would be like saying, “I love you but I hate your wife.” Here’s what you’ve got to remember:

Pain caused by the body of Christ is not a license to cut off the body of Christ.

Still not sure? Consider King Solomon’s words: “Become wise by walking with the wise; ?hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces” (Proverbs 13:20, MSG). Sometimes “unexpected” shows up because we’ve surrounded ourselves with the wrong friends. You need friends to comfort you in the unexpected, not be the cause of the unexpected. This is crucial because your friends determine the direction and speed of your life. Take time to invest in community before the storm hits by cultivating friendships with people who make you better.