People often refer to the “Christian community,” but what is it? The term can encompass all Christians in general: people sometimes speak of the “Christian community” as a particular demographic, akin to the “rural demographic” or the “college-educated demographic.” Other times, Christian community can refer to a formal denomination or the following of a particular Christian leader. Christian community can also refer to the camaraderie of Christians who fellowship together and have relationships with one another. Based on their shared attitudes and beliefs, Christians feel a sense of “community” with each other.
For some, “the Christian community” refers to networks of churches or Christian organizations. Others view megachurch pastors, bestselling authors, musicians, or other Christian celebrities as voices of the Christian community. The media often promotes this perspective, quoting a well-known pastor, for example, as if he speaks for all Christians.
The Bible’s original word for “church” is ekklesia, Greek for “called-out assembly” or “gathering.” This word took on the meaning of “all Christians” in some contexts and of “local gatherings of believers” in other places. When a person trusts in Jesus for salvation, he or she becomes part of the universal body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Smaller groups of believers come together in local churches to worship God, to grow in their understanding of God’s Word, and to live out their lives in Christ in community.
Acts 2:42–47 reveals that the original “Christian community” was known primarily for its devotion to the apostles’ teachings, to fellowship, to prayer, and to loving one another. Jesus Himself had promoted this sense of community: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). A Christian community is marked by the way people treat each other, and the local church should strive to model Christlike attitudes.
The Bible instructs believers on how a Christian community can love one another (1 John 4:12). Believers are called to encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13), “spur” one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), honor one another (Romans 12:10), be patient with one another and forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and speak the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:25). The local church is the place where the Christian community can put these callings into practice.
Simply put, the Christian community is composed of those who love Jesus and fellowship with each other. When the world sees the church in action, they should see the true love of Jesus and perhaps find themselves attracted to Christ, too.