I have been working today on a writing assignment that deals with the relationship between community and evangelism in the local church. Below is a very rough draft of what I have written so far. I would be interested in what you think:
Many churches include the word “community” in their name, their purpose statement, and/or their mission statement. The word “community” is also a buzz word in society. New neighborhoods advertise “communities” where you can walk to work and shopping. Even businesses try to build “community” with their employees, believing that doing so will increase productivity.
While there is a lot of talk about “community” few people really understand what it means and even fewer know how to live it out. Few things, however, will bring people to Christ quicker, and build their faith stronger, than real community.
What is community?
First and foremost, community is a biblical idea.
Dictionaries define community as social groups living in the same area, or social groups who share a common interest. By that definition a community could be a crowd or a group of acquaintances or your close friends. All dictionary definitions fall short of what the bible means by community.
Community is part of God’s DNA, as can be seen in the doctrine of the Trinity. A simple definition of Trinity is the belief that God is one Being equally shared in three Persons with each Person sharing the entire divine Being. Thus, God the Father is all God; God the Son is all God; and God the Holy Spirit is all God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is a divine community.
We were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). We were created to have communion with God and community with each other. However, our capacity to experience community was severely damaged when Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3). Adam and Eve enjoyed uninterrupted communion with God, and as a result, enjoyed intimate communion with each other. But immediately after eating the forbidden fruit, everything changed.
When God came to fellowship with Adam and Eve, they were hiding and so God cried out, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Adam responded, “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Genesis 3:10). God then asked, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11).
It should be obvious that the idea of being naked goes beyond not wearing clothes. After God created Eve and presented her to Adam, the Bible says, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25). To be “naked” carries the idea of intimacy, closeness, innocence, and freedom; all of which moves us closer to the biblical idea of community. Before sin entered the world humans enjoyed a close, personal, intimate, innocent relationship with God that also made communion with one another possible. But now, because of sin, we are separated from God and as a result separated from each other. But written on our hearts is a need for community; a longing to be reunited with God and each other.
God’s solution to our dilemma was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus we are brought back into intimate fellowship with God, and as a result we have fellowship with one another. In other words, through our common unity in Christ we have community with each other.
The preferred word in the New Testament to describe “community” is the Greek word koinonia, translated “fellowship,” “partnership,” and “communion” in various verses and various translations. The basic idea behind koinonia is a shared participation in something that brings a deep sense of belonging. Listen to how John the Elder describes our shared participation with God, Christ, and each other: “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ…If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:3, 6-7).
What is the relationship between community and evangelism? Deep inside everyone’s soul is a longing to belong. Intuitively we know we were created for companionship. Apart from faith in Jesus, are deepest longing goes unfulfilled. In Jesus Christ we are brought back into harmonious relationships with Him and others.
When those outside the body of Christ see the body of Christ living in and living out true community, it will draw people to faith in Him. This, in part, is what Peter had in mind when he wrote, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15).
A wonderful example of community, and how living in community leads to evangelism, is the church in Acts 2. As followers of Jesus they met regularly for “teaching…fellowship…breaking of bread…prayer” (Acts 2:42). Of course, the word translated “fellowship” is koinonia and it is closely related to partaking communion (the meaning behind “breaking of bread”). Once again, community is impossible without sharing in communion with Christ.
When the believers came together it was obvious God was with them (Acts 2:43). The result was a unity that motivated them to share everything they had so that everyone’s needs were met. For the church in Acts 2, community meant doing life together, sharing life. Their community was a picture of the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.
Notice what happened as they lived out community: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Community in the local church leads to evangelism in the local church.
 It is important to note that throughout the Genesis story the Hebrew word translated “God” is Elohim, which is plural, literally translated “Gods.” This is important because points to the Godhead (Trinity – Father, Son, Spirit) being present from eternity past and participants in creation. For example, Genesis 1:1 reads, “In the beginning Gods created the heavens and the earth…” Since we know there is only One God, the use of Elohim points to the Trinity.
 In the quote from John the Elder in 1 John, the word “fellowship” is the translation of the Greek word koinonia.
 The Greek word translated “common” in Acts 2:44 is koinos, a form of koinonia.