As my colleague Kyle states, " I think we would do well in the church to fully claim the radical, and counter-cultural, notion of common life and common faith."
So how do we DO that?
I think we have to live the faith. Truly live it: not just with people we like or from our comfortable pew. But to go out into the world and engage with the difficult realities of today's individualistic society.
Any group of people can build community in any number of ways: engage all ages, be honest about needs and values, support local initiatives, keep buildings maintained (cared-for external presentation suggests vibrancy inside!), don't be burdened by the past, don't fall into 'good enough' mentalities, and own your presence.
These are good starting points. In the church, we are called even further, because community is part of our vocation.
Imagine if we truly engaged the world around us as Jesus would do: because Jesus was radical and counter-cultural. He physically and emotionally touched so many people that had been longing for touch for so long.
Where culture rejected the diseased, Jesus gave health. Where society abandoned the widows and orphans, Jesus found them homes. The down-on-their-luck, he encouraged. The outcasts he welcomed, the unclean he embraced, the hungry he fed, the untouchable he embraced.
Jesus did not do this alone: he engaged his followers to this reality. He called for the people - the ordinary, everyday people, like us - to see the opportunity to love: despite the politically correct boundaries and barriers, the promulgation of fear, the absurdly false theology of scarcity, or any other pathetic reason.
Jesus called his followers, then and now, to seek those who society would refuse to see. To see another's needs, and find ways that those needs might be met - the immediate need, and the underlying cause; then to meet those without question, without judgement, and without criticism.
To see another's needs, of course, means to see another person: to look beyond ourselves; to see the presence of Christ in everyone we encounter.
Community means shifting our focus away from ourselves, away from our personal desires, and turning it on to someone we share this time and space with, searching for ways to live our baptismal faith to support and encourage a fellow child of God.
It's not easy, it's not popular, it's not common: but neither was Jesus. And when we embrace that reality, our relationships flourish and we all benefit.