I love to talk about relationships.

As a Professional Counselor and Author, it’s a topic that I’m passionate about and one that I feel led to write about, speak about, and even just think about. But sometimes I wonder if our Christian culture at large tends to get fixated on romantic relationships, without remembering the other important relationships that God calls us into.

In order to learn about love, we need people.

The concept of Christian community is such an important part of love, because it’s within the context of relationships that we have the opportunity to express and receive love. God is so creative, in that He gave us a body of believers as a way to experience the give-and-take of love, no matter what our “romantic” relationship-status.

Here are some reasons why it’s really important to be in relationship with other believers:

1. Community challenges you to be more like Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25). Nothing makes you more like Jesus than the daily grind of interactions with others. We often think about marriage when it comes to this refining process, but the truth is God also gives us community as a way to become more like him. God’s word reminds us that we are put in relationships in order to encourage one another in our pursuit of God and his Kingdom. It’s within the context of community that we are given the opportunity to be refined as followers of Christ.

2. Community meets practical needs (Acts 2:42-47). Just like in the early church, community is a place where we come to get our physical needs met. We need to learn to let down our walls and ask for help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we need someone to pick up medicine for us when we’re sick, cook us a meal at the end of a long week, or help us carry a financial burden - the body of Christ was made to support and love one another in practical ways. We can learn a lot about love within the exchange of practical needs.

3. Community carries you emotionally (Galatians 6:2). Just as important as physical needs are the emotional needs we carry through life. We are given the the responsibility to support each other in hard times, and to carry one another’s burdens. As much as we need to be available for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we also need to have the courage to ask them to come alongside of us when we’re the ones in need of support, prayer, or a shoulder to cry on. It’s important to learn to be real with one another, because that’s what true community is all about.

4. Community reveals your gifts and talents (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Two are better than one, because there is double the strength, double the stamina, and double the talents. Within the context of community we’re given the opportunity to discover our gifts and our talents, and to use them to bless others. We’re each given a very specific role in the body of Christ and it is within these relationships that our roles can be used to glorify God to the fullest. We’re part of something really special (1 Corinthians 12:27).

5. Community opens your eyes to the needs of others (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Within community we are encouraged to look around at the needs of those around us. We’re called to strengthen those who are weak and to and encourage those who are down and out. Community calls us out of our self-centeredness and self-absorption by giving us the responsibility to look outward.