Life in Community by Dustin Willis
During my sophomore year of college, I lived on a dorm floor with a group of my closest friends (here's a picture of us as bridesmaids at one of their weddings...missing our friend who was the bride, but plus Abraham Lincoln...which is a whole other story). My roommate (not pictured, she was the bride!) and I lived next door to two of these friends, and you can imagine our joy when we discovered a small hole in the wall connecting our two rooms. One evening while they were away at the library, we stuck our hand through the hole in the wall, pulled our friend's bedsheets halfway through, and tied them to our desk frame. We heard her come back to her room late that night, hop into bed, and start mumbling in frustration when she couldn't pull up her sheets. She quickly discovered who the pranksters were, and we spent the evening laughing and plotting our next mischievous plan (which involved the Abraham Lincoln portrait showed above...again, a story for another time).
Throughout that year, we shared laughter in the good times and tears/m&m cookies in the hard times. They quickly became my closest friends, and it was here that I first experienced the richness of a Christian community doing life and living on mission together. As we lived together in community, we naturally pursued mission. And as we pursued mission, we naturally pursued community. Now working full time in college ministry (as is another one of those women!), I find myself putting a high priority on cultivating this type of Jesus-centered community among the gals I get to work with. It hasn't been easy (and I don't really know what I'm doing) but it has been amazing to watch my freshmen grow in community and fellowship. To see them laughing together, eating meals together, sharing hard things and struggles together, and even their excitement to all live in the same room together next year has made my heart so happy!
After reading another book by Dustin Willis a few months ago, I was excited to receive this one. Wanting my students to get a taste of strong Christian community (for some of them, this is the first time they've experienced it!), I picked up this book looking for practical tips and a Biblical perspective on how fellowship like this blossoms and is sustained. Thankfully, it is the Lord that sustains it, but what are ways that He can use me to help foster it in their lives?
The author digs into what makes a foundation of Biblical community and pragmatic suggestions to apply what is talked about in each chapter (I loved the study questions, and a discussion guide is included). In community like this, there needs to be mercy. There needs to be vulnerability, honesty, and grace as well as truth. We need to be willing to bring others' sin into the light and be receptive for them to do the same to our own. We need to encourage one another and reach out to bring others into this fellowship instead of keeping it focused on ourselves. We need to move from the church being a club to the church being a community.
Reading this book has made me incredibly thankful for the church God has blessed me and Jake with during our time in Ohio! It has made me so thankful for the men and women who have warmly opened their arms to us (we are always invited to holidays by several families because they know we don't have family close by), pursued Christ alongside us (inside and outside of Sunday morning service), and challenged us to grow in our faith (through learning to confess and be vulnerable with others, and to grow in our knowledge of the Word). The community Dustin Willis talks about in this book does happen in real life!
My rating? 5/5
In this time of intense loneliness, depression, and isolation within our culture today, everyone is seeking to be truly known and truly loved. Life in Community challenged me to gain a deeper Biblical understanding of what it means and looks like to live in and cultivate life-giving community.
*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest, unbiased review!*