Holland: The presence of faith within community

By Billy Holland

Contributing columnist

The idea of faith within any community usually leads to thoughts about various types of churches. This can definitely be a part of it. However, if we step back and observe the larger picture, we notice faith is more of an overall spiritual presence than just the local assemblies themselves. We realize there is a huge difference between being religious and spiritual, and this has everything to do with how we connect with God and society.

The Christian evangelical emphasis is based on the great commission which involves allowing the light of Christ to shine as we associate with those who are watching. Though many have yet to embrace their spiritual mission, the needs are great and there is no shortage of opportunities to become involved.

For the follower of Christ, we are given the responsibility to develop a genuine lifestyle of sensitivity and there is no greater environment to become a walking, breathing lighthouse of love and concern than in our local community.

One definition of community according to Merriam Webster is: “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” This allows us to develop lifelong connections with neighbors, co-workers, friends, church members and businesses that can evolve into lasting relationships.

Especially within the smaller communities, this concept can be preserved by caring parents and concerned individuals who  are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and become actively involved so future generations can continue to enjoy a sense of belonging.

In the 1830s the young French nobleman, Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout the U.S. carefully observing its people and institutions. When explaining the success of America’s democratic republic to his countrymen, he commented at length about the critical role played by America’s religious devotion.

He observed that spirituality was essential to forming this nation’s political convictions and I can see why. Those who genuinely walk with God are called to be a spiritual witness and testimony everywhere they go as well as being a practical asset providing stability, trust and integrity. With the stress of social correctness, we need the sincerity of sound spiritual wisdom along with moral demonstrations of God’s character now more than ever.

In 2006 and 2007, Robert Putham of Harvard and David Campbell of Notre Dame also surveyed a large and representative sample of Americans about the role of faith in their lives. One of the unique contributions of their research discovered behaviors, attitudes and beliefs of those who are considered people of faith are more likely to give their time and financial support to both religious and non-religious causes. They also concluded with what George Washington declared in his farewell address, “of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

When discussing how Christians should participate in socially responsible ways, active faith is clearly just as vital for maintaining community today as it was when the Pilgrims and Puritans arrived.

Since the foundation of love begins with God and family, we can agree the vision of community is to allow the character and compassion of Jesus to overflow into good works unto all people.

This type of faith is not about denominations or a particular religious dogma, but it’s more centered on an innocent enthusiasm to cooperate with others in order to live in peace.

When people are committed to following God’s directives they will not be able to ignore the needs of those around them, thus, when followers of Christ reach out to embrace community, everyone benefits.

Community faith is about individuals who feel an accountability to step out beyond the walls of the organized church and interact with the world that surrounds the church. Christians were never called to be spectators — they are equipped and empowered to be participators!

Social religion talks about the cross while the true disciple of Jesus is identified with what it means. In fact, all people within God’s kingdom should be excited for the challenge to openly live what they believe and be included within society as an optimistic ingredient of faith, love and hope.

Billy Holland lives in Central Kentucky with his wife, Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community outreach chaplain.