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  • Writer's pictureJenni Lien

Building Community In The In Between Seasons

You Are You Christian podcast for women by Jenni Lien of The Yay Project

Recently I spoke with an atheist who said how great it is that people find community through churches — but as Christians, don’t we sometimes take community for granted and choose not to get plugged in? This episode dives into God’s will for community and how, even if we’re in an ‘in between’ season (e.g. only in a place for a short period or not wanting to stay where we are for too long), community where we can live out the James 5:16 principle to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” is such a blessing for our walk. I also share my testimony of how I sought and didn’t seek community in my current season and what I’ve learned through it. May we learn to live and love as God intends in all seasons of life!

Listen to You Are You Christian podcast for women on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. Or for my reading-lovers out there (I'm with you!), the transcript is below.

Recently I had a conversation with an atheist about Christianity. While he didn’t believe God existed, he understood there were good things about the church. Namely, that it was useful for helping people build community. Many common Christian concepts like tithing were unknown to him, but community? That he understood and could get behind.

For Christians though, it’s fairly common for people to attend church and be hesitant about getting into community. People often go to church because they believe in God or want teaching but community is different. It can feel more intimate, with people seeing you up close. It can feel harder, being loved and needing to love other imperfect humans. It can take time that we may not want to give up because we want to do our own thing or because we have community elsewhere.

You Are You Christian podcast for women by Jenni Lien of The Yay Project

In my experience, especially during my years abroad, community was essential for making me feel at home. It was the quickest way to near instant friendship and an active social life, with the incredible thread that these new friends were on the same page in terms of worldview. When you said you wanted to pray or take the Bible seriously, they didn’t look at you like you were believing in fairy tales or something that didn’t exist. In their mind, God existed, he sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins, we have the Holy Spirit in us, and oh yes Jesus is coming back hooray!

But real community and fellowship isn’t just socializing.

In this episode let’s chat about a few things:

  • What does God say about community?

  • What does community look like for us this season?

  • My testimony on community this season

  • Next steps

What does God say about community?

How Jesus lived with the disciples, and how the disciples lived and served after Jesus went back to heaven, are examples for us of what godly community is. They were together so often, sharing resources, serving… and were really in each other's business. And the disciples certainly bickered and disagreed—they were human too. But in this close relationship, they were able to live out God’s teachings. They had ample opportunity to do so. In this life, God knows we’re not perfect and being with other humans really is the only training ground right? While solitude for the purposes of connecting with God is good, this is only part of the Christian walk. God 100 percent wants us in community.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Today there are many ways on how we can encourage each other from afar. We can text and DM and video chat and catch up. But being part of a local church with people who see you regularly… it can sometimes feel exposing, if you’re going through something you don’t want others to know about. But more than that it can be enriching, with leaders who help shepherd you and want what’s best for you and have a God-given responsibility to support you in your sanctification journey. Community and meeting together is such a gift.

You Are You Christian podcast for women by Jenni Lien of The Yay Project

When we see events advertised at church, I pray we don’t take them for granted and see them only as things to do if we have nothing better going on. But as prayed-through opportunities to be with God’s people in the way that he wants. Sometimes this isn’t as flashy or exciting or fast-paced as what the world offers. Spending time with fellow believers and living in line with God’s will is a choice. As is choosing to contribute and serve and use our God-given gifts in community.

May we take some time to give thanks for the community activities and builders in our lives this season, and see how God may be speaking to us in this area. Maybe it’s to rest and receive. Maybe it’s to be bold and encourage others. Maybe it’s to intercede and pray. May our Lord help us to be loving towards those he has placed in our lives.

What does community looks like for us this season?

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)

This is the verse that has stood out to me lately. Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another… this is not easy to do! Many churches will have prayer ministers after each service. Depending on the size of the church, sometimes you’ll have no relationship with the person praying—maybe it’s easier to confess and receive prayer in this context. But that’s still one-way. This verse says to one another indicating a strong friendship where people share together. That can be so much more vulnerable but also be the foundation of true Christian friendship and community, and worth investing our hearts into as it’s God’s will.

You Are You Christian podcast for women by Jenni Lien of The Yay Project

I attended my small group in Hong Kong for over six years, from age 26 to 32. And we truly did so much life together. People went through various different seasons. Work, relationships, family, kids—there was no topic that wasn’t touched and in many ways it felt like there was no resource that couldn’t be shared. Our group was about 16 people, both genders, and a mix of singles and couples between the ages of 25 and 50. And one thing I thought worked well was that we split into male/female groups for accountability time.

On my first visit, I remember struggling because I had many relationship problems from my dating an atheist and felt shy. But when the women started sharing their own situations, they were so vulnerable! I saw they really trusted and supported each other, and had clearly been honest with each other for some time as they knew each other! Which made it much easier for me to share, and when I did… at least half of them said they could relate, and I definitely felt less alone.

You Are You Christian podcast for women by Jenni Lien of The Yay Project

Today shall we pray we can live out this verse well? Maybe we have a great accountability group—is it time to mentor and start another group with women who may not, or help women find a group for themselves? Or maybe we don’t have an accountability group or think our group could be more open and vulnerable? No human relationship will ever be perfect—God can do more. Lord, will you stretch us. Show us how you want to move in this area.

My testimony on community this season

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17)

So it’s hard to believe my Master’s program is coming to an end! There’s a month and a half left to go. While there have been many, many highs, one unexpected challenge I faced was my vulnerability. Only recently did I pinpoint what it was—honestly, sometimes it’s a bit hard being fully vulnerable with immediate family. When I lived alone, on the other side of the world, I was fine sharing my issues with friends, podcasting honestly, etc. But since I was only going to be home for a year, I really wanted to do church with my family.

Maybe for you the in-between season is something different. Maybe you’re working abroad as an expat for one year. Or studying abroad for one semester. Or in a place that you hope to God you won’t stay for very long. There are many reasons why we might feel like a season is temporary and therefore it’s hard to get plugged into a community that knows us… that when we’re more settled, then we’ll find community.

I understand the logic, but take it from me it leaves us exposed. In addition to going to church with my family, I was also a part of various other Christian groups: graduate Christian fellowship on campus, a Faith Driven Entrepreneurs group, an alumni group for the Praxis Redemptive Framework, as well as having one-on-one conversations with various Christian friends and mentors. While these groups were all great for my spiritual walk in various ways, I wasn’t in community close enough to share my sins with community as per the previous point, but when I knew I needed it, you know what I did?

Immediately, I texted my friend Emily. Who I’d met when I visited a church in September, when I was considering attending another church in addition to my family church but then became too busy with school. Who I’d text here and there, and who’d invited me over for a home-cooked dinner a few times. Who despite what could easily have been seen as my flakiness never ever made me feel judged. When I needed community, I reached out again and again she was gracious.

When I went to her church the next day, honestly it was a day of mini miracles not that God’s miracles are ever mini.

But the guest pastor happened to be speaking on inner healing—my current area of study.

And there was a young woman who was attending for the first time who hadn’t stepped foot in church in 8 years even though she used to be a worship leader.

And then over the coffee bar, I started chatting to a girl—who used to go to this church but now goes to another church but went back to this church this morning because she couldn’t make it to her regular church—and we started sharing our testimonies and our inbetween seasons and love lives, and then we had an impromptu 2 hour walk through the park with ice cream, before meeting up with some other church friends with whom we had both deep and funny conversations, and where I found a community of women—who invited me to a new women’s group—three of whom are going through the thing I really wanted community for right now.

I ended up spending 11 hours with this group and hope to keep investing. Because it’s such a gift and I’m so grateful for God encouraging me to reach out to Emily and for God bringing all the other young women there that day too!

You Are You Christian podcast for women by Jenni Lien of The Yay Project

Next steps

Community is essential to our walks with God. We’re not meant to do life alone. And in the in-between seasons where we’re in a new location or new job or are extra busy, it can be tempting to think we can put off being plugged in until later. I hope this episode encourages you to make the effort anyway because even if you don’t feel like you need it now, life happens and when you do it’ll be amazing to be surrounded by people who know and can care for you. But rest assured that when we do need community, God brings it. May we keep praying for our communities—may we have it, love it, build it, treasure it, ask God to do what he wants with it.

I’d love to hear about your community this season. What you’re enjoying, looking for, how you found it offline or online… feel free to DM or email in!

Until next time, friends. Sending lots of love.

You Are You is a podcast for Christian women. Follow along for faith-filled encouragement on emotional health and healing! Let’s celebrate our God-given design, pursue our kingdom calling, and love God 100%


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