Over the past several decades American churches have been pushing small groups. The stated goal of these groups is to build community. Many books have been written about how to build community through small groups. However, community is the wrong analogy. The Bible does not refer to believers as neighbors in Christ. Instead, the Bible refers to us as brothers and sisters in Christ. Notice the words brother and sister in the following verses.
Philem. 1-2 ¶ Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, ¶ To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your house:
Paul referred to his fellow believers as family, not community. This distinction is important because blood is thicker than water, and family is more important than neighbors. During the holidays we spend time and effort visiting family, not former neighbors. Our culture spends a lot of time and effort celebrating Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, and Sibling Day. We do not spend time and money celebrating Neighbor Day. Our relatives will always be an important part of our lives no matter how far away they live, and how seldom we see them. But if our neighbors move far away, we will eventually lose contact and forget about them.
As Christians we should strive to be more than a community, we should strive to be a family. We should love and protect our brothers and sisters in Christ with the same passion we would use to protect our blood relatives. The bonds we feel with our fellow Christians should equal the permanent bonds we feel with our family, not the temporary bonds we feel with our neighbors.