The discussion of Authentic Community begins in Genesis 1, where we read that God created. Specifically, God created plants, fish and animals all "according to their kind," and then finally, God created the first human, Adam. From God’s perspective everything was very good, except for one thing: it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone.
But how was that possible?
Remember, Adam was a perfect being, living in a perfect place, communing intimately with the Creator Himself, yet in spite of that God said, "This is not good."
The answer to that is discovered in the nature of the One who created Adam, as we read, in His image. We discover in the Scriptures that God is Triune in nature and therefore exists eternally within Authentic Community.
As one writer puts it, "it’s in the Trinity where we find our model for goodness. It’s in the Trinity where we find: Equality with Submission; Unity with Diversity; and Love, Intimacy, Trust, Respect, and Communication." In other words, it’s in the Trinity where we most clearly see Authentic Community.
Adam then, created in the image of a Triune God, was created to exist in community, both with God and with others who were created according to Adam’s kind. But there was not yet one created according to Adam’s kind, and to paraphrase God, "That was not good."
So God created a being of equality for Adam in the form of Eve. But sometime after their union, Adam and Eve sinned, and community with God and each other, and also with the beasts, fish and garden, is broken. Think about it: in the immediate aftermath of their sin, Adam and Eve broke communion with God by hiding from Him, broke communion with each other by blaming one another, broke communion with the beasts (an animal was killed to cover their nakedness), and finally, broke communion with the plants by getting kicked out of the garden and having to work the ground, which was now producing weeds and thistles. As well, as one scholar suggests, Adam and Eve broke communion with themselves with the effects of that being felt through the ages as men and women continue to strive to achieve some sort of internal peace and harmony.
Is there a solution?
For that we must jump ahead a few millennia.
Jesus finally arrived and he did two things: firstly, through His work on the cross and victory over death, He ushered in a ministry that provided reconciliation for man and God. But it’s through the work of Jesus that reconciliation for mankind with one another is also possible. The Apostle Paul writes that it was God’s purpose, through Jesus, to create one new man out of two, "thus making peace."
But it doesn’t end there.
In the aftermath of Jesus’ victory and ascension, God chose to use the church to spread the Gospel, and early on in the book of Acts it was in the Authentic Community of the church where people saw God. It wasn't in clever outreach programs, TV promos or bus stop ads, but simply in God revealing Himself in the Authentic Community of the church.
Because God exists in community, the church most looks like God when it, too, exists in Authentic Community.
When followers of Jesus, who have tasted and discovered the reality of walking in communion and peace with God, begin living that out with each other, people can’t help but be attracted to that. The result? The church will grow.
The importance of Authentic Community in the church can’t be overstated. Jesus said to those who followed Him, "The world will know you are my disciples by your love for one another." Jesus also said, "If you are presenting your gift at the altar and remember there that your brother has something against you, go and reconcile and then come and present your gift." That is why dealing with sin and disunity is so essential in the church. If not dealt with, the church won’t grow, but worse than that, it ceases to be the church.
Authentic Community is essential because we have a relationship with One who exists in Authentic Community and He has chosen, in His sovereignty, to spread the Gospel through Authentic Communities. Living in disharmony with each other and with God is not an option if the church is going to continue to be the church.