Dustin Willis’ Life in Community is a book that explores what true Biblical community should look like in the church. The book is organized into three sections: forming community, values within community, and next steps for strong community. The first section is perhaps the best one, as it covers the need for, barriers to and benefits of living in community with others. I loved this quotable from chapter three: “Since there is only one God, there is only one people of God.” I also loved this one from the same chapter: “The gospel is the driving force to our transformation, and community is the context where the greatest growth and revolution takes place.”
The second section (The Values for Living in Community) covers topics such as authenticity, confronting sin, grace and forgiveness, encouragement, and bringing your best to the table. All of these chapters are good and helpful, although the tone changes quite a bit in the chapter about calling each other out on sin – which, due to the more stern and almost condescending tone, was my least favorite chapter of the book (It’s actually titled “Hate can be a good thing”). My two favorite chapters in this section were the “Glue to the Good” and “Love, Like and Honor” chapters (chapters 7-8). I loved these quotables from chapter 7:
“Biblical encouragement uses your words to point out examples of God’s goodness in another person’s life”
“It’s amazing what can happen if you take your eyes off yourself and all that is broken in life and attempt to be a source of encouragement to others. Not only does God use this to bring affirmation to someone else’s life, but it brings joy to yours as well.”
And this one from chapter 8:
“As we reset our minds to see one another through a lens of mercy, forgiveness will become a part of the community we are building. The Scriptures are rich with the thread of the mercy that leads us to a place of deep forgiveness.”
The final section of the book is actually just one chapter with the theme of being captivated, motivated and driven by God’s grace. The author lays out a very practical step-by-step process for implementing the ideas from the book. He talks about belonging being the opposite of loneliness. It’s a wonderful ending to the book.
At the end of each chapter, the author provides four or five “Getting Practical” questions that would be helpful in a small group setting or maybe even for personal reflection.
Now for my thoughts. There were parts of this book that I loved (chapter 7 & 8 and the final chapter). There were parts of this book that I didn’t love – or even really like. The foreword by David Platt was, by far, my very favorite part of the book. While there are ideas within the book that are good, there aren’t many that are new. If you’ve not ever read a book on this topic before, this would be a great one to start with. However, if you (like me) have read many, this book is really just a rehashing of the same things as before. I will say, though, that the chapter about Gluing to the Good (chapter 7) was entirely new to me and a wonderful read. Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone new to the topic or experience of biblical community.