My name is Cynthia Culver and I serve on the Community Team here at Watermark. I love the question "what difference does it make if I am in community, really?" because sometimes community can feel perfunctory (I think that is the correct usage)—meaning to perform a function without any good reason or meaning. Well, I decided to look it up just to be sure, and the first synonyms were "unthinking, automatic, and mechanical." So back to the point—perfunctory.
Community should be anything but unthinking or mechanical. The Lord intended for community to be a part of HIS healing process. James 5:16 says "confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed." Now that particular verse is sandwiched in-between this amazing text about prayer and its power, so we don't want to lose the point there.
On that note, let me detour just for a moment. That passage actually says that Elijah is a man just like you and me! He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and guess what? It DID NOT RAIN for three-and-a-half years! WHOA! And he prayed again. This time it says that, "the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops."
So the point is, we—or better said,YOU—like Elijah, have the power to impact people and events here on this earth. God, for whatever reason, has written you and me into the fabric of each others' healing and growth. He says to confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. I know this is true because the Scriptures tell me, but I also know this is true because it wasn't until I got into community over 10 years ago that the chains of slavery began to fall off. I had been walking with the Lord closely for about eight years, but the addiction to a focus on food and body image didn't loosen its hold on me until...do you want to guess? Yes, until I got into community.
For years I remember asking the Lord to heal me and free me. I would say, "Lord I know you can, I just don't know why you aren't." Come to find out, He didn't intend for me to find freedom from slavery ON MY OWN! He wanted me to begin to share my life and struggles with others. As I began to share my thoughts and behaviors, the Lord used His people to be His hands and feet. For the first time, I felt more fully loved because I felt more fully known. In that process the Lord used His Spirit, His Word, and these women to bring freedom and transformation that I couldn't find on my own.
So, to my question: What difference does it really make if you are in community? It depends on what you want out of life. If you want to live your life by the motto "that's none of anyone's business" and end up as a slave to your pet sins (food obsession, pornography, your appearance, or finding security in changing your marital status), then you can feel free to stay put if you aren't sharing your life with others. But if you want to begin to enjoy the fresh air and satisfaction of a life that is experiencing God's presence more fully because you aren't a slave to your desires, then knowing and being known by people really does make a difference.