This week we are beginning a look at Christian community and why it is vital to our lives as Believers. We will continue on with several installments in the weeks to come.
We once were a society that centered around family. Multiple generations often lived together under one roof, and when families did live separately they never moved very far. Small town living was real and kids moved in just down the street from the homes they grew up in. In my head I visualize the fictional community of Mayberry, North Carolina, where the 60’s TV show Andy Griffith was set.
Unfortunately, the day and age of Mayberry are gone. These days, we are more of an individualistic culture. We rely on ourselves. We live far away from where we were raised. Our connections with other people take place most often in the workplace, and deep sincere lasting friendships are pushed aside by fickle, and short-lived online connections and social media followers.
In the church, we see this sense of individualism and disconnectedness as well. Many people “date” churches, never staying in one place very long. Whether it’s a commitment issue or something else… who’s to say? Some may claim a “home church” but are rarely seen outside of an occasional Sunday morning worship service when they don’t have something “better” going on. And then there are those who may indeed have a committed relationship with a particular church but they are not “sold out” or all in. They are involved but withholding. They don’t rely on the Body when they are struggling or in need. Instead, they wear masks that cover the pain of their lives, pretending that everything’s okay, even though it’s not. They like the idea of community but maybe not the application so much.
Yet individualism and doing life on our own is not part of God’s design. After all, God is a community in himself. Existing for all of eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have enjoyed the love and fellowship of their perfect triune community. In creating mankind, God desired for us to participate in that community.
In the book “Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy” Paul Tripp says,
We weren’t created to be independent, autonomous, or self-sufficient. We were made to live in a humble, worshipful, and loving dependency upon God and in a loving and humble interdependency with others. Our lives were designed to be community projects. Yet, the foolishness of sin tells us that we have all that we need within ourselves. So we settle for relationships that never go beneath the casual. We defend ourselves when the people around us point out a weakness or a wrong. We hold our struggles within, not taking advantage of the resources God has given us.
But God didn’t create man to be in community with him alone. After he created the world and Adam, God created human community or personal human relationships. In Genesis 2:18 God said,
It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.
God created man and woman to be in community together, to create families and live together, bearing the image of and reflecting the three-in-one God. Scripture is all about community. God chose the Israelites to be his people. We see that in Leviticus 26:12,
And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.
They lived and worshipped him together in community. Following the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, God then instituted the church, the Body of Christ as a community of believers.
1 Corinthians 12:27 says,
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
The biblical ideal of community challenges us to commit ourselves to life together as the people of God. Christian community is the place of our continuing conversion. Its goal is that, individually and together, we should become mature, able to stand tall and straight, embodying the very “fullness of Christ” talked about in Ephesians 4:11-16,
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
We know all too well that maturity takes time. We know less well that it also takes our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a process that is revealed throughout the language of the New Testament. We see this process described in the “each other” language… Love one another, forgive each other, regard each other more highly than yourselves, teach and correct each other, encourage each other, pray for each other, and bear each other’s burdens, be friends with one another, be kind to each other, compassionate, and generous in hospitality, serve one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Get the idea? This list just scratches the surface, but it is enough to remind us that we need a faith community in our lives.
To disconnect oneself from faith community is like a leaf believing it would thrive better off the branch that is rooted to the earth were it ultimately draws sustenance from.
What does your faith community look like? Next week we will continue our series on “community” by looking at some specific aspects and advantages to living in a healthy faith community.