Safety in Numbers

Do you like scary or suspenseful movies? I do… but my wife just can’t watch them. I always try to convince her to watch them by telling her why they aren’t scary and how you can predict everything that is going to happen from the start. How predictable are they? A group of young adults venture off into the woods… maybe they find a cabin? They begin to do their own things… breaking off in groups, making poor decisions, etc. Then like clockwork one ventures off alone because they have to go to the restroom or they heard a mysterious noise and BLAM they are got.

Like in a scary movie there are times when being alone is dangerous. We as human beings are the most vulnerable physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually when we are isolated and alone. Statistics back this up! Most people who are victims of a violent attack or encounter were singled out because they were vulnerable and alone.

You are most vulnerable when you are alone.

I chuckle every time I think back to a story a friend of mine told me about when he first moved out of his parents house and into his own home. He was excited to be out on his own and to begin to set up the place where he would start his family. Shortly after moving in by himself he had a scary moment where he began to choke on a piece of food that he had scarfed down. The panic truly began to set in when he started struggling to breathe and then realized where he was… in his own house… all alone! What a way to go! He ran around the home desperately trying to cough up the food and finally had to resort to hurling himself down on a kitchen chair in a makeshift Heimlich maneuver to dislodge the food from his throat.

As funny as that situation is now, it definitely wasn’t then and it could’ve been even more serious if he had lost consciousness.

How much easier would that whole situation have been if there had been someone else there to help my friend? A person he could trust to take care of him in times of weakness or distress. Not only were we as humans, and Christians, created to be in community but we also need community. There is safety in numbers.

This week we continue our discussion on the importance of developing and maintaining a faith community to be part of and invested in.

I like to hike, and a few of the places I enjoy hiking have the potential of putting you in the same area of a bear or two. I never worry about it too much because I have a partner, my wife, that I typically hike with. When we are together we make more noise and allow more time for a bear to avoid being startled by us… therefore making us safer together.

Though there aren’t bears out there in everyday life, there are other things that pull at us and seek to destroy us physically, spiritually, and emotionally. False theology abounds at every turn. Satan and his legions try to distract us with temptations. Our own sin leads us astray. We need Godly brothers and sisters to watch our back. Like a “band of brothers” that collide in a war zone and are tasked with completing a mission and keeping each other alive, we too need to be connected in community where we can all be on alert together for the dangers that are all around us. Now we know we are never entirely “safe” form sin… but safety does come with accountability to another. Safety is greater in numbers.

The truth is, we need each other. We need to trust, rely on, and depend upon other believers. God gave us each other to walk alongside, encourage, and spur one another one in the faith. The writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 10:24-25,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

James 5:16 says,

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

So… despite the fact that running into a bear could be a possibility I hike anyways. I am safer with my wife by my side… watching my back while I watch hers. The same can be said about Christians as well, we are safer together in the community of the Body of Christ than we are out there trying to “hike” on our own. Though society might tell us that we can do life on our own, God’s word tells us that we simply can’t function without each other (just read 1 Corinthians 12). We need each other and we need community!

Don’t allow yourself to be the soldier lost behind enemy lines all alone!

Instead live out Galatians 6:2 where it says,

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Join a community that fights for each other, protects each other, and takes care of each other. Romans 12:13 says,

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Hebrews 13:16 says,

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Like a battle buddy or hiking partner your community can warn you of dangers ahead… or even better, of dangers within. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 says,

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

Are you safe? Could you be safer? If you aren’t currently in community with other Believers then you definitely aren’t as safe as you could be. Don’t open yourself up to attacks from the evil one; instead surround yourself with soldiers fighting for the same army as you!

There is safety in numbers.

The Importance of a Faith Community

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.