Whatever Happened to Community?

These are strange times. The world has convinced us that we can do fine on our own. In fact, it preaches independence as a virtue. As believers in Christ, we acknowledge our dependency to some degree because we recognize we are hopelessly lost in our sin and must depend on Jesus to save us. But we frequently fail to recognize how much we need other Christians as well.

Scripture never makes that mistake. In fact, many notable passages clearly inform us of our need for others. Take, for example, the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40). Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all is that we are to love God, but the second greatest is like the first in that we are to love others.

Think that through. Closely following your need for God is your need for other believers. Not understanding this profound connection between the vertical and the horizontal weakens the fabric of our faith.

Epidemic of Aloneness

Failure to understand our need for community shows that we’ve been more influenced by our culture than we may realize. For example, our high-tech environment reinforces isolation by enabling us to replace face-to-face human contact with e-mailing, texting, telecommuting, telebanking, shopping online, spending more time on social media than with friends in person, and even watching worship services online instead of attending them. Because of the pervasive influence of social media and other forms of technology, for the first time in history personal interaction with others can become practically unnecessary.

Many people drive alone to places of employment, work on their own projects, drive back home, sit on the couch eating dinner, and spend the night watching TV alone. Church is no different for some. They may drive to church alone, fail to interact with others in the congregation, listen to the sermon, and then drive home alone or with just their family. And that’s the extent of their “church life” until the next weekend. They don’t reach out to, relate to, or do life together with others.

Unbiblical and Illogical

Why do we need to live in a close relationship of friendship and ministry with other believers? Why is doing life together necessary?

God does not want us to try to live as Christians apart from intimate and dynamic community with other believers. I could list many reasons why, but I’ll mention three here.

1. God gives believers spiritual gifts at salvation.

These gifts are special God-given abilities to serve him with effectiveness. When combined in a church, these gifted people express the life of Christ to one another and the world. We need each other. I need those with the gifts of administration, mercy, and giving to complete my life. We are all needy, and God meets those needs through the community of believers. Have you ever considered that your church may actually need your gifts?

2. The world can see the power of God at work through Christians loving and caring for each other (John 13:34-35).

When we relate to other believers, we show what it means to be his disciples in a way that we cannot do alone. Indeed, expressing the life of Christ to one another forms relationships unlike those found any place else in society. If we disregard our calling of “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:25), then we miss one of our greatest opportunities to show Christ’s love to the world.

3. No matter how strong we are, we cannot bear our burdens alone.

We will seek support and encouragement somewhere. Who better to help us carry our burdens than other believers who can express the love of God (Gal. 6:2)? My wife, Marcia, and I faced an incredibly difficult time several years ago due to her rare disease. (You can read the story.) Christian friends brought food to us, prayed with us, encouraged us, and cut vacations short to help us get home in the midst of a crisis. So many other shared our burdens.

This response reminded me of the paralytic whose four friends so wanted to help him that they climbed upon the roof, pulled back the roofing material, and used ropes to lower their friend to Jesus because they couldn’t push through the crowd. We all need help with our burdens from time to time, and a Christian community is the best place to find it.

If you’re trying to live the Christian life apart from a community of believers, I challenge you to find a local church where you not only can be fed and encouraged, but also can serve others. Great friendships are formed as Christians toil side-by-side for the kingdom. If you’re already connected to community, notice people who might not be so blessed with that experience. Look for ways to make them feel included, supported, and encouraged.

Solo Christianity is unbiblical and illogical. Community Christianity is biblical and powerful.

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