Even in secular life, people form groups to share common interests. We have book clubs, civic groups, sports leagues, business organizations, and farming co-ops. We like to share time with others who have the same hobbies, values, or goals. We learn from one another, and can accomplish more with combined efforts and resources than we can as separate individuals. Why wouldn’t the same hold true in the most important activity of our lives: growing in relationship with God, and working to advance His kingdom?
It’s true that our relationship with Jesus is personal, between us and Him. It can’t be inherited from parents, passed down to children, or traded with friends. However, it is not meant to stay only personal. Jesus established His church, His ekklēsia 1, as His means of spreading the gospel. Not only each individual, but also the church as a whole, is His representative to the world. Each Christian is given a unique role within the church, contributing their part to its mission.
What is “the church”?
The Bible uses several metaphors to make these points. The church is described as:
- The body of Christ, with Jesus as the head, and each individual Christian as one cell of that body:
- “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5, see also 1 Corinthians 12:12-21, Ephesians 4:4-6, 11-16, Colossians 1:17-18).
- A building, with Christ as the foundation cornerstone:
- “…you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:4-5, see also Ephesians 2:18-22).
- A family, with fellow believers being referred to as “brothers” and “sisters”:
- “Paul, a prisoner 2 of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker, and to Apphia our sister” (Philemon 1:1-2, 15-16, 20, see also 1 Timothy 5:1-2, 1 Corinthians 1:10, 2 Corinthians 13:11).
Each of these ways of expressing the same thought teaches that, for all of its faults 3, the corporate entity of “the church” is important to God. It is His primary way of channeling His love, and the good news of Jesus as the ultimate expression of that love, to the entire world.
Alone is Unhealthy
A Christian who tries to go it alone is doing a disservice both to themselves and to God’s kingdom: “And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” (1 Corinthians 12:21)
The disservice to themselves is the isolation from a rich support system. A lone Christian meeting God in the woods does not have the benefit of others who have learned their own unique lessons during their own meetings with God. One may be a mature Christian who has learned faith and wisdom through their life experiences; another may be a very new Christian in the exciting freshness of just starting to discover God’s goodness. One may be gifted at understanding and sharing truths from the Bible; another’s gift may be of gentleness, mercy, and the ability to share calm during life’s storms. All can support with prayer, love, and tangible ways to meet needs. But the lone Christian in the woods misses out on all of those blessings.
The disservice to God’s work is the absence of the loner’s specific gifts from the group’s repertoire. The body is missing that Christian’s unique cell, and that is a loss to the entire body. Whatever that one person could have contributed – the gifts of their individual talent, experience, and personality that God intends to be of benefit to the whole – are simply not there. That empty space can be deafening! What exciting synergy might happen if the loner were to connect with his or her Christian brothers and sisters? No one can know, if God’s intended person is missing from their place in the family.
Unity in Diversity
God’s goal for the church is unity: all believers in harmony with God and with one another, channeling God’s love to the world and advancing His kingdom together: “that they may be one as We are one” (Jesus speaking to the Father in John 17:22-23, see also Matthew 18:20, Acts 2:44-47). Each contributes something special toward their common purpose: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). For that to happen, Christians need to be together: “not forsaking our own assembling together…but encouraging one another” (Hebrews 10:23-25, see also Colossians 3:14-16).
Special times alone with God are very precious. But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just those times. Time spent sharing life with our fellow believers is also precious. The two relationships intertwine to become something holy.
Join the Party!
So, find your place in a local congregation. Look for one that teaches the Bible accurately, that preaches Jesus as Savior, and that encourages your relationship with God. Put your gifts to use: join a class or other small group 4, attend worship services, participate in the music 5, contribute your time and talents to the ministries 6. Be a healthy cell, a sturdy building block, and an active family member. That will result in blessings all around.
See you in church!
Footnotes and Scripture References
- a “called out” group of people united for a common purpose
- Paul was in prison for preaching the Gospel.
- There’s no denying that faults exist. That’s not really surprising, considering that the church is made up of sinners (although redeemed sinners who have trusted Jesus for healing). Church members aren’t identifiable by their perfection, but by their shared dependence on Jesus in spite of their imperfection.
- Direct interaction with a few close people has benefits that can’t happen by simply sitting in a crowd.
- …even if just as an enthusiastic listener. I’m not musical, but I can let music help me focus on God.
- That doesn’t have to mean preaching sermons or singing solos or giving a lot of money. Caring for the children, sweeping and dusting, or simply listening when someone needs a shoulder are all valuable contributions.