Lately, time has not allowed me to write on my blog. This morning, I decided to post on something very simple: The importance of church community. Almost every believer knows what I am about to write, but many do not take it to heart. The reasons for this could be many: Not talked about much among believers. Taken for granted. Hearts tune out when pastors teach on it because it is often thought as a gimmick to get people to attend church. We have become so individualistic in our faith that we have forgotten or ignored the beauty of the church community and consequentially disobeyed God’s commands. If we embrace the truth of church community we know it will require us to implicate ourselves in His church. Thus, our lives will be driven by a purpose outside of ourselves. We would have to live as though we are not in control of our own lives. Or maybe better said, we would have to wake up to the reality that we have never had control over our own lives in the first place, but God does.
There could be more reasons than this, but I will stop there. But, why am I wanting to write on this??? Simple. I believe God has a mission and vision for His church and I believe Scripture is VERY clear about what this is. I believe there are numerous Christians who have made sincere commitments to Christ but are trying to live their lives in Christ isolated from His church. I would argue from Scripture that for 99.99% of believers this is impossible. Unless one finds themselves in a prison for their faith, or in a similar situation, alone without a community of faith, there is no reason for them not to be implicated in a local Bible believing church.
I know and have spoken to numerous people who claim faith in Christ, yet have nothing or very little to do with His church. What is amazing is that almost all of them share some very common characteristics: Bitterness against God for something that occurred in their life. Bitterness against another believer for something they did to them. A bad church experience. These kinds of people often have issues with unforgiveness, fear, depression, pride, and idolatry. While all believers struggle with these things. I find those that isolate themselves from the church are those that constantly live in these vices and are controlled by them. Usually I find the isolated are even prideful enough to say that their circumstance justifies their withdrawal from the church because they see their situation as something no one else could understand. I find that a very unloving way to live. It ignores the pains and struggles of other believers and thinks of themselves as more important than them. This kind of living will never fulfill God’s purpose, and never provide lasting joy. It will also lead to bitterness which blinds people from seeing God (Hebrews 12:14-15).
Is it possible to have a bad church experience or have another believer do something bad to you. Of course. And I believe almost every single believer has walked though these things. We are sinners. The right question to ask is: how should we respond to the hurts, pains, and struggles? What does Scripture say? Because, as followers of the One true God, we are not to be governed by our circumstances but by what God has told us in His word. To elevate our bad circumstances over God`s eternal, perfect, and sovereign word exposes what the real problem is: our sinful and prideful heart that closes itself to the will of God revealed in His word and opts to follow the evil inclinations of our sinful nature.
What does His word say? How does it call us to live? It calls us to live in covenant together under the Lordship of Christ. It calls us to make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them. It calls us to do this as a church. As a community of faith. As a body. Isolation is never the call or the will of God. While there are times of retreat and solitude, they are never to be permanent or long. Those are short periods of rest so that we can re-engage in God’s church. Scripture calls us to live out the gospel with “one another.” It calls us to live by faith in God’s commands. Below is our church’s covenant. It is not perfect. But, it is taken straight from Scripture. Notice all the references to “one another” and then ask yourself a very serious question: Can this be done alone? The answer is obvious. No.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we covenant to:
• Live for Jesus Christ and take His commandments and His commission seriously. (Mk 12:30-1; 16:15; Lk 24:47; Mt 28:19; Acts 1:8)
• Be family; to be committed to each other; to love, accept, and forgive each other.Help one another grow toward Christian maturity by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), encouraging one another (1 Th 4:18; Heb 10:25), exhorting one another (Heb 3:13), praying for one another, confessing our sins to one another (Jm 5:16), speaking the truth in love to one another (Eph 4:15), admonishing one another (Col 3:16), building up one another (1 Th 5:11), teaching one another (Col 3:16), comforting one another (1 Cor 13:11), submitting to one another (Eph 5:21), serving one another (Mt 20:27-8), patiently bearing one another (Eph 4:2), regarding one another as more important than ourselves (Rom 12:10), caring for one another (1 Pt 4:10), exercising our spiritual gifts to serve one another (1 Pt 4:10), being kind and tenderhearted to one another (Eph 4:32), forgiving one another (Eph 4:32), loving one another (Jn 13:34-35), and teaching our children to do the same (Prov. 22:6). Inviting one another to pray for us, teach us, correct us, or rebuke us, if necessary, in a spirit of gentleness and humility, should we stray from our Lord’s commands, because the thing we desire most in life is to glorify God and serve Christ. We voluntarily submit ourselves to one another and to the discipline of the Church.
• Love, honor, and esteem the pastor/elder(s) and to pray for him/them. (Gal 6:6; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17)
• Support the Church in prayer, talents, tithes, offerings, and with other financial support and time as the Lord enables. (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:6-7; Gal 6:6; Jm 5:16; 1 Pt 4:10)
• Live the Christian life in the world so as to bring glory to our Father in Heaven and to be responsible to make disciples, not abdicating our responsibility to anybody else in the Church. (Mt 28:19-20; 1 Pt 2:12)
• To walk carefully in the world, being honest in the sight of all men, faithful in engagements, exemplary in conduct, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts.
• To purpose that when we remove ourselves from this church, we will unite with another evangelical Christian church of like faith as soon as possible.
Why do we have a church covenant like this? Because it is impossible to live faithfully the Christian life alone. It is not a gimmick to get you in church. It is a call to obey the word of our holy God who commands us to lay down out pride, excuses, bitterness, and sinful justifications and to implicate ourselves in His mission, His vision, and His gospel so that other people around this globe can hear about our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a call to pray together, serve together, love together, witness together, share together, fellowship together, forgive together, worship together, weep together, celebrate together, which requires us to be together. It is a call to give away our time, money, and energy for the spreading and proclamation of the gospel. It is a call to covenant together to give our selves away for the kingdom of God. It is a call to get off our couches, turn off our TVs, streamline our lives so that it is about one thing: Glorifying Jesus! Do you want to know the answer to depression, bitterness, pride, fear, unforgiveness, isolation, and hard hearts? This is it! The path to lasting joy is denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Christ (Luke 9:23). Isolation is not the cross Jesus has called you to bear. It is the crutch that you are leaning on that you need to repent of and throw away. For your joy and God’s glory!!!