If Christianity is a personal relationship with God, then why must it involve other people? Why is it important to be part of a church community? In this continuation of our Back to Basics series, we give tips on how to share foundational truths about the church.
We hear this a lot, “Christianity is about having a personal relationship with God.” Because of this, some people may find it hard to see the need to be in a church community. You might say, “After all, if it’s a personal relationship with God, then everything is just between God and me.” What has other people got to do about this personal relationship? A lot, apparently.
In Matthew 22, the religious leaders of Israel sought to trap Jesus Christ with questions that they could use against him. One of them asked, “What is the first and greatest commandment?” To which he replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
Jesus seems to be implying in the passage that loving others is just as important as loving God with everything you have. This is not to say that we are to love God and others equally, but that we are to value our relationship with God and with others equally. You see, when you love God above all, it also means you learn to love those He loves—other people who can sometimes be unlovable because just like you are, they are imperfect.
This is why church community is not optional. God designed each of us to be connected to Him and to others. Most of His commands in the Bible revolve around promoting and protecting healthy relationships with one another, and they cannot be exercised apart from being in community. The primary reason God hates sin is because sin leads to separation from Him and to the breaking of trust and of relationship with one another.
So how do we encourage others to see the beauty of being in church community?
How many of us have met our long time friends in the church?
We may have heard the saying, “We don’t believe in disposable relationships” in the church—and many of us have seen that to be true.
For most of our lives, we were thrown together with other people because of circumstances. We become friends with them because they were our neighbors, family friends, classmates, or athletic teammates, etc. In a new environment where everyone is a stranger, we look for those we can bond with, play fun games with, survive the rigors of school work with, or chill after training with. It’s a bond formed over a mutual need.
In church community, however, we experience building relationships not because of mutual need, but because someone intentionally started the friendship, compelled by the love of Christ, in order for others to experience the same unconditional love. These are people we share life with, celebrate milestones with, and struggle through tough times with. True friends push us closer to God, and they are never afraid to speak into and point out areas in our lives that need to be submitted to God.
This is the kind of friendship we offer and show to those we lead to Christ—a friendship rooted not out of a mutual need, but out of an experience and understanding of the compelling and unconditional love of Christ.
Pastor Jon Naron, one of our pastors, said that “Our level of community with God enables us to open up our lives to also have a deeper community with people.”
We need to have fellowship with God first, which will then translate to fellowship with others who follow Him. If we hide things from God, then we will also try to hide things from others. If our relationship with God is one of trust, then we will also trust others with our life “because we know that God is sovereign and He’s the one working out things in our life.”
Fellowship is not just about eating together or hanging out in one place, it is about intentionally building and nurturing relationships with others, worshipping God together, and remembering His greatness and His goodness in our lives together.
When we are part of a family, we have the rights and privileges of being a child of our parents. At the same time, we are concerned about the things that concern our parents as well. And we do our part as a family member to take care of the things we consider our own. We do not need to be paid to do so, because we know we are coheirs to what our parents own.
The Bible says in Romans 8 that through Jesus Christ, God has adopted us as His children and that we are now coheirs with Christ. We now have the privilege to relate with God as a Father and enjoy unhindered communion with Him. It also means that we become concerned with the things that concern our Father—the lives of other people who have yet to experience and understand the gospel.
The great thing about this is that we don’t need to do it alone. We have brothers and sisters in Christ that we run this race with. Oh how fulfilling it is to show God’s love to those in need along with others who experienced His love as well! The experience of sitting on one side of the campus and preaching the gospel together to other students is unforgettable. Learning together how to read and apply God’s word, praying and believing together with others in the small group, and even going on church planting and missions trips together expand our perspective of God and His kingdom work. When we bring along the person we are helping to follow Christ in doing kingdom work, we are allowing them to see the fullness of being part of a spiritual family.
The church is God’s tangible expression of love to the rest of the world. We are called to be His hands and feet to the poor, the needy, the broken, and the rejected, so that when they encounter the gospel through us, they can be reconciled to God and find healing and wholeness in Him. When we understand what church community truly means, we would not want anyone to miss out on experiencing its fullness.
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