In a week, we will be having our annual, week-long prayer and fasting as a church community. If you’ve been part of the church for a while, this week of fasting is usually marked with the setting of faith goals, which is the phrase we use for things we believe God for this new year.
You may have a prayer partner or even a small group of people to believe and pray with you during the week. But if you think the role of the church community in seeing you through your faith goals stops there, think again! Here are three reasons why the church community has a bigger part to play in your faith goals.
There’s something about witnessing God’s work in each other’s lives that not only strengthens our faith, but expands our vision beyond our own selves. In Hebrews 10:24–25, the author encourages us to “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” and to “encourage one another constantly.”
When we share faith goals with the people God calls us to walk with, it spares us from having “tunnel vision” and allows us to see beyond ourselves to what God is doing in other people’s lives. The more we listen to, pray for, and believe with others, the more miracles we get to witness, which, in turn, boosts our own faith. The more we pray and listen to God about others, the less self-absorbed we become.
This is not to say that we should pray less for our own needs and faith goals. But even our own faith, needs, and desires are transformed when we see what other people are going through.
At the end of the day, God is most concerned about what is going on in our hearts and being in community reveals the status of our hearts like nothing else can.
Have you ever experienced a year when none of your faith goals came to pass? The past year was like that for me.
If not for church community—for friends I trust—who listened to me, prayed with me, and processed me through my doubts and disappointments, my faith would have taken a beating.
If not for people who reminded me of God’s faithfulness and love for me and of His sovereignty and eternal purpose, I would have been afraid to believe again this year.
Let us be reminded that when the writer of Hebrews exhorts us in Hebrews 12:1–2 to endure the race and to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, he wasn’t talking to us as individuals, but as the church, whom he encouraged in chapter 10 to not give up meeting together and encouraging one another.
It’s hard to fix your eyes on Jesus by yourself. Sometimes, someone has to turn your head, look you in the eye, and point you in the right direction so that you can keep your eyes on Christ. There is no shame in needing that kind of help, because we were designed to journey through life together.
The Gospel of Mark tells of a paralyzed man whose four friends went the extra mile of carrying him up to the roof of the house where Jesus was and digging a hole through it so they could bring him before Jesus to be healed, because they could not get to Him through the crowd (Mark 2:1–5). It’s interesting to see that, in verse 5, Jesus responded to the faith of the four friends by forgiving the paralytic and healing him. It was the prayer of the paralytic’s friends that Jesus answered, not the paralytic’s.
There will be countless times in our faith walk when we struggle with doubt, even to the point of hopelessness. At these times, we will need someone to believe for us. Yes, even if you have been a Christian for a while or are already a leader, these moments will come. And there’s nothing like a few trusted friends who will take time to listen, pray, encourage, and believe when we no longer can, to fan the flame of faith in us once again.
As leaders, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of church community in our spiritual growth. When we share our faith goals with our mentors, our peers, and those we lead, and pray for each other at the beginning of the year, it sparks so much hope in us.
But when we see each other’s faith goals through the entire year, we are transformed by each other’s faith so that we grow and expand together to light up a world darkened by hopelessness and despair.