As Christians we need real community. So often we think of ourselves as the lone ranger of the Christian faith, out riding on the horizon and staying completely self sufficient. In fact, we live in a world that prides itself on self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, many Christians have brought this dangerous attitude into the church. We show up on Sunday morning and maybe are even involved in the ministries of the church. All the while, we are living isolated and self sufficient from the body of Christ. Do you not think this is you? Here is are a few signs to see if you live as a self-sufficient Christian:
1. You see, talk to, and hang out with other church members only when you are at church.
2. You refuse to get involved in discipleship such as a Sunday School class or a small group.
3. In those classes you remain closed off and private with what's happening in your life.
4. If a church member loves you enough to call you out in your sin, you angrily get rid of that friend and move on from that church.
Here is the dangerous thing I see, particularly in my context, the bible belt. We have so many who think of church as an activity rather than a community. The body of Christ is a living, breathing community made up of those who have been saved by Jesus Christ. So many live their lives as self sufficient Christians ignoring their need for biblical community. As Christians, we desperately need to surround ourselves with other believers who can encourage us, disciple us, and yes, even call us out in our sin. We need to develop deep friendships and relationships like this in our church. Instead, we show up at 11 AM, say hello to the people in the pew behind us, and sneak out before we actually have an opportunity to engage in community.
We forget that church is a gift, given to us by Jesus for our own maturity. This is why Paul tells us that each Christian has been given gifts and abilities to be used in the church for the building up of the church. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:11-16:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)
Does your church look like this? The church is to be the unified community of God's people living life together to encourage and spur each other on towards Christian maturity. God sanctifies his saints not in isolation but in community with other saints. We need each other as we seek to live for Jesus. We need friends to teach us the Word.
We need friends who can pray for us in our struggles.
We need friends who can hold us accountable.
We need friends who can speak the truth to us when we need to hear it.
We need friends that can call us out in our sin and beg for our repentance.
As Christians we absolutely need this kind of community. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian. You need the body of Christ. Therefore, find a church and invest yourself there. Don't just show up on Sunday mornings or just go throughout the motions, but really give yourself to the community of the church. Be vulnerable. Be honest about your shortcomings. Open yourself to friendships and community. Then watch how God matures you and grows you as you are connected to authentic Godly community.