You can have a relationship with Christ without the baggage of Christian community (i.e., church). You just won’t go very deep in Him without it.
Last post, Kari Scare said in the comments section: “It seems like we [Christians] feel like we can act independently as we become more seasoned, which just isn’t true.”
Best-selling author Debbie MacComber in God’s Guest List wrote, “There’s a trend these days to knock organized religion in favor of individual spirituality. I believe that’s a big mistake. If you get into the Bible, you’ll see that much of it is about relationships. We grow when we bump up against people, when people challenge us, and when we are held accountable. If we want to open the door to our ultimate guest, we have to know that He usually comes with a whole entourage. And while some of His people will become our heroes, others may be prickly or poor and needy.”
Why can’t a person go deep in Christ without getting all caught up in Christian community?
First of all, you and I were designed for authentic relationship with God and with others. According to Scripture, love for God is deeply intertwined with love for others. You can’t separate them without destroying faith’s essence and vitality.
The Apostle John wrote, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (I John 4:20-21 NIV)
Second, to “love God” without a connection to His community is like reading a cookbook without ever cooking. You never make the mistake of burning the dinner rolls but no one sits down to a home-cooked meal either.
How in the world can you practice the one anothers without a community?
The one anothers?
Love one another.
Be devoted to one another.
Honor one another.
Live in harmony with another.
Stop passing judgment on one another.
Accept one another.
Greet one another.
Agree with one another.
Encourage one another.
Forgive one another.
Admonish one another.
Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Do not slander one another.
Don’t grumble against one another.
Love one another deeply.
From Jesus to John to Peter to James to Paul, we are encouraged to walk with God in faith and to live with one another in love.
Community in Christ is this simple.
Anything short of that is playing at the shallow end of the spirituality pool.
I’m curious about your thoughts. Why are you involved in Christian community? If not involved, what are your reasons? Whether involved or not, your comments will help generate healthy discussion.
“More than Words” by Jon Stolpe at Jon Stolpe Stretched (in recent memory, the best article I’ve read about living out our faith in Christ)
“Flipping Out” by Barry Hill at The Ordained Barista (excellent post on attention-getting gimmicks vs. Jesus’ simple but thought-provoking words)
“Hide and Seek” by Margaret Manning at Slice of Infinity (good piece on church as community)
“Buyer Beware” by Seth Godin (short article on the importance of building trust)
Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes
Two men. Two eternal destinies.
One common hope.
What people are saying:
Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius.–Linda Rondeau, Author of The Other Side of Darkness
Masterfully written!–B. C. Jones
My final verdict…I loved it! –Chris Patton, Christian Business Owner, Christian Faith at Work blog
My novel can be found at:
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Wow, Tom. I’m not sure what to say. Thanks for the glowing recommendation.
To your question. I’m involved with Christian community for several reasons:
1) The Bible models this type of community – see Acts 2 as one example.
2) I’m incomplete without the body of Christ.
3) I believe I have something to add to the community as part of the body of Christ.
4) There is power in the Christian community to change the world.
All of your points are important ones, but I especially want to emphasize #2 and #3. Not only are we incomplete without being part of the body of Christ, but the body of Christ is incomplete without each one of us. Powerful stuff!
Jon, your article was so practical and simple to apply. Not that simple equals easy.
First, thanks for the mention in the post. Second, your statement “You can have a relationship with Christ without the baggage of Christian community (i.e., church). You just won’t go very deep in Him without it.” cuts to the heart of the matter right away. So many people seem to settle. They settle in their relationship with each other. They settle in how they feel about themselves. And, worst of all, they settle in their relationship with Christ. He did not mean for us to settle in this life. After all, He came that we might have life to the full, right? So why aren’t we? I think we take the easy way out. Relationships, especially deep and meaningful ones, are a lot of hard work. We have so much else vying for our attention. As you already know, this topic is on my heart considerably these days. Great take on it! Going to print this one for use in the class I’m teaching.
“Settle” is an excellent word to use. Part of the settlement involves our disappointment in ourselves and others. We don’t, as Christian community, live up to the promise or expectation found in Jesus Christ. We’re disappointed in the results and we settle for something short of what Scripture suggests about community as found in passages like John 15 or I Corinthians 12.
I’m always curious as to hear how your class goes this Fall.
We settle, I think, because we focus on what we can see with our physical eyes instead of focusing with our spiritual eyes. When we focus on the spiritual, the eternal, we strive for so much more than we can see.
Regarding my class, i’ts going very well. Talked about labor last Sunday and what God’s view is of it versus the world’s view. We talked about how our work affects the rest of our lives and how God expects us to not settle for the world’s view but to strive for what He intended for our work to be. We ended with a personal challenge to line up our work lives and selves with what God desires. This Sunday, we are talking about integrity and the role the Christian community plays in us developing & maintaining that integrity.
I’m still pondering through the thought of why we settle. I know focus, eternal vs. temporal, plays a significant role, but I also think it’s more than that. Lazy? Ignorant? Perhaps. But at the heart of it all is the fear Adam and Eve expressed when they hid from God. They feared being found and therefore found out.
Hard to believe you’ve started with your class, especially on a holiday weekend. Hope you all learn lots and pass on your learning. Thanks for the update.
Lazy? Yes. Ignorance? Yes. Pride? Yep. Fear? That too. So much goes into play with why we settle. It all boils down to settling being ultimately the easiest road to take. Sure is much easier than dealing with our fear, our motivation, or knowledge, our focus, etc. Jesus will force us to deal with all of those things. His ministry on earth sure proves that out. Takes a lifetime of pursuing holiness to truly not settle. Not settling has to be a lifestyle approach.
Debated on whether or not to hold the class on a holiday weekend, but we actually had a really good turnout. I figure I am going to forge ahead and honor the faithful. (Not that others aren’t faithful because they weren’t there, but I want to honor those who are able to be there.)