Biblical Mandate for Community
Members of the church have a biblical mandate to assemble in community with one another. The writer of Hebrews says,
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ” (Heb 10:24–25)
According to Hebrews, church members need to be consistently meeting together, in order to encourage one another, and to stir each other up to love and good works. If this is the case, why do people often not assimilate into communities?
Several problems exist as to why members do not actively participate in the church’s community:
1) Individualism – A lot of church members are individualistic believing they can change by themselves.
2) Compartmentalism – Most people tend to compartmentalize their lives having a church life, work life, and family life. These are all kept separate and one compartment is not to interfere with the other.
3) Busyness – Almost all Americans are busy some families may want to participate, but they are too busy to do so. The “I am too busy” excuse means living in community with other Christians is not important.
4) Consumerism – Most Americans are consumerists they come to church in order to get, but are not willing to give. They are content sitting in the pew week after week because they have been conditioned by society to consume and shop around instead of plugging in and getting involved.
All of these problems tell us many church members do not see the value of living in community with one another or being involved in the church. They do not understand why it is necessary for their Christian growth and their ability to reach the community for Christ.
The Value of Community
Even though many church members do not see the value of living in community with one another, I am convinced community is necessary for growth to occur in our spiritual lives. These communities are much more than fellowship clubs, even though fellowship is important and necessary for the spiritual growth of the community. These groups (read also ministries) are to be Authentic Gospel-Centered Missional Communities, which have a dual purpose of both speaking into the lives of its participants and reaching the community for Christ. As these communities study Scripture together and begin to increase in their affections for their Savior (upreach), they will want to serve others in the group, as well as seek to rid sin out of their own lives, while helping others in the group do the same (inreach). When upreach and inreach are taking place, the desire to take up God’s mission of reaching neighborhoods and the world with the gospel will begin to increase and take shape (outreach).
In order for these communities to grow in their affections for their Savior, the gospel needs to be proclaimed and studied in-depth, understanding its content and how it comes to bear on the individual’s life. When one understands what Christ has done for them and how they fit into God’s plan, their affections for their Savior will grow.
As their affections grow, they will desire to rid their lives of sin, because they realize that their desires do not match Christ’s desires. I focus on desires here because they stem from the heart, which is the real cause of man’s sin. Pumping different information into man’s mind does not necessarily cause change in one’s life. Rather, the desires of man need to be changed. The only way that will occur is through the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. Before one can seek change, they need to first recognize their wrong desires, which happens through the teaching of the Word in their community. Second, false desires are rid from ones life through prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
As man seeks to align himself with Christ’s desires, he will then take up God’s mission, which is to reach the world with the gospel.
Here is where community comes in. In order for men to understand that their desires are different than their Saviors, they need a group of people who are allowed to probe their heart, dig deep, understand their sins, and surface the desires that lie behind those sins. This can only happen if members are committed to regularly attending a group where they allow its members to probe their hearts, challenge them, speak into their lives with the gospel, and pray for them.
I am convinced it is important that we live in community with one another. The Bible, in more than one place, talks about us as a family, and in Hebrews we are commanded to gather together with the purpose of stirring one another up in love and good works. If we do not come together, then we are living as an estranged brothers and sisters, as a dysfunctional family who only sees each other on major holidays. This type of living is one thing the church simply cannot afford. We cannot afford it because authentic community is necessary to reveal our own sinful desires and root those desires out, which happens through Bible study, prayer, and walking alongside one another. If we never get together, these things will not happen. As well as God’s mission will not be advanced through our church, which is to reach the world for Christ. So my challenge to you is to make time for your church family, get off the sidelines and get involved in one another’s lives and God’s mission.
Brian Hedges, Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel For Personal Change, 239-42.