The Most Important Thing Happening on the Planet
Probably no one would disagree that the worst thing happening on planet Earth right now is the pandemic. But what’s the best thing, the greatest thing, the most important thing? What would you say? Let me lead you a little. As a Christian, what would you say? The answer is always Jesus, right? Well basically, yes! Specifically I would say the answer is his Church.
More practically the answer is the local church – that group of Christians whom God has brought together at a certain place and season for his purposes. We call ours Bethel Church. Or go ahead and use Bethelonians if you prefer.
Within this community of the local church, God has also graced us with the experience of Christian community. It’s both a group of people and also a Christ-formed and Christ-centered shared experience among that group. Acts 2:42 refers to it as “fellowship.” The Greek word for fellowship (koinōnía) carries the meaning of partaking; a sharing together in common. And what is shared is the basis of the fellowship.
So above all else, what unites us as Christians is that we have fellowship in Christ (1 John 1:3). We don’t create Christian community; Christ does. But we get to experience it by and through his Spirit as we actively participate in it as the people of God. This is the heart of Bethel’s core value of Community – to actively share together in this common life in Christ.
We were created for this community. There are endless reasons and results and any of them will make the case for why the local church is the most important thing happening in our world today. But as you consider the following key reasons, ask yourself whether or not you’re currently sharing in these life-giving results of Christian community.
1. Community Grows Us
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 4:15-16)
We’ve heard that it takes a village to raise a child. Scripture tells us that it takes a church to grow a Christian. The local church is where we are equipped to grow in individual and corporate maturity and unity (Eph. 4:11-16).
Christian community is where we’re taught God’s Word and how to study it. It’s where we learn the theological truths about God and humanity and his interaction with us. It’s where we learn the doctrines of the faith. It’s where we learn how to apply biblical truth to our lives.
It’s also where we can then experience putting these truths into practice. We’ve even been given gifts from the Holy Spirit specifically for use in this community so we can help each other grow and glorify God together (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, 1 Peter 4).
There are 59 “one another” commands in the New Testament. The thing about those is that you always need “another” before you can live those out. As we seek God’s strength and help each other actually obey commands such as “pray for one another”, “forgive one another”, “bear one another’s burdens”, God indeed provides His transforming power to work in and through us, to shape us more and more into the image of his Son and to grow us in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.
We need Christian community in order to grow up in Christ.
2. Community Propels Us
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)
Christian community allows us to give our everyday lives to something greater than ourselves. Indeed, it propels us outward from our self-focused shallowness and individualism toward a new identity together as God’s people.
This side of heaven our sinful nature still remains. So we’ll be constantly battling self-centeredness as long as we are on this earth. We need the community of believers to teach and remind and model for us how to put Jesus first by putting others first. We need encouragement and accountability to trade superficial relationships for deeper ones, to trade pride for humility and personal benefit for sacrifice.
It might be running an errand for a neighbor in the church, or partnering with others in local outreach, or walking through a deep valley for an extended season with a fellow small group member. In small and big ways we are given the privilege and responsibility of learning how to give of ourselves for the glory of God; to lose our lives in order to discover how to truly live.
Not only does this make much of God within the Church but it also shines the light of His power and presence into a dark and twisted world (Phil. 2:15) so that they may believe (John 17:23; 2 Cor. 5:17-21).
The only place on the planet where this can happen is within Christian community.
3. Community Protects Us
In my last blog post I included several quotes from the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The following is one of them, but it’s just too appropriate not to share again:
God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.
And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community.
This is where I think the Church is most beautiful. Within Christian community, brothers and sisters in Christ bring the message of salvation to one another, over and over, again and again. Why is this a big deal? Because we continually need to be reminded to believe God’s truth.
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb. 3:12-13)
Sin deceives us. It lies to us. Over and over, again and again. We so often believe the lies, trust the lies, and desire the lies. We turn away from the living God – from the One who is the way, the truth and the life – and our hearts harden. We are prone to wander and we desperately need to be protected from straying from the God we love.
So out of sheer grace God provides us with fellow Christians, who know us and love us and want to see Christ formed in us, to turn us back toward himself. And when our fellow brother or sister needs help to trust the truths of God instead of what sin is offering, God gives us the privilege of walking with them and guiding them back to Christ.
In Christian community we form deep relationships with each other. We love one another. We speak truth to one another. We make it as difficult as possible for each other, at any given moment, to trust in anything other than God. We keep one another from idolatry (Exodus 20:3).
Only Christian community offers the protection we need.
So Group Up!
In order for us to give and receive the growth, outward propulsion and the protection that exists in community, our relationships with one another must be specific and personal. That is, we need to be involved in numbers small enough for everyone to directly participate. This has been the practice of the church since its beginning – meeting in both large and small groups (Acts 2:46, 5:42).
This is why our desire at Bethel is for you to participate in a small group. Not mainly because it’s fun to make new friends and feel like you belong here (although it is, and you do). Not mainly because you can learn more about God as you study his Word together (although you can). But mainly because groups are one of the best ways to intentionally make Christian community real in our lives.
Christian community is found only in the Church, and the Church is a big deal! It’s the greatest and most important thing happening on the planet and is worth your investment of time and effort.
How are you actively ministering at Bethel? Are you involved in true community? What next step would God have you take to participate, or to participate more fully? If joining or leading a small group might be your next step, complete this form and someone from our Small Groups team will contact you to answer any questions and help you find or form a group.
Father, we thank you for your Church. There is no community on earth like it! May we not take it for granted, because your son Jesus gave his life to create it. Thank you especially for this local group of believers called Bethel Church, whom you have given us the privilege and responsibility to be a part of. May we devote ourselves to wholehearted and selfless participation in it, so we can experience the real Christian community for which you’ve created us. For our unity, maturity, and witness, and all for your glory!