There is a growing fad in modern Christianity that is depreciating the beauty of belonging to a local church. For over two thousand years, becoming a disciple of Christ meant belonging to the timeless, worldwide Church of Jesus Christ and a local body of believers. However, our culture has slowly exchanged intimate belonging for simply attending. We see this in what is expected of a good church these days. In today’s view, a good church will entertain their visitors from the moment they arrive until the moment they are ushered out the door for the next crowd, administer dim-lighted, inspirational songs for the individual worship experience, and seal the entire service in a tight fifty minutes. While some churches are growing in numbers beyond what four services can hold, others seek a different prioritization – healthy community.
“The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around him will create community.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Pastor (Life Together, 1954)
What if the reason we have trouble connecting with other people in our church is because the lights are so dimmed that we can only see the stage? What if the reason megachurches are growing so fast is that people are leaving their home churches to attend these spectacles? Is this spreading the gospel to our communities? What if the reason megachurches even exist is because it encourages attendance without accountability? It truly is a hard work to personally belong to a local church because it requires authenticity, accountability, and genuine community from its members. Belonging to other people is sticky and messy and difficult to navigate and heartbreaking at times and exactly what God intended for His church. Consider the author of Hebrews,
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 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.”Hebrews 10:23-25 [ESV]
Or Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae,
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Colossians 3:12-15 [ESV]
God’s word is encouraging His church to be committed to each other in perfect harmony for the sake of their own endurance in faith. This is the blueprint – for God’s people to be bound together by love in intimate community. My concern comes from experiencing how there can be thousands of people in a room and be drastically isolated from each other. I find it very difficult to imagine a believer to be growing in faith without honest accountability and intimate fellowship with other believers. Being in the same room does not always produce community – at least not since the invention of the iPhone. It is truly the slow-paced, intimate belonging to a local body of believers that cultivates healthy churches, genuine community, and bona fide sanctification. Beloved Church, belong to one another in perfect harmony and endure.
1. Life Together – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
2. Bread & Wine – Josh Garrels (song)