Have you ever wondered why a growing amount of people are experiencing loneliness in our culture? Have you wondered why we can feel so disconnected even when we are surrounded by people and consumed with the busyness of work, family and church commitments?
The Bible talks a lot about healthy, intimate connections and relationships with other Christians, not only for support and encouragement, but as a vital ingredient for lasting change.
Our culture has encouraged us to be individuals and to face things on our own. It is important to take personal responsibility for our actions, but many Christians have taken the mindset of it’s just Jesus and me battling against my sin nature and trying to become more like Christ. When you make the decision to follow Christ, you are never alone again. God designed His system to have community as one of the main ingredients in personal change.
However, getting involved in community is messy, time-consuming and complicated. It seems easier to just work on ourselves privately with God. Change is something God intends his people to experience together. It’s a corporate goal. Each of our individual stories is part of a bigger picture that God is orchestrating. We each have an important role in that story.
I met with a friend today that has been facing some deep rooted issues. He has been making remarkable changes in his life over the past several months. One of the biggest reasons he has been changing so drastically is because he has fully embraced community. He had always been in groups before, but after this last situation he took his lumps and was open about his struggles with those close to him.
He also pursued accountability with some people he was close with. Having that community of people to surround him has helped him to make real “heart changes”. He turned to God and community as a way to start changing.
I know people that profess to be Christians and yet don’t go to Church or meet with other Christians in a small group. They make comments like as long as I have the Lord in my heart I don’t need that community. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:19-22 about us being fellow citizens and members of God’s household. He gives us a picture of a building or temple that has Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets as the foundation. The rest of us make up the remaining building. We are being built together.
Paul continues in chapter three to pray for them as a family, to grow in understanding how much God loves them. As isolated individuals, we cannot reach the level of maturity God has designed for us. This fullness can only happen as we live in a healthy, right, community with one another.
Paul goes on in Chapter four about unity in the body of Christ. We are to be humble, gentle and patient with each other. We are to make every effort to stay in unity with each other. We are to work through conflict, communicate openly, confront lovingly and support each other when there is a need.
So what’s the bottom line? A Christian is not only a child of God, but a member of the family of God. We cannot grow to the fullness God has for us living independently of others. Personal transformation takes place in the context of healthy community.
If you are continuing to struggle with a certain sin or issue, maybe you need to bring more community or accountability into your life. When we get past the fear of what others might think about us and take a risk to be open and honest, real change can happen in your life. god can begin to use you in the bigger story He is writing.