The Joy & Challenge of Community
"Let's go to church!" When we say something like that, we usually mean that we are going to a church building for a worship service. However, the "church" is not a building; and it is not only a worship service. Jesus Christ’s church is a living, vibrant expression of Jesus Christ that the Bible calls the "body" of Christ.
(see Colossians 1:18, 24; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27). So, if we are called to spiritual growth by our Master (and we are!), it is impossible to grow in Christ apart from connection to the body of Christ, the church.
A key element of growing to maturity in Christ, then, is how we relate to one another in the body of Christ. It is just here that we have to rethink what we mean when we say, "Let’s go to church." When we attend the worship service, there is little opportunity to relate to one another. This is by design, for in a worship service, the primary purpose is for the body of Christ together to direct our attention Godward by singing, praying, and preaching the Word of God. It is therefore good and right to mean going to the worship service when we say, "Let’s go to church." BUT it cannot mean ONLY that! We also must think about "going to church" as attendance at other venues where the body of Christ relates to one another more intimately.
It is clear—we cannot obey the commands of the New Testament, if we think that "Let’s go to church," means ONLY attending the worship services. Consider the following "one anothers" of the Bible.
The intimacy that we are called to live out means:
#1 Loving One Another
17 times in these verses
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
John 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection.
1 Thessalonians 3:12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,
1 Peter 4:8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1 John 4:11-12 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
2 John 1:5 And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.
#2 KISSING ONE ANOTHER
4 times in these verses
"Kissing one another" means the friendliness of greeting to people that we have come to know well.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
1 Corinthians 16:20 All the brothers send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Peter 5:14 Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
#3 TEACHING, ENCOURAGING, AND EXHORTING ONE ANOTHER
9 times in these verses
Romans 15:14 I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
Ephesians 5:19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Hebrews 10:24-25 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.
#4 FELLOWSHIP, WELCOME, AND COMFORT ONE ANOTHER
5 times in these verses
Romans 15:7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
1 Peter 4:9-10 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:
1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
#5 HARMONY, SERVING, SUBMISSION, AND HUMILITY WITH ONE ANOTHER
10 times in these verses
John 13:14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Romans 15:5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 5:21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ
1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
#6 CONFESSING SINS AND BEARING BURDENS ONE WITH ANOTHER
4 times in these verses
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
None of these "one anothers" can happen in a worship service with the intensity and consistency demanded by the teaching of the New Testament. So, we must expand our definition of what it means to "go to church." Included in any New Testament definition of "going to church," is going to groups of a size where these "one anothers" can be exercised intensely, regularly, and joyfully. This is why we have small groups and our Adult Bible Fellowships. And really, you need both of those experiences to gain the full extent of what it means to "go to church." This is because the ABF (Adult Bible Fellowship) offers the kind of fellowship that brings enhanced body life community, while the small group offers the kind of fellowship that brings the intimacy of body life to the believer.
Each believer needs to overcome several hurdles to have this kind of growth in the Christian life. It takes some resolve to overcome these hurdles to growth to maturity in Christ.
This is why we have small groups and our Adult Bible Fellowships. And really, you need both of those experiences to gain the full extent of what it means to "go to church."
HURDLES TO COMMUNITY:
#1 "I don’t have enough time."
What you are really saying is, "I don’t have enough time to grow like the New Testament wants me to grow as a Christian." Do you really want to say that? I didn’t think so!
#2 "What do I do with my children?"
This is easy to answer for the ABFs. We have children’s ministry at the 9:00 am hour for your younger children (nursery through 6th grade). At the 10:30 am hour, things vary by season. For the coming summer months, we would like children from kindergarten on up to join us for "big church" worship. There is so much blessing from this (I will devote another Oak Leaf article to that topic sometime), and please believe me, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having children in our worship service. Rid yourself of the notion that children are a distraction. They are important to our worship, and our worship is important to them. As for small groups, the small groups themselves figure out how best to do child care for each group, and each group has its own way of sorting this out. Please do not let that be a hindrance to the enjoyment of real fellowship.
3) "I am not an extravert."
That is precisely why you need the closeness of smaller groups. In larger groups the number of voices and input is actually smaller than in a small group. Your voice and your life is important to the body of Christ.
4) "I don’t know how to sign up for ABFs or small groups."
Please contact our church office ( ), and we can get you connected.
5) "I don’t know very many people in our church."
This is another reason why you should join an ABF and a small group, not a reason why you should not. Of course, it is important that those who are in ABFs and small groups be very welcoming. So, a word to those who ARE involved—expect company and welcome warmly!! We need the body of Christ to grow in this dimension.
6) "I have been hurt by people in the past and I am anxious about being hurt again."
I understand this concern and by no means want to diminish it. However, please know that by cutting yourself off from vulnerability, you also cut yourself off from experiencing all that the New Testament promises about the joys of fellowship. Essentially, you are allowing those people who hurt you in the past to keep on hurting you. How long will you allow that to continue?
The next time you hear someone say, "Let’s go to church," I hope that you will remember this article. "Going to church" can mean attending an ABF or going to a home for small group just as much as attending the worship service. All three, worship service, ABF, and small group, are vital pathways to maturity in Christ here at East White Oak, and I urge your participation in all three.
Yours for growth to maturity in Christ,