This is Part 1 of a series of posts entitled “Church as Community.” Collectively, these posts will explore the various implications of the biblical truth that the local church is, by definition, a community to which believers belong. You can review the Introduction to the series here.
We’re busy. I get it. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m the chief of sinners in this area. But seriously, it’s ridiculous how much stuff is going on. It doesn’t take rocket surgery to note that we live in a culture that celebrates individualism and hinders true and deep relationships from forming simply because there’s so much happening. So how do we get everything done that needs to get done and still have time to do church well?
I submit that one of the deepest-rooted problems in the Western Church today is that we are trying to do just that. Whether or not we ever admit it, most Christians think of church as one of the things on the calendar. It is something to be done. It’s an item. No, it doesn’t have to be a chore. It can be a joy, but there’s something fundamentally wrong when church is something we do or are even a part of, rather than who we are. Consider Ephesians 2:14-19:
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (ESV)
As future pastors, one of the great challenges we will face is getting people to stop doing church. We will be fighting all the schedules, jobs, activities, and yes, sports allegiances that occupy our people’s time and affections as we try to help them understand that foundational to the Christian life is the Church. This is not because it offers them anything—though it does—nor because it is helpful for their marriage and family—though it is—but because the church was woven into the marrow of our being the moment Christ covered our sin with his blood. In doing so, he brought us into his family and gave us a new identity.
Because community is an identity issue, it’s also a maturity issue. If we find ourselves in love with theology and God’s Word but not in love with the Church—longing to be with her, to serve her, and to build her up—then we are in some sense immature believers. There’s no other way to put it. If we identify ourselves more with our work, our city, our socio-economic status, or our sports team more immediately and more practically than we do the church, we have a maturity problem.
Pastors, when you’re leading your people to grow into maturity, help them ask the identity questions: Who am I? What is the church? How do those things go together?
True community will flow from biblical answers to these questions.