Imagine a person walking around on all four limbs and licking scraps off of the floor that fall from the table. We would have to conclude that something is definitely wrong. By definition, a human is a two-legged creature who walks upright, using their hands to feed themselves.
Much the same is true of believers who say things like, “I believe in Jesus. I’m saved. So, I don’t need to go to church.” In a very real sense, this statement is true. Going to church is not a qualification for salvation. But, a believer who chooses to do life on his or her own is acting contrary to the definition of what it means to be a believer.
Consider 1 Corinthians 12:12-13,
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
According to this verse, there is a mystical union that each believer has with Jesus Christ and with every other believer. This mystical union is some kind of deep spiritual connection. The best way the NT expresses this is through familial terms like “brother, sister, mother, father.” So, by definition, believers are already part of a community whether one lives like it or not.
In addition to definition, there are many practical advantages to doing life together intimately with others. One of these is spiritual growth. If solo, one is not given opportunity to practice in an ongoing deep way all the one another passages throughout the NT. All of these are the result of loving one another in a deep way. Consider the following one another commands:
- serve one another
- forebear with one another
- forgive one another
- confess your sins to one another
- encourage one another
- admonish one another
- bear one another’s burdens
Practicing these requires continuous deep relationships with other believers. A believer who shies away from deep relationships will never have the opportunity to practice these through sacrifice, frustration and dependence on God and, consequently, will never develop the way God intends for believers to develop. They may have much Bible knowledge and be able to comprehend deep truths, but they will not know how to love others in a deep way!
As Paul goes on to explain in 1 Corinthians 12, each believer is given at least one spiritual gift that is to be used in the context of building community. As the believers use their gifts in the context of community, the entire Body grows. This is Paul’s argument in Ephesians 4:11-16. It’s very unlikely that a solo believer will discover his or her gift. Even if it is discovered, there is no place to employ that gift. In addition, a solo believer will never experience the benefit of receiving from others who are using their gifts. Both of these result in a huge lack of growth.
Other advantages of community include:
- resource pooling to accomplish tasks much larger than an individual can do,
- sense of belonging to something larger than yourself,
- accountability and support in living life in a challenging world.
Just as a human can choose to walk on all fours and lick table scraps from the floor, so too a believer can choose to live a solo life outside of the church. But, both are contrary to the definition of what it means to be human and what it means to be a believer. Healthy Christian development can ONLY occur when a believer lives life in the context of other believers who are developing deep personal loving relationships.
For more information on living in community, see Gary DeLashmutt’s book, Loving God’s Way.