I remember the first time someone asked me, “So what has God been teaching you lately?” I was a freshman in college, and was stunned by this guy’s brazenness in asking me such a personal question! What I didn’t understand then was that Christianity is personal, but not private. You could say . . . it’s a community affair. As Pastor Sinclair Ferguson points out,* Jesus Christ wants to create “a people,” not merely isolated individuals:
[Jesus Christ] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:14, emphasis added).
This morning as I was reading Tim Chester and Steve Timmis’ book Total Church, I ran across this shocking (but biblical) statement about what happens when we become a Christian:
By becoming a Christian, I belong to God and I belong to my brothers and sisters. It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a local church.
This lines up with Romans 12:5:
in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
I wouldn’t be surprised if that doesn’t sit well with everyone. Unlike much of the world, our individualistic western culture teaches us to explore who we are and to create our identity—not in community—but on our own. In fact, I observed this mindset in myself just this week.
I was sitting on the bleachers at a women’s softball game, and I asked my friend to describe herself in five words (Yes, for those of you who don’t know me, this is typical bleacher conversation for Paula. Horrifying, isn’t it?). Anyway, my friend answered with, “Wife, mother . . .”
“Oh, no,” I interrupted. “Not how you relate to others—I want to know who you are!”
Nothing wrong with my question . . . it just shows a mindset that values self over community.
How about you? How do you define yourself? How are you currently living as a person-in-community? What steps can you take today to live in community with the members of your local church?
*Grow In Grace (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1989), p. 67.