JAMYE DOERFLER | GUEST
On July 1, 2017, our family of five pulled up to our new home in a new city with a 27-foot U-Haul and two cars packed to the max. Within an hour, five adults were helping us unload the truck. Mind you, we’d met most of these people only once before. One man, we’d never even seen in person—we’d only had a single Skype conversation. Yet here they were, near-strangers sweating and struggling to carry our heavy furniture and boxes of books.
The night before, when we’d loaded the truck four hours east, about 15 people had helped—some inside the truck packing it tightly, others carrying the boxes and furniture, and still others cleaning the house. The week prior, women had helped me pack up the kitchen and dining room. Once the kitchen was packed and cooking became difficult, various friends provided dinner for us every night as we visited and said goodbye to those with whom we’d spent the last eleven years.
As I walked through that week, I was struck by God’s wisdom in putting Christians in community with one another.
All of these people who served us in such a tangible way? They were our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We’d spent a decade with some of them; others, we had only just met—but we were already bound by the fellowship of the Church.
Created for Community
I have met Christians for whom church attendance and participation is considered optional. “I can be a Christian but not go to church all the time,” they reason. Or, “I just like to go on Sundays and get in and out,” as though church is like a stop at the dry cleaners.
This isn’t what God intended for Christians. Consider these Scriptures:
- 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.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
- Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
On June 30 and July 1 of 2107, our brothers and sisters were quite literally bearing our burdens.
Does the special bond between believers in a community happen automatically? No.
Might you get hurt along the way? Possibly.
Will it take effort? You bet.
Is it worth it? Definitely.
God made us in His image, and He is all about community. The triune God-head—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—commune with one another. He knows we need fellowship, and in His wisdom, He’s commanded us to be in community.
We need to gather together regularly. We need encouragement, and we need to experience the blessing of encouraging others. We need to have our burdens borne, and we need to feel the joy of bearing another’s. We are more fulfilled when we engage in a healthy Christian community.
Engaging in Community
Plot twist: did I mention that I’m an introvert?
None of this comes particularly easy for me. There are Sundays when fellowshipping after church feels difficult. Despite the delicious food, I don’t look forward to a potluck lunch. Left to my own devices, I’d rarely host people in my home or go back out to Bible study in the evening after working all day.
But I do these things, pushing past the anticipatory hesitation, because I always end up being blessed by those interactions. I learn about people’s backgrounds; I hear what’s happening in their lives; I understand their value as a member of our church and in the eyes of God. And I hope they are blessed by my presence, too. I feel more encouraged and edified than I would have if I’d remained alone, which is my natural inclination.
If you’re existing on the fringes of a Christian community, keeping church relationships at an arm’s length, I leave you with encouragement to get closer. Some thoughts, though:
- Look for a healthy Christian community. Since churches are made of sinful humans, even Christian communities can struggle to be healthy. Look for “good fruit”: people serving one another, focusing conversation on God-honoring topics, and not tearing other people down with their words. (Of course, do these things yourself.)
- Give before you expect to receive. One of the best ways to become part of a community is to volunteer where there are needs. Working alongside someone in the nursery, cleaning up after an event, or helping make repairs for the church or another church member are great ways to get involved and to know people. Tithing faithfully to a church also increases your emotional investment in its work.
- Pray for the Lord to help you connect with people with whom you can foster a mutually encouraging relationship. You can’t be friends with everybody. Investing in one or two relationships is an excellent place to start—and it may even be where you stop, since some of us are made for fewer, deeper relationships.
- Come ready to overlook small offenses and truly forgive others when necessary, just as God has forgiven you.
Having these relationships within the church will be a blessing, because it’s what God intended.
Photo by Andrew Moca on Unsplash