Christianity Is Not Something You Do by Yourself
In our Community Bible Study, we have been studying the book of Acts, and a consistent theme we encounter again and again is the practice of the early Christians of living in community with one another.
They understood that Christianity isn’t something you do by yourself. It’s something you do in the context of loving community with fellow believers.
For example, at the end of Acts 14, we see that Paul and Barnabas didn’t just share the gospel in a city, see people come to know Jesus, and then tell them, “Alright guys, you’re on your own from here. Good luck living the Christian life.” No, they made sure that the believers were organized into groups, called “churches,” so that each individual could have the support of a group as they tried to live for Jesus. Spreading the gospel and starting churches go hand-in-hand in the book of Acts.
Hebrews 3:12-13 gives a sober warning to Christians who were in danger of giving up: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another [or encourage one another] every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” In other words, being a Christian can be difficult sometimes, and one of the things that helps us remain faithful is the community of believers exhorting us and encouraging us.
It’s a whole lot easier to live for Jesus when you’re not trying to do it alone.
I remember watching a documentary on solitary confinement in the prison system. And, after watching that documentary, solitary confinement is something I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Even if you don’t have any training in psychology, you can probably imagine how solitary confinement for a prolonged period of time can really mess people up in the head. Psychologists tell us that prolonged solitary confinement can cause things like hallucinations and panic attacks and paranoia as well as difficulties with thinking, concentration, and memory. Basically, it’s not a good idea.
And it’s also not a good idea for our spiritual lives. God didn’t design us to live the Christian life alone. He designed us live in community with other Christians and have meaningful relationships with them so that we can build each other up.
You may be aware that, according to the Bible in 1 Corinthians 12, every Christian has a spiritual gift—an ability given to us by the Holy Spirit to minister to other believers in particular way. It could be serving or teaching or a number of other things. And the beauty of it is that no one Christian has all of the spiritual gifts. There’s a sense in which each of us is incomplete by ourselves…and that’s by design so that we would need each other to complete us.
I can’t tell you how indebted I am to godly men who taught me God’s Word and steered me in the right direction. And if you’re not involved in a healthy church, you don’t have that benefit. You don’t have anyone looking after your spiritual welfare—protecting you from what’s spiritually dangerous and encouraging you in healthy beliefs and behaviors. And if you’re not involved in a healthy church, you also don’t have the benefit of a loving church family walking with you through the difficult times of life, encouraging you when you get discouraged, holding you accountable when you begin to turn in an unhealthy direction, and praying on a consistent basis for your spiritual welfare.
That’s what church is about. It’s not just about attending an event. It’s about joining a community of people—a community of people who love each other and have committed themselves to ministering to each other’s needs, just as the Bible instructs us to do.