The cost of lack of Christian Community

What your lack of Christian community is costing your family and your faith….and how you can fix it

My parents live in a small town in the Karroo, and if you’ve ever met them you will know what pretty much all the people in that town knows: My parents are awesome. And certainly, I’d always assumed that small town life has certain, albeit clichéd, characteristics that we always think would not be part of city life. No lack of community there! You know, people dropping in, knowing your neighbours and going the extra mile for one another. When my dad fell in during the pandemic I saw community in action, from referrals to in home care givers, to virtually daily meal drop offs that meant my mom and I did not cook the entire 2 weeks I was there. Even the pharmacist and Doctor made housecalls. Afterhours! It was like being in a TV series from the 70s.

I left thinking it must have something to do with where they live. And what they are like as people. I mean who wouldn’t seek out opportunities to serve and love people who are so easy to adore? But the pandemic proved me wrong again because in a series of unfortunate events for our family that started in June all the way through to December, there was a steady stream of people, prayer and food going in and out of our house. At the height of our struggles the people showing up here unannounced far outnumbered people sending “let me know if you need anything” messages. My kids stood astounded time and time again, and they saw the truth of John 13 v 35 in action:

“By this all will know that you are My disciples – if you have love for one another.”

And this is what I realised about Christian community:

What is Community about?
The truth about Christian Community.

But as we live more and more insular lives (thanks Pandemic) and focus more and more on individualistic motivations (thanks American Christianity. No offense), I have seen Christians neglect community and I have seen the cost of that – for them and for their kids. As much as life in community has so many benefits – many of which are obvious to those who are watching our lives – so the drawbacks of more and more Christians neglecting community have also become more and more pronounced.

What our lack of community is costing us:

  • It’s costing us our fervor. Paul tells us that we need one another so we don’t lag in our enthusiasm for the things of God and the people of God (Rom 12 v 9-10). We need others to keep our faith glowing and growing. But just like an ember burns lower and lower over time when it’s outside of the fire, so our faith, without the fire of connection to the body of Christ, starts to diminish, until soon lives of faith are so lukewarm they are indistinguishable from those around us.
  • It’s costing us connection. Many people, like us, live far from family, and when community is not cultivated intentionally, there is no one to bear our burdens along with us when we suffer loss or trauma, or even just when our geyser bursts or our kids are sick.There is no one to celebrate with us when things go well either. Shared experiences foster deeper connection.
  • It’s costing us our growth. Lack of fellowship is a prime growth inhibitor for Christians because when we take ourselves out of community we inhibit the influence of other believers that are called to be instruments of grace in our lives (Heb 3 v 13), and us in theirs. Our faith stagnates as unproductive behaviors go unchecked and every area of our lives is impacted, the most important 2 being our marriages and our parenting.
  • It’s costing us our credibility. No amount of Sunday church or worship music or Christian books will testify as loudly to our kids about what it means to be a believer as life in community with other believers. Our disconnected way of life preaches a louder sermon to our kids of how to do life, declaring how much we value our own time, our own freedom and our own wisdom and our own plans over the call of Christ in our lives, the call to discipleship,  community, to service and sacrifice, to accountability and confession, and commitment to the truth. And it turns us into hypocrites. The first ones to notice will be our kids.
  • It’s costing us our commission, the one we were all called to – to go and make disciples. When we do not see Christian community the way God sees it, we start to see church as optional and certainly church membership as completely superfluous. And in our church skipping, church hopping and church shopping we go being part of a family to being part of an audience. We’ve gone from asking how we can serve to demanding to be served. We have gone from asking how we can be equipped for this great work to how we can be entertained so we can leave feeling great. And the work of God falls by the wayside, in our families, communities, cities and countries.
  • It’s costing us our back up – something every parent will find they need. Removing outside Christian influences from the social fabric of our kids’ lives means when the time comes for guidance, when their ears are longs since deaf to your sermons – and believe me this time does come- there is no alternative trusted grown up voice that you or your child knows and trusts well enough to speak life into the dead and dark areas of your children’s lives that you have been shut out of.
  • It’s costing us our faith. The Apostle John speaks of this cross formed fellowship of us to God and us to one another when he says “but if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1 v 7). Blood is a cleansing agent, and when one member is cut off from the body is no longer experiences that cleansing flow. A fellowship that is both vertical (with God) and horizontal (with other believers) is critical for the sustaining of our faith, especially in the world and the culture we live in.

A life that lacks community is costly to our families and our faith.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should ONLY have Christian friends. No ways. But God’s wish is that we should prioritise it over other social relationships:

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal 6 v 10

He also designed it so that our fellowship would extend beyond just getting together in Church on a Sunday and sharing a cappuccino afterwards. The Greek word used in scripture, Koinonia, is not simply limited to doing church together (Acts 2 v 42), but also sharing in all other aspects of life together (Phil 3 v 10) (2 Cor 9 v 13). This is the kind of fellowship that impacts our kids, our communities, our cities, our world. It did back then. It can today.

God’s wish for us is that  the gospel would have both a vertical and horizontal impact in our life and that our community with Him and with others would be fruitful. Thát is cross formed community.

If Christian community is lacking in your life, the solution is easy:

Ask yourself why:

It could be church hurt/ disappointment because of previous experiences/ distrust of people

A misalignment between what God prioritises and your own priorities

Lack of diligence and/ or devotion to the things of God over time

It could be any number of things, but all of them likely require you to ask the hard questions, repent and recommit your heart to live out what you say you believe.

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Ask God who:

Ask the Lord who you can invite or connect with. Make it a matter of prayer.

Ask yourself when:

Community takes time and effort let’s be honest. But what it will cost you in time and effort is nothing compared to the fruit it will bring about in your life and that of your kids. Everyone is busy, but the fact is that we exercise a lot of choice over our schedules even if we pretend we don’t. We make time for what we want to make time for. When our hearts are aligned to God our priorities will be more and more aligned to his. His heart is that we prioritize “one another” – a phrase occurring 56 times in the New Testament.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).

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