American Christians have been conditioned by our cultural surroundings in many ways, and none is more prominent than our shift from communal thinking to individual thinking. We love inspirational and motivational content that revolves around me, myself, and I. That’s why we sell so many books about how I can be successful, how I can get rich, and how I can be a better master of my own universe.
The Bible, on the other hand, speaks far more of we than of I. Two thousand years ago, Jesus gathered some ordinary misfits into a little community called the church. He trained them as his disciples, died for their sins, rose again and breathed life into them by sending his Holy Spirit. He commissioned them to go forth into every nation and share the gospel.
We usually interpret that commission individualistically. That’s why we have so many books and courses on how I can witness and share my faith. We think of evangelism as an individual enterprise and the church as merely an afterthought.
I even see a bothersome trend in church planting that encourages planters to hold off on planting a church and just “plant the gospel” and hope a church forms. So planters, without the benefit of a gathering community called the church, are winging it individually and getting discouraged after a year of waiting for fruit.
Bad News for Lone Rangers
The fact is, while God indeed chooses, uses, and blesses people in the fruitful telling of the gospel of Jesus, he does so when those individuals are in healthy community. There is no place in the body of Christ for an unattached part, or in the family of God for an estranged sibling.
Are there exceptions? Only in that God give some an apostolic, pioneering gift mix and sends them into the completely uncharted waters of the mission field, but historically these individuals have usually had a supportive church back home rooting and praying for them from a distance.
I think people want to hear about how significant their individual contributions to the world can be, but God calls us to carry out his assignments in groups, in communities called churches. In other words, YOU can make a difference in the world as WE make a difference in the world TOGETHER.
If you’re still waiting to become the rockstar at the top of your evangelical bubble, there are two things you need to know.
- You can’t do this by yourself.
- You shouldn’t do this for yourself.
It’s never been about you, or about me. It’s about him using us together to reach as many of them as we can before he comes back.
Good News for Eager Believers
This isn’t so much a word of correction as it is a word of encouragement. Have you ever felt helpless as to what to do for a hurting friend? What to say to a lost soul? How to serve an unfortunate person you meet? Here’s a plan: bring them to the community! The whole family can help!
We often miss out on the beauty of the church because we see the church as a place to show up, or an event to attend, or an institution that needs our allegiance and our money. But what if we really valued the church as a community of people on mission together to tell the good news of the cross and resurrection of Christ to the rest of the world?
On a practical level, this sometimes means inviting someone to the weekend worship gathering to observe what your faith is all about. When they do come, they see a body of people, witnessing together to the truth about God in Christ.
It may mean involving them in a small group in a home or a coffee shop. And when that happens, you’ll be involving them in an extension of the life of the local body of believers to which you belong.
It could even mean asking them to serve, in the trenches, alongside you and your church as you serve the community. There is a kinship found when we meet the needs of others together, and people who don’t yet know Jesus need to see our love-in-action.
You don’t have to do this alone. And you shouldn’t try. The church, with all of its faults and imperfections, is God’s chosen institution for telling the redemptive story of Jesus and drawing people into life in his Kingdom. We get to do this together, and we’re always better together!