Community

God’s church has many responsibilities – preaching and teaching, ministry, prayer, mercy, outreach, fellowship, and so on. But none of these are what the church _is_. The church is not a school, not a charity, not a prayer group. The church _is_ a community.

2 Timothy 2:14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, (NAS)

The next few verses in this passage are well known statements about the sufficiency and inspiration of scripture. Paul writes this in an epistle that is primarily about encouraging Timothy to be bold in the faith. Paul says hey, you’re going to struggle, you’ll be persecuted, and you’ll be opposed by many false teachers. But you’ve shared my faith, my struggles, my perseverance. The false teachers are going to get worse, but you continue in the things you have learned.

Paul here gives Timothy two “anchors” for his faith. Two things to remember when you start to doubt. One of the anchors is the inerrant, verbally inspired Word of God. Paul enumerates four functions of the Bible and asserts its divine origin.

But the Word is not the first anchor Paul gives Timothy. The first anchor is “Remember who you learned your faith from.” Remember what sort of people they were. Remember their behavior. Remember how they lived out their faith. Remember those who went long before you. Remember those who are around you now.

The Bible is the source of authority. The lives of other believers is the laboratory. That’s where we see the truths of the Bible “field tested”. Yes, memorize Scripture, by all means. But also, remember _people_. Remember lives. Remember who taught you what you know, and remember that their lives prove they weren’t lying.

We have a responsibility to look at the lives of others to see what Christianity should look like. And we have a responsibility to model the faith for each other.

Our responsibilities don’t end there, though.

Hebrews 10:24-25 is the primary passage used to encourage Christians to attend church regularly.

Hebrews 10
24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

I think it’s instructive that preaching and teaching are not mentioned here. Encouragement, accountability, community – those are the things that the church gives you that you can’t get elsewhere. I can buy commentaries and theological books. Church is for things you can’t get from books alone.

Don’t misunderstand – preaching and teaching and prayer and all those things are absolutely essential. I teach a theology class; if anyone is going to believe in the value of teaching, it’s me. But even my theology class is not the end-all and be-all of the church. Church is a community.

My wife ran into a woman we used to be good friends with but haven’t seen in a couple of years. And shame on us for neglecting them. In the past several months, the life of this family has really gone south. The church we all went to had split, and although we plugged into another community of faith, they didn’t. One of the things this lady told my wife was, “It just felt like there was nobody there for us” during the tough times they’ve had.

When my wife told me about this, it felt like someone had punched me. I felt awful. I let those people down. I had and have a responsibility to them, and I failed them. “Someone” _should_ have been there for them. “Someone” should have been _me_.

I used to think of my Christian life as pretty much a silo. Christianity is an individual relationship, just me and God, right/ Well, sort of. But not really. More recently, I’ve come to recognize my connection to the rest of the church. I have a responsibility to them, and they to me.

I am part of a community that has been around for 2,000 years (or more, depending on your ecclesiology). I am not walking this path alone. Other, better saints have gone before me and blazed this trail. Others are coming behind me, and I must do what I can to smooth their path. And others are walking with me. I should draw encouragement and inspiration from them, and give it to them.

Just some stuff that’s been on my heart recently.

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One Response to Community

  1. Patrick says:

    I really was interested in your commentary here. It’s been a rough year for me, and there are many times that I wish that more people had read this… it’s often hard to remember that the people next to you in the church often really need someone. I’ve forgotten that myself at times. I pray that I don’t in the future.

    So often, church to me has been the place I go to sing in the choir. Around Christmas and Easter it can become that place I go to pick up a paycheck for special musical presentations. And when life went south for me this year, there were times that I wanted to quit going to church because it became that place I went where I was going to have people asking me to do more for them, give them more money, add a little bit to my musical agenda, or give up a weekend to do some service project.

    Again, I don’t mind these things, but I’ve really needed support again and again this year, and have been discouraged when it wasn’t forthcoming. I think that some of the people in the choir have realized that and been trying more, and I never really gave up, but I am trying to learn from others mistakes, and my own… I have to remember that the church is a community for support as much as anything else. And I need to remember that I have to be willing to give that support to individuals, not just to the institution. Good thoughts Robert.

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