Pastor Franklin* was describing a recent and very frustrating conversation. Patty*, whom he and his wife met at the grocery store, was explaining her prolonged absence from church: “I know you think I need to be in church, pastor, but I worship God best when I’m all by myself. Last time I came to church, you told everyone how important it is to have private devotions. You said it pastor, and I’m doing what you said.” (*not their real names)
To another pastor one young man said, “My wife and I cherish our Sunday mornings; breakfast in bed and reading the paper. I think God is pleased that we’re getting some rest and spending time together!”
Individualism. Self-sufficiency. Arrogance. How can one possibly claim that “private time” replaces corporate worship and the fellowship defined as koinonia?
(Some would claim that these “slackers” aren’t really Christians to begin with. But in both cases the pastors shared convincing accounts of conversion experiences and were able to describe many other lifestyle changes as evidence of salvation at work.)
Following Jesus is not a private spiritual journey lived out independent of the fellowship of believers and the needs of others. A clear distinctive of the life of faith is that Jesus calls us into community with God and one another. No one truly comes to Christ only to be left alone.
The continuing work of redemption, sanctification, and reconciliation takes place in community. God’s presence is made real in Koinonia, through the proclamation of the Word; in worship; as we care for each other; and by serving one another in Christ’s name.
We are “members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:19-22). Christ followers have a deep-seat longing, a yearning of the soul, to belong to the Household of Faith – what the apostle Paul describes as “the Body.”
Scripture, the writings of great men of Faith, and our own experience confirms a deep conviction that God reveals Himself in and through the “Body” as we gather for worship, encouragement, and serving one another. The early Christians knew that “the Most High does not live in houses made by men” (Acts 7:48).
The language used in the Old and New Testaments to describe the presence of God always underscores the community of God’s people. Practicing the presence of God is never a private, solitary experience. Personal devotion is not in isolation from the biblical community. It is no more possible to follow Christ apart from the church than it is to have a shower without getting wet.
How do we teach our people the priority of corporate worship? What can we do to lead them in an understanding that serving one another is a group activity? How are we modeling vibrant Koinonia – the Christ-led fellowship that goes beyond pot-luck dinners and picnics?
Share your responses and check back to join the dialog.
One thought on “Alone?”
It seems from where I stand that our culture is desiring community more than it has in the past couple of decades but there is a huge problem. We humans are great at falling prey to the temptation to sabatoge those dessires that are good for us while getting involved in those which destroy what we desire most. What I have experienced in my life is the desire to escape hurt. That desire drove me to stay away from church or when I did go, to not get envolved to the point I had to get close to people. The fact is we hurt people we shouldn’t but we do. If we will stay together work together and grow together we will find we all hurt each other less and the world will know us by our love. The other problem that I see which may be even bigger is our american run run always going lifestyle. We go so much when sunday comes around we are beat. We do need a rest. The problem is not church the problem is we are addicted to busieness. God convicted me a few years ago about this. He seemed to say if you want to worship me why do you tire yourself out so much you can’t stay awake in worship. If I were to train for a sports event I wouldn’t aproach it as we do sunday morning worship. Our husbands and wives do need to spend time alone. Plan ahead do away with things in the shedule. Let’s go against the culture and have time to truely be with people. Our job in this life is to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. That takes a person who has left the addiction to the busy life behind.