Franklin* waved to me when he walked in the door of the restaurant where I was eating by myself. He sat down and talked as if we were long-lost buddies. Actually, I hardly knew him and struggled to recall his last name. I’d seen him in church a few times and vaguely remember a short conversation we once had. He said, “I know you think I need to be in church, pastor, but I enjoy most Sunday mornings out hunting in the timber. I think that’s worship when I can just breathe in the wonder of God’s creation. Don’t you think that’s just as good as being in church?” (*not his real name)
I said, “I think it’s great to enjoy God’s creative work, but that’s not a substitute for being part of a household of faith. It’s not an “either/or” choice but a “both/and.” We cannot ignore the need for personal time with God or enjoying His creation but we also can’t afford to miss the community of fellow Christ-followers and the challenge of corporate worship!
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).
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.