Autonomy. Independence. Division. Complacency. Apathy. Indifference. Unfortunately, these are words with which we are all too familiar in the life of local congregations, which is strange, considering we are called to be a people after God’s own heart; a people firmly devoted to the Lord and living as examples of the power and presence of God in our world. Remember, we are the people of whom Scripture says,
By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. —John 13:35 NIV1984
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. —John 15:12–13 NIV1984
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. —Ephesians 4:1–3 NIV1984
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. —Philippians 1:27; 2:5 NIV1984
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sings. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. —1 John 4:7–12 NIV1984
Very practically, every follower of Jesus Christ should daily ask themselves this question: “Am I lifting up Jesus in my daily conduct—internally and externally—so that the Lord and my world know that I am a faithful, devoted disciple of Christ?” Have you ever thought about your witness to the Lord? In looking at your life on a daily basis, how does God know that you truly love him? And how does your world—both those in the body of Christ and those who do not yet know Jesus as their Savior—know that you are a faithful, devoted disciple of Jesus? Remember, there is nothing that happens to us in life that gives us a right to be ungodly. Living as a community of faith begins with our personal response to the Lord—our commitment to the faithful pursuit of holiness and unity in every area of life. And when we come together and live that life corporately we find that Jesus draws people into a fellowship that will faithfully lead new believers, and each other, into the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13).
It is within the context of community that we, as followers of Jesus Christ, experience the fullness of Christ (Eph 4: 11–13). In community we know and are known. Scripture affirms numerous times that we need each other in order to know ourselves fully or to know God as fully as we can.
Yes, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: We need each other.
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. —John 17: 22–23 NIV1984
Now you [all] are the body of Christ, and each one of you is part of it. —1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV1984
…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ…speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. —Ephesians 4:13, 15–16 NIV1984
The Church of God reformation movement has throughout its history proclaimed the doctrines of holiness and unity as central to its life. While these doctrines have been articulated from the pulpit and in writings over the years, the actual practice of both has been sorely lacking in many respects. We have embraced our autonomy and our independence at the expense of a genuine New Testament practice of both holiness and unity, which are built upon the holy love that the triune God has entrusted to us. Holiness and unity are relational experiences lived out and practiced in community—as the children of God to the community of faith and as witnesses to an unbelieving world of the power of the gospel to transform life. And when we neglect appropriate biblical truths regarding the daily conduct of our lives, we fail to produce the corporate life of the church that God desires for us as his people.
We need each other.
James Bryan Smith, in his book The Good and Beautiful Community, writes:
I need to be reminded that as a follower of Jesus I am peculiar, in the best sense of that word. Peculiar, that is, to the world around me that does not live by the teachings of Jesus. My life is rooted in the eternal strong kingdom of God; the roots of my life are in the future, safe and secure, which gives me strength to live unselfishly, to strive for unity in the midst of diversity, to forgive even when it is not easy, to set my standards high, to live generously, to long to be worshipping in the house of the Lord and to be a witness of new life to a dying world. I need to be reminded and I need a community around me to help me remember who and whose I am, and what that means for my daily life. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010, 19)
Personal spiritual formation and growth in community are critical to the health and ministry of the local congregation and must not be sacrificed for the sake of the next program that comes along. Being is the foundation of kingdom doing. Healthy relationships are the foundation of healthy kingdom practices. Being the body of Christ fulfilling the mission of Christ in the world is why the local congregation exists. When that truth becomes the rationale for our life congregationally, we will be on the road to a kingdom transformation that can potentially transform our communities in honor to the Lord.
Written by Paul Dreger