This Sunday is our Annual Church Meeting. Recently, we’ve been thinking about our church values. Today, we’re reflecting on our third value: build community. There’s an African proverb that says, it takes a village to raise a child. You could say the same thing about us: it takes a church to raise a Christian. Coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but it’s hard to grow and thrive as a Christian without being deeply involved in a church community.
The Book of Hebrews gives a picture of the Christian life. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:23-25). Christians are given a command to not give up meeting together. This passage emphasises a sense of togetherness. Christians are told to “spur one another… encouraging one another”.
In the early church, a congregation was a community of people whose lives were closely intertwined with one another: who ate and talked together, learned and prayed together, cared for one another, confessed their sins and provided practical help to one another. Here were people who grew in their relationship with God, through a deeply connected community life.
What does that look like for us at St Andrew’s? I think this “meeting together” means more than simply turning up to church on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to come to church regularly on a Sunday. But to what extent are we able to spur one another on towards love and good deeds? How deeply can we encourage one another? Because if you’re coming here on a Sunday only for information and inspiration, that means you’re not really connecting deeply with other people. You’re just being part of a crowd.
The type of Christian community that is meant in this passage is where you can hear the bible and drill it down into one another’s lives. Do you do that? Do you have a small group of people where you can drill the gospel down deep into your lives with one another, speaking the truth in love and growing to spiritual maturity (Eph. 4:15)?
Most of us realise that this type of Christian community will cost something from us. It will cost us time, as we prioritise church commitments in our busy schedules. In our consumer culture where we like to keep our options open and church easily falls off our agenda, we need to feel the weight of the command to “not give up meeting together”. This kind of community will also cost us comfort and convenience. Building relationships involves time, emotional investment, vulnerability, creating intimacy, and serving one another sacrificially.
This kind of Christian community is vital for our individual spiritual growth. Notice the goal that we’re given. We should meet like this, “all the more as you see the Day approaching”. That “Day” is Christ’s return when we will meet him. The goal of the Christian life is to grow in our likeness to Jesus. We need one another to do this.
So here’s your homework for this week: spend fifteen minutes prayerfully considering your commitment to our community. Ask God to help you to see how you should be involved here.