LIFE TOGETHER IN CHRIST
Think about what it’s like to attend a home football game for your favorite team. You’re surrounded by 80,000 people who are dressed like you, who cheer with you when the team does well, and who get upset when it doesn’t. Everyone wants to see the same thing you want to see; they want the team to win. When things are going well for the team, it’s a joyous, electric atmosphere. You’re high-fiving, fist-bumping, and maybe even hugging people you’ve never met. You’re having ongoing conversations with people around you whom you’ve never talked to before. One of the great things about going to a game if you’re a sports fan is that it’s a shared experience; we’re all in this together.
But what happens when the game is over? You walk out of the stadium, find your car, drive home, and go on with your life. You don’t give any more thought to all those people who you high-fived or talked to because your only connection was the experience. And no matter how great that shared experience was, there is no ongoing, committed community beyond the spectacle.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy to treat church like it’s a football game. To think a shared experience with other believers is the only kind of Christian community we need. When that kind of community proves insufficient or grows stale, it’s then all too easy to give up on it. Life crowds in, things get busy, and then other responsibilities become more important. We reduce the church to less than it’s meant to be, and then we give up on it.
As a church, we are meant to be members of Jesus Christ and of one another. God calls us to commit our lives to him and live out that commitment by committing our lives to others. We aren’t just called to commit our lives to others in general, but to a group of people the Bible describes as believers in Jesus Christ. A group that consistently comes together on purpose to worship him. A group that continually invests in one another so they can grow in him. A group that serves and ministers to each other, witnesses, and is on mission together. A group that loves others beyond themselves in his name. The church is so much more than an experience a few times a month; it is a life together in Christ and for Christ.
God tells us that churches are at the center of his plan to bring in his kingdom; that we are communities through whom Jesus works today to display his glory in the world. Our love and commitment for one another is supposed to be a preview of what God is bringing about and desires for his creation. When we believe the gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and begin to follow him, God makes us into living stones in his temple (1 Pet 2:4–5). He dwells among his people; he is at work making us into a spiritual temple together.
If this is to be our experience, it requires that we commit to believe and practice the gospel together. It means that we must begin to grasp that the gospel is not just about “me and Jesus,” it’s about “us and Jesus.” Jesus died for all of us as individuals so that whosoever will turn to him could find life (John 3:16). But he also died for us, his churches, so that in Him we would be set apart for his good purposes (Eph 5:25–27). When we are the church God wants us to be, knowing him and making him known together, there is no limit to what God might do in and through us.