Last week, I took a short road trip with a friend. We spent around 4 hours talking about why he joined his church. He started by saying that many things within his church weren’t his cultural or personal preference – the way many people expressed themselves during worship, the style of music, some of the ways people socialized. But in the end, he made a commitment to become a member anyway.
He had often found himself being more honest about his life with non-Christians than with the people he worshiped with each week.Despite the fact that he had been a Christian for many years, he had often found himself being more honest about his life with non-Christians than with the people he worshiped with each week. He was frustrated that many Christians he knew couldn’t bring themselves to talk about their current struggles, their current sin or their current doubts. So when he found himself struggling, he did what other people had shown him to do: he hid his struggles and suffered quietly.
However, when he first began to visit his church, he couldn’t believe how honest and transparent people were with their lives. They shared both their pain and their joy, their doubts and their hope, their failures and their growth. The personal transparency of the pastors as they taught, the small group leaders as they lead and the other people he met gave him hope to be honest with his own life.
In short, he chose to give up some of his cultural preferences because he found something more important: Christian community.
Then he saw that the questions were not out of condemnation or self-righteousness. They actually cared about him.When he came to his church he found a community of people who were dealing with real struggles – addictions, doubts, pain, marriage problems – and they were actually talking about it. But they weren’t just aimlessly sharing. They kept encouraging each other toward Jesus. They got into each other’s lives to encourage and push one other. At first, he said that it freaked him out. It felt like people were asking inappropriate questions about details of his life no one should talk about, but then he saw that the questions were not out of condemnation or self-righteousness. They actually cared about him. They weren’t being nosey. They were just being friends.
If Jesus has always needed community, what makes us think that we don’t?God created us for community. He made an entire beautiful world and called it “good”. Then, he made Adam and when Adam was alone he called it “not good”. We were made in his image. He “hardwired” our souls to reflect his own need for relationships. The Trinity – God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit – has existed for all of eternity in a perfect relationship with each other. If Jesus has always needed community, what makes us think that we don’t?
When we make our relationships significant, we find fulfillment.My friend Rich Plass says, “We are as fulfilled as our relationships are significant. We are as happy as our relationships are whole and healthy.” All of life is relational. Everything in life is in service to relationships. Our deepest joys are relational. Our deepest wounds don’t come from ideas, but from relationships. Jesus didn’t reveal God as an idea, but as a Father – as a relationship. He told us to love God and to love people. When we make our relationships significant, we find fulfillment.
We must run toward Christian community. We must find a church community where the good news of God’s grace is both taught and caught. Jesus loves us and has taken our sin upon himself to set us free and over time to make us the best possible versions of ourselves. He will complete the work he has started – and he intends to use the people in our lives to help us.
Many people give up on Church and Christian community because they encounter too many hypocrites. This is like saying that we gave up on the gym because we found too many unfit people were there. Where else are sinners supposed to turn?