Vital connection to the local expression of Christ’s body is very important to our spiritual life. I say “vital connection” because that is what is so needed, that is what is so important. It is one thing to go sit in a church gathering and sing songs and hear the pastor proclaim God’s truth. It is quite another to know brothers and sisters in the church who can speak truth into your life.
The book of Hebrews tells us to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). Why is it important that we exhort each other and why is it so important to do it “everyday”? Because if we don’t hear from each other in this way it is likely that we will mess up and get tricked by sins lies, we will be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
It is interesting and sad to me that it seems like Alcoholics Anonymous often does a much better job at this than the church does. This should not be. There are many secular programs that are very good and intentional about helping people. They have realized the importance of “vital connection.” So for instance,
“I found my tribe, the social architecture that fulfills my every need of camaraderie and conviviality” (Alcoholic Anonymous, 336)
“A.A. is my home now….I no longer feel alone” (Alcoholic Anonymous, 346).
“The thing that kept me sober until I got a grip on honesty was the love in the room of Alcoholics Anonymous. I made some fiends for the first time in my life. Real friends that cared, even when I was broke and feeling desperate” (Alcoholic Anonymous, 346).
The church is called to this same type of thing. Truly how much more should these things be said of us, we who have the “words of eternal life” (Jn. 6:68), we who have been shown life transforming grace?
In Scripture, we see high importance placed on true sacrificial friendship. We are to be devoted to serving each other (1 Cor. 16:15; Phil. 2:1-8). In fact, we have a supreme example, we are to love as Jesus loved us (see for ex. Jn. 15:12-17). We also see that the early church spent much time together (Acts 2:46-47), this is crucial if we are to help each other. Many people involved in A.A. acknowledge this and thus attend meetings once or more in a single day.
“Where am I to find these people to help me in this way?” the Alcoholic Anonymous book asks. It answers,
“You are going to meet these new friends in your own community… Among them you will make lifelong friends. You will be bound to them with new and wonderful ties, for you will escape disaster together and you will commence shoulder to shoulder your common journey. Then you will know what it means to give of yourself that others may survive and rediscover life. You will learn the full meaning of ‘Love thy neighbor as thy self’” (Alcoholic Anonymous, 152).
This should be true of the church. The church should be able to help people in this way.
Again in Hebrews it says, “Consider,” i.e. contemplate, ponder how to best “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). Romans 14:19 says “let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” In Romans too, we see we intentionally pursue mutual upbuilding. Paul tells Timothy to “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). Is Timothy supposed to do this all by himself? No! It says “along with those…” From the above verses, and many we did not look at, I think we see the practical, life protecting, importance of being connected to Christ’s body.
We need each other! The secular world in many ways has seen this and the Bible has long since told us this. It reminds us that a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). We need the body of Christ to be the body of Christ. You and I both need this, we need each other! We need vital connection, not mere contact.
So, yes, I want people to come to Lord’s Day morning gathering but if their involvement stops there then their growth in godliness will be severely limited, if not completely stunted. It is imperative for your health and the health of the church that you are connected, vitally connected, not merely attending (See Community Groups).