Community—and Why We Need It: - page 3


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From the Spring 2005 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Community–and Why We Need It
Love is never stimulated apart from community

by Art Lindsley, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute


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   The Greek word for assembling together is episynagoge. “Epi” means “in addition to.” This word may indicate that early Christians worshipped in the Jewish synagogue and later, in addition, at Christian assemblies such as those in house churches. It is not certain whether this is the intent of this passage. It may be that believers are simply being urged not to forsake Christian meetings as some were doing.
  Certainly in the New Testament house churches there were quite small groups that functioned as local churches. It is important to note, though, that they did not cut themselves off from other churches or the Church Universal. The problem with replacing informal fellowship groups for the church is evident on several fronts. Often these groups are of similar age so that older and wiser people are in effect excluded. There is often not an understanding of what is needed for our life in Christ—in-depth instruction and teaching; worship where our hearts are directed to Him according to Biblical principles; outreach in word (evangelism) and an action (serving other people’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs); the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper); and authority (offices of elders and deacons) as the New Testament prescribes. If any or all of these elements are omitted, the people who are part of that fellowship are to that degree poorer.
   Certainly we can have a great problem dealing with the inadequacy and fallen-ness of individual churches. When we compare the New Testament ideal for the church with the reality of the church, there is reason for dismay. One writer said that the church is much like Noah’s Ark: “If it were not for the storm outside, you couldn’t stand the smell inside.” Martin Luther, back at the time of the Reformation, was quite aware of the profound imperfections of the particular churches around him. He said, “Farewell to those who want an entirely pure and purified church. This is plainly wanting no church at all.” This expectation of a perfect church gets in the way of real and good—but not perfect—options in front of us.
   If we do not make a commitment to a particular body of believers, we will never have in-depth community. This problem of idealism or perfectionism manifests itself often in people’s lives. I have seen a pattern in what happens. First, an individual or a couple joins a church thinking that the pastor, worship, fellowship, etc. is great. They give glowing recommendations to others. However, after a few years (or months) they begin to be dissatisfied with the sermons, the pastor and the church leadership, members of the congregation, the worship style, or some other fault. They leave and move to another church where the cycle starts again. They have found again the perfect church. But, no, after a time it is not perfect. So they church hop for the rest of their lives or just give up. This is not to say that you need to stay with the one church you are with, never changing churches. If there are good reasons for leaving a church, by all means go. But, realize that if you never commit yourselves to a particular body of believers and press in despite obstacles, go through the sometimes painful act of loving, you will never have indepth relationships in community. There are times when we need to forgive, be reconciled, or give until it hurts. Real community requires that we do continue to love despite the difficulty of particular people that are unlovely. Many times we need that stimulation to love rather than walking away alienated from others.
   Above all you (and I) need to be stimulated to love. You need to encourage others to love and you need others to encourage you in that pursuit. You need to give to others the gifts God has given you and receive from others out of the gifts God has given them. You are “one vast need” and must avoid the extremes of saying, “I am not needed,” or, “I don’t need you.” Where possible you need to find a church that upholds the Gospel and preaches the Word of God! All of us need instruction, worship, fellowship, and expression of our faith (in evangelism and service). You need both sacraments and structure that will regularly stimulate you to love and good deeds. So don’t forsake the “assembling of yourselves together.”

Stuart McAllister

Dr. Arthur W. Lindsley Senior Fellow, C.S. Lewis Institute – Art Lindsley has served at the C.S. Lewis Institute since 1987. Formerly, he was Director of Educational Ministries at the Ligonier Valley Study Center, and Staff Specialist with the Coalition for Christian Outreach. He is the author of C.S. Lewis’s Case for Christ, True Truth, Love: The Ultimate Apologetic, and co-author with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner of Classical Apologetics, and has written numerous articles on theology, apologetics, C.S. Lewis, and the lives and works of many other authors and teachers. Art earned his M.Div. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently the Vice President of Theological Initiatives for the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.
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