Dan Haseltine, the lead singer for the Christian band Jars of Clay, did an interview with Christianity Today back in August 2006. The interview was for Jars’ CD, Good Monsters.
The most notable thing about that interview was a quote on community that has stuck with me when I consider the idea of community amongst believers.
We live in a culture that encourages individualism, and has creeped into the church. Yet, life as a Christian is best lived not as the proverbial Lone Ranger, but in conjunction with others.
Churches within the Acts29 Network of church-planting churches encourage their members to become involved in community groups, doing life together and ministering together to their communities. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book, Life Together, examining the idea of community; more recently, British pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis cowrote a book titled Total Church, which examines in part how their churches do community.
The Bible does not seem to encourage the concept of “me and Jesus only”, but in fact in 1 Corinthians 12:14-28 (New Living Translation) refers to the church as a body made up of different parts, all working together, never working apart.
I believe that Haseltine hits the mark, as he expressed in this excerpt from the 2006 CT interview:
“The gospel never calls us to live our lives privately, but the idea of individualism and isolation has worked itself into our idea of what a good Christian life looks like—that it’s full of quiet times where it’s just us and God. But for me, when I get into that scenario, the only voice I’m really hearing is my own. And when I’m trying to wrestle with some truth of the gospel or some new element God is trying to teach me, it’s just me using my own knowledge base rather than living that out in community with other people. So it never really works. The kind of maturity that I hope for, the kinds of things I want to have freedom from, they never come, because it’s just me working it out by myself.” (boldface mine)
I (Brian) have found this to be true, personally. Of course, there are other responsibilities one has – abstaining and running from sin, talking to God, reading the Bible, among other things – in living the Christian life. But I have found that if you cut yourself off from other believers, you’ll inevitably drift in your relationship with Christ. Not to where you lose it altogether, but where whatever steps forward you made in your ‘walk’ with God seem to be erased.
Phoenix Preacher, and From the Ashes blog, were both tools God has used in my life to reconnect me to His body. As I’ve interacted with the people there, I was encouraged to grow in the Lord and to find a local church to become a part of. I did so, and eventually became a member.
Being connected with the body is vital to a Christian’s growth. Being here, on the blog, helps and is not something to dismiss because “it’s the internet”. There are real people behind each screen name, even if the very nature of the forum allows some to be anonymous jerks. But it is also important to have a offline, physical, body of Christians you can interact with, and make those connections with people whom you can hang out with, do life with, pray for and who can be there for you when you’re really in dire straits.
Whether that body is a small group in a megachurch, or as part of a small church, or as part of a house church, I strongly urge anyone who’s not part of a church to ask God to lead them somewhere, and to connect with a body of believers.
I’d like the discussion to focus in on Haseltine’s quote and how doing the Christian life alone inevitably leads nowhere, and how important it is to be involved in a church of some kind.