The other day I was having a conversation with a man who told me that his truck was his church. This was in response to my question about where he went to church. Evidently he prayed while he was driving, and that qualified in his mind as “church.”
This is not an uncommon mindset among those who profess Christianity. America itself has become very individualistic, and culture is creeping into the kingdom of Christ. In his book Habits of the Heart, sociologist Robert Bellah says that what makes Americans distinct comes down to one thing, a view of freedom. Yet when we look more closely, we see a one sided view of freedom. Americans want freedom from rather than freedom for, an attitude of “I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it. No one had better tell me otherwise.” This is the very mindset responsible for isolated believers who think Christ is fine but have no desire to be a part of organized religion. These individuals believe they can be happier, more productive Christians on their own.
The Bible has a very different point of view. It doesn’t describe Christians as Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert but branches on a sustaining vine in the Father’s vineyard (John 15:1-8). Christians dwell in a community set apart from the world and work together to provide encouragement, accountability, and cooperation to further the cause of Jesus Christ. This view is modeled by the very first Christians described by Luke in Acts 2:42: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Key phrases in the New Testament are “come together” (1 Cor. 11:17-18, 20, 33-34; 14:26) and “one another” (John 13:34-35; 15:7; Rom. 12:10, 16; 15:7; 1 Cor. 16:20; Gal. 5:13; 6:2; et. al.), phrases that are meaningless without the church.
As the body of Christ, our Lord wants us to grow together, not alone. Traditionally, we have done this through worship assemblies, weekly Bible classes, fellowships, and other programs. Some of these, such as the assembly, are not only privileges, but obligations demanded by the Scriptures. Others are programs instituted at the elders’ discretion that equip us for spiritual growth.
I am a firm believer in supporting Bible classes and other church programs, but one of the reasons that we fail to grow together as we should is that we limit our opportunities for growth to what has been planned by others. Why don’t Christians get together more often in casual circumstances to study their Bibles and talk about what it’s like to follow Christ in a sinful world? Why don’t we get together in each other’s homes more frequently to be together and share our burdens? Years of meeting in traditional settings has put us into a spiritual rut. Are there brothers and sisters in Christ who could help you grow? Find ways to get together with them outside of worship assemblies and Bible classes in more intimate settings where conversations can happen. The weekly services of the church are only the beginning of what we can do to grow together in Jesus Christ.