Soul Food: Why Community is Critical to Spiritual Growth

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In a time where individualism and keeping-to-oneself is becoming the norm, you have to wonder:

How important is community?

Well if you look to Jesus, you’ll soon find out the answer is: very!

Although He often withdrew to solitary places (Luke 5:16), a study through the scriptures reveals that the a great portion of His ministry took place within community.

  • He healed in community.
  • He taught in community.
  • He rebuked in community.
  • He even transfigured in community.

Though there’s a time and a place for solitude (Matthew 14:13; John 6:15; ), there is clearly something to be gained from finding your place within small groups & community

I believe Jesus wants every believer to be a part of an active, faith-based community. So the question is: are you experiencing the biblical benefits of community?

What is a community?

Merriam-Webster defines community as, “a unified body of individuals.”

It’s more than just the people in your town. For believers, it’s the body working together in unison.

There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ. We were all baptized by one Holy Spirit. And so we are formed into one body. It didn’t matter whether we were Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free people. We were all given the same Spirit to drink. So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts. 1 Corinthians 12:12

In this context you’ll see that community is important. It takes a unified body, comprised of separate individuals, to become formed into one body. This doesn’t happen by just isolating ourselves away from the Church. No! We must recognize our part because what can the Head do without the Body?

Is Online Community enough?

We are so blessed to live in a time that makes community so easy to access.

I remember the days where you’d have to go into the kitchen, drag a clunky phone receiver down the hall, around the corner, pulling that coiled phone card until it nearly snapped just to have a private phone call with a friend across town.

But today we can just literally reach into our pockets, or even use a smart watch and BOOM!—you’re suddenly talking face-to-face!

It’s easier than ever to connect through technology and the Lord has been faithful to bless us with an ability to gather this way.

We’re able to participate in online ministries, such as what’s offered here through House Shalom Church–and we can do it all virtually from our bedrooms!

However, Hebrews 10:24-25 warns:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (emphasis added).

I don’t think the biblical author was referring to Zoom calls; but rather warning believers to not give up on meeting together through communities and small groups.

Acts 2:42 also implores us to seek out in-person meetings:

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. (Acts 2:42-47, emphasis added).
It’s just not an option for us as believers to forgo community. We certainly apply wisdom and caution during these times of global pandemic; but, using wisdom, we do not let ease of online meeting replace the biblical requirement for in-person community.
We are encouraged to Fellowship with a local body in responsible ways.
Because the truth is we need each other and there’s just something to be said for the encouragement and comfort you’ll get from your Brother or Sister in Christ who knows you, who can bring you a hot meal when you’re sick, or who can lay hands upon you during a time of worship.
There’s something to be said for the warm hugs you can get from your fellow pilgrim of the Lord that’s just impossible to duplicate online.
Build up your community online because it is a true blessing! But don’t stop there. Just as reasonably possible go out and find yourself a local body of believer–a local church family. The Holy Spirit will Lead you in this.

Four dynamic points of encouragement to help you find your ‘Jesus community’.

1. Jesus Himself thrived in community

What good would it have been for Jesus to come into this world, handle His Father’s business, and never build a community along the way?

No, instead, Jesus lived His life as a perfect man who moved about in community. He took time away from the crowds as we all should, but He never stayed isolated for too long.

It is on that foundation of community, and the building of personal relationships, that Jesus’ ministry grew. The 12 disciples learned within the safety of that small community that Jesus built; and then set out to do the work ahead of them.

Speaking of safety…

2. There’s safety in numbers

The Bible warns of the dangers of too much solitude or individualism. It’s a spiritually dangerous place to be and a key tactic of the devil to get believers isolated from their community.

Ecclesiastes 4:10 says, “But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Ecclesiastes. A sheep separated from its flock is easier to attack.

We can also consider the fact that when Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 disciples out, he sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1)

3. Your spiritual gifts grow in new ways

One of the most beautiful gifts of community is that it creates an atmosphere for your own personal spiritual growth. Way back in the Old Testament we have example after example of things like ‘Prophet School’ where God’s people would gather in communities to grow and learn the things of God.

We learn that such a community was growing so numerous in the things of the Lord that they had to move to a larger community so they could grow even more (2 Kings 6:1-4)

It is no different today! There are things you’re going to learn within community that you will never learn in isolation. We know the Lord does call us apart for a season in which He may grow us; but He does not leave us there.

4. It’s Food for your Soul

We have all been through seasons of wilderness when it seems like nothing and noone is around. These times are required as the Holy Ghost leads. But when that time is over, and the times of refreshing come how marvelous it is to be fed in your own local Jesus community!

It’s here that we witness the wonder working power of the Holy Ghost. When you’ve experienced His presence the soul wants more of that. We want more! We want the fullness!

One of my favorite scriptures to proclaim is Ephesians 3:16-21, that I may to know the fullness of God.

His love spills out upon us as believers; and it is oftentimes through the people he places in our lives that we get to share in this marvelous, Godly love. We all need people. There’s a fullness you experience when you function within community in love as a family of Christ-followers, just like the Scriptures tell us to do.

It is real spiritual soul food!

Conclusion

Quiet solitude is important, because without it how can we have that intimacy of personal relationship with our Lord (Matthew 6:6). It’s certainly important to be discerning of the times we’re in, and to use wisdom when you do decide to gather.Solitude or Community–one does not negate the other in terms of being more important or less. But in wisdom, every believer ought to prayerfully consider that if community was important to Jesus it should be important to us too. Use prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to your own local body of believers where you can grow in community. Your spiritual life will be blessed for it.

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