Who are you?
You might respond with a description of your physical attributes, your hobbies, your vocation, the school you attend, your job.
Nothing wrong with that.
But notice how your description centers only on you.
It’s a reflection of our culture, where individualism is prized, where each day we go out into the world to make our mark, to get the best deal for ourselves, to do things that make us happy.
We carry that me-first perspective into our spiritual lives. In fact, most of us Jesus People think the reason for our faith is to get us into heaven – a personal get-out-of-jail-free card to an eternity with God. “Outta my way; I’m getting into heaven. The rest of you are on your own.”
Yet Scripture points toward the importance of us.
While Jesus did spend brief periods in solitude, most of his ministry was spent among his disciples and others. It was in community that Jesus did his greatest miracles and shared his most profound teachings. Ministry was never intended as a solitary pursuit. It was always done alongside of others.
The Rev. Billy Graham, arguably the most effective preacher of the 20th Century, built his ministry on an important concept. He believed that those who answered the altar calls at his massive rallies had to connect with other Christians for their faith to take root. Right away! So, at his rallies across the U.S., he always partnered with local churches to make sure that those new to the faith could be planted in those churches and flourish in their newfound relationship not just with Christ but with other believers, as well. Graham knew that a faith journey was most fruitful when traveled with others.
We are in danger of losing that.
Hopefully that doesn’t surprise you. In fact, you saw the fruits of this Christian individualism during the Easter season, where attendance at most church services during Lent was marginal, only to swell on Easter Sunday, and then settle back into marginal on the following Sundays. It’s difficult to build community at a church when most of us are Christmas/Easter Christians.
Aspen groves are said to be the largest organisms in nature. These groves – many of them covering miles – have massive root systems that interconnect the individual trees. In fact, these aren’t individual trees at all. They are offshoots of that one organism. If the root network dies, the trees die. If it flourishes, they all flourish.
The physical root system for Christians is the Church. (Importantly, the spiritual root system for us is Christ himself. Remember his vines and branches analogy?) Despite all of its imperfections and the sin that exists in parts of the Church, this institution is the cradle in which all of us can learn and grow and serve a loving God who wants to be in relationship with us and for us to be in relationship with one another. We need each other in our journeys of faith.
Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.
© Ed Klodt, 2019
(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension.)