The 4thof July is perhaps my favorite national holiday. While it is a time to celebrate with family and friends our nation’s independence, it is also a time to reflect on the freedoms we have in our nation. It could be argued that the United States of America represents one of the greatest nations and forms of government our world has ever known. Like any institution, American government is not flawless—we have room for improvement. But we have some of the greatest freedoms and equal rights of any nation—we are blessed.
Our independence from tyranny not only birthed a nation with great liberties and freedoms, but an “independent spirit” in this country. In many respects, this “entrepreneurial drive” has created some of the greatest achievements and inventions our world has observed. But our spirit of independence has, at times, created problems—not just for our nation, but for individual citizens. You see, God created us to be interdependent, not just independent!
Any institution, whether family, school, athletic team, business, military, or the Church for example, by necessity requires members to work interdependently in authority structures. When our will for independence overrides God’s order of structure, strife and even chaos exist.
No sports team will ever score a win if everyone is doing their “own thing!” No business can succeed if everyone just “does what they please” in the company! And the same is true for families and for God’s family—the Church.
This 4thof July week, let’s discuss the need for interdependence in God’s Church. I’ll begin by recapping key points about the Church.
The Kingdom of God and the Local Church
I explained last week that the church isn’t the full expression of the Kingdom of God; however, the Church is God’s primary vehicle for manifesting the nature of the Kingdom of God in this age and among all people.
The church, from the Greek ecclesia, represents “called-out ones who make up a Christian community of believers.” In fact, the early Church fathers often spoke of the Church as the “fellowship of the saints.” Fellowship and community with others is a hallmark of Church body life God designed for us.
As followers of Jesus, we are part of His universal Church, but God intends for us to be part of the local church—connected, committed, and active—the whole of the NT demonstrates this. That takes intentionality on our part.
Using the human anatomy as an illustration of the need to remain connected in Christ’s body, the Church, Paul wrote, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Eph. 5:30 NKJV). He wrote to the Corinthians, “Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.”(1 Cor. 12:12-13 CEB)
When you said “yes” to Jesus, to follow Him, born again by Holy Spirit, you were by the same Spirit placed into Jesus’ body—the Church!
This is a spiritual reality, you are both in Christ and in His Body, the Church—which brings great benefit and authority. But your cooperation is needed to realize the fullness of this truth and your position in Christ and in His Church.
The importance of being connected to a local church can’t be emphasized enough to followers of Christ. It’s in community with other believers that we thrive, come alive, and fulfill our purpose!
The fulfillment of your destiny occurs best in the context of family. We were created for family relationships—with God and with others. “You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Eph. 2:19b TLB)
Here’s the “rub” for most of us: we tend to be independent! But as I stated, we are to be interdependent with other followers of Jesus—not independent of them!
Your relationship to Christ is personal and unique, but God never intended your faith to be isolated and separate from the body of Christ. Even in the garden of Eden, God said, “it is not good for man (humanity) to be alone” (Gen. 2:18)
Recent research reveals the effect of loneliness and isolation. Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO AARP, wrote in a recent article, “The Keys to Healthy Living: Friendship and Purpose” that “Loneliness is the new smoking—according to one researcher, it is equally as bad for you as inhaling 15 cigarettes a day. Studies show that loneliness can shave eight years off life expectancy, that it has a big negative effect on quality of life, and that it’s the single largest predictor of dissatisfaction with health care. The mortality risk for loneliness is greater than that of obesity.”
Research is now confirming what God’s word has told us along: “it’s not good for man (humanity) to be alone.” We were created relationally—we thrive when we are socially connected to others in society and healthy local churches.
Following Christ Means More than just Believing, it Means Belonging
Again, Paul uses the human anatomy to describe our position in Christ’s body, the Church, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” (Rom. 12:4-5 NLT)
For the organs of your body to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you and me as part of Christ’s body. You have a specific assignment, but if you’re not attached to a thriving local church you may not fulfill your destiny. Your destiny unfolds through relationships. The NT assumes participation with other believers in a local congregation.
Consider the commitment the Christians in Jerusalem had with each other, “They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42 MSG)
You became a Christian by committing yourself to Christ, you became a member of Passion Church (or any) local church when you committed yourself to the community of believers. As we share life together, and the responsibilities of community together, we all reap the benefits. Detachment from the body was never God’s plan for you!
Encounter, Equip, and Empower
Let’s look at how a local church family aids you in encountering God, getting equipped for life and ministry, and being empowered to fulfill your purpose.
God encounters us in multiple ways—individually and corporately. Consider Jacob at Bethel, or Moses at the burning bush. But often, God encounters us in community—and these encounters corporately can be just as powerful.
In fact, I believe corporate encounters have the potential to be more powerful, due to unity and the growth we experience in community. Church history is full of examples of how God comes “like a mighty rushing wind” when the saints of God gather as one!
What is required? Genuine love for God and for others, a commitment to unity, and involvement with community life in a local church. “Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other.” (Rom 12:10 NLT)
In a family, acceptance isn’t based on how smart, talented or charming you are. It’s because we belong to each other. Remember, we belong to and need each other.
In every church family, there are going to be people that we may have difficulty relating to or working with. This is where grace for each other comes in, by the Spirit in the bond of peace.
The Passion Church Life Groups starting this fall will provide opportunities for you to encounter God—individually and corporately—on a deeper level. God commands a blessing on unity, and you develop and thrive in community with others!
Paul wrote to the Ephesians that when Jesus led captivity captive, that, “He gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults—to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.”(Eph. 4:11-13 CEB)
God assigns leaders, those with ministry gifts, to help us grow, get equipped, and mature in Christ. To develop in our gifts and calling, commitment to local church relationships—and leaders—is required to develop spiritually.
Growth in Christ doesn’t fully happen by only watching sermons online or on TV, or by just attending Christian conferences! You see, those leaders don’t have relationship or responsibility for you (see Heb. 13:17). Spiritual development also requires your involvement with a local church and God’s leaders to develop and fulfill your destiny.
True spiritual maturity is impossible outside of corporate body life. Maturity develops individually as we surrender to the demands of relationships in the body life of the local church.
Did you ever consider that you must learn how to live in God’s family? Paul explained to Timothy, his son in the faith and overseer of the church in Ephesus, “…I am writing these things to you now… [so] you will know how to live in the family of God. That family is the church of the living God…” (1 Tim. 3:14-15 NCV) Christian relationship skills must be cultivated and developed—the local church is God’s vehicle for this.
For some, relational development is easier. Perhaps growing up your family was healthy; perhaps your personality and gift mix are such that relating to others is easy. However, each of us can learn and grow in this area, the Holy Spirit will aid us as we are yielded to God and others!
It takes humility to admit that I have areas I need to grow in, to improve upon. Humility gives the Holy Spirit an avenue to empower you to become who Jesus says you already are. Pride inhibits God’s grace in our lives. Pride causes us to be independent, blinds us to the need of interdependence, and causes us to be “unteachable.”
Consider the words of Peter, “…dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”(1 Pet. 5:5 NLT)
Humility precedes honor and empowerment. The Holy Spirit fell on the 120 gathered the day of Pentecost because they were united; they were as one. This required humility and commitment to each other in Christian community. The Bible and Church history are full of examples of this truth.
When we relate to each other in humility, we create bridges to deeper relationships and community growth. It’s been said, “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, humility is thinking of yourself less.”
God can release his power and anointing on our lives individually, but even individual experiences with God are for the purpose and blessing of community.
In writing about spiritual gifts that God gives us, Paul stated, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”(1 Cor. 12:7 NASB) The individual gifts and anointings that God gives is to benefit the Church and humanity. God empowers us to be a blessing to others!
We want more of God’s power—more miracles, more healings. It begins with loving God and loving each other in community. Then God’s love and power can flow through us to impact others and the nations.
To develop real Christian community that represents kingdom culture, we must become less independent and self-centered and more interdependent. To be a glorious church, interdependence must take priority over independence!
To build real interdependent relationships, you must spend time with others in the local church. You must make an intentional commitment to worship, fellowship, and serve together—even when you don’t feel like it!
Developing Community takes effort on our part as we yield to the working of the Holy Spirit. God’s presence in power, or a revival culture, can only be maintained as we develop a kingdom culture in the church.
It begins with understanding you were created to belong, not just believe.
The next step is to commit to being involved at Passion Church or another good local church in your area. Grow in your relationship with the Lord and with your church family. Attend regularly, give faithfully, find places to serve, reach out to others, get involved in the Life Groups, and lastly carry His love and power to those outside of the church—let them have a reason to come into God’s family!