According to a recent survey by LifeWay Research, “more believers are heeding the scriptural call to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior’—but they’re often doing discipleship on their own.”
Compared with a survey a decade ago, more US Christians have “made improvements in areas like reading their Bibles daily, prioritizing obedience to Christ, and avoiding temptation, (however) their connections with fellow Christians have weakened.”
“Fewer than half of churchgoers (48%) agree with the statement, ‘I intentionally spend time with other believers to help them grow in their faith.’”
Interestingly those surveyed over age 65 “were more likely to have significant relationships with others at church” than those 18-34.
Almost two-thirds of churchgoers agreed with the statement, “I can walk with God without other believers.”
This is an unfortunate result of a society that has become very individualistic. “Have your way” was more than a catchy slogan of a popular hamburger chain a few years ago. It represented a cultural philosophy held by many Americans, including Christians as it related to their religion.”
Christ calls us not just to believe, but to belong. To the brethren at Rome, Paul reminded them, “So we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another” (Rom. 12:5, NET).
Collective worship is vital to discipleship growth. Thus, the command “not to forsake the assembling of yourselves together” (Heb. 10:25). Congregational singing where we “teach and admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col 3:16) not only brings us closer to the Lord but to each other. The communion service is also a time of mutual reflection of our relationship to the Lord and each other (1 Cor. 11:17-32) We help one another grow spiritually.
Furthermore, there are over 50 “one another” commands in the New Testament that require building relationships with fellow Christians. We are to accept one another. Care for one another. Be a blessing to one another. Confess our sins to one another. Serve one another. Be devoted to one another. Bear One another’s burdens. Comfort one another. And forgive one another.
On the negative side, we are warned not to bite and devour one another. All one another exhortations can be summed in one word—love. Because we belong to another in the same body. The same Family. The same blood-bought relationship with Christ. We love one another.
In the past 15 months, we have visited many churches in both the United States as well as other countries. We have observed that stronger congregations possess and express a vibrant fellowship. You can tell the members enjoy being with each other. Not just before and after services, but outside of the church building. Get-togethers, potlucks, youth devotions, vacations together, and personal hospitality reflect a benevolent, bonded fellowship.
Why is this important? Because God knew we needed each other. He placed us in a spiritual family that we call “church.” It is not out-dated, and old fashioned, as some believe. It is a relationship that is not only meaningful but crucial to my spiritual growth and maturity as a Christian.
Of course, fellowship alone will not produce spiritual success. Ultimately, I am responsible for my discipleship development and growth in the Christian graces. I cannot neglect personal Bible reading, prayer, and devotion. Yet, God does not want us to go it alone.
The Swiss physician and author Paul Tournier was right when he wrote, “There are two things you cannot do alone. One is to be married. The other is to be a Christian.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman