As a Christian in America you are more than likely involved in a number of different organizations that very easily become a tight knit group of friends with common interest and goals. But the community that is sadly forgotten amongst Christians is this new community that we have been made apart of through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This new community, also known as the Church, is represented across the world in local expressions that God calls us to join in covenant with. Yes, this "place" you go to every Sunday or Wednesday. Yes, this gathering of humans that God himself has placed you in. Yes, this body of Believers that the majority of the Bible is addressing. This is the community we most often forget; the community of the bread and wine, the community of the resurrection, the community that God is using to mold and shape you. Why is this? Why do we forget this new community that we would say we are a part of as believers? A major part of the problem is that we don't recognize the biblical teaching that the church is to be our family. In his prolific book of 2016, You Are What You Love, James K.A. Smith writes,
Our baptismal promises attest to the fact that "the church is our first family, then our second homes should be defined by it, and our doors ought to be open to the stranger, the sick, and the poor." Baptism opens the home, liberating it from the burden of impossible self-sufficiency, while also opening it to the "disruptive friendships" that are the mark of the kingdom of God (118)
God, in his kindness, plants us, as believers, in the midst of this new community not because of how good we are, our socio-economic background, the color of our skin, or any other embarrassing reason we try to come up with to make ourselves appear like we have arrived. No, we are planted in this new community, this new family because God loves us and wants to work the Gospel out in us in ways we would've never come up with on our own.
Joseph Hellerman says in his book, When the Church was a Family,
Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay also grow. People who leave do not grow. We all know people who are consumed with spiritual wanderlust. But we never get to know them very well because they cannot seem to stay put. They move along from church to church, ever searching for a congregation that will better satisfy their felt needs. Like trees repeatedly transplanted from soil to soil, these spiritual nomads fail to put down roots and seldom experience lasting and fruitful growth in their Christian lives (1).
The local church is where the rubber meets the road. It is the chaos of human relationships that stretches and pushes us so that we don't remain stagnant, sleeping in the corner waiting for God to do something in our life. So we must engage with the chaos, we must continue even when relationships turn south or things are not going our way because God is working and why would anyone want to miss out on that?
Soli Deo Gloria,