I don’t mean to be an alarmist, but there are some flinching verses in the New Testament when it comes to the necessity of being in Christian community. Being ‘in Christ,’ being a Christian, means that we are with Christ’s people. A gospel-centered life will always involve the company of the gospel, the redeemed saints of God. A life that is worthy of the gospel will bob in the wake of a gospel community.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
According to Paul, a life that is in step with the gospel is a life in sync with the Christian community, being gospel-focused together. If we are serious about the gospel, we will be serious about community. There are ten community killers that we must avoid. One from Hebrews 10 and nine more from Colossians 3.
10. Don’t Meet with Other Christians
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb. 10:24–25)
The author of Hebrews couldn’t have been clearer: “Don’t neglect meeting together.” The Christian life is a community life. It’s with the Church. To truly walk with Jesus is to walk with Jesus’s people. Consider the New Testament books. Every New Testament letter, except four (1–2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon), are written to churches. We can’t obey the New Testament, or practically understand its context, without the community. We are to live in community not just for ourselves, but also for one another. To stir up others and have them stir us to love Jesus and spread the fame of his name. Our American default is, “What will I get out of this?” Here’s the answer: What you get is loving and serving others.
Community is so essential; I think eternity depends on it. Hebrews 10:24–25 is one of the classic community passages—and for good reason. But have you notice the eschatological impetus in the text? “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24–25). There are two important questions two dwell on. Who are the ‘some’? And why talk about the ‘Day’?
Who are the ‘some’? It’s those who have made a habit of not meeting and being with other Christians. Two groups of Christians in the verse: Christians that meet together; Christians that don’t meet together. This is a warning in Hebrews. Eventually, it’s those who have abandoned the Church, distanced themselves from community, and therefore they have abandoned Christ. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). Unbelievers, goats in sheep’s clothing, eventually stop grazing among the people of God.
Why talk about the ‘Day’? In a stellar passage about encouraging one another, why address the Day of the Lord, judgment, and wrath? The writer of Hebrews also does this earlier in his letter:
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Heb. 3:12–14)
He warns about falling away and holding fast till the end—which can be curtailed by the communal command “exhort one another.”
The writer of Hebrews is saying, “Commune together, encourage each other, so you don’t fall away.” What about once saved always saved? Yes, amen. The Spirit seals all of those who are truly in Christ. But the Bible says nothing about, “Once professed always protected.” Profession, in a sense, is proven, revealed in obedience to Christ, the fruit of regeneration, “holding till the end.” We are here to help each other stay the course for that Last Day. Community isn’t just to help you get through the week—it’s to get you through Judgment Day.
9. Lie About Yourself
“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Col. 3:9–10)
Community thrives on honesty, light, and love. Paul urges us not to lie to one another because he knows we will be tempted to hide the truth about how we are doing and what we are doing. But remember, we have a new identity in Christ. We aren’t our sins—we are Christ’s. Once we believe that everyone one of us is in being renewed, and none have “arrived,” the motivation to lie to will fly away.
8. Focus on Differences
“Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:11)
Community isn’t conformity. Unity isn’t uniformity. We are all very different people. A lot of men in my church are obsessed with killing animals. I love eating animals. I’ve gone hunting with them; it was a lot of getting up early to see a whole lot of nothing. But do differences in hobbies mean we can’t have community together? Do we have anything in common? You better believe we do: Christ. We are all different members of the body of Christ. Some are hands, feet, toes. You think the feet are interested in gloves? Think the hands are into shoes? No! But they know they need each other. Don’t major on the minor differences. Christ is all, not us, at all.
7. Have a Prickly Heart
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col. 3:12)
It’s one thing to show up to someone’s house, and a horrible thing to be a cactus while you are there. Are you compassionate toward others or crusty? Gospel-centered people aren’t allowed to be cranky people. It’s out of step with the gospel of joy. “Jerks for Jesus” shouldn’t be a thing, and sadly, that is how many Christians live. Peer into the gospel, and let it clothe you in the composure of Jesus of Nazareth.
6. Don’t Bear with Others
“Bearing with one another." (Col. 3:13)
Bearing with one another isn’t, “Yes, they are ridiculous. I’ll be the bigger person.” Rather, it sounds like, “I love this person and I want to serve them like Christ has served me. I can do more than put up with them, I’ll endure with them, and carry their burdens with them.” Jesus calls us his friends, he laid his life down for us, he loves us, and now we lay our lives down for each other—because we love each other (John 15:12–13). Selfishness won’t do this.
5. Don’t Forgive
“If one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Col. 3:13)
When we are living in gospel mode, we will be quick to forgive because the bloody cross is always in our sight. Christians aren’t allowed to hold a grudge—that is anti-gospel. Forgive others from that soil outside of Jerusalem, muddled with the blood of Jesus, remembering that God has no grudge with you—therefore, we must forgive.
4. Be Unloving
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (Col. 3:14)
The gospel is love in action. “For God so loved, he gave.” Love is more than a sentiment; it’s always a sacrifice. Gospel-laden community will be filled with the brand of love spelled out by Paul: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor. 13:4–7).
3. Be Thankless
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Col. 3:15)
If you don’t have a disposition of thanks for the body of Christ, indifference isn’t far away. Distance is around the corner. Community isn’t a hamper on your schedule, it’s a helper. Community isn’t the gospel, but it is one of the gospel’s multitudinous and glorious gifts of grace.
2. Don’t Care About the Growth of Others
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col, 3:16)
Our spiritual growth isn’t just for us, it’s for the community. Community is for the well being of everyone, not just one—not just you. Christian community isn’t just about doing some Bible study; it’s coming together to say, “I want to help you grow. I want to be a part of developing the best you possible. Jesus is calling me to you. And I need you to do that for me, too.”
1. Don’t Let Christ Be Your All
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Colossians 3:17)
If your life is all about Jesus, you will be about the things that Jesus is about—and Jesus is about his Church. Always and forever. When Jesus is our all, we will want to give our lives for the people that Jesus gave up his life for, his redeemed people. Holding back our lives from people in the church is one of the most anti-Christ things we could do. Rather, in word or deed, couch or coffee, potluck or grill out, prayer list or accountability time, let it all be done in the name of the Lord Jesus.
J.A. Medders is the Lead Pastor of Redeemer Church in Tomball, TX. He is pursuing his M.Div. at Southern Seminary. He and Natalie have one precious children, Ivy and Oliver. Jeff digs caffeinated drinks, books, and the Triune God. He blogs at www.jamedders.com and tweets from @mrmedders.