Over the past few years, God has intensified my desire to spend whatever short days I have on earth living for the mission. I want to invest time serving the hurting and befriending the outcast. I want to boldly proclaim the Good News to those who haven’t received it. I want to utilize money to bless the impoverished and assist the advancement of the Gospel among the nations.
Now, I don’t want these things all the time. The roots of my selfishness go deep, really deep, yet God faithfully convicts me and empowers me to change little by little. My sin is still profound and my need for grace desperate, but through the Spirit’s sanctifying work, my devotion to the mission continues to grow.
Here is the problem: our greatest strengths are often accompanied by our greatest weaknesses. As convictions strengthen, so does the temptation towards ungodly independence.
I can be tempted to believe lies: I’ll accomplish more pursuing mission on my own, other people slow me down. Investing in Christian relationships takes time away from reaching the lost. Fostering true community isn’t worth the effort when there’s so much outreach ministry to do. Eventually, ideals once rooted in a desire to honor God are fashioned into idols. When I feed the pride of independence, life becomes about me and my role in the mission, rather than about God and His plan for the mission.
The church is essential to real mission. As there is no “just me and Jesus,” so there can be no “just me and his mission.” The church is one people, one body, one bride. We are not at liberty to decide that we don’t need one another, because God has designed us to be one. And it is foolish to believe that we can more effectively live “on mission” by ourselves, because God designed the mission to be accomplished together.
We all have individual parts to play—roles we assume in conjunction with one another united by a larger purpose. The stakes are too high to “go it alone.”
If a solder in battle decides that he’s got a better plan for victory than the one assigned to him, his disobedience to orders dishonors the cause he’s fighting for. If he decides his company is too slow and pulls away on his own, he probably won’t be living much longer… loners get sniped. It doesn’t matter how passionate he was or how good his intentions were, in the pursuit of his own mission he ultimately failed the mission.
Likewise, it doesn’t matter if I have strong convictions about the mission if I’m unwilling to submit to God’s plan for it. I cannot pick and choose the parts of the Bible that I want to obey.
When I am passionate about showing generosity to the poor, speaking up for the oppressed, and sharing the Gospel with the lost, that is a mark of God’s grace. But if outreach ministry makes me too busy for church community, I am missing a critical piece of mission. If concern for the lost causes me to undermine the priority of loving brothers and sisters in Christ, I am missing a critical piece of mission. If I can serve local refugees with joy but serve my local church out of obligation, I am missing a critical piece of mission.
Community among a family of believers (not a tribe of shared-thinkers) isn’t a nice add-on option to the Christian life. It is essential.
The reality is, regardless of whether we think we need each other or not, we do. We are one Body and severed limbs rot. Regardless of whether we like each other, we must strive to love each other. We are Christ’s bride and dishonor Him if we spurn one another. Regardless of whether we have the same political affiliations, backgrounds, interests, or personality quirks, we are called to unity. We are one people, set apart to serve one King; we’re one family, adopted by one heavenly Father.
And oh, it is such a very good thing to embrace Christian community as God designed. He designed it out of kindness—engaging in ministry to the hurting is difficult, we need brothers and sisters to share our burdens. He designed it out of protection—bringing light into the darkness is met with temptation, we need brothers and sisters guarding our walks and fanning us into flame so that we don’t burn out. He designed it out of wisdom—our love for one another testifies to the worth of the One we serve, strengthening our witness in the world.
Our days to participate in God’s mission are numbered, let us use them well.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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.” Hebrews 10:23–24