As we continue our GROW series and learn how to move from a goal mindset to a grow mindset, I want us to look at community. God made us as not just simply individuals but individuals who are put in community. You cannot grow spiritually unless you’re connected relationally. God wants to use other people to grow us, and He wants to use us to grow other people. Hebrews 10:23-25 says, “Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Notice the uses of “us,” “our,” “together.” It’s not “me” but “we.”
The Beginning of Community
God designed life to be lived in community from the beginning. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him.’” In Hebrews 10:25 it’s clear that we gather to be encouraged. Everyone needs encouragement because everyone battles discouragement. Hebrews was written to a group of persecuted Christians who were teetering on the edge of going back to their old way of life. Showing up and meeting together marked them as a community of believers, and when they were marked, they were targeted. Property was seized; prison terms were handed out; jobs were lost and livelihoods were in jeopardy. But they assembled anyway! In many places around the world it is still that way today. Americans, however, often do not meet with other believers because of selfishness, not suffering. Relationships require presence. It’s like the story I heard about the boyfriend who sent his girlfriend a letter every day. She ended up marrying the mailman! Like a hot coal cools off when it gets away from other coals, we need each other to stay on fire in our faith.
The Building of Community
Verse 23 warns us not to waver. When you waver, you cut yourself off from the blessing of community. Relationships don’t automatically happen; they develop over time. Community is about doing life together. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. Too many people in this world are trying to fly solo. Who do you call when you need help, or are sick, or need prayer? Look at all the names mentioned at the end of Paul’s letters. At the end of the book of Romans, Paul mentions more than 30 names! Paul traveled with friends; he stayed with friends; he visited friends; worked alongside friends; preached alongside friends; he was beaten alongside friends. He sang in prison with his friends. He encouraged his friends and was encouraged by his friends. There were times he disagreed with his friends and times he was reconciled with his friends. Community takes time, energy, and effort. The relationships we keep the longest are the relationships we keep forgiving.
The Benefits of Community
Verse 24 points out that gathering and encouraging one another provokes love and good works. Why go to church? Not just for the singing or preaching, but for the stirring, motivating, spurring one another to keep going. Community helps to ward off depression, boost our immune system, lower our cholesterol, increase odds of surviving coronary disease, and keep our stress hormones in check. Helen Keller said, “Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” With so many things pulling you in so many directions, it is vital to your spiritual health and even the health of your family, to prioritize church. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Every time you are around godly community, they make you a better person. The devil does not want you to be in Christian community. Another benefit of community is our witness before a watching world. Francis Schaeffer said, “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful. Christian community is the final apologetic.” Jesus said, “By this the world will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” We have to build community in a broken world. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:21 and 27, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” As you work on growing to be the person God created you to be, being in Christian community is vital.