At our recent First Friday event in January, I spoke from a teaching originally put together by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church on the importance of Church community from his “God’s Vision for the Rest of Your Life” series.
With what we gleaned from Rick’s teaching, all that the Bible has to say about this subject and as we head into our last weekend of Life Group sign-ups for the winter quarter, it feels like it just makes sense to camp here a bit longer – especially for any of you who, perhaps, were not able to join us for First Friday and/or aren’t yet connected with a Life Group at North Coast.
To maybe help get our minds heading in the right direction, Rick shared some wisdom that we’ve touched on previously but that certainly bears repeating;
- God has some very specific purposes for your Life.
- You cannot fulfill those purposes on your own.
- Life is not a solo act.
- You were created for community.
- You need a church family.
- The only way you can fulfill God’s main purpose in your life is to have others in your life who can provide spiritual input.
And, you know, I firmly believe that one of the best ways you can create this type of community with others in your life is to participate in a church family; ministries like our Single Adults Ministry and Life Groups here at North Coast.
But, if you still need some convincing; here are 5 Reasons That Getting and Staying Connected in Church Community is Good for You:
- A church community helps you to center your life on God.
- A church community helps you to connect with other believers.
- It helps you cultivate Spiritual Maturity.
- A church community will help you to make a contribution.
- Being part of a church community will help you to communicate God’s message.
Dave Enns, Pastor of Life Groups and Adult Ministries at North Coast Church is often heard saying, “One of the primary needs every person has when they walk through the doors of any church is to be connected in relationship – with God and others. That’s why we do all we can to not only teach the Word but also work to get our people connected in relationship. We don’t see community as secondary to Bible study; the two are designed to go hand in hand.”
It’s true. But, especially for singles, it’s so easy to isolate or withdraw from community and then feel lonely or even alone. As Dave goes on to say, “It’s one of the enemy’s subtle but most effective strategies to keep Jesus’ followers feeling powerless and defeated. Without community, the Christian is in spiritual and relational deficit. That’s why our percentage in groups remains so important to us.”
It’s also why so many of our Life Groups at North Coast are what we call “sermon-based;” i.e., taking the teaching from the weekend and the fill-in-the-blanks notes sheets and Life Group Study Questions provided and using them as the basis for small-group discussion each week during the 10-week quarter.
“The hope of any teaching pastor is that their congregation go home and process how the weekend message can be integrated into their daily lives. People hearing the message often think they want to integrate it or talk about it when they get home or with some friends but they typically end up forgetting about it, not making the time or not having a friend or family member available or who is ready to engage. This is the beauty of sermon-based groups. It helps people do what they internally want to do as a Jesus follower and what the Holy Spirit is motivating them to do – to connect and process together what God’s Word is teaching them to live out.” – Pastor Dave Enns
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely thinking that I’m making a significant push for you to make sure you’re regularly centering your life on God and staying connected in community at church through a Life Group. And, you’d be right.
Life Groups are the number one way people report feeling connected through community at North Coast.
God didn’t create us and put us on earth to live self-centered lives.
His purpose is for us to build our lives with Him at the core.
Each of us was planned by God for His pleasure.
He made each of us so that He could love us.
And He wants us to love Him back.
And one of the best ways we can love Him back is through the people He places in our paths.
Some of the best people for us to “practice on” are the people within our church; within our Life Groups.
The Bible teaches, 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 2 Corinthians 5:14.
The Message version puts it this way; 14 Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.
Staying connected in church community is good for you because it helps you to center your life upon God and it connects you with other believers.
Again, God did not put us on this earth to live an isolated, insulated kind of life.
We were formed (made) to be members of God’s family.
While we are here on this earth, God made and wants us to love other people and particularly to love others in His family.
The Bible teaches in Romans 12:5 that Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.
Once we become children of God, we become brothers and sisters with one another.
The next verse goes on to say that the body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of His body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe, we wouldn’t amount to much. (Romans 12:4-6a-9-10 MSG)
The Bible refers to this as fellowship. (1 John 1:7 among others)
Your spiritual life – my spiritual life won’t amount to anything if it’s disconnected from the body of Christ; the family of God. If I cut off one of my fingers, not only is it not going to grow; it’s not going to live. It has to be connected to the body.
Life is not a solo act. God created us to be wired for community. We NEED one another.
The California Department of Mental Health conducted a study and they discovered that if you isolate yourself from others and you don’t develop close friendships, like in a small group, you are:
- 3x more likely to die from an early death
- You’re 4x more likely to suffer from an emotional burnout
- You’re 5x more likely to be clinically depressed and
- You’re 10x more likely to be hospitalized for an emotional or mental disorder.
Another study compared withdrawing from others and isolating oneself as being as hard on your mind and body as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes every day.
So, for your own health and the safety of others, the prescription is clear; GET IN A GROUP! J
The Bible says this in First John; The person who loves God must also love other believers. (1 John 4:21)
Another way that staying connected in church community is good for you is it helps you to cultivate Spiritual maturity.
You were created to become more like Christ.
This means that God wants us to grow up. He does not want you to be a spiritual infant all your life. He wants you to develop; to become more like Christ. He wants you to grow. But here’s the catch; YOU CAN’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN. No baby ever grows up on its own. It needs a family of some kind.
And you need a spiritual family to help you mature just like you needed a family to help you grow up when you were physically and emotionally young.
God says we need each other.
The Bible says this; “Christ’s body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work. It helps the other parts grow so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT)
The Bible calls this process of growth, discipleship.
Discipleship is simply the process of growing from a spiritual baby to a spiritual adult.
It means I’m maturing in my faith.
I’m getting stronger. I’m building and developing some spiritual muscle.
You see, too many people get stuck in perpetual spiritual immaturity.
They may be saved but they’re shallow.
They’re saved but don’t really want to act like it.
Their goal seems to be just as crazy as they can; to have as much fun and cause enough ruckus in this world so that they just barely make it into heaven – maybe even with a little smoke on their tail.
But the Bible says in Ephesians, “God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and to tell it in love – like Christ in everything. (Ephesians 4:15)
Jesus brought a good time and had a lot of fun while He was on this earth. He was totally relational. But, He took His calling seriously.
So, staying connected in church community helps me center my life on God, it helps connect me to other believers and cultivate spiritual maturity and next, it helps me make a contribution.
There it is. The big “hit-me-up” for more money.
Nope. While monetary contributions are great and likely another way to keep us connected in church community, for the purposes of this post, we’re talking about something that will cause you to dig even deeper. It’s about how you use the gifts and talents God has given to you for the greater good.
When you become a believer, God supernaturally instills in you a specific purpose and provides, through His Holy Spirit, abilities through which to carry out that purpose.
The Bible refers to these as your Spiritual Gifts and every believer has been provided with them.
The key is to identify and then cultivate them to His Glory.
Getting and staying connected in church community helps me develop in order to be able to give something back and to serve others.
When we love and serve others, we Glorify God. (John 13:35 NIV)
God did not put you on earth just to live for yourself but He wants you to make the world a better place. He wants you to use the talents and gifts He has given you.
The Bible says this; “God has made us what we are and has given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ago He planned that we should spend these lives in helping others. (Ephesians 2:10)
But again, here’s the secret; God doesn’t want you to do it on your own. He wants you to serve others, with others.
Regardless of how independent you may think you are, you’re not on your own. You don’t exist in a vacuum. What you do and what you say affects other people. So, why not make that be as positive an effect as it can be? Working with others helps make us better; even when we may think we don’t feel like it.
The Bible says, “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
This means to use your talent and gifts to make a contribution in life.
Our Life Groups regularly engage in Community Service as a way to live this out together.
Not to just be takers in life; but to also be givers in life.
Staying connected helps us to keep our lives centered on God, connect with other believers, cultivate Spiritual maturity, use the talents and gifts to make a difference in this world and finally; Staying connected in church community is good for you because it helps you to communicate God’s message.
The “live” and living message that He has put in you.
God has a purpose for you on this planet.
And, He has a life message that He wants to communicate to the world through you in a way that nobody else can say.
It’s a key part of your plan. And part of what being in church community will help you to do.
The Bible calls this our mission. And our mission is to spread this message of peace and where it comes from.
There are two parts to our mission; speaking and doing. Our mission is both collective and yet, unique to each one of us based upon our experiences and how they’ve affected us.
The Bible says, “You are…God’s instruments to do His work and speak out for Him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference He’s made for you.” (1 Peter 2:9 the Message)
That’s the speaking part. Now here’s the doing part: “Live in a way that brings honor to the Good News of Christ…standing strong with one purpose as you work together as one for the faith of the Good News.” (Philippians 1:27)
This is where Life Groups can be so life-giving.
In a church the size of North Coast but really just about any gathering of believers, church happens as we begin to share with one another in all of the things that happen to and challenge us in this world.
When we genuinely begin to feel Spiritually connected to God’s word to and through one another.
God created and wired us for connection through community.
It’s not always easy. But it’s always life-giving and so, worth it.
If you’ve not yet connected with church community through one of our Life Groups at North Coast, may I urge you to do so now?
Don’t put it off another minute. Learn more about the groups that currently have openings in them by clicking on this link.
If you find yourself challenged in searching for the right group, drop me (Pastor Terry) a line at [email protected].
Don’t let the enemy talk you out of it. Do it today.
And if you’re already in a group, I hope that this message will help reinvigorate you to make this quarter’s group experience one of your best yet; doing your part and helping others to grow in Christ through their participation and fellowship.
Right here with you,