My husband and I are in full time ministry together. When we married, we moved away from family to join the staff of one of the largest churches in Hampton Roads, Virginia. I’m going to be honest. Being in ministry can be isolating, especially when you are away from family. We realized quickly, when loneliness began to set in, that being around people all the time did not equate to community. When I became pregnant with our first child, I could not shake this African proverb: It takes a whole village to raise a child. We didn’t have a village. We’d left behind our close-knit relationships in our college town and felt alone and vulnerable.
It may be difficult to process how we could feel this way as ministers at one of the largest churches in the area.
Trust me. It was difficult for us, too.
Scripture lays out a mandate in Hebrews 10 that often comes to mind:
“23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, 25 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.”
Let’s take a moment to unpack this.
“not neglecting to gather together…”
I thought I was getting this right. Of course, I don’t neglect to gather together. I don’t miss a Sunday. I’m always at church. I WORK AT CHURCH!
How often do we think like that?
An hour on Sunday is important. Absolutely! We need to corporately worship together. However, I’ll be the first to admit, I was naïve to think once a week with a couple thousand people is what the author of Hebrews meant.
How can we consider one another to provoke love and good works, and encourage each other if we only meet for one hour a week in a 3 song, sermon, offering, dismissal formula?
In college lectures, it’s natural to make acquaintances. You meet 2-3 times a week as a class and you typically sit by the same people. But that lecture 2-3 times a week is not the place to take any of those relationships, if you will, any further than sitting by each other, learning and taking notes. Sure, you have that class in common. It’s a good starting point, but in order to grow in relationship together, you’re going to hang out outside of the classroom. You’re going to exchange numbers, meet up for coffee before class, study together for exams, etc. Before you know it, you’ve made a lifelong friend.
You know each other. You care deeply for one another. You look out for each other, put the other’s needs before yours. You encourage one another, spur each other on to love and good works, all because one day you said, “Hey! You wanna grab a bite after class?”
Christ, being fully God and fully man, was well acquainted with the hardships of living on Earth. Hebrews 4 reminds us that Christ sympathizes with our weaknesses and was in every respect tempted as we are. In the same breath, during His ministry on Earth, He not only had 12 followers, but 12 trusted friends: His community.
I say all of this to implore you to seek, grow, and value community.
It is essential to Christian living. We cannot walk the straight and narrow path alone. We were never meant to. This is written all over scripture.
By the way, my husband and I did find our village. God has blessed us with strong, long-lasting bonds through our church family and we are so grateful for our community.
Do you have a community of believers to walk through life daily with you?
Take some time today to read one or two of these passages that highlight close relationships in scripture:
David and Jonathan: 1 Samuel 18:1-5
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Daniel 2 and 3
The twelve disciples: Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew 10
The early church: Acts 2:41-47
From the beginning of time, You stated that it wasn’t good for man to be alone. You strategically ordained friendships throughout scripture that served in encouraging, loving, aiding, edifying, and undergirding Your people. Thank you for these examples. Help us to examine ourselves today. Search us and know us. Rid us of any pride, or anything hindering us from walking and living out our faith the way you intended us to: together. We look to You for wisdom and direction. Thank you for blessing us with the Church in which we can live in community with. What a gift it is.
In Jesus’ name we pray all these things. Amen.