This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Pastor Brent Whitefield, Northpoint’s Pastor of Missions and Outreach.
Summer Bodybuilding Challenge
“The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer. … The believer feels no shame, as though he were still living too much in the flesh, when he yearns for the physical presence of other Christians. … But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Do you recognize what a privilege it is that, as a Christian, you are a member of a body? This is no ordinary body but is the body of Christ himself. This is a fact that is easy to neglect, especially in light of our indoctrination into the rugged individualism of Western society. We speak of our relationship with God as a personal one. Increasingly, we are expected to exercise our faith in a private manner, so as not to offend the sensibilities of those who do not share it. But the Scriptures are quite clear that we are meant to see ourselves as a body and function as such, recognizing the need for and benefit of each member of the body working and contributing. And the love that the members of the body show one another is the means by which the world will know that we are Christ-followers.
This body of Christ is not a theoretical one, but a real one and requires real physical presence to sustain itself. The bottom line is that we as Christians need to be with one another, often. There are many things today which make this more difficult: time-intensive jobs, competitive educational atmospheres, 400+ channels of television, the collapse of the concept of “Sabbath” or even “weekend,” and the iPhones and other devices that have morphed from conveniences into slave masters. Most Christians bemoan these realities but resign themselves to them as if they are inevitable and immutable. The result is that many people are busy but desperately lonely; they have thousands of Facebook friends but no real friends, connected virtually to thousands but physically to no one.
Most believers I know wish that they had more time to spend with other Christians. I certainly do. However, we often fail to recognize that having time to spend with others is a matter of priorities and sacrifices. I will ask each of you to consider this question honestly: How important a priority is it for you to be with other believers? There are practical things that can be done to take on these barriers listed above: when given an occupational choice between time and money, how about choosing time? It is possible to cut the satellite or cable cord. We can try to set aside one day as a day of rest, worship, and fellowship, eschewing temptations like shopping or sports on that day. Most of us could benefit from greater discipline in our use of phones and computers. We need to look up from our screens and give as much time to those around us as to those miles away. Any of these steps, some (but not all) of which I have taken, can be helpful but are no substitute for a heart that is inclined to love, care for, and desire to be with our brothers and sisters.
May I be so bold as to issue the following challenge? This summer, when the days are longer, time off is possible, and school is out, seek out ways to be with other believers. It doesn’t need to be formal times for prayer or Bible study or an organized event, but rather time merely to be in one another’s presence, over a meal or a day at the beach. Be willing to set aside your normal routine, stay up later, enjoy languid hours together where no one is looking at their watch. If you can’t miss Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, have some friends over to watch with you. Be spontaneous, invite someone to lunch after church, allow others into your normally family-only rituals (after all they are your family), put aside your solo woodworking project and take on a task that requires more hands. While the enjoyment of community can feel effortless, we need to fight for the time to do this against the all-consuming demands of our society. Fight that fight. You won’t regret it and the body of Christ will be stronger because of it.