Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Side By Side

A church that grows in rows rather than in tangles is a threat not only to the very structure of God's people, His intended design for the community of His children, but also hinders the spiritual growth of all present. This is because a church that grows in rows is trapped in a perpetual state of infancy with no way to move beyond it and mature. 

It's really not that hard to see. In order to understand this, we need look no further than basic human development models. When you walk into a room full of toddlers or preschoolers, they are often all playing, and it looks like they are playing even, perhaps, together. But what's really going on is that they are playing next to one another, sometimes with the same kinds of toys. It's called "parallel play," and while it is the first step toward learning to actually play together, it's a far cry from real friendship, fellowship, and community. 

But this is what's happening in our churches every day. We are a people of God stuck in parallel play. What's happening is that we're worshiping, serving, loving, and learning next to one another, sometimes with the same kinds of tools, but we're not actually doing these things together. It's the first step toward being an actual people of God, but it's a far cry from the kind of meaningful friendship, fellowship, and community that God desires for us. 

And it's why it's so easy for us to "belong" to and attend a church of hundreds, if not thousands, and still feel not only alone, but so far from God. 

The Scriptures talk about how at some point, we must grow up in our faith. We must stop feasting on spiritual milk and get to the real meat of being a people of God. We can't do this if we are stuck in an immature community, in a toddler-level fellowship where all that we're doing is side-by-side. If we intend to grow and mature and become spiritual adults, we have to move from this side-by-side to something more face-to-face and hand-in-hand. 

It's life, all tangled together, the way it was always meant to be. 

What does one have to do with the other? Why can't we study our Bibles, pray diligently, worship passionately, and grow in rows? Why does our spiritual growth depend upon being in a real, vital, tangled community of God's people?

Because our God is a relational God. Everything He can teach us about the world, about Himself, about ourselves is relational. Jesus had twelve disciples, not one. And at the most important moments of His life, He never took just one disciple with Him; it was always at least two or three. That's because life is not done alone. Faith is not done alone. We simply cannot truly know or understand or vibrantly live any truth unless it is a shared truth, and shared truth is done in relationship.

If you find that your faith is not growing deeper, if you find that it's not growing wider, if you find that no matter what you do to invest in your relationship with God, it's just not bearing the fruit it ought to be bearing, ask yourself how you're growing in your church. If you're always side-by-side with others, that's probably part of the problem.

You've got to be face-to-face and, better yet, hand-in-hand. It's how we grow to be heart-in-heart.

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