The Importance of Community in Christian Life: Why Fellowship with Other Believers Is Essential for Spiritual Growth

Uncategorized May 23, 2024

In the early 1900s, a young missionary named William Cameron Townsend ventured into the jungles of Guatemala. He encountered the Cakchiquel people, who had no Bible in their native language. Driven by a deep love for these people and a passion for God's Word, Townsend dedicated years to learning their language and translating the Bible for them. His work didn’t stop there. He went on to found Wycliffe Bible Translators, an organization that has since translated the Bible into thousands of languages, bringing God’s Word to countless communities worldwide. Townsend's story is a powerful testament to how one person's commitment to Christ can change the world.

But where did Townsend’s journey begin? Townsend grew up in a devout Christian home. His parents were Presbyterian church members, and his mother played a significant role in nurturing his faith. She encouraged him to read the Bible and be involved in church activities.

However, it was while he was actively involved in student Christian organizations at Occidental College that he became inspired to be a missionary. In 1917, Townsend joined a summer mission trip with the Student Volunteer Movement, an organization that mobilized thousands of young Christians for missionary service. This experience was pivotal, leading him to commit to full-time missionary work.

Look around your home and consider how many Bibles you can access right now, the number of copies of the scripture you can find in churches and libraries, and maybe even tossed in the backseat of your vehicle. It is very likely that Wycliffe Bible translators have directly affected your personal life. And while God used Townsend to found that organization, it was the Christian community in which he grew up that God used to influence and shape him to accomplish his life’s work.

I am going to level with you. I am writing this article because I want you to go to church. But I am not writing from the perspective of a pastor who simply wants to boost church attendance. I want you to go to church because I believe the Christian community can profoundly influence you to make life choices that change the world, just like it did with Charles Townsend. 

Maybe that goal seems too grandiose for the local church, but give me a chance to make my case.

One of my favorite quotes is, "It is a poor frog that will not croak for his own pond.” Frankly, I love the church. Permit me to do some croaking. The church is a sociological miracle. Most people do not realize that the modern-day church is actually a continuation of a promise that God gave to Abraham back in Genesis 12:1-3:

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1–3, NLT).

Notice two things about this passage. First, God promised he would make a nation. Second, he promised all the families of the earth would be blessed through that nation. Now fast-forward to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18: “I will build my church.” The same God who said, "I will make a nation," also said, "I will build my church.” From a desert promise to a living, breathing community, God planned to reach the entire world. 

God succeeded in building the nation of Israel. It had a central location where they could meet to worship God, called the city of Jerusalem. God also gave Israel a unique culture and customs that distinguished them from the nations around them. But when Jesus indicated the extension of that plan with the words "I will build my church,” he did not have just one meeting place in mind. Nor did he have only one culture or one nationality in mind. He pictured his followers gathering in multiple locations and homes across cities, as is described in the days of the early church (Acts 14). He pictured a global tapestry woven with threads from every culture and language. He pictured the church thriving on every continent, under every type of government, in diverse cultures, and in various languages. And Jesus succeeded in building his church! 

Now, every church congregation that exists does so within a unique local culture. And every church congregation has an assignment to influence the culture in which they exist. We change the world, the global community, by influencing the local community. After all, that is the original plan. So, we should examine how the culture interacts with the church and how the church influences it. Only by understanding the dynamic between the local church and the community in which it operates can we hope to be effective in preparing believers to live as influencers within the culture.

I also emphasize that the church should be full of individuals who influence the community. But the church cannot prepare people to affect the local culture, much less the global culture, if people do not go to church. And that is where the church has a challenge.

In 2015, the Barna Research Group revealed some eye-opening insights about how the younger generation views the church. Many felt the church was unnecessary or even harmful:

  • 39% believed they could find God elsewhere.
  • 35% found the church irrelevant.
  • 31% considered it boring.
  • 20% felt God was missing from the church.

Additionally, Millennials perceived the church negatively due to:

  • Moral failures in leadership (35%).
  • Judgmental attitudes (87%).
  • Hypocrisy (85%).
  • Anti-homosexual stances (91%).
  • Insensitivity to others (70%).

Is there any hope that the church can raise up the next Charles Townsend if the next generation holds the Christian community in such distrust? More recent statistics offer a small ray of hope. Fast forward to 2022, and we will find a surprising shift. Millennial church attendance has risen from 21% in 2019 to 39% in 2022, mainly driven by non-white Millennials. In 2019, church attendance among non-white adults was at 31%, and by 2022, it had increased to 40%. Among non-white Millennials specifically, 45% attend church weekly compared to 35% of their white counterparts.

Despite this increase, many Millennials still approach the church with skepticism. They are the most likely generation to be church hoppers, with 22% attending multiple churches or having switched churches during the pandemic. 

I am not necessarily encouraged by the statistical increase. Instead, I am encouraged because the statistics indicate that the next generation is searching for something particular when they go to church. I think the church still has the opportunity to impact the direction of the next generation. I think the church can still raise up another Charleston Townsend. The church can accomplish that by influencing an individual’s life making one decision at a time.

I am referring to the fact that every person makes over 1 million small decisions in their lifetime, which add up together to define who that person is. Years ago, Columbia researcher Sheena Iyengar found that the average person makes about 70 daily conscious decisions. Over a year, that’s 25,550 decisions, and over a 70-year lifespan, that totals 1,788,500 decisions. Think about it—1,788,500 choices that shape who you are, what you believe, and how you live.

The fact is that the people you surround yourself with influence the kind of decisions that you make. It is a simple life principle that the quality of counsel you receive from the people around you is determined by the quality of the people you surround yourself with. In a supportive, faith-filled community, you can receive guidance rooted in biblical wisdom and love. That’s the power of the church community.

However, the millennial generation needs to know that the influence of a church community on a person's life is not due to perfection within that community. Here is the irony. People are just as imperfect in church organizations as in other organizations. The difference is that the supernatural guidance of the Holy Spirit can and will use those imperfect people to help produce the fruit of Jesus in an individual’s life. You will be influenced to a better life purpose by attending church, not because church people are better, but because the Holy Spirit moves amid broken people to bring wholeness, healing, and help to one another. The church makes you a better person because it is, after all, the plan of Jesus. And His plan works!

The church, as a community, is essential for spiritual growth. It’s where we find support, encouragement, and guidance. It’s where we encounter the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Word of God, manifesting in the lives of Jesus' followers to fulfill the promise He gave first to Abraham: “All the nations of the Earth will be blessed.” This promise is fulfilled by Jesus's words: “I will build my church.”

In the end, attending church is not just about fellowshipping with other believers; it’s about becoming part of something bigger, something divine. It’s about discovering the place God has prepared for you as an individual in his great big plan for this planet. It’s about how you can be a global influencer just by attending church!


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.