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Practical Theology | What Is Christian Community?

  • November 2022 Issue
Practical Theology

“Sharing our weaknesses with one another can be as crucial to the church’s experience of unity as sharing our strengths.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many congregations shifted online to allow services to continue. But even when churches reopened, not everyone returned. In March 2022, Lifeway Research reported: “The average U.S. Protestant church reports attendance at 74% of what it was prior to COVID-19, which means 1 in 4 pre- pandemic churchgoers are still missing from in-person worship services.”

You may wonder, “Is it important that believers meet together in person?” The short answer is “Yes!” In his letters to the Corinthians, Paul gives guidance to those who “come together as a church” (1 Cor. 11:18). This gathering of believers was being hampered by a spiritual condition much worse than a virus. Bitter divisions had arisen because of their competitive allegiance to favorite teachers (1 Cor. 3:3–4). They were more concerned about their own interests than others’. This spirit of selfishness had infiltrated the church to such an extent that everything was being affected, even their observance of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20–21).

Paul points out that a self- absorbed community is the opposite of a biblical community. A true Christian community should be like a body, where each individual part or “member” functions together for one purpose, “each member belongs to all the others” (Rom. 12:5). Our union with Jesus Christ by faith bonds us together for a common purpose!

We may be relieved to know that the divisions we experience in our modern-day churches are not new. But how then can we hope to live in unity? First, members of a church should be engaged in fellowship or sharing. Christian fellowship begins with the shared experience of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). Second, being the church places us together on an equal plane. God has put the body of Christ together “so that there should be no division in the body” (1 Cor. 12:25). Sharing our weaknesses with one another can be as crucial to the church’s experience of unity as sharing our strengths. We are one body with many members, joined together to worship and serve Jesus Christ.

For Further Study

To learn more, read Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (HarperOne).

BY Dr. John Koessler

John Koessler is Professor Emeritus of Applied Theology and Church Ministries at Moody Bible Institute. John authors the “Practical Theology” column for Today in the Word of which he is also a contributing writer and theological editor. An award-winning author, John’s newest title is When God is Silent: Let the Bible Teach You to Pray (Kirkdale). Prior to joining the Moody faculty, he served as a pastor of Valley Chapel in Green Valley, Illinois, for nine years. He and his wife, Jane, now enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan.

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