I have been reading Jerry Bridge’s book entitled “True Community” and reflecting on some of Biblical teachings concerning the church as a community of believers. In his book Bridges makes the following statement:
There are many organizations both secular and Christian, who members work together to pursue common goals. Some of these groups may call themselves communities. But Biblical community goes much deeper than sharing common goals, though it ultimately involves that. Biblical community is first of all the sharing of a common life in Christ It is when we grasp this truth that we are in a position to begin to understand true community. (page 11)
This is a truth that is not talked about nearly enough in the church today. Too often we think of the church the way we think of other organizations and communities we belong to, but this is a mistake. The defining characteristic of a Christian community, the thing that makes the church different than any other organization in the world, is our union and communion with Christ.
Both individually and corporately we need to fundamentally change the way we view our walk with Christ. The truth is that if we don’t learn to abide in Christ and to share His life on a personal/individual level we will never experience true community in the church. But the flip side of the coin is also true, if we don’t understand the church as a community of believers sharing a common life in Christ we will struggle to abide in Him. It is not an either/or proposition it is a both/and. Nevertheless, we start to experience true community by learning to abide in Christ.
In the second chapter of his book mentions four ways that people today try to live the Christian life.
- Those who try to live the Christian life entirely on their own, by their own effort and willpower.
- Those who try to life the Christian by simply turning it “all over to Christ” We might call this a passive approach to the Christian life.
- Those who have a partial dependence on God. They try to do it themselves until they get in trouble and then call on God.
- Finally, there are those who have discovered the Biblical approach to the Christian life, which Bridges calls “the abiding-in-Christ way.”
In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him,he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Bridges sums up this way of living by pointing out that those who live this way have “learned that he needs God’s help not just beyond a certain point but in every aspect of life. He doesn’t pray for help just during crisis or stressful times. Rather, his prayer is, “Lord, enable me all day long, for with You I can do nothing.” (p.29)