A few weeks ago I got to spend a day listening to Dr. Crawford Loritts . He is one of the great preachers of his generation and has been in ministry for five decades. Needless to say, I knew there would be a lot to learn from him. I was blessed that day to receive his wisdom.
Over the course of five sessions, I soaked up as much as I could. The most impactful for me though was his session on what to do when discouraged. He laid out five different things we must do, and choices we must make. We must choose truth, joy, faith, community, and service.
I want to focus on community today. I have found that much of what we face as Christians is a direct result of trying to walk this life alone. The root of our discouragement and repeated falls into sin can be traced back to our self-isolation. If there is anything I took from this particular session it’s this: there is no longevity in the Christian life where there is also isolation.
Community is vital to the Christian life. It’s not enough to go to a church, we are to belong to a church. This is the group of people we share life with, disciple and are discipled by, and fight to change the world in the name of Jesus.
As children adopted into the family of God, we truly become family. With all the ups and downs that come with that. But with this family, Dr. Loritts pointed out we get two things: support and empathy.
Support. “Isolation breeds distortion.” Those words rang like a bell in my mind. Dr. Loritts accurately pointed out that when we are left to ourselves, our minds go to all sorts of places. For some, it’s catastrophizing and for others, it’s an unrealistic rosy view of the situation. My negative bias makes me lean toward the former. It is very rare that when discouraged we see things truly as they are.
Discouragement is not a call to isolation. In the name of not “burdening” others with our problems, we want to retreat into our personal silos while ignoring one of the most important commands to the church: bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
Empathy. Our greatest desires are to be fully known and fully loved. When we live life as part of the family of God, we open ourselves up to that opportunity. We need to know people care and those empathetic voices provide that much-needed affirmation.
When we are too weak to walk, the encouragement of our sisters and brothers in Christ is what holds us up. We need people who can see where we are and speak truth into our lives. When we are discouraged, our inaccurate perception of the world around us can easily make it feel like we are alone in this world. But the love of others and hearing their stories is always a reminder that we are not.
Community is something to be cherished. Of course, it is hard but it is a necessity in the life of the believer. We need each other.
Isolated By Design
“Our downfall often comes because we’ve cultivated isolation.” Again, another bar by Dr. Loritts that hit me like a sack of bricks. Most often when I see people start to believe some funny theology, it’s usually when they’re alone. Extended time in the “Me and Jesus only” mentality.
It is in those spaces that we start to make God agree with us on everything. Loving who we love and hating who we hate. We partake in all of the hermeneutical gymnastics necessary to justify whatever we need to. reminds us that the enemy is prowling around seeking people to devour. His favorite place to attack us is in our minds.
When we allow church hurt, sin, or our introversion to isolate us from the family of God, we do our spiritual lives a disservice. We cripple our chances of running this race well to the end.
Nothing good happens when we try to be the lone ranger. This is why the Bible has no category for the follower of Christ who lives in isolation. Practically speaking, some of us may need to join a house church because we’ve been too hurt by the institutional church.
Whatever it looks like, I think scripture is relatively clear on the necessity of gathering together and the accountability and direction of pastors in our lives.
Hebrews 10:23–25: Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, since he who promised is faithful.And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works,not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.
When life gets hard, when the church gets messy, choose community.