Community in the Body of Christ
By Dr. Charles Stanley
We all know the benefits of regular church attendance––hearing the Word of God and joining in corporate worship are two of the most important ones. But many believers avoid getting involved beyond Sunday mornings. Past hurts, shyness, and busy schedules are often to blame. But there are many excellent reasons why every believer should make an effort to participate in a local congregation. Here are a few:
Hearing biblical truth preached from the pulpit is uplifting. But personal encouragement from a friend who knows your situation intimately can be even more powerful.
- According to 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, why should we “build up one another”?
- How can encouragement keep us from being hardened by the “the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13)?
- Read Hebrews 10:24-25. How have the words of another spurred you on to “love and good deeds”?
In an atmosphere of mutual support, both friends are often emotionally uplifted. The apostle Paul looked forward to reuniting with the church in Rome, not only to impart spiritual things to them, but also to receive encouragement from them (Rom. 1:11-12).
- Describe a friendship or experience in which both you and the other person received encouragement through conversation.
- How could becoming a member of a church facilitate this kind of encouraging relationship?
Corporate prayer is powerful. Amazing things happen when we petition the Lord together.
- What did James say would happen when the elders prayed for those who are sick (James 5:14-15)?
- Give an example of a time when God answered your prayers for physical healing.
(Of course, the Lord doesn’t always make someone healthy simply because we request it. If He allows suffering to continue, we can be sure He has a specific purpose in mind. See 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.)
Within the context of our relationships with other believers, God also works to bring us emotional and spiritual healing. Resolving interpersonal conflicts helps us develop better patterns of relating to one another. In addition, opening up to a trustworthy person about our faults is a powerful route to wholeness.
- What does James 5:16 say happens when we “confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another”?
- Describe a time when the combined power of confession and prayer helped you overcome sin.
3. Effective Outreach
We often think of evangelism as a solitary activity—talking one on one with a co-worker, neighbor, relative, or stranger who doesn’t yet know the Lord.
- How did Jesus send out the twelve and the seventy in Mark 6:7 and Luke 10:1?
- Given that pattern, how do you think He intended us to fulfill the Great Commission? (See Matthew 28:19-20 if necessary.)
- Why is evangelism done in association with others typically more effective than an individual’s isolated efforts?
- How could you join with at least one other believer in sharing your faith?
Corporate prayer is a powerful aspect of outreach. Together, we can pray for greater love for the lost, open hearts in those we seek to reach, and opportunities to speak of spiritual things.
- Paul asked the Ephesians to pray “that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19). Can you relate to Paul’s request? Why or why not?
4. Intimate Friendships
God wants us to develop and maintain intimate friendships with fellow believers. Most of these begin within the context of Sunday school classes, small groups, or other intimate spiritual settings.
- Romans 12:9-16 provides instructions for how to treat others within the body of Christ. Which of these commands speak to you the most?
- What do the following verses in Proverbs 27 say about the benefits of friendship?
- How have you found Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 to be true in your life?
Are you satisfied with the relationships you have right now within the church? If not, ask God to give you quality friendships that will increase your joy, help bear your sorrows, and bring honor to Him.
5. Practical Help
Being involved in a local congregation usually provides many opportunities to give and receive practical expressions of God’s love.
- How was Paul helped by the church at Philippi (Phil. 4:15-16)?
- In Hebrews 13:16, we are admonished “not [to] neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Aside from financial and prayer support, what are some practical ways that churches can support members in need?
- How have others shown the love of Christ to you in tangible ways?
- The Macedonian churches begged for the “blessing of helping the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4). Does giving to others ever feel like a joy to you? Explain.
- Why do you think our love for each other demonstrates that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35)?
Prayer: Father, thank You for giving us the body of Christ for encouragement, fellowship, accountability, and support. Guide me in choosing which activities and small groups to participate in within my congregation. Let me be a part of fulfilling Your purpose for the church. Amen.