If salvation is about a personal relationship with God, why do we need to belong to a church? Church gets so messy. Some of the people there end up hurting us, and honestly, we end up hurting some of them too. Wouldn’t it be easier to skip the whole community thing and just focus on getting to know God one on one?
Despite the sometimes unpleasant aspects church community, we can not do without it. We must have a church community in order to experience the personal growth that God desires to bless us with.
One reason we need community is that we need help being honest with ourselves. It’s hard to call yourself out for your own actions when you are straying; its much easier to make excuses for your own actions. With a group of people surrounding me whom I trust I can learn from my mistakes earlier; without that feedback the fault will continue to grow until it becomes a bigger issue requiring more effort to correct.
Not only do we need to be willing to accept feedback from others, we need to be in the habit of giving feedback as well. Giving constructive feedback in a way that is soft enough to encourage the other person to listen but blunt enough to be useful is a skill that does not come naturally to most of us. Its funny how often the faults that we see in other people are related to an area in our own life that we need to continue maturing in. The process of understanding another person’s situation well enough to give constructive feedback (positive or negative) helps us to evaluate ourselves too.
In addition to accountability, church helps us to broaden our perspective. Picking my own study topics and worship methods will lead me into a rut; I will probably choose things that I already like and agree with. The opposite error would be to willy-nilly sample from a wide variety of teachings without rhyme or reason. Either direction will lead me to shallow study and will halt my growth. Participation in a church community will help us to grow by keeping our study simultaneously consistent and varied.
Does your church community contribute to your growth in these ways? If not, what step could you take to help shape the community into one which does grow people?
Mary DeMuth’s entry on the Christianity Today Her.meneutics blog gives another excellent perspective on why church is critical to our spiritual development
Cite Simon posted an excellent article about teaching and remaining teachable