The Strength of Togetherness

It was just one of those weeks. A hard decision, season of change, tears shed, past mistakes showing up again, people hurting, depression looming, sleepless nights. I sent a text to a few friends that I was not well and to pray for me. I also told them I couldn’t talk right now. You know that feeling? To talk means to face my feelings and lose control of the emotions I’m trying so hard to keep in check. At this point, if I do that, I might fall into that abyss of depression and never return (dramatic huh?). I don’t know about you but when I am struggling, my first natural reaction is to isolate myself. 

“Come on Angie, pick yourself up. The enemy is fighting you and you need to stand your ground. Arm yourself with My armor. You’ve seen Me perform miracles time and time again and I will do it again.”

I meant to look up the verses on the armor of God but was in the middle of work and had to get back to it. So thinking I would do that later, I dismissed it for now. 

A few days later I was preparing for my Life Group and I opened my Bible. Guess where it opened to? Exactly on the page where it lays out the armor of God. I had forgotten to go back to it but apparently this is really important for me to get right now. 

I read through it a few times – belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with the gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit. And then I saw what He wanted me to see – there was no protection for my back. So, no turning and running away from the battle at hand. Face it, stand firm, armed with His armor, and He will be with me.

But I also noticed something else too as I read about the breastplate. It protected the chest in battle and Roman soldiers were to face forward, side by side, so that the armor only needed to protect their front. 

Not only do I need to stand firm and face the enemy to protect my back, I also need to have my friends beside me, locking arms, armed with the same armor. Otherwise, I’m still vulnerable to attack from behind.

Whoa.  

As I consider this passage in Ephesians 6, and what I am learning, I realize again how important it is for us to have a tribe of believers around us, locking arms, fighting with and for us. Our strength comes when we are together. It’s important to not isolate yourself when times are hard but to reach out to those you know will lift you up in prayer and stand strong with you. When we become isolated, separated from the church, is when our backs are vulnerable and our weak spot exposed. 

God created the church for many reasons. One of them is to do battle together against the evil one. Despite all seasons, good or bad, let’s hang tight together! We need it perhaps now more than ever. 

The Meaning of “Church” and its Importance

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.   Hebrews 10:24-25

In the dictionary, church is defined as a public building used for Christian worship. We use it in sentences as a noun, a place, such as “Let’s go to church.” However the Biblical definition of church comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of Church is of people and not the building in which they worship.

Even though it has been hard, I have tried to be very purposeful about not calling the building the “church” but the people. I think it is good to understand this point. It makes attending a building on Sunday morning for worship (or whenever you attend) more meaningful. I am relaxing a bit however because I understand that many people understand this but are just using the English definition of the word to describe the place of worship we attend. It’s not all bad as long as we understand the Biblical definition. Pick our battles, right?

I have been raised in a Christian environment my entire life. I speak “church” language well and usually know all the right things to say. I’ve also grown to understand that many of our traditions are not Biblically based. Many may say that meeting together as a church body is not necessary and is one of these traditions. But our beliefs must be based on a Biblical view and Hebrews 10:25 says otherwise.

Let’s focus on the words “Encourage and warn each other”. On a Sunday morning where I attend services, there is a packed building and we all file in right before it starts, sing some songs, listen to a sermon, and file out like our pants are on fire to make it to the nearest restaurant before the crowd gets there. Am I right? It’s not necessarily a bad thing. But ideally, you come into a room full of people you’ve had the opportunity to get to know at some point, REALLY get to know, and worship Jesus with one voice and a common goal. It’s not Sunday mornings that “encourage and warn each other” usually takes place.

God has much more in store for us than one service a week where we never really get to know anyone. He formed the church as a way to support each other. How are we to “encourage” if we don’t know the needs of those with which we worship? How are we to “warn” if we don’t know the struggles of others in our church family?

This works two ways. We need to be willing to plug into the church family we have decided to be a part of and open ourselves up to them so they know how to encourage us. We also need to do what is so hard for us sometimes and LISTEN to others so that God can speak into our lives ways we might be able to encourage them.

So how do we accomplish this? Being in a new church like I am, I have learned that this is hard. It takes years in our busy lives to form deep meaningful relationships within our church family. But I can guarantee you this, it will not happen attending a service once a week.

The Church as God intended is lived out in restaurants and homes getting to know others, serving together in some capacity, reaching out to the lost and hopeless together, meeting in small groups, having coffee with someone, and even sitting together at ball games. Many of us are missing this very important element! Our lives outside of the church services have nothing to do with the people with which we worship. Many times, we feel as if we have two lives. The one we live on Sunday mornings and the one we live the rest of the week. I have felt like that before. Have you?

I want to be a part of a family. A real family in which we truly know each other. We know our strengths and weaknesses. We defend each other from attack and lovingly warn and encourage if we see each other stumble. I want to share my life with the church, at least a small part of it, and work to meet each other’s needs. God knew we needed each other and set this in place for OUR benefit.

Being the church looks much different than attending “church”. I would love for us to catch the vision of what God truly intended the church to be and start investing in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is nothing we cannot do together if we rise up and join each other in our daily lives!

Have you found a church with which you can belong? Are you BEING the church or are you just going to church? I’d like to challenge you to embrace the Biblical meaning and join the group of people who truly understand the power that can be found within the church that God established. I invite you to consider changing your view of the church as a building to a community of God’s children. Find a group of people where you can be real with others about who you are, your strengths and weaknesses, and invest yourself into being a part of the church God intended. Then on Sunday morning, if you choose to all come together to worship, it’s truly a combined effort to praise our Savior together as family, meeting as one in Christ, and being reminded of the greatness of God, the importance of His Word, and the encouragement that comes when we follow His plan.