It would appear that a number of Christians have no idea that the Church – the fellowship of believers – is about relationships. A number of current examples come to mind.
Just the other day a young man who has travelled with me overseas and worked with me in my own country wrote a text asking me how I have been. Fair question I suppose until you realize that the last contact was made February, 2018 – almost four years ago. I have been in his area numerous times since then but no effort was made to meet with me or attend events I was ministering at. But, all of a sudden he is writing asking me how I am doing. Does he really care? I suspect not.
I have worked for a leader of a church for over a decade and known him much longer than that. Twice – count them: one, two – he has asked me how I am doing personally. Just twice in over a decade. Should I mention I live in his home when in his area and that he has travel overseas with me. I know a lot about him; he knows next to nothing about me. A relationship? I think not.
I text the members of my house church every morning except the day we meet. Usually one or more of the members get back to me about what I noted in my text. You know, something the Lord is showing me, the work overseas, new contacts, prayer requests. However, there is someone who seldom and almost never has responded to the texts. And the texts have been going out almost daily since Covid began. Connected into the faith community. Nope! Afraid not.
Then there are the others who I relate to…
I speak to a businessman every Sunday morning. He lives in Kazakhstan. We are connected.
I connect with a young man in northern New York State regularly throughout the week. We are connected, relate, share, and care.
I relate to a young man in the state of Maryland on a regular FaceTime call. We are connected and in a friendship.
I talk to leaders around the nation where I live (Canada) and in other nations like Kazakhstan, Armenia, Russia, Turkey on a semi-regular basis. We are connected.
I coffee with one of my daughters almost weekly. We are connected and in a relationship.
I spend time every week with another daughter and her husband. They drop over once or twice every week. We are connected. They express their love for us by wanting to relate and be a part of our lives. Connected, relationships and community.
I think that part of the problem is that we have an “individualized” concert of the Christian faith. We see it as a personal relationship between me and God and don’t think of the corporate aspect of the faith as seen very quickly when reading the book of Acts and the epistles to the various New Testament churches. They met together. They fellowshipped daily. They worshipped together. They understood the Christian faith had a “one another” concept as there are 59 “on another” verses in the New Testament.
In my past life as a priest, the denomination I belonged to had a sense of belonging and corporateness. Or, at least that was within their written “book to work by” called the Book of Common Prayer. There was a corporate time in the service for the confession of sin (as a body, a local church – like Israel in the Old Testament as a nation). There was a sense of praying together repeating with each other the same prayers. There was a corporateness to the teaching and the understanding of Church. That is often missing in the Pentecostal, evangelical, and Spirit-filled churches today. Maybe it is a carry over from the pioneer days when rugged individualism seemed to reign. Maybe not. Whatever the cause it is a missing ingredient in the life of the church. And, as a result between those who belong to a local assembly an even those we would call co-labourers and friends.
I believe it is time to embrace true relationships within the Church. To regain a sense of belonging. A sense of connectedness. A sense of “we” in place of “me.” Dare I say, a sense of ownership and being engaged in the church – which is, after all, simply the people of God gathered. Surely we of all people should be open to becoming ‘a people’ and actually relating to each other at a significant level both during the week and on Sunday.