Why is having a church family so valuable?First, we have to determine why we refer to the church as a family. The Bible explains that "all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ …" (Romans 8:16–17). Becoming a Christian means being adopted into God's family as a child of God and brother or sister to fellow believers. This understanding explains why we refer to the church as a family. So what is the value of this family?
There are numerous verses in the New Testament that refer to how believers are to interact with "one another." Looking at some of these verses, we can determine what value a believer gains by belonging to and interacting with the church family.
Jesus Himself calls His disciples to "love one another" in such a way that "all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34–35). So one benefit in having a church family is being loved and loving others in a way that is different from how people in the secular world love. This love is to be sacrificial and unconditional like the love Jesus has shown to us (John 15:12). The other commands about how believers are to interact with "one another" essentially detail how that love plays out practically.
Galatians 6:2 says to "bear one another's burdens." In a church family, we can share our struggles and others will help us bear those burdens. Galatians 5:13 says, "… through love serve one another." So when struggles are brought to the church family, those believers are to respond by serving one another, alleviating the suffering wherever possible. When those struggles cannot be alleviated, James 5:16 says to "pray for one another, that you may be healed." Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says to "encourage one another and build one another up." Second Corinthians 13:11 commands us to "comfort one another." So another value to having a church family is that facing our struggles and bearing our burdens becomes easier.
Colossians 3:16 states that believers should be "teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom." Likewise, Ephesians 4:25 says, "Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." So another way a church family's love for one another plays out is in speaking truth into each other's lives. Teaching each other what God has revealed in Scripture so "that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17). Hebrews 10:24 calls believers "to stir up one another to love and good works." A further benefit of having a church family is that a believer receives teaching and is equipped and stimulated to do the good works God calls him or her to do (Ephesians 2:10).
James 5:16 says to "confess your sins to one another." Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Bringing sin to one another should be a time of forgiveness, encouragement, and support. Confession brings an opportunity for accountability and forgiveness, both of which are crucially important in the battle to overcome sin.
The value in having a church family is not only in receiving—receiving love, bearing lighter burdens, learning truth that equips, and having help to overcome sin. There is value also in having the opportunity to give in each of these areas to other believers. Serving—whether by extending love and acceptance; offering to cook, drive, or babysit; teaching children or discipling those younger in the faith; or meeting with someone to provide accountability and encouragement—brings a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Knowing that God has a role for each believer to play in the lives of other believers gives meaning and direction to our lives.
It is not only the New Testament that recognizes the need for followers of God to be in community with one another. The Old Testament also points out how vitally important community is. Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 say, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." These verses point to the reality of how community makes our burdens easier to bear.
Proverbs 27:17 states that, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." Being a part of community allows believers to help each other to better understand and live out the truth. Proverbs 27:6 and 9 say, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend… the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel." These verses show that accountability from a friend is a blessing in our lives.
When a church family faithfully lives out these principles of love, God is ultimately glorified. Jesus commanded His disciples to "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). In light of the fact that engaging with our church family glorifies God and given the other benefits of interacting with the church family, let us "not [be found] neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but [let us be] encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:25).
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