Entering the Gates Together

July 6, 2016 No Comments »
Entering the Gates Together

By Javan Rowe

“No man is an island,” so the saying goes. For a world saturated with social media, it is ironic that we have become the most individualistic society in perhaps all of history. This is not only true of the broad culture but is witnessed within our faith as well.

God intends for us to live out our faith in community. But can’t we follow the Bible’s teachings while going it alone? Do we really need each other?

Corporate Worship

Psalm 100 is a well-known psalm exhibiting outward worship of God. It begins, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (vv. 1-3).

While this could certainly express either individual or corporate worship, the next passage highlights the latter: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (v. 4). Gates and courts imply other people. I cannot help but envision a group of believers entering a busy courtyard filled with other Christians already getting their praise on. Through the interactive fellowship of multiple believers, our worship can rise to great heights.

Paul demonstrated the importance of community in 1 Corinthians 12, where he wrote a powerful essay on our being members of one body—the body of Christ. “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (vv. 12, 27). These individual parts that make up the body of Christ symbolize the Spirit providing varying gifts to believers who are united in miraculous ways.

This is why I cannot understand why some believers avoid church. Their absence from church causes them to miss out on witnessing Christ’s body being joined together. When we bypass fellowship and practice Lone Ranger Christianity, we behave like unattached hands or feet and are largely ineffective as a result. We also miss out on blessings that could be ours by seeing Christ’s intact body put into action.

Results of Fellowship

Though there are many positive results of fellowshipping with other believers, I see four vital ones:

Basic needs met

“Serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13). The life of a Christian is one of service to God and others. The greatest outcome of effective fellowship is a community of believers meeting each other’s needs. When we don’t purposely focus on loving and serving others we default to indulging our own flesh. Jesus called us to a life of servitude, using the washing of his disciples’ feet as an example. If we neglect fellowship, we simply cannot obey Christ and serve the church.

Encouragement

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24, 25). When we peel away our hardened exteriors we discover our desire for encouragement. This world can get us down—I think all of us can agree on that. So why do we struggle alone when others are willing to walk with us? The church is full of those who can help us to “bear one another’s burdens” in encouragement (Galatians 6:2). As countless forms of rejection flow from the world, we can embrace the encouragement that comes from fellowship.

Sanctification

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10). We make much greater headway on our journey down the path to sanctification when we travel together. Sometimes Christian fellowship is demonstrated in discipleship, where the mature believer comes alongside the less mature. Other times we are on similar spiritual footing, so we require equal partnership and prayer in our consecrated path. Whichever the case, when we confess our sins to each other and pray for each other, we discover healing, power, and effectiveness (James 5:16).

Victory in spiritual battle

“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). There are spiritual forces working to hinder us in our Christian walks. We need people to hold us accountable for sin that creeps into our lives, but we also need those who help stand watch as sentinels or join in spiritual battle as soldiers. Remember Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). This principle has a wide scope that carries over to many areas of faith. When we fellowship with others—whether or not it is for spiritual battle—Christ goes with us.

It’s About Relationship

God created us as relational beings to fellowship with God and to also relate to each other. Our Christian relationships should move beyond shallow acquaintances and become meaningful ones where we challenge, serve, and love each other.

Christian fellowship is something extremely important to me because I experienced what it is like to be without it. A few years ago my family began searching for a church closer to home. We spent many Sundays visiting the churches around us. Yet we were continually drawn back to a church that was further away than we had planned. It eventually became obvious that it was the place for us.

When my wife and I finally planned on getting plugged in to the music ministry, tragedy stuck. My father-in-law was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. For the following year, most of our Sundays involved trips out of town to visit my wife’s family. During that time, we were lucky if we could go to church more than once a month, primarily because Sundays were my only day off from work in order to visit family. What we found, besides the obvious stresses, was that we missed the fellowship found in corporate worship. We did not have others within the church to lean on for encouragement and relationship. We felt detached and alone.

The truth is we need each other. We need the greater level of worship that is birthed out of fellowship with other believers. What joy will fill our hearts when we continually see the parts of the body moving in unison with the head, Jesus Christ. So let us continue to join in fellowship and enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise so we can worship Christ more deeply together.

Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio (javanrowe@eyesonthekingdom.com).

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