When I first began to follow Jesus, there were things that I began to understand well. I got really interested in God’s grace and how big God was.
I read books that showed me how big he was. I was real interested in God’s attributes. One of the things it took me a long time to fully understand was how central the church was to what God was doing. And so I talk to guys all the time who say, “Hey, I really love Jesus. And I will attend church because I like to hear good sermons.” But their commitment to the local church isn’t that much.
You see that a lot even with college students. College is kind of that age where you just kind of float around in nothingness—almost like you are not a real person yet. You are trying to figure out what being a real person is. Almost like: “This is my training stage, and I will really get into it once I move on to the next adult stage.”
There is no good, healthy, regular pattern of the Christian life if you are not joined with a local church—if you are not in covenant with other Christians. It’s not OK just having some Christian friends who you talk to sometimes. I am talking about the way that God set it out that there are leaders that you submit to. There are other Christians you covenant to, to pray for and care for. There is actually something that other Christians can do to help you if you fall into unrepentant sin—all the beautiful mercies that God has given us to gather together, to sing together, to sit under preaching together. That is huge in the life of a Christian.
And so we can’t say: God has adopted me. He is my Father. I am glad he is, but I am just going to ignore his people altogether. That doesn’t make any sense, because if you are adopted in his family, you now have brothers and sisters. So when we become new Christians, our identity changes as individuals, but also, in another way, corporately. It is like when I got married, I remember sitting on the couch thinking, “Life as I know it is so different. I don’t think of anything the same way.”
This is a very similar thing when we get saved. We can’t just think things individually any more, just like when I get married and now I am one with another sinner. We have to wrestle with things together. When we trust Jesus, not only do we become one with Jesus, we become one with this people. There is a unity that Jesus has already won for us, and we are now beginning to fight for it. It is just like how I can’t get married and then decide to ignore my wife. In the same way, you can’t just be adopted into a new family and ignore your brothers and sisters. It makes no sense. It is illogical.
So not only are you robbing them of the ways that you can edify them; you are robbing yourself of the ways they can edify you—and it is core to what it means to follow Jesus. So I encourage that young man strongly: Do whatever you can to find a church that preaches God’s word, that is centered around the gospel and where people want to fight to love him more.
Trip Lee (@TripLee) is an author, teacher, hip-hop artist, and thought leader. He is also a pastor in Atlanta and regularly preaches and teaches at Christian conferences and events. Trip's Website