As was mentioned in part one of this (very) short series on community, growth and encouragement are gifts God makes available through our relationships. We cannot become fully mature in Christ unless we enter into the community of believers.
Another blessing of community—although it is not an experience we always enjoy—involves correction and reproof (Prov. 15:5; 2 Tim. 3:16). For a myriad of reasons, we do not like to be corrected. Pride is probably a key reason for that, but there are other factors in play. If, however, we let pride or any other thing keep us from experiencing a continuous progression in our maturity in Christ, then we are less than what God has in mind for us.
Some would argue that we are called to live lives of simple contentment. Paul does say something like that in Philippians 4:11, but Paul of all people is not saying that we should examine ourselves, be satisfied with what we find, and continue living with the status quo. When Paul speaks again of contentment in 1 Timothy 6:6, he couples contentment with the pursuit of godliness. We know that Paul is speaking of the pursuit of godliness, because he says so in verse 11. Godliness, however, is not something that we can successfully and permanently achieve on our own. We need God’s help and the help of the community.
God, even though we would likely consider Him to be completely self-sufficient, chooses to live in relationship with us. The fact that there is a relational aspect to God’s own nature should impress upon us the importance of sharing life together. Part of that sharing, as I started to say earlier, involves compassionate critique. How can we pursue godliness without the help of others who are attempting to live faithfully? God is too big for us to fully see and understand on our own, but He does come into clearer focus when viewed through the various gifts and intimacies experienced in the community of faith.
It is, in part, because of the shared wisdom and experiences of our Christian family that we can gain insight into our own areas of strength and weakness. I used to coach basketball and tennis, and it was my responsibility to help correct my players for their—and for the team’s—benefit. We never reached the point in our season when we felt like growth or development was unimportant. Even the offseason was devoted to improvement. Everyone always had room to grow whether it was the coach, the managers, or the players, and a good leader/coach does not settle for mediocrity when our potential is so much greater.
God does not settle for mediocrity. Our churches should not settle for it, either. We should bless one another with gentle correction and loving guidance so that we can all continue to grow and mature together with God’s blessing. It is not always easy, but it does not have to be hard. We can find great peace and contentment as we stretch ourselves and one another in our shared pursuit of the godliness to which God calls every single one of us.
May we love each other enough to do the hard things,