The Emergency Rescue Church
In the Midst of a Loneliness Epidemic, We Must Seek Christian Community
Guest Ed Jarrett - Contributing Writer
How many people are in your life that you would consider as close friends? According to a recent survey, in the United States this number has declined dramatically in the past thirty years. In 1990, 27% of adults reported having three or fewer friends, while 33% had ten or more. In 2021 those numbers had changed to 49% and 13%. Another source identifies this as an epidemic of loneliness. And this problem is especially acute among men, who, on average, have fewer close friends than women.
This decline in friendships has many potential causes, including the recent pandemic, that are beyond the scope of this article. But I would like to look at what the Scripture tells us about friendships and the need to be living in a community of like-minded believers, and what we might do to foster that kind of nurturing environment.
But First, a Confession
Lest anyone think that I am any kind of expert on making and developing friends, I think it is important to point out that I am among those with very few friends that I would call close. And this has been true all my life. I am at the extreme introvert end of the introvert/extrovert scale, and am very comfortable being alone. I actually welcomed the social distancing introduced by the COVID pandemic because it gave me more of an excuse to hang out with just my wife, who also happens to be my best friend.
Yet even though there is a big part of me that would be content to hide out in my basement or the mountains for the rest of my life, I do understand all too well the danger inherent in that. God has not called me to be a lone ranger. Instead, I am expected to be an intimate part of a community of believers, both for my own benefit and that of the overall body of believers. So, what I write here is as much out of my own desire to experience this as it is to share with others.
Made to Be in Community
According to the second chapter of Genesis, God created Adam and put him into the garden of God. It was a perfect environment with a fulfilling occupation. But something was missing; Adam was alone. And God saw that as not good. So, he paraded a series of animals before Adam for him to name, looking for a companion. But none was found. So, God made Eve and brought her to Adam. Problem solved. He was no longer alone. And it was good.
Whether or not you understand this to be a literal account is not important to the truth that it gives us. It is not good for us to live in isolation from other people. Two chapters later, after Cain killed his brother, he was driven out from home and family to become a restless wanderer, an outcast. And being cast out as a lonely wanderer was almost more than Cain could bear.
Being connected to other people is important for our well-being. But even more important is the connection we should have together as believers in the Lord Jesus.
Members of One Body
In John 17:20-23, Jesus prayed that we would be one, just as he and the Father are one – that we would be brought to complete unity. Experiencing the unity of the Trinity is beyond our ability. But Jesus’ words do illustrate his desire for us. That as his disciples, we would be united in heart, mind, and purpose with one Spirit and one love.
The church, in its earliest days, seemed to experience this unity. In Acts 2:42, we are told that “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They devoted themselves to koinonia, the Greek word translated as “fellowship” in this passage. Koinonia describes a close association between people, often based on what is common. They were drawn together because of their common faith in the Lord Jesus.
The twelfth chapter of 1 Corinthians is an extensive illustration of the church as a body – a body that is made up of many members, each equipped by the Holy Spirit to serve the body, and each essential for the proper functioning of the body.
The Personal Benefit of Belonging
A question that many may ask is, “What’s in it for me?” And it is a valid question. What value is there for me in being a part of an active community of believers? Assuming you have the desire to grow in your faith, there is much value in finding a community of believers where you can sink down roots and grow.
In Colossians 2:2, Paul expressed his goal for the churches he worked with. He wanted them to be “united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ.” For Paul, being united in love within the body is essential if you want to fully understand God's mystery. Through the church, “the manifold wisdom of God” is revealed (Eph. 3:10). And I can understand that best by being a part of it.
Ecclesiastes 8:9-10 tells us that two are better than one; their work is more productive. And if one falls, there is someone to pick them up. Having other believers in your life can be of great value to you when you become discouraged or are facing doubts. Having close friends who share your faith helps to ensure your success on this journey of faith we are on.Hebrews 10:25 tells us to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” When we meet together, we have the ability to be an encouragement to those around us, as well as to be encouraged by them. Encouragement can help when I become discouraged, but it also can be a motivation to progress in the faith, growing deeper in my relationship with the Lord and in obedience to him.
While accountability in the workplace is expected and generally accepted, it is much more challenging in peer relationships. But it is an important aspect of living and growing together. If I am accountable to other people, I am much more likely to be doing what I should. Accountability can also include confession when we have fallen short. James 5:15 instructs us to confess our sins so that we can be prayed for and healed. We need not confess our sin to everyone, unless our sin has impacted everyone. But we should have those we can confess to whom we know will love us and pray for us. And, in doing so, brings healing.
The Value to the Community
While being a part of a community of believers is clearly advantageous to me, it is also necessary for the health of the body of believers. God has not called us to be lone-ranger Christians. Instead, he has called us to be an active part of his church. In 1 Corinthians 12:13, Paul tells us that we were all baptized into the body of Christ. None of us are independent of the body. And, as the body is beneficial to us, so we are beneficial to it.
1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us that the Spirit has gifted each of us for the common good of the body. Every believer is gifted by the Holy Spirit, and that gifting is for the benefit of the body. If I fail to utilize my gifting within the life of the body, I am handicapping the body.
In Ephesians 4:16, Paul tells us that the body “grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” It is only as each of us is faithful to be that part of the body that we have been equipped to be that the body will be able to reach its potential. When I fail to do that, I hurt myself as well as the body that I should be serving.
Choose to Belong
As believers in the Lord Jesus, we are a part of the universal body of Christ. But we should also be gathering with other believers in a local community of faith – a place where we can serve God alongside other believers, as well as encourage and be encouraged during the faith journey we are on.
But that does not just happen. We need to commit ourselves to be a part of a local body. Not just to attend worship services, but to be an active participant in the life of the body. Loving and being loved. Contributing to the health of the body. And allowing the fellowship of the body to enrich your own life.
There are indeed some valid reasons why you may be unable to be active in the life of a local body. But if it is possible, make every effort to find a body where you can belong, grow, and contribute.
INTRODUCTION TO TITUS 3
Titus 3:4-7 Meaning and Commentary
INTRODUCTION TO TITUS 3
In this chapter the apostle exhorts Titus to press various duties incumbent on Christians, with arguments engaging to them; gives him some directions about dealing with heretics, and some instructions about private matters, and particular persons, and closes it with salutations. And first, he charges him to put his hearers in mind of their duty, to be subject to civil magistrates, and readily perform whatever is right and proper for them to do; and to abstain from blaspheming and brawling, and to exercise gentleness and meekness to all men, Tit 3:1,2. The arguments inducing thereunto are taken partly from their former state and condition, while unregenerate: when they were as ignorant and as wicked as other men, they are exhorted to behave well to; and partly from the consideration of the salvation they were now partakers of, Tit 3:3,4 which leads on the apostle to give an account of its causes and means: the moving cause of it is the love and mercy of God; the way and means in which it is brought about, are not works of righteousness done by men, but the regenerating and renewing grace of the Spirit, which is plentifully bestowed through Jesus Christ the Saviour, and justification by the free grace of God, by virtue of which men become heirs unto, and have an hope of eternal life, Tit 3:4-7 which several blessings of grace should be constantly insisted on in the ministry of the word, in order to engage believers carefully to perform good works; and because such doctrines are good in themselves, and profitable to men; whereas questions, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law, are foolish, vain, and unprofitable, and to be avoided, Tit 3:8,9, wherefore an heretical man should be rejected from all Christian conversation and communion, after he has been admonished at least twice, seeing he is off of the foundation, has sinned, and is self-condemned, Tit 3:10,11. Next the apostle desires Titus to meet him at Nicopolis, where his design was to pass the winter, upon sending two ministering brethren to Crete, who are mentioned by name, Tit 3:12 and that he would accommodate two others, who are also named, with everything convenient for their journey, Tit 3:13 and charges him to exhort the brethren under his care to learn to be diligent and industrious in the performance of good works, which have their necessary uses, and prevent unfruitfulness, Tit 3:13,14. And the epistle is concluded with salutations, and the apostle's usual benediction, Tit 3:15.
Taken from John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Titus 3:4-7 In-Context
2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.