This week we’ve been focusing on the concept of “Skin in the Game.”
Today I think it’s important to stop and look at an area where every single Christian should have skin in the game: the church.
The Scripture is really clear on this. It is critically important for the Christian life for believers to gather together with other believers (See Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Corinthians 12:20-25) for encouragement, strengthening, and care.
This shouldn’t be revolutionary, but in today’s society we have plenty of believers who think they are doing just fine without being part of a church. There are “nones” and “dones” who believe they can believe in Jesus but never have to interact with a specific group of believers on a regular basis. This flies in the face of Scripture that calls us to live closely enough to each other (believers in Jesus) that we can practice the “one anothers” with them regularly (see The 59 One Anothers of the Bible).
Now, I am the last person to tell you that you need to show up at 10:00 AM on Sunday morning to a building where songs are sung and a speech is given. I gather in my living room with other believers, sometimes with no real plan for what we’ll do when we gather together. But I know the people who are part of my church. They know me. We have access to each other’s lives and we gather together to strengthen each other.
To be fair, this doesn’t always happen in the lives of people who are part of traditional churches, either. While I know many wonderful people who are part of traditional churches who are meaningfully connected to other believers, I also know many who go to sing and hear someone speak. Their Christian experience is an hour on Sunday, instead of a meaningful connection with real believers.
So, my encouragement to you today is to be a part of a local body of believers. Don’t tune into a church half-way across the nation that doesn’t know you. Don’t sit around and wait for the perfect church (or even the church that isn’t perfect but checks all of your boxes). Go and be a part of some type of gathering where other believers gather and imperfectly attempt to encourage and strengthen each other. If you don’t have one of those near you, you should start one.
Lastly, don’t just go. Be a part of the church. Have skin in the game. You know you’re doing it right when you hurt when the people that are part of your church are hurt. You know you’re doing it right when you consider it your job to make disciples, not just the pastor or the pastoral staff. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you’ve stopped picking and choosing who you want to be your “church” and let God give you a love for the people in your spiritual family. You’ll know you’re doing it right when the health and the vitality of your church is your responsibility, not someone else’s.
When it comes to church, it’s critical you have skin in the game.
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Let him who cannot be alone beware of community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone… Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Every time someone new decides to join a house church in our network we sit down with the individual asking to join and talk them through what it’s going to be like. Many people are shocked to hear about our 2’s & 3’s (our small discipleship groups). Usually the shock has nothing to do with the large amount of Scripture we are asking people to read. The shock comes when I begin to lay out the questions we ask each other every week.
What do we ask every week? Questions like “Have you been exposed to any sexually explicit material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about another this week,” and “Have you remained angry at anyone this week?” By the time you get done asking and answering these questions 2 or 3 weeks in a row, you start to get to know someone pretty well.
And that’s part of the point. We practice confession in the midst of our churches because it’s good for us. But the unintended but always present outcome when people are honest is that we become less like strangers and more like family. It reminds me of this quote from theologian Karl Barth:
When we confess our virtues, we are competitors. When we confess our sins, we are brothers.
Isn’t that so true? Bad religion in the human heart will cause all of us to want to look better than one another. True Christianity lived out among us, though, will not only bring humility and confession, but a bond of brotherhood. It’s like John the apostle says in 1 John:
But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
-1 John 1:7-9
It seems so obvious! But we live in such opposition to it! Claiming (or pretending) we have no sin is only fooling ourselves. Confession of sin, first to Jesus and then to others, cleanses us from our sin AND it restores fellowship with Jesus and those around us. Fellowship, true brother and sisterhood, starts as we take off the masks and confess our sins to one another.
Even now in the last few months, I’ve gathered with a few new guys and started confessing my many failings with them. I was fearful and worried that I would be the shameful one in the midst of the group. As things have progressed, not only am I not the only one with sin, but as each of us has opened our hearts to the others, friendships that weren’t there before have formed.
I know you’re in a different spot than I am. But if you’re not living close enough to another brother (if you’re a man, or sister if you’re a girl) to share your sins and pray for another, can I ask that you find someone who is loving and safe and start? Not only will you not feel as alone—but maybe, just maybe!—you might give someone else permission to bring their brokenness into the light and find healing.
It’s worth it.