Earlier this week I was enjoying a conversation with one of our Growth Group leaders, talking about life and ministry. Our discussion ranged to the place of “community” in the life of a Christian, and my friend reminded me of something C. S. Lewis said in his book, The Four Loves.
Lewis would regularly meet with a group of friends that included J. R. R. Tolkien (author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) and another man named Charles. In a section on friendship, Lewis described the impact on the group after Charles died. He writes:
In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can only fully bring out. By myself, I am not large enough to call any person completely into activity. I want other lights than my own to show all the facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically-Charles’ joke. Far from having more of Ronald, far from having him to myself now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. In this, friendship exhibits a glorious nearness by resemblance to heaven itself where the very multitude which no man can number increase the fruition which each has of God. For every soul in heaven, seeing him in her own way, communicates the unique vision to all the rest. That is why the seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying, “Holy, holy, holy” to one another.
That is incredibly profound. Lewis is saying that it takes a group to know an individual. You are so complex that no other single person can bring everything out of you. Only a group brings out a whole person.
If that’s true for another, finite human, how much more is it true of God! There is so much more of God to be known and enjoyed than any one of us can know in isolation. Left to myself, I travel the same ruts in my prayer life. I bring the same assumptions to my reading of the biblical text. Here’s the point: you cannot know God by yourself nearly as well as you can come to know him as part of the community of God’s people. And the insights and experiences of God that you do know on your own are denied to the people of God if you’re not embedded in Christian fellowship. We need what you have, just as you need what we have. That’s what J. I. Packer has in mind when he explains, “Christian fellowship is seeking to share with others what God has made known to you, while letting them share with you what they know of him.”
A case in point. Not only was I blessed by this insight from my friend that night, later in the conversation he shared a spiritual practice he uses at work each today to focus his relationship with God at work. I was blessed by what he shared about that, too, so I pass it on to you:
At noon, he practices “mid-day prayer” where he takes 5 minutes or so to pray through four questions:
1. Am I anxious about anything?
2. Am I fearful?
4. Cold toward anyone?
He then “preaches the gospel to himself” and calls out to God in prayer, seeking to trust him with the particulars that the Spirit reveals to him during that time. What a great way to practice the presence of God at work (or at home or wherever you find yourself halfway through your day)!
GRC is more than a collection of individual Christians who happen to all be worshipping in the same room. Church is not a “place to go.” Church is a community of people. God intends for us to be built together into a place in which he dwells (Eph 2:21-22; 1 Peter 2:4-5).
Have you experienced this kind of spiritual friendship through your connections at GRC? If you have, continue to press in. If you haven’t, drop me a line so we can talk about how you might begin to make these connections.
Steve Sage is our Pastor of Discipleship.