Christianity is a Team Sport
“I have a relationship with the Lord, I’m still a Christian I just don’t do CHURCH anymore.” This is the frequent cry of the wandering diaspora of detached believers. There are typically two things that contribute to the lone soldier syndrome in the Christian faith: intense cultural individuality, and what many people call “church hurt.” While both are genuinely felt by many yet neither are biblical excuses to neglect “meeting together.” (Hebrew 10:24-25)
I used to quote the scripture above as the only biblical reference that points to the “togetherness” of the expression of our Christian faith. But it turns out that scripture is full of references that underline the importance of doing life together in Christ. I would suggest that according to scripture, Christianity is a team sport. Meaning that community is not just a feel-good “add on” to the Christian Faith, rather it is interlaced throughout the overall design of the Christian life. Just as basketball requires 5 men on the court for a standard game, Christianity requires you to be in community with others—without the team, it just doesn’t look like Basketball.
Can you be a lone ranger and truly love Jesus? I would venture to say your alone status doesn’t impact your salvation but it certainly impacts your rewards on earth and in heaven as well as your effectiveness as an ambassador for Christ.
When speaking with detached believers the typical response to this “team sport” rebuttal is, “Well I can maintain my spirituality with the Holy Spirit and Scripture alone.” Let’s review the following scriptures to see how these responses hold up.
The One Anothers—Sprinkled throughout the New Testament we find over 4 dozen “one another” passages that give the believer instructions on how to treat one another. We are to Encourage One Another (Hebrews 3:13), Forgive One Another (Col 3:13), Love One Another (John 13:34) and the list goes on. The "one another" scriptures were given to believers to practice primarily but not exclusively with other believers. Think of them as a guide book for Spiritual Life—one lived in submission to God and unity with one another.
Loving One Another is the Mark of a Disciple. In John 13:34-35 Jesus gave his disciples this charge: “I give you a new commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.”
In John 17:20-23 Jesus says this… “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one— I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.” There are three important details about the passage above to take into account. 1. Our call to unity is to emulate the unity shared between the Father and the Son. Jesus prays not simply for camaraderie but complete oneness. 2. This type of unity lets the world know that the Father sent the Son. 3. This type of unity also lets the world know that the Father loves us “the church.” as he has loves the Son.
You cannot Love God and Hate People. If none of the other passages are convincing enough check out 1 John 4:20-21 “If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too.”
Christ died for the Church, the Bride of Christ. Contrary to cultural suggestions within western Christianity Christ did not die only to redeem the individual but he died to redeem the Church. You and I as individuals are precious in God’s sight but redemption is given to the Bride of Christ (of which we are a part) for God’s glory. Ephesians 5:22-27 describes the relationship between the bridegroom (Jesus) and the bride (the church) which is said to have been cleansed “with the washing of the water by the word, so that he (Jesus) may present the church to himself as glorious—not having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.”
- Spoiler Alert- Eternity will be spent in community with one another with Christ at the center. In Revelation 7:9-10 John is given a glimpse of what eternity will look like. “After these things, I looked, and there was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands. They were shouting out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” If eternity is not a solo gig why would we expect our earthly expression of Christianity to be any different?
The scripture is clear, Christianity is a team sport, it is meant to be lived out in a community environment where iron sharpens iron. This is not to say that there is no difficulty in a vulnerable and consistent community within the Body of Christ. Just like anything else, there is always a rogue one or two or three that make radical love difficult. But that’s just the thing… How can we as Christians truly become Christ-like when we are unwilling to do the hard work of sticking around when things get messy? Surely things were messy when Christ died for our sins while we were yet still sinners but he pursued us despite our mess.