“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” – Hebrews 10:24-25
For a few years in college I experimented with church. I rarely attended the same church more than three times. I liked trying out different expressions of the faith: Pentecostal, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, Catholic, etc. I liked to think that this gave me a broader understanding of church. I might have even been tempted to believe that I was living into the admonition in Hebrews to “not neglect meeting together”. Truth be told though, I was worried about commitment. I knew that if I kept going to the same church then I might be encouraged to join a small group or help out with a ministry or in some way I’d be invited to, as Pastor David likes to say, “Do life together.” Eeeek! I definitely did not want that. While my understanding of faith did broaden over that time, it did not deepen.
One of the first things Jesus does in his ministry is to create a community. He fosters connections with those who would become the apostles. From this we learn that the way of Christ is meant to be walked with others. In fact, we cannot help but walk with others. Even when it might seem like we are alone, this could not be farther from the truth. The lives of saints past and present are reflected in the translations of scripture, in the theological musings of sermon videos and dusty tomes, and in the continual layers of prayers offered over us. The journey of faith is continuously sustained by the connections the Holy Spirit creates. By living into the exhortation in Hebrews, we discover how deep and how powerful those connections can become.
What I failed to realize in college is that, by avoiding commitment to a particular faith community, I was keeping those communities and their members from committing themselves to me. There were times when having encouragement from someone who knew me would have been life giving. There were times when I needed someone to spur me on to love and good deeds. By hoping from church to church I kept myself safe from being asked to give but I also missed out on the full experience of the beloved community. Fear kept me from living into a deeper truth.
Recently the Pew Research Center documented a decline in worship attendance over the last several years. The chief reason for the decline was not in membership but in frequency. With various commitments and opportunities, no longer were individuals and families likely to attend every week. Sunday mornings may no longer be the prime time to connect with others on this journey of faith. However, the counsel from Hebrews remains timeless even as times change. Let us consider intentional and creative ways that we can regularly connect with even just one other fellow sojourner. By doing this we live into the truth that we are connected by Christ and whenever we live into truth, we grow deeper in faith.
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James