We prize individuality over community. Nobody likes to be lonely, but we all like to be independent. We think that we don’t need anyone—but their company is nice! We idealize the Lone Ranger—who, if you remember, wasn’t alone.
As we’ve been studying through the book of Acts on Wednesday nights, I’ve been struck by the importance of community in following Jesus. Here are just a few things I’ve noted as we’ve studied:
- When Judas betrayed Jesus, the disciples replaced him at the first opportunity. Each one mattered.
- The miracle of Pentecost arrived when they were all together in one place. It would have been no more difficult for God to reveal himself to every individual, wherever he or she was, but instead he moved on the community.
- Nobody practices “self-baptism.” Every convert was baptized by another convert.
- They intentionally spent time in each other’s homes and shared with each other.
- When the Ethiopian was reading scripture, God chose to miraculously direct Philip to help him, rather than miraculously answer his question.
- God appeared individually to Saul, but he depended on his friends who led him to Damascus, Ananias who taught and baptized him, and Barnabas who vouched for him.
I could go on, but I’ll stop here. God has always called a people, not just a person. It’s a real shame that many of us get frustrated with the church or a little bit prideful and decide that we can go at it on our own.
Yes, we need to read and study scripture individually and privately. It’s important that we have that faith-building experience, but it is equally important that we read it communally and interactively. Studying with others causes us to see things we miss, corrects for our biases, and holds us accountable when we would be hypocrites.
Perhaps that’s why Paul charged Timothy to “devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Tim 4:13). If you’re not in a small group study or Sunday School class, you’re missing out—and you’re holding back a blessing from others.