I remember the day like it was yesterday. A cloudy, dramatic-looking sky billowing over gray-blue waves. I stood on the shoreline ashamed and afraid. Ashamed of myself for falling into sin once again and afraid that I had lost my salvation.
But I knew that I loved God. I knew that I trusted Jesus Christ as my Savior. I knew that I hated my sin. But why did sin’s claws still have their hold on my heart?
I think the version of Christianity I expected to experience was a one-and-done repentance. That immediately I would gain the self-control to rarely fall back into sin again. Though my mind knew my salvation was not achieved by works, my heart still held onto the desire to be “good enough” to earn God’s love. So the feeling of shame brought doubt: Does God still love me?
I was a new believer, an 18-year-old college freshman trying to piece together the fundamentals of my faith. Jesus was gracious to me those days; those days where I hazily read my Bible, gleaning all that I could understand. But by the grace of God, I got connected with a solid college ministry, a group of lifelong friends, and a small group leader that loved us enough to teach us to read God’s Word for ourselves.
In the context of community, I watched my scattered faith find focus. The lies I once believed were countered with truth. The vague idea I had about living for Christ found clarity. And through conversations over the next couple of years, I finally understood the grace through which I had been saved.
Maybe you are in this season, new to faith, and unsure of where to start. Or maybe you know someone new to faith who feels lost when trying to practically walk with God. Here are three important reasons why biblical community matters for the new believer:
#1 Biblical Community Helps Us Walk with Christ
A faith separate from community is a faith easily abandoned. Why? Because taking the next step of faith is difficult when we are not sure where to go or how to step. Humans learn by observation and imitation. For example, we learn a new hobby by watching others participate and then trying for ourselves. In the same way, close community with other believers allows us the opportunity to observe Christian living and model that in our own lives.
This is discipleship. Jesus brought twelve others into His ministry to observe His message and His way of life. With this knowledge, the disciples spread the gospel message to the ends of the earth.
Discipleship functions in the same way for us today. Proverbs 27:17 reminds us that “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” Someone else’s perspective on Scripture may teach us something we had never thought of before. Another person’s steadfast prayer may encourage us to deepen prayer in our own life. Someone’s Bible study routine may hold us accountable to diving into God’s Word for ourselves. Our spiritual lives are not meant to be private. Instead, we are meant to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24 NIV).
#2 Biblical Community Invites Accountability
In popular culture, we hear the phrase “follow your heart.” Yet Scripture tells us that “the heart is more deceitful than anything else” (Jeremiah 17:9). We are our own best deceivers. Entering into biblical community helps us safeguard our hearts against the temptation to hide our sins in the dark. By letting one another into the messiness of our everyday lives, we become more and more comfortable with the gift of being known. We are more likely to be vulnerable. We are more likely to bring our sins into the light so that they may be healed. In fact, James 5:16 instructs us to confess our sins to one another: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”
The act of confession protects us from becoming callous toward our sin. Real, honest humility before God keeps us in awe of Him and the grace so generously poured out through His Son.
#3 Biblical Community Encourages Us As Believers
Scripture is pretty clear that all Christians will experience suffering (John 16:33). Yet in this suffering, Jesus tells us to take heart, for He has overcome the world. However, sometimes in pain it is difficult to believe the hope that we profess, especially for those new in faith. We may doubt His goodness, ask God “why,” and even become angry with our Heavenly Father. Biblical community helps to pull us out of the pit. God beautifully uses Christian brothers and sisters to instill truth into one another’s lives, to pray for one another, and to practically serve one another in times of need.
When we make it to the other side of our difficulty, we will see that God was near through the tender care and thoughtful
words of dear friends.
If you are new to the faith and the thought of finding Christian community feels overwhelming, do not be discouraged! First, your growth is not stagnant. When you accept Jesus as your Savior, the Holy Spirit dwells within you to teach you the word of God and to guide you in applying His Word to your life. However, you do not have to fumble through faith on your own.
Christ created His Church for the spread of the gospel and for the good of His people. Before Christ was arrested, He prayed for His followers. He prays that they may be unified as He and the Father are unified (John 17:20–21). Jesus believed in His Church. And if Jesus believed in the importance of His Church, so should we.