Circles, Not Rows: The Importance of Biblical Community

Why Biblical Community is Important

Right now, it’s easier than ever to regularly attend a church for months or even years without ever developing biblical community. This is particularly true with larger churches, where it’s easy to slip in and out of worship services without ever having a real, face-to-face conversation with someone. Add the complication of virtual church thanks to the pandemic, and it’s a recipe for isolation.

In a church service, we’re often sitting in rows, all facing the same direction. None of us are looking at each other. If we want to find true community, we have to be more than just consumers of sermons and songs. We have to turn toward each other. Biblical community is much more like sitting in circles, facing one another. It might be more vulnerable, but that’s where authentic relationships are made.

Sometimes we can get stuck in the line of thinking that because Christianity is a one-on-one relationship with God, we don’t necessarily need a community of believers to thrive in our faith. While you can certainly be a Christian without the support of a biblical community, walking through life with fellow believers is transformative in helping us deepen our faith, endure life’s hardships and impact others for the Kingdom.

We are created to live in community.

Throughout the Bible, God speaks to the fact that we were designed to live life in community. First, we can look to the Trinity itself. God Himself is three-in-one, and we were made in His image. (In fact, in Gen. 1:26, God even says “Let Us make man in Our image,” using plural pronouns to reference the Trinity.) Next, God creates Adam, but He says it was not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So he created Eve.

The New Testament reinforces this idea over and over again, constantly reminding believers (specifically, the early church) to stick together, love one another and support each other. In Romans 12, Paul writes, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Though we are all different, we are created to live in unity as the body of Christ.

Interestingly, research outside of Christian circles also continually backs up this truth. One of the most pervasive problems in our society today is loneliness. It can contribute to a host of health issues, both mental and physical. And social media isn’t making it any better.

In a recent study from Cigna, more than 3 in 5 people in the U.S. reported being lonely in 2019 — a seven percent increase from the year before. The report also says social media has a significant impact on feelings of loneliness and mental health, with 73 percent of “very heavy” social media users considered lonely and only 52 percent of “light users.”

​​Harvard Magazine reports that according to a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University, “the heightened risk of mortality from loneliness equals that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic, and exceeds the health risks associated with obesity.”

“In-person connections are what really matters,” Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer for behavioral health at Cigna, tells NPR. “Sharing that time to have a meaningful interaction and a meaningful conversation, to share our lives with others, is important to help us mitigate and minimize loneliness.”

The pandemic has certainly not helped, particularly with younger people finding their way apart from their families of origin. According to the Washington Post, the Harvard Graduate School of Education found that 61 percent of young people (ages 18 to 25) reported serious loneliness during the pandemic.

All of these statistics point to the truth the Bible has already laid out: all human beings are wired to live in community. We are not meant to live this life alone. More than that, we are created to live in authentic, deep relationships with others. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the superficial ones will fall by the wayside when times get tough. We need relationships in which we can walk side-by-side through the ups and downs life throws at us. Those relationships provide comfort and stability, encouragement and joy, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye.

We are stronger in the face of adversity.

We live in a broken world, so we are going to face hardship. Jesus told his disciples toward the end of His life that in this world, we will have trouble (John 16:33). That’s a given. But in addition to relying on God to sustain us, a strong biblical community is crucial to weathering those storms well. 

The value of having someone we trust to share our struggles with and to be “in it” with us can’t be overestimated. They can remind us of what Scripture says about who we are and who God is. They can pray for us earnestly. They can lend a hand practically. Sometimes, we just need someone to sit with us and know we’re not alone. 

When we love each other well, we can make each other stronger. Though life will certainly not be easy, we can find much more joy and beauty in it when we do it together.

We have a greater impact on the world together.

When we’re united as the body of Christ, we can make a greater impact on the world around us. When we all share a common goal and work together, we can accomplish more. That’s as true about growing the Kingdom of God as it is about group projects in middle school. When we’re all pulling in different directions with individual agendas, we split our efforts. But if we come together, not only can we work together for a common cause, we can show others what it’s like to love well. We can be an example for nonbelievers and draw them to Christ. Jesus tells his disciples in John 13, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (NKJV). Our love for one another should identify us as His followers. We are called to be salt and light in the world, and our good works should prompt others to praise Him (Matt. 5:16). 

And we’re stronger together. The Bible says a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecc. 4:12). This verse is often applied to marriage, but the same is true for all relationships. Together, we can support one another and hold each other up. In the Old Testament, this truth is displayed through Moses, Aaron and Hur. The Israelites were fighting the Amalekites, and they found that whenever Moses’ arms were raised, the Israelites prevailed. Whenever he lowered them, the Amalekites gained ground. So Moses kept his arms up. But eventually his arms grew weary. Instead of allowing the Amalekites to win, Aaron and Hur came beside Moses and held his arms up until the Amalekites were defeated. When we support each other, we can endure much more.

Let’s take the risk of being vulnerable so we can invest in biblical community. Let’s turn our chairs inward and sit in circles, not just rows.