The Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
The Preacher observes the vanity of trying to work alone as a means to outdo another. What good is achieving all of your career goals if you’re alone? Two are better than one. “Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:11-12).
He is painting a picture of the benefit of community. Community is integral to Christianity. God didn’t just redeem individuals. He redeemed and created a new people for his own possession. The end of the Bible’s story is one of togetherness: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 21:3). Them, not him. They, not she.
Cultural individualism has crept into the life of the church. We talk about a personal relationship with God. We share our testimony of coming to faith in Jesus as our personal Savior. While we do have a personal relationship through a personal Redeemer, these phrases are insufficient and leave us wanting more.
In the life of a Christian, community is more than important. It’s necessary. We are better together than we are alone. We can’t follow Jesus, slay sin, loves neighbor, or truly flourish in isolation. Whatever happens to individuals within the community affects the entire community. We rejoice together. We weep together. Personal sin has corporate consequences. Personal blessing, when shared, is enjoyed by the whole. Membership in a local church is important because we are human, and humans thrive in community. The church, no matter how messy, is a gracious gift of God to redeemed humanity.
But how does it work? What does it look like in the life of the church?
1. We gather together. Sunday morning gatherings are not just for you. They aren’t just for your immediate family. Sunday morning gatherings are for the church. We worship as a people. We sing together. We sit under the Word together. We come to the Table together. We serve together. We fellowship together. We call our gatherings corporate worship, not individual worship, for a reason. This is why your individual participation on Sunday mornings is so important. You aren’t just singing, listening, responding, giving, or serving for yourself. Everything you do on Sunday morning is for your faith family, those sitting in the chairs next to you.
2. We grow together. Discipleship is literally impossible in isolation. Just as plants can’t grow without water and light, you can’t grow in Christ without your brothers and sisters in Christ. We really need each other. Without instruction, correction, admonishment, and affirmation, our faith will be choked out. Our souls will starve without others speaking life into us. Doing life together provides the opportunity for mutual prayer and encouragement.
To commit and covenant in a true biblical community is to reflect both the commitment of Jesus and the future reality of the New Earth. Jesus has promised to be with us always, to never leave us or forsake us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). Perfected humanity will be a perfect community living in harmony with God forever.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their three boys, Jude, Jack, and John.