As I watched church on livestream from my couch while isolating with COVID, I felt a wave of FOMO[1] that had not been there in the same way when churches were asked to suspend physical meetings entirely for a time. Now it was different. Even though I could still only see the faces of those serving up the front, I could imagine my brothers and sisters in Christ facing them; greeting one another, sharing life’s burdens and joys, singing praises to God, carefully running their fingers along the pages of Bibles as they followed the reading and preaching. I didn’t see these things on camera, but I knew they were happening, and I felt uneasy about not being part of that with them. I felt weird about the whole thing, and I yearned to be with my people once again. 

Our communities shape our identities; they give us a sense of belonging, meaning, purpose, and direction in the everyday walk of life. 

I take it that for all of us, being part of one or more communities is an important part of our lives. They shape our identities; they give us a sense of belonging, meaning, purpose, and direction in the everyday walk of life. 

Yet, I suggest that the church—the community of God’s people gathered—has something to offer that other good communities don’t. The local church is unique because it gives us a glimpse of real community and, at the same time, gives us a place to exercise fellowshipping in community in the context of the broken world in which we live—a world marred by selfishness, rebellion, and delusion about the purpose of life and who is really in control. 

Eternal Community

One of the most beautiful pictures of the church comes from John’s vision in the book of Revelation. There, the church is described as a great multitude—people derived from every ethnicity and echelon—all gathered around the throne of triune God; united by having had their robes  washed by the blood of the Lamb (cf. Rev 7:9-14). 

This is not just any community of like-minded people, but the community par excellence. It is God’s vision for a community where he rules over them like a loving Father, and they respond in gratitude and praise as his especially loved children. And while John’s vision encompasses those from times past and times to come, our current church communities are a unique taste of that reality. 

If you are a Christian, you are at the same time one who has been individually cleansed of your sin and born again to an imperishable inheritance that is kept in heaven for you (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-4), while also being saved into a larger community of brothers and sisters—all united by being adopted by God. This is real community because of its permanence—it is an eternal community.

Truthful Community

Knowing the solidity of this communal reality is vital for us in these times. We are in what the Bible calls “the last days” (c.f. Jn 6:39; 1 Cor 4:5; etc.). God’s Kingdom has been inaugurated by the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus who sits on the throne at the right hand of God the Father. The day is fast approaching when Jesus will appear with his angels to judge the living and the dead—condemning those who refuse to love the truth and be saved (2 Thess 1:6-10; 2:10). 

Thus, it is paramount that we continue to persevere with Christ, clinging to him in a world where all of us are naturally inclined towards being self-serving and immature. We humans are so often unwilling to see the truth, preferring to hide so that our darkness won’t be exposed. But faithful Christian community exposes us to the light of Scripture and helps us to live according to it. God has given us a community in which we can sharpen each other as we live our lives with the common goal of worshipping the Lamb; where we can be encouraged to keep living for Christ—and gently rebuked when we fail. 

In this world, it is a certainty that we will make mistakes, mistreat others, hurt with our speech and actions, and incline our hearts towards that which is evil. And although these mistakes have real and necessary consequences, in Christian community, there can be forgiveness because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). 

A Flawed Community

It is no secret that the church has been much scrutinised of late for unacceptable practices. There is so much brokenness and hurt within the church community (as well as without) as we navigate the pain of a world that is desperately in need of the security and comfort that only Jesus can truly bring. Yet, I experienced FOMO after missing just a single Sunday gathering because I know the real blessing that church community is. It is real, it is messy, and it is very special—better than every other community I am a part of. 

What makes the church community better is Jesus.

What makes the church community better is Jesus. He is better; he is more secure; he does not turn anyone away because of their past status or life circumstances, but instead offers, models and teaches true forgiveness. 

It is this beautiful, perfect, King Jesus, who calls us into a relationship with himself and with others whom he has bought by his precious blood. While it is true that as Christians, we are commanded to not neglect meeting with one another, the Bible gives us so much more than a command! It is a real privilege to be adopted into this community.

[1] FOMO = Fear of missing out