Growing up I loved going to church. I got to sing great songs, I would tell God how awesome He is, the pastor would teach me something inspiring from the Word, and then – in all of its splendor– Mrs. Blanchard’s ooey gooey breakfast cake was always waiting for me in Sunday School. Words cannot convey the riches of this cake. Just imagine a little (or in my case a big) slice of heaven on earth.

All of these were good things, yet my understanding of worship was very narrow. I was all about the vertical aspect of worship (me and God) while being completely oblivious to the horizontal aspect of worship (me and other Christians). I viewed church like a spiritual vending machine that would help me feed my personal “God experience” in a way that was completely detached from others. In fact, I considered my time around other believers as a tolerable, mildly inconvenient (albeit delicious) part of the week. I had little interest in getting involved in the lives of the people around me, and they seemed content not getting involved in mine either. It was like an unspoken agreement. After all, our personal lives should remain personal. Right?

It was easy to attend the corporate worship gathering and avoid meaningful conversations. Just say hello, shake some hands, have a little small talk, and keeeeep it moving. Sunday school was a little trickier. There were always “those people” who seemed genuinely interested in hearing details about my life and telling me details about theirs. It seemed like those conversations were triggered by the mistake of making too much eye contact. In fact, I developed a mathematical hypothesis showing that eye contact was directly proportional to the number of awkward conversations I would be forced to endure. I wasn’t interested in dealing with that.

You see, I’m a spiritual introvert by nature, and chances are you could be too. Why would I say that? Because our flesh resists being transparent with other people. Our flesh reels against anything that makes us look weak and flawed. It cringes at the thought of people knowing our sins. As a result, we’re prone to keep people at arm’s length. We’d much rather isolate ourselves from scrutiny.

Of course, from the outside looking in, we usually look pretty impressive. Many of us are highly outgoing and conversational. We’re at every corporate gathering, small group meeting, prayer night, social event, baby dedication, you name it! We’ve learned to bear all the outward marks of community while living in–essentially–spiritual isolation.
Acts 2:42: “And they [believers in Christ] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Did you catch that? One of the primary marks of the early church was their devotion to fellowship and breaking bread. They were devoted to one another. Being with each other wasn’t a fringe benefit of their faith. Rather, it was foundational to their worship life.

What God has been teaching me over the last ten years is this: Worship is fully experienced in the context of biblical community. We were made for togetherness. God designed us to function as one body. He taught us to invest in the lives of others. There is no category in Scripture for a lone ranger Christian.

I’m immensely grateful to God for a handful of brothers who taught me these truths over the course of many years. These brothers persisted in building deep friendships with me even when I was resistant and guarded. And eventually, by God’s grace, they broke through. Now I have seen for myself the stark contrast between having a pseudo-community of shallow acquaintances and having an authentic community of deep, biblical friendships.

The reality is, we can be a part of every group, every event, and every program within the church body and still be isolated from it. It’s possible to be “in community” and still lack biblical relationships. We start to think we can accomplish the work of the church apart from the church. We start to believe we can actually survive on our own.

Biblical community as seen in places like Acts 2, 1 Cor. 12, and Eph. 4 is an impossibility if we isolate ourselves within superficial relationships. Just think: How do we truly make disciples if we always keep people at arm’s length? How do we teach and demonstrate the Word to others if we never let them see us living it out? How do we bear one another’s burdens if we aren’t willing to invest in the spiritual well-being of another person? How will we join one another in the fight against sin if we refuse to let others see past the surface? How will we experience accountability? How will we suffer and rejoice together? On and on the list goes.

So for the sake of God’s glory and the advancement of His kingdom, let’s devote ourselves to authentic, gospel-rich community. Let’s pour ourselves into meaningful relationships that produce Christ-exalting fruit. And let’s embrace the life of worship for which God has designed us.



Phillip Townsend serves as our Associate Worship Minister here at The Church at Brook Hills. He has been a member of our Faith Family for a little over two years. He recently became engaged to be married to the lovely Molly Brown. In his spare time, Phillip enjoys reading, running, and living up to the title of “Ping Pong Master.”