In the post I did several days ago entitled "Ten Convictions I Have About The Church" I said…
9 – Community is more important than reading the Bible. (The early church didn't have the Bible for the first 300 years of Christianity…but they did have one another.)
Based on the reaction I saw what some people heard me say was, "the Bible isn't important." So, let's talk about it :-)
I am a Bible guy!
I love God's Word!
There is hardly a single morning in my life for the past two decades that I have not gotten out of bed, made a cup of coffee, opened up The Word and tried my best to allow Jesus to shape my heart and mind.
I believe the Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and every single time I read Psalm 19:7-11 it literally takes my breath away. I believe II Timothy 3:16-17. I believe one of the best ways to live out Romans 12:1-2 is by reading the Scriptures.
However, even though I love God's Word and have a passion to teach it in a way that makes it as real and as understandable as possible, I still say that community is more important than reading the Bible in a person's life – especially if they are a new believer.
Charisse, my daughter, was born June 27, 2007. If I would have taken her out to the middle of a field and set her down with a steak and said to her, "Here is a steak, it is food, eat it and you will live" and then walked away I would have been arrested and been called cruel…yet in the church we call that very same thing (in many cases) "discipleship."
I've been in ministry for over twenty years now. During this time I've seen so many people walk away from Jesus, NOT because they did not have a Bible (my gosh, most of us have more than one), but because they didn't have anyone in their lives to walk with them.
I've seen people dive back into destructive habits and relationships NOT because they could not find their Bible, but because they had no one in their lives who seemed to care.
When I first became a Christian in 1990 I had a Bible. I read the Bible, but I had no idea what in the heck I was reading. It freaked me out—especially when I started reading about lambs getting sliced opened and goats—and then one day I read Deuteronomy 25:11-12 and was freaked out for days…until someone explained to me that verse did not apply anymore. (WHAT?!)
While I would admit that Scripture made a significant impact on my life, it was the people in my life who actually modeled what following Jesus looked like on a day-to-day basis and invited me into that journey that made the difference in my life. They were, hands down, the biggest factor in why I did not walk away from Christ.
Far too often believers have forgotten what it was like to become a believer. New believers don't need to be inundated with information overload, but rather invited into a group of people who are trying their best to follow Jesus.
New believers are often confused and lonely. They know they should walk away from sinful things in their lives, but those are the people they are connected to. Giving someone a Bible does not solve the deep desire within every person on the planet to be deeply connected to someone else.
The early church did not have the Bible for the first 300 years. Sure, they had scrolls in places where they could go and hear it read out loud…but also remember that much of the ancient world could not read. It wasn't like the early church all got out of bed in the morning, made some coffee and opened their study Bible for a quiet time.
But they had one another. And they had a love for Jesus that was contagious.
What if we had that again today? What if, when people heard the word "Christian" they did not think about a group of angry people but rather thought about Jesus? That right there could change the world!
Imagine what would happen if we invited new believers into a community of people who love Jesus and are desperately trying their best to follow Him. It would be way more effective than just handing them a Bible and hoping they "figure it out!" And we took the time to not only show them the Scriptures, but allowed them to see what it looked like to live them out!
Jesus did not hand His disciples a Bible and tell them to do their best. He invited them to follow Him, to do life with Him, and nearly every time He tried to explain the Scriptures to them they all scratched their heads in confusion because they didn't get it. BUT…those same men launched a revolution that has impacted the world because of the community they had with Jesus and one another.
I love God's Word!
But I still stand behind community being the most important aspect in the life of someone who wants to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus.