God of the Group


UnityA reader wrote recently to say that my previous post (No ‘I’ in ‘CHURCH’–How American Evangelicalism Gets Its Pronouns Wrong) mirrored the collectivist thinking found in error-ridden cults and the teachings of New Age gurus. While I would argue that the actual teachings of such people are, in fact, largely about self-actualization rather than group actualization, if there is any guilt here, it is by association alone (ha, ha).

Here is truth: The entire narrative of Scripture is geared to a group. The story of God working is a story of Him working among a people. If anything, the words of Scripture should disabuse us of any notion that at the heart of it is the individual. What God is doing in the world has always been a “group project,” and if anything, the individual finds his or her truest expression of fullness only within a group.

Rather than give a million verses to back up this reality of the group, I will sketch out the ideas. Anyone who wants to fill in the blanks is setting himself or herself up for a tremendous journey into the mind and heart of God, and I would fully encourage anyone reading this to use it as a basis of further study.

The greatest lie afflicting the Church today is that you or I can do life alone. As we will see, in the eyes of God alone is never a good state of being.

The positive illustrations (the group):

God is a trinity. The Trinity exists in perfect commune within itself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God has made Man in that same image.

God creates the male and says of him, “It is not good that man should be alone.” God creates a female partner for the male. God’s first charge to them is to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth.

When mankind sinned, God saved from destruction an extended family. Prior to that destruction, He told that family to gather together groups of fertile creatures capable of recreating their own animal families that would continue the original fruitfulness command of God in the Garden.

When God chose to express His purpose for mankind, He chose a group model. He chose Abraham, to whom His promise would be that Abraham’s descendants would be like the stars in heaven. God’s promise is that Abraham will not be just Abraham but a great nation. Abraham finds comfort in knowing that he will not be alone.

God is referred to as “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

The exodus from Egypt left no Hebrew behind but removed an entire nation from the land.

The nation of Israel is established as a collective whole among which God dwells.

The joy of  the barren Hannah is that God granted her a son, completing her family, and Samuel became a great leader of the nation.

Blessed is the man who has a “quiver full” of children.

Elijah’s mistaken belief that he is the last prophet of God left, but God said He has preserved a remnant.

Imagery of streams that bring life to an entire region, of the fruitfulness of the land that is overflowing, of the the abundance of God’s provision.

The threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Iron sharpens iron.

The Christ is revealed to a group that consists of the lowliest and the highest within society, abolishing class distinctions. Christ says He comes to establish a Kingdom and says that all are equal within the Kingdom of God.

Christ taking on a group of disciples.

Christ noting anyone who does His will is His brother, sister, or mother. His noting that there will be no hierarchies among those who believe in Him.

Followers of Christ depicted as a flock. The Good Shepherd understanding that the flock is not complete if even one sheep is missing from it.

“Where two or three are gathered, there am I in the midst of them.”

The promise that even eunuchs will be made fruitful. The holy as the wheat.

Christ speaks of the vine with many branches.

Christ establishes the Church. The Church is grafted into the vine.

The first act of the Spirit-filled Church was to gather and make sure that no disparity of needs in the group existed, but that all had needs met. The early Church met together daily. “God added to their number daily”

The Body of Christ is composed of many parts, but the Body cannot function unless the parts are in sync, and no part is worthless.

The Holy Spirit gives gifts intended for the edification of the collective Body. Some gifts do not function correctly unless others contribute to them.

The New Testament Scriptures are addressed to the collective you. “Brothers.”

The Church, collective, is a royal priesthood and the Bride. The Church is made of living stones, built together into a collective edifice in which God dwells, the New Jerusalem.

The uncountable entirety of believers.

The marriage supper of the Lamb.

The negative illustrations (the individual, alone and disconnected):

Satan coming to tempt Eve, the lone individual, apart from her plurality with Adam and God.

“Adam, where are you?”

The barren woman. The desolate land. The alien. The eunuch. The wanderer. The leper. The blind man. The cripple.

“Everyone did what he thought was right in his own eyes.”

The splitting of Israel and Judah.

The prodigal son. The lost sheep. The fig tree devoid of figs.

The agony of Christ in His taking on the collected sins of the world alone, and His “Why have you forsaken me? ” cry of disconnection from the Trinity.

Being left out of the Book of Life.

Hell as separation from God.


If we do not understand that Christianity is the individual finding fulfillment in the collected Body of Christ and being made part of that vine, then we do not understand the Faith.

We must not care what the world or New Age gurus say. God establishes a group and He dwells in that group. There is no other reality. Everything in Scripture points to this.

Onward, Christian Hermits?


And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
—Acts 2:46-47 ESV

After church yesterday, a friend and I discussed the reality that for many people, their primary source of human contact is Facebook. Alone at duskIn truth, the discussion was more of a lament for what has been lost.

All the small groups my friend and I were a part of are defunct.

I’ll let that sentence stand by itself because it serves as a testament to where we are in our society today. Social media have been a boon for connecting people who are distant, but it seems to have become detrimental to relationships within driving distance. We no longer meet face to face but instead enjoy the distancing mechanisms of technology. Our high-tech gizmoes help us keep up with others to the level we feel comfortable, and they give us the ability to walk away on our time schedule without feeling bad about disconnecting.

Our time schedule.

The early Church decided that meeting together every day mattered. We envy their closeness to the Holy Spirit. I wonder if there is a connection. Hmm.

The Acts passage above said that the number saved grew rapidly. You wouldn’t think that hanging out together would be evangelistic, but some synergistic sharing of Christ happened nonetheless.

The Acts passage notes that people thought positively about the Church because of its strong emphasis on connecting with others and being obviously friendly and social. How different from the PR the Church in America “enjoys” today.

Of course, there was also that “iron sharpens iron” thing. I guess the modern replacement is flaming each other in an online post’s comment thread. Less a sharpening and more a tempering, I guess. Temper, temper…

I think if you really pressed Christians today, few would be able to give a spiritual reasons why getting together daily is worthwhile. I think most see wisdom only in meeting once a week, twice at most. Wouldn’t want to overdo a good thing.

That reticence makes me wonder, though.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV

If God is love, and love is the highest expression of a complete Christian life—as noted in the Peter passage above—how is it we can barely stand to be together once a week? What does it say about our effectiveness and fruitfulness in Jesus if meeting together once a week is all we can muster?

Perhaps for all our talk of community and brotherly love and affection, we don’t really like each other all that much. If we truly do, wouldn’t getting together more often be a priority?

More and more Christians think we are in the last days of The Last Days. A verse that speaks to that:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
—Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

How is it then, if the Final Day is indeed drawing near, that we seem to be getting together less often rather than more? Does our reticence to meet actually reflect a willful disobedience? Have we all secretly fallen under the spell of the “powerful delusion” the Bible warns of, with our lack of meeting a physical expression of our mental dissonance?

Talk of mental health issues have dominated the Godblogosphere in the wake of the suicide of the son of noted pastor Rick Warren. I wonder how many mental health cases could be healed without medicine by the simple act of people fellowshipping more regularly.

Can we admit that something is wrong with the way we interact today?

A different friend confessed to me a couple years ago that he felt a greater kinship to the people with whom he plays board games. That affinity group bore each other’s burdens better and dispensed more grace than the Christian small groups he had been part of. What a sad indictment!

I can think of no greater distinguishing mark of the Church than the idea that no collection of individuals exhibits deeper love for its members. So, is this the case?

We wonder why people are increasingly eschewing Church. Perhaps our community and fellowship issues are ground zero for revival.

Always Lifting


Intercessory prayerOne of the great prayer traditions that may go missing in the frenzy of contemporary life is intercessory prayer in the moment.

When God brings someone to mind, stop. Take time to picture that person in your thoughts and recall the very best of his or her character and giftings. Thank God for that person.  Ask the Lord to equip and use that person fully. Then recall any of that person’s struggles and lift them up to the Lord for resolution. And if God brings to your prayer any concern that appears to be sourced in Him and beyond what you might know in the natural about that person, pray it through.

One of my great concerns for the Body of Christ today is that we are becoming a loose, disjointed entity, with all the parts going on their merry way, losing connection to each other and subsequently to the Head.

Always lifting. Be that person who considers others at all times, and lift them up to the Lord.

No more simple exercise exists, yet it is one we Christians practice all too infrequently as the pressing needs of the day crowd out our concern for others.

Live differently. Pray differently.