The church is not a building but a community of people. Without this Christian community, I would argue that there is no church at all. There are many examples in the Western world of former church buildings converted into theatres, restaurants, or entertainment centres. Sadly, some of these places where the Christian community used to gather have been abandoned altogether, left derelict, occasionally inhabited by the homeless, or a place where birds nest or rats and mice scurry into holes and crumbling walls.
I am fortunate to meet in a church building every Sunday, where I listen to sound teaching, praise the Lord in song, and experience the healing power of communal prayer. But my fellowship group is the safe place where I experience the Christian community at work. We meet weekly to explore the bible, share prayer requests and encourage each other in our Christian walk. But our fellowship group is so much more than that.
We pray for each other regularly, have termly social teas, visit each other, and dispense practical help where needed: taking a meal to an incapacitated friend, providing financial assistance when necessary, visiting each other, and giving each other a helping hand. One lady in our group faithfully posts a daily bible message on our WhatsApp chat – food for the soul, and so often, just what we need to revive our spirits. How privileged I am to be in this wonderful group. I can feel my spirit being nurtured while I am experiencing personal growth through interacting with the extraordinary ladies in the group who dispense wonderful wisdom.
In addition, over the years and with other fellowship groups, I have personally been the recipient of so much loving service: lifts to the hospital, special words of advice when I needed them most, and delicious meals dropped on my doorstep. Paul's advice to the Galatians resonates with me: Carry each other's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6,2) What would I do without my Christian community, especially as my children live so far away?
Apart from my fellowship group's weekly love, care, and encouragement, they are also the biggest supporters of my Christian books. They are always the first to buy a copy whenever a new book comes out. Or if they can't afford it that month, they encourage their friends to buy the book. Or they chat after a service to a fellow congregant:
"Did you know that Gillian is a Christian author?"
"Oh, what kind of books does she write?"
"Gill writes Christian fiction."
How privileged I am to have such supportive friends.
Being part of a Christian community is exciting. There is nothing quite like the satisfaction of being involved in a community project together, like a church fair. Our church recently had an Easter Fair, a lively, fun, and entertaining event that brought the community to our doorstep. In the past, we hosted a 'Winter Life' series consisting of various community-orientated activities like a cooking demonstration, an art exhibition, and demos on how to make the perfect cup of coffee, amongst other things.
While these activities can hardly be called the height of spirituality, they demonstrate the Christian community in action: serving each other, serving the locals and having a great deal of fun while they're about it.
So never underestimate the importance of community in the Christian life. It bonds fellow Christians together, demonstrates to outsiders the benefits of the Christian faith and glorifies God and Jesus as his followers strive to be more like him.