This post came in response to one sentence I recently read online:
"We probably shouldn't be listening to any pastors, ministers, prophets or any man".
No person is required to mediate connection between us and Jesus Christ. And, we ABSOLUTELY need pastors, as well as apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers, to reach out and bridge the gap that opens between individuals and Jesus. We need ministers passionately on fire to tell the good news that JESUS WON, and what that really means for us in this moment while the rubber squeals against the road. We need prophets hearing and speaking how God sees our circumstances, calling out the things we can't see from our perspective. We need apostles with their strategic minds and long-term vision to help the body of Christ operate in a healthy, balanced way as each congregation moves into the God-ordained destiny on that group. We need pastors to guard and care for their flock, their beautiful hearts beating to meet the needs of those around them. We need teachers to ground us in the word of God, to illuminate scripture in ways we haven’t yet. And we need evangelists, irresistibly drawn into the community, who feel the worthy weight of every soul, to gather the hungry and hurting into the household of God.
We need the experience and wisdom, knowledge and testimony of others so we don't have to forge this path on our own, but can stand on their shoulders, doing greater things and going farther in the work of saving souls than they did. And we need one other. Oh, how we need one another!
If we actually didn’t need anyone else, then "meeting together often" wouldn't be in scripture. Yet scripture states believers met together to break bread and to talk together about the welfare of their souls. (For that matter, we have scripture because prophets, apostles and others heard God and wrote it down, or wrote what we would call journals today, or letters to loved ones.) In Ephesians 5 it talks about how prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers and apostles are given to the church—the ekklesia, built by Christ—for the equipping of the saints and for the work of the ministry. In community we have a beautiful opportunity for others to bless and strengthen us so we can get a leg up on our climb to the mountain top.
The sacrament of communion was instituted at a communal dinner: the Passover feast. And at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus gathered a group of others around himself—He operated in community. He needed close friends and companions. He discipled his closest friends so they could become His apostles, to teach and disciple and impart to others.
Even in the very beginning, God saw it was not good for man to be alone. And I personally believe Adam also knew it wasn't good for Eve to be alone, and that was one of the factors in why he ate the fruit she offered.
The enemy prowls like a young lion, looking for those whom he might devour, isolated from the community, unprotected and alone. I know I’m not alone with the reality that I have the hardest time with accurate discernment when I'm "in my head", trying to sort through things alone. Especially when I’m struck with disappointment, or struggling to forgive. And I most likely to be deceived, hands down, when I am trying to do things on my own.
From the beginning of time, God touched human hearts by speaking to his children, and those children wrote and spoke and served and loved those who hadn't yet heard, or who weren't hearing in that moment. I hear from God a lot. I've healed illness and injury in the name of Jesus, had visions and dreams, spoken words I've heard from the Holy Spirit that have changed people's lives. I've also walked through times of desperate lonliness and misery, and the ONLY thing that was finally able to pull me out of it was community, community in the Body of Christ that included people who heard the Holy Spirit speaking and told me what God spoke to them for my benefit. People who let the love of God flow through them to fill me when I was weak and broken, cut off from that love because of false conceptions—lies I believed—about of the nature of God in that moment or season.
We NEED one another. Always. God gives gifts, not for the edification of the individual, but also for the blessing and comfort and exhoration and encouragement of others. I find it interesting that communities of believers are such a deeply-grounded part of the history of God's people that scripture doesn't really hammer home the message: "Be sure to get together with other believers, because it's really important". It's more like the idea I see today of individuals forging their own paths into heaven was so foreign to those authors that it never occurred to them to address it.
Not one of us is perfected enough to avoid error while in isolation. And not one of us is perfected enough to avoid erring while in community. Healthy community functions to nurture the injured, strenghten the weak, to empower, to draw out the destiny God sows into every heart, and BLESS BLESS BLESS one another. To offer perspective outside of the emotion of the moment, or the emotion of the circumstance, and help one another not go careening off the rails. Our individual weaknesses provide opportunities for others to bless us, and for all of us to learn. And those weaknesses and blessings knit us all together in an incredible network of love and service that teaches us who God is and how he loves us.