You were made to follow Jesus. But you were not made to follow Jesus alone.
The Father loved you so much that he sent his Son to die for you, rescue you, adopt you, fill you with his Spirit, and make you like himself. When the Author of Life brought you into his story, you realized that he was what your heart was longing for all along. Following Jesus means that you find your life by losing it (Matthew 10:39) and enter into the life you were made for — a life of community with others.
Most major religions begin with a prophet or monk who wanders off into the wilderness, receives a message, and brings it back to his followers. Guatama Buddha ignited Buddhism through his religious quest of asceticism, Muhammad founded Islam after claiming to receive an angelic vision, and Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon about his isolated encounter with the angel Moroni. These religions all began with one pious individual and then spread to a community of believers.
Unlike most major religions, Christianity was never an individualistic movement. The spread of the gospel began when 120 witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension gathered to pray (Acts 1:15, 2:1-4). They were filled with the promised Holy Spirit and immediately began to follow Jesus together. They gathered daily, listened to the apostles’ teaching, prayed together, ate together, and shared their possessions with one another (Acts 2:42-47). From this small community, the gospel spread to the masses throughout Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth.
The gospel not only offers us eternal reconciliation with the Father; it also invites us into eternal community with others (Ephesians 2:13-14). Following Jesus means walking with other followers (Philippians 1:27), loving the Father requires loving brothers and sisters (1 John 4:21), and becoming like Christ involves belonging to a church (Ephesians 4:4-16).
It is only in community with other Christians that we are able to obey the “one anothers” of the New Testament. God calls us to love one another (John 13:34, Romans 12:10, 1 Peter 1:22, etc.), honor one another (Romans 12:10), comfort one another (2 Corinthians 13:11), serve one another (Galatians 5:13), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), admonish one another (Colossians 3:16), and encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
As with every part of the Gospel Wheel, Christian community is not a take-it-or-leave-it appendage to your walk with Jesus, rather, it is essential to your discipleship. J.I. Packer writes,
“We should not … think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, an optional addition to the exercises of private devotion. We should recognize rather that such fellowship is a spiritual necessity, for God has made us in such a way that our fellowship with himself is fed by our fellowship with fellow Christians …”
So how do we pursue such fellowship? We can begin by observing the practices of the very first disciples in Acts 2:42-47. The early church was a powerful force in the first-century world. Even the officials who sought to suppress the advance of the gospel admitted that the church was full of “men who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Such world-turning power came through a community of people who had been transformed by the gospel. As they gathered together, devoted themselves to Jesus, and loved one another, they proved through their community that the gospel was not just another religious idea — it was the only hope for the world (Acts 4:12).