Discipleship

3 Ways Christian Community Can Support Your Spiritual Growth

Silverio Gonzalez


Through the years, I have experienced a lot of heartache in the context of Christian community. 

I attended a church where a Christian leader left his wife because he was tired of leading a double life after having a long-standing affair with another woman. I have seen political differences turn friends into enemies. I have spent long hours on the phone with friends who felt they could no longer have anything to do with Christians because of their experience with sexual and spiritual abuse in the church. 

Through the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, diverse members of a Christian community become a blessing to each other.

In a healthy community, even when there are challenges and scandals, people have loved and supported my relationship with God. I have had the opportunity to do the same for others. In a healthy community, God works among people with diverse personalities, experiences, strengths, weaknesses, sufferings and pains to draw the entire community into a deeper relationship with Himself. 

Consider these three ways Christian community can support your spiritual growth.

1. Christian Community Can Provide Friends to Encourage You

I struggle with depression, and I’m melancholy by nature. I can always find the darker shade of life at any moment. I’m an introvert and prefer time alone with my books or thoughts. 

I have a friend who is the complete opposite. 

This guy is always happy, always joking and always encouraging people to pursue their dreams. He is the kind of person whose presence inspires a party. He has always been able to get through to me in my darker moments with the hope of the gospel. He and I live and breathe in completely different worlds of experience, but God has brought us together.

God brings people together who seem to have nothing in common. 

Through the Holy Spirit’s gift of love, diverse members of a Christian community become a blessing to each other. 

God has used so many people to encourage my faith when I have felt discouraged. Through friends, God has taught me how to love life and pursue a deeper relationship with Him. 

2. Christian Community Can Provide People to Challenge You 

I have found this to be true, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17, English Standard Version). 

In a healthy Christian community, you will find introverts and extroverts, and people with different family backgrounds, cultural experiences, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, pains and sufferings. Yes, this can lead to struggles, misunderstandings and all sorts of confusion among people who feel that they have little in common, but there is a blessing to God’s design. 

Being in Christian community puts me in regular contact with people who are different from me, people who are bold, outgoing and confident. Their personalities can wear me out, frustrate me and challenge me. They challenge me to talk more, to share the gospel with strangers and to be open and available. Their differences help me to develop as a person and grow in my faith, and I help them too.

I listen well, think deeply and make people feel accepted. While spending time in Christian community, I discovered a lot about myself. I am more aware of my sins and failings, but I also see my talents. My personality, experiences and strengths challenge and encourage others.

God desires you to learn how to love as He loves, to love people who have all sorts of sins and struggles. God wants you to develop empathy and compassion, to see people the way Jesus sees people. This kind of spiritual growth will only happen in a context where others challenge you.

3. Christian Community Can Provide Mentors to Lead You

A healthy Christian community includes people at different stages of their spiritual journey. 

When I was 19, the leader of a Bible study group I attended invited me to a prayer meeting. I was the youngest person there by far. It was the first time in my life that I was around a large group of older men committed to prayer, some in their 90s. 

In that group, we would pray and talk about life every Thursday night. I saw men embrace one another while sharing their emotions and experiences. From these men, I saw what it meant to be a man, that being masculine had nothing to do with the stoic and proud images I had received from my upbringing. 

My relationship with God deepened and matured while praying, reading Scripture, sharing experiences and freely speaking about God's love and grace with these men. The memories continue to inspire me and lead me to pursue a deeper relationship with God more than 15 years later. 

In Colossians 3:12–17, Paul encourages the church at Colossae to grow in their love and faith by sharing the truth of Scripture and singing together. Paul shows us a large part of spiritual growth happens in a Christian community where God gathers diverse people to share their gifts with one another. 

Next Steps

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