"Why do I have to join a church to be a Christian?" a man asked the famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody. "Can't I be a Christian alone in my own heart?"
Dr. Moody didn't say a word in response. He simply walked over to the fireplace and pulled a coal from the open grate so that it was separated from the rest of the coals. He stood holding the one lump of coal in his tongs. At first the coal glowed brightly and then less and less. As they watched, the coal sputtered and died. Without a word, Dr. Moody delivered a powerful message:
God made us to be relational people - related intimately to Himself and to each other. When we separate ourselves from others of like faith, we too will sputter and die.
Recently pop icon Justin Bieber answered a question about faith saying he didn't need the church to be a Christian. At best Justin has an essential misunderstanding of what faith is and what it's all about. God gives the gift of faith so we can believe in His Son Jesus and also so that we will establish and maintain relational community with other believers.
Any Christian who ignores the power of relationship to both God AND other believers does so at his or her own peril. God never meant for us to go alone against the darkness! We shine most brightly or at all as we stick together in faith communities!
Justin Bieber, you're missing out on something very valuable and important if your faith is real and alive! Following Jesus is neither a spectator sport nor an individual journey! We shine most brightly when our fire lights the fire of others like us and when their fire connects with ours and when we all stay close to the source of power and light - Jesus!