I was over at the Covington YMCA the other day, trudging along at a slow jog on the last treadmill on the left, sweating, watching TV, watching the miles creep by, and then Will came up behind me and yelled, "Pick it up John!"
I like working out at the "Y." The staff and regulars somehow make it easier and more fun to exercise. Will is retired Navy, just one of the many ex-military who work-out there, adding to the camaraderie.
I "picked-it-up," finished up and took a seat at one of the weight machines, where catching my breath, it occurred to me how similar the "Y" is to a church. Both church and "Y" are examples of group strength, as Solomon wrote, "Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him, and a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Ecclesiastes 4:12).
Sure, it is easy to claim to be autonomous. I could probably work out just as well on my own. I could just get up, do some pushups, lace on my running shoes and take off down the road. I've done that before, just not very consistently. In fact, the only people I know that have consistently exercised have done so with friends or in some kind of group setting.
And yes, there are Christians who lead a solitary life. They pray alone, read the Bible alone and sing praises to God alone. But how long does their faith last? And at what cost is this autonomy? There are some joys that can only be experienced by being part of the community. Singing by yourself is just not the same as adding your voice to a congregational hymn, lifting up a song of joy and praise to the accompaniment of a gifted musician.
Reading the Bible alone is pretty good, but it is so much more interesting to be part of a group study where insights are shared, questions are raised, and the truth is discovered together. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he said to start prayer with these words, "Our Father." Notice the plural, "Our."
It is our Lord's intent that his disciples be part of a Christian community. It is in the community of faith that you come forward and to kneel at the altar and receive communion, and it is there that worshiper knows again that they belong to God, that God belongs to them, and that they are part of a spiritual family. It is there that they will find the encouragement to keep going and hear those wonderful words, "Pick it up, (your name here.)"
John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn & Mansfield UMC. Send e-mail to