February 15, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 92:12-13; 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NRSV)
The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the LORD;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
Scripture reveals that our flourishing depends on a meaningful, committed community with other Christians. We will not serve ourselves or our fellow Christians well if we remain withdrawn from regular participation with other believers. The specific forms of our Christian relationships may vary. We may well find that digital connection actually increases the quantity and quality of our fellowship in some ways. But, no matter the details, Scripture is clear that if we wish to live fully and fruitfully, that is, to flourish, then we need to be in regular and intentional relationship with the sisters and brothers in our Christian family.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Invitation to a Flourishing Life
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I asked the question: Where are you planted? If you want to flourish, according to Psalm 92:12-13, you should be planted in God’s temple. As Christians, we do not have a building called “the temple,” a place where God is said to dwell. Jesus is our temple, the dwelling of God upon earth, the one through whom our sins are forgiven. Thus, if we want to flourish, we need to be deeply connected to Jesus, as a tree is joined to the ground through its roots, or as a branch “abides” in the vine.
The New Testament reveals Jesus to be a kind of temple for us. But there is another dimension of God’s temple found in the New Testament. We find this in 1 Corinthians 3, for example. There, the Apostle Paul speaks of his church planting and pastoring work as building a physical structure. But he isn’t constructing some ordinary building. In verse 16 of chapter 3 he writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” The “you” in this case addresses the community of Christians in Corinth. Later in his letter Paul will show that the Spirit also dwells in each individual Christian (1 Corinthians 6:19). But in chapter 3, the community of believers constitutes God’s temple in which God’s Spirit lives. (A similar use of temple imagery can be found in Ephesians 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-5.)
So, as we read Psalm 92 from a Christian perspective, we rightly understand that our personal flourishing has everything to do with our relationship to the Christian community—that is, to the church, the body of Christ. We cannot plant ourselves in or next to some building where God is known to dwell. But we can let our roots grow deeply into the soil of Christian fellowship.
As I write this, I’m aware of how hard this has been for many of us during the COVID pandemic. How can we be rooted in Christian community if we are so limited in the ways we can be together? It’s true that digital association can help, though with obvious limitations. Most people I know have not found online worship to be nearly as engaging as in-person worship. That’s certainly been true for me, though I’m grateful for churches that have made their worship available digitally. Throughout the past two years, I’ve been struck by how much potential there is for small groups to experience genuine intimacy through Zoom and other platforms. For me, meeting in person is better, but the internet has helped me to stay in relationship with other Christians.
I am hopeful, of course, that the pandemic is winding down. I look forward to the day when we can fully re-engage with other Christians without hesitation. But I am concerned, honestly, that many who have disconnected from embodied Christian fellowship will remain spiritually isolated after the pandemic has passed. In 2019, before we ever heard the word “COVID,” the Pew Research Center reported a precipitous decline in participation by Christians in regular worship services. That pattern may well continue, perhaps even more steeply, after COVID has become much less of a threat.
If, indeed, our flourishing depends on a meaningful, committed community with other Christians, then we will not serve ourselves or our fellow Christians well if we remain withdrawn from regular participation with other believers. The specific forms of our Christian relationships may vary. We may well find that digital connection actually increases the quantity and quality of our fellowship in some ways. But, no matter the forms, Scripture is clear that if we wish to live fully and fruitfully, that is, to flourish, then we need to be in regular and intentional relationship with the sisters and brothers in our Christian family. Or, to use the imagery of Psalm 92, we need to plant ourselves in the sacred soil of Christian community, the temple of God.
What has your experience of Christian community been like during the pandemic?
In what ways has your fellowship with other Christians helped you to flourish in life?
What are your expectations with regard to church participation after COVID?
Do something today (or tomorrow if you’re using this devotion at night) to connect in a meaningful way with another brother or sister in Christ.
Gracious God, once again we thank you for the gift of a relationship with you. Thank you for making yourself known to us, for breaking down the barrier between us and you, and for inviting us to make our home in you.
Thank you for the ways in which Christian community is a kind of temple. Thank you for being present among your people as we gather. Thank you for all the ways you serve and bless us through our sisters and brothers in Christ.
Lord, as we look ahead with hope to the end of the pandemic, help us to think wisely about how we will reconnect with other Christians. Lead us away from the temptation to remain isolated. Help us to grow in relationships with others, so that we and they might flourish. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Do Good Work (1 Corinthians 3:10–17)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.