In the middle of the twentieth century, the New England Council (a regional chamber of commerce), had a slogan. You might find it familiar. The slogan is, “A rising tide lifts all the boats.” This phrase is commonly used in economics to describe the condition that an economic plan might not meet every individual’s specific issues, but if the economy as a whole flourishes, so will everyone in that economy. But what happens when a person pulls their boat out of the water and leaves it parked in their driveway?
A Study in Ephesians 4
Let’s use this as an analogy for the church and its members by studying a section of Ephesians 4.
11 And [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The logic of the passage goes something like this: 1. Jesus calls people into leadership, evangelism, and teaching roles for the very sake of training all the saints (i.e. all who believe in the gospel) so that 2. they will be prepared for ministering to and building each other up so that 3. the whole church becomes more unified, more faithful, more knowledgeable, more mature, and more Christ-like.
4. This growing of the church counteracts the deceitful formative qualities of the fallen world, and 5. pushes us to be more aligned with the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) as we are held together by each member’s use of their spiritual gift for the purpose of loving their fellow brothers and sisters through service.
Connecting Scripture to the Analogy
All analogies breakdown, but I think this one is robust enough to help us get the picture. The water itself is the communal bonds of the church. The tide is Jesus’s gifts given through his Holy Spirit to each believer, which are the boats. As gifts are given (as the tide rises), there is more communal bond (water) under the boats. This then raises each believer in unity with every other believer.
But there are those who believe the church and community are unnecessary. They withdraw from both the church and other believers and pursue a private faith. This would be akin to pulling their boat out of the water. They cut themselves off from the rising tide of Jesus’s gifts to the church. There is no reason for Christ to give them a Spiritual gift, as it would not be used for its purpose. They are withdrawn from the things which Christ has given them making them more susceptible to the lies of the world and to being divisive, unfaithful, ignorant of truth, and immature. This will eventually push them farther and farther away from Christ.
This is the reason we believe that community is not only important, but essential for a Christian. It is not that living in community will gain you salvation, only trusting in the gospel will give you that, but community is Jesus’s gift for making sure a Christian’s faith is secure and maturing. A Christian who has the Holy Spirit, and is not quenching it, will seek community because that is God’s will for them. There are certainly times where believers are unable through imprisonment, exile, etc. to gather with other believers, but if we are able, the Spirit will draw us to community.
Here’s How to Get into Community
We at Mercy Hill want you to experience all the benefits of Christ, and we want your faith to continue every day of your life. God has designed that the means for these two goals is church community. That is why we constantly encourage you to get into a Community Group.
If you are not in a Community Group and want to get in one, we have two paths for you: this Friday we are having our Grouplink event to get you plugged-in immediately to community. There are only a handful of spots left, so sign up today at www.mercyhillgso.com/grouplink
If for some reason you can’t be involved in Grouplink, on March 1st we are hosting our Starter Groups. This essentially gets you into a temporary group until the next Grouplink happens. Sign ups for March should start soon! Check www.mercyhillgso.com/startergroups for details.
-Alex Nolette (Equip Associate)