Isolation kills

I posted on Facebook recently about the need for some old-fashioned peer pressure and support to improve my eating habits. That let to a bunch of helpful comments and some private invitations to join in with others in an accountability group.

As I read these comments on my Facebook page, I thought instantly about spiritual matters. Methodism grew out of such a group. The original Holy Club at Oxford was little more than a group of spiritual seekers gathered to support each other and hold each other accountable. As Methodism became a movement, it fostered such groups across Great Britain and North America. It understood the basic truth that we need other people and external structure to help us overcome our bad habits. Our own holiness grows best side-by-side with others seeking the same holiness.

And yet in so many of our churches we think that one hour of worship a week is all the spiritual effort needed to work out our salvation.

How crazy is that?


4 thoughts on “Isolation kills

  1. Very crazy. And obviously, it isn’t working out very well. Wesley’s small groups for mutual accountability for growth in perfect love, I believe, are key to any hope for renewal in the United Methodist Church.

  2. Amen, John! I think communities that get small groups have a way of anticipating and responding to a need. Fitness groups seem to do this really well, but there’s kind of a built in visual factor with that. All I need to do is look in a mirror or put on my pants to know I need to change something!

    Because we are sinners, the scenario is a little different for the church. I don’t think most people know they need God. Being dead to sin and trespasses, our primary problem is that we need something but we’re largely unaware of it.

    So how do we present to people their need for Jesus when they don’t think they necessarily need him? I do think all people continue to wrestle with the God-shaped void, and we can seek to explain how Jesus fills that void. We also create spiritual hunger by being honest about sin. Perhaps we also have to paint for them a picture of life with God and explain how it leads to joy. When we begin a fitness goal it is because we believe the end result will be better than the current condition.

    I think its the same for faith. Increasingly, I think we create the need by pointing to the promise of blissful eternity. When the reality of mortality set in for me, I found that I was much more likely to embrace the joy of today because of the eternal promise of a salvation that is secure in Jesus.

    In a phrase, can we make salvation in Jesus even more compelling to people than a workout plan? I think we can IF we can push people to dare trust in a beautiful promise they cannot see.

    1. Do we set a fitness goal because we are drawn by a positive end or driven by unhappiness about where we are or fear of what the consequences of poor health will be?

      Maybe different people do it for different reasons.

      I went out this week and bought a scale. I did not have one in my new residence. That check in each morning with a number is a motivator. Can we create the same kind of check in regarding the state of our souls? I think that was part of the point of the questions asked in Methodist classes and bands.

      But you can’t get someone to step on the scale if they do not want the future to be different than the present.

      1. Exactly. For me it’s both. I feel bad when I’m overweight, and I want to feel better. So, painting the picture of what “better” is going to feel like is, for me, a strong motivator. Spiritually speaking, I think of the law as the scale. It reminds me that I’m either on the right path or I’m not. If I’m thinking in fitness terms, healthy living and feeling good are sort of the promises part of the gospel. So, yes, I think in both scenarios that the two go together.

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