A couple of months ago I had a lady tell me how she was beginning to learn with her heart what she has known with her head. There was a look of exhilaration on her face as she shared with me how Jesus was becoming “real” in her life, and not just the right answer to a theological question.
I remember sitting in a counseling group with a husband and father of three as he told me that he had heard it all before when it came to God and the Bible. That he had grown up in the church and knew he just needed to “believe” more and have faith. But yet here he was, stone-faced and telling me that he felt much more like a functional deist than someone who had a rich relationship with Jesus.
HEAD KNOWLEDGE VS. HEART KNOWLEDGE
You’ve probably felt this or been in a ministry situation where someone has shared with you. I had another guy tell me it felt like there was a “kink in the hose” between what he knew about Jesus and what he felt.
While I have an appreciation for what I know people are trying to express when they talk about there being a divide between their head and their heart, I am becoming increasingly convinced that they are really crying out for community. Because it is in community that we make progress in being disciples of Jesus, and it is in community that we are the whole people God intended for us to be.
1. COMMUNITY HELPS CONNECT OUR HEAD AND HEART BY SEEING OUR ACTIONS
This is why James warns us so adamantly to not be just hearers of the word but doers also (James 1:22). Because there is a great danger for those who hear God’s Word and do nothing with it. It is like reading a million books about sailing but never getting in a boat. You might even fool yourself after awhile into thinking you are a legitimate sailor who knows how to voyage in the open sea. But in reality, you’re just someone who probably bought a silly captain’s hat and is critiquing those who really are sailing. You have become self-deceived.
It is in community that we make progress in being disciples of Jesus, and it is in community that we are the whole people God intended for us to be.
Community protects us from self-deception and keeps us focused on doing what we are hearing. This regular rhythm of having community keeping us doing what we are hearing can’t be understated in how important it is for our spiritual growth and the condition of our hearts.
Getting the impression that Christianity is more like a game of Jeopardy has always been a trap for people (John 5:39–40). Don’t get me wrong: there is great value in learning and growing in understanding of what the Bible says. But that foundation of knowledge is always meant to produce a life marked by godliness, spiritual maturity, and blessings for others (Col. 1:9–12). James reminded us that even the demons believe right theology about God—yet they were still damned (James 2:19).
2. COMMUNITY PROVIDES CLARITY AND UNITY BETWEEN OUR HEAD AND HEART
Because we all see “dimly,” we need others to help us see God and what he is teaching us more clearly. Christians who forsake community with other brothers and sisters open themselves to greater attacks from the enemy. We become prone to greater self-deception with no one to lovingly correct us and point us toward Jesus.
3. COMMUNITY IS ESSENTIAL FOR THE TRUE LIFE THAT JESUS WANTS TO OFFER US
Much of life has become “head” and requires little of our heart. We vicariously have relationships with sitcoms and look in on the lives of acquaintances and past relationships through Facebook.
Community protects us from self-deception and keeps us focused on doing what we are hearing.
As Paul warns us, knowledge does puff up, and it is gospel community that deflates our pride and pushes us to use information for godly transformation. We avoid becoming prideful about all that we know and are profoundly humbled by how much we still need to grow.
4. COMMUNITY ENCOURAGES OUR HEART AND HEAD TO WHAT WE LOVE MOST
This is true for all humans, not just Christians. People always gather in community around whatever they love. They are helping to enhance each other’s joy in what they have in common. This can be a sport, hobby, lifestyle, club, or cause. Through community, their heads and hearts are aligned and unified.
Better than any new worship album, book, conference, or single sermon, it will be the consistent care and connection with others throughout your life that will “un-kink” the hose between your head and heart.
Because we all see “dimly,” we need others to help us see God and what he is teaching us more clearly.
Part of being human is just that we grow tired. We are frail and weaker than most of us want to readily acknowledge (Ps. 103:14). Because of this, it is easy for the normal grind and routine of life to wear us down, dulling our affections and motivations to trust Jesus and love others.
Community is where God offers us an environment to re-orient ourselves to what matters.
It is not that we set out to grow numb to Jesus and his work in our communities. We just get worn out by the pressures, responsibilities, and everyday demands of work and family. Community is where God offers us an environment to re-orient ourselves to what matters. To pause and really ask why we are always exhausted and pouring ourselves out for the wrong things.
People always gather in community around whatever they love.
We can drink deeply from God’s Word and the movement of the Holy Spirit as we sit around and discuss parts of the Bible or what is going on in our lives. We hear situations and experiences that others are having, and we identify with them. We build solidarity in our common struggle to persevere and love Jesus even when it is hard. We offer up to each other words of encouragement to keep going and run hard even when life is tough (Heb. 10:25). And most of all, we are reminded of the greatest treasure of all: that we are God’s kids and he loves us (1 John 3:1).
A collective of believers who are filled with the Holy Spirit and can continually push, provoke, and at times pull us to live out more fully what we believe. All of us struggle with unbelief. It is the courage of community that allows us to live out what we truly believe.
Look at Peter when he denied Jesus. That night must have been miserable for him. His fellow apostles had fled (Mark 14:50), and alone and scared he failed to live what he really believed. Apart from Christ, all the right answers were not enough to sustain him. He was in need of relationships to help him live out who he was in Christ.
It has always been this way and will always be this way. It is that way for you and me right now. So ask yourself: Do I feel this disconnect between what I think and what my heart believes? If so, resolve to return, invest, and be more deeply known in your church and community. It is there that Jesus intends for you to be made new.