Across the Pastor’s Desk: Church a community opportunity

Published 7:41 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019

Across the Pastor’s Desk by John Holt

John Holt


Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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These words were shouted in churches throughout the world as we gathered last Sunday, on Resurrection Sunday (Easter), to celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, rose from the dead some 1,986 years ago.

Before he rose, he died. We often pay special attention to people’s last words before they die.

We have a good record of Jesus’ last words in the Gospel of John.

The evening before the crucifixion, even knowing his betrayal was looming, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34–35).

Then Jesus taught: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).

He didn’t say “branch” as if it’s just an individual thing. He said “branches” — it’s a communal thing, a community reality. Our life in Christ is something we do together.

Just before his arrest, Jesus prayed: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name, the Name you gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.” (John 17:11b).

Jesus’ love lays aside self-interest and strives for the unity and well-being of the community.

In our culture we are often urged to “look out for No. 1,” focus on self-interest, self-improvement, individual well-being, etc. It’s easy to forget about the good of community. We hear news reports of problems, corruption and awful things in the church.

It’s easy to say, as many do, “I can be a Christian without the church” — to consider the church community as just another thing to avoid on our quest for self-actualization. However, Jesus’ fundamental teaching is that true faith and discipleship are lived out in the Christian community. His teaching, death and resurrection demonstrate this truth. The church, even with its flaws, is still the body of Christ today.

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (I Corinthians 12:27).

Jesus’ unlimited love is meant for us to live out in the community of faith that meets together regularly.

For your own good health and longevity, even the Blue Zones health habits recognize the crucial importance of the faith community.

No. 7 of the nine states: “Belong to a faith-based community … “Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add four to 14 years of life expectancy.” (

So, I urge you, as we see in the Bible: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

Now that Easter has come and gone, let this be a time not to get distracted by all the good things in summer, but let it be a time to meet regularly, weekly with the community of faith at the church of your choice. It’s good for you! It’s good for us all!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

John Holt is the lead pastor at First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.