There is a bias within many congregations and denominations in the West that the Church is an optional add-on to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. This bias leads people to think of corporate worship, covenant groups, and prayer groups as something that may be nice, but ultimately are not necessary because “I confessed Jesus as my Savior, so now I am ok.”
This idea does not line up with the biblical picture of how God works in the world. Jesus himself founded a Church, not a bunch of individual believers that may or may not gather together. Paul regularly reminds Christians that we are all a part of the Body of Christ together, and no one can exist by himself or herself. Peter illustrates that together we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
Since the New Testament is the next chapter, as it were, of God’s working in the world, picking up where the Old Testament stopped, it should come as no surprise that they are in agreement on a great many things. After all, they are talking about the same God who makes covenants with humanity.
So here, in Daniel, we see the necessity for community among people of faith. Nebuchadnezzar issued a challenge to the sages of his kingdom to interpret a dream he had, but did not tell them the dream. Very wisely, he understood that if the dream was from a god, and the interpretation was from a god, then he would not need to tell what the dream was in order to get the interpretation. The reward for an interpretation would be beyond measure, but failure to produce one would mean death. Here is Daniel’s response:
16 Daniel went and asked the king to give him some time so he could explain the dream’s meaning to him. 17 Then Daniel went to his house and explained the situation to his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah 18 so that they would ask the God of heaven for help about this mystery, in hopes that Daniel and his friends wouldn’t die with the rest of Babylon’s sages. 19 Then, in a vision by night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel!
Daniel went to his friends and had them pray for him and for the situation! And through this group praying together, God answered. God has chosen to work through community in this world. Even Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them” (Matthew 18:20), not one by himself or herself.
Personal faith is necessary for a relationship with Christ. This is absolutely true, but active engagement in a community of faith is also absolutely necessary for a real and vibrant relationship with Christ. If you do not have a community of Christians around you, you need to join one. After all, as Paul said in Ephesians 1:22-23
22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.