Writing in 1864, in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, George Bethune spoke to this issue. He wrote:
“It is the order of grace that Christians are instrumentally dependent upon each other; as we grow they grow; and as they grow we grow. Whatever we do for their benefit is for our own; whatever they do for our benefit is for their own. Thus it is not only our duty, but our best interest, to impart freely of all God’s gifts to us for the benefit of our fellow Christians. There must be a communion [sharing] of prayers and acts and gifts, as there is a communion of grace. If we refuse this closeness of union to our fellow-Christians, we shall suffer doubly; for the Holy Spirit will not use us as the channels of his grace to them, nor can the effectual working through them reach us. Nothing but weakness and death can result from such selfish isolation.” (quoted in The Communion of Saints, 98).
How healthy are our churches then? How should this shape our pastoral priorities? Doesn’t this challenge much of the typical practice we see around us? It certainly would require us to work hard at building a real community in the church and teaching that each member is vital to the church. We can’t afford to just write people off saying (as I have heard leaders say) it would be easier to let them go than pursue them. Can we achieve this in a setting where people do not know each other? This will require the intentional investing in each others lives. Perhaps if we scale back the programming people would be able to do more of this.