We call the lion “The King of the Jungle” for a reason. Its speed, strength, and stalking abilities strike fear into the rest of the animal kingdom. However, many of its prey are larger or faster, forcing the lion to compensate for these disadvantages through strategy and patience.
Generally, it’s the lionesses who hunt to provide food for the pride. They hide near a water hole, patiently waiting for unsuspecting prey to arrive. Spread out in strategic locations, the hungry predators must sometimes wait for hours. Finally, a herd of thirsty buffalo lumbers in for a drink. The smaller lioness must thoughtfully maneuver her attack lest she is trampled to death by a 1,500-pound opponent.
When the time is right, she jumps from her hiding spot, dashing toward the herd. Panicked, the buffaloes see the danger and scatter. The chaos shatters any hope of the herd sticking together as they run off in different directions, each fleeing for their life. Strategizing while in hot pursuit, the lioness finds the one who becomes most isolated by this chaos and focuses her energy on him.
Had the herd stayed together, they could have used their size advantage to fight off the lions. However, once one becomes isolated, it’s usually only a matter of time before the pride feasts on a thousand-pound meal of fresh meat.
THE DEVOURING LION
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter warns us, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The master of deceit employs cunning strategy to isolate you and then attack.
While more and more Christians minimize the value of attending and serving in a local church, Satan knows how dangerous it is to his cause. He’ll whisper the church’s irrelevance in your ear while secretly shuddering in fear when you ignore him. He’ll do everything he can to cause enough chaos and confusion to keep you from gathering with God’s people. The last thing he wants is for you to sit under the preaching of God’s word, to encourage others and receive encouragement from brothers and sisters in Christ, and to take advantage of the mutual accountability within the Body of Christ. No, he needs to isolate you from such life-giving opportunities so he can pounce on a weakened prey separated from the herd.
THE LYING LION
However, those pesky passages about “not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:25) are sure to awaken his prey to their need for community. The continual refrain from Scripture to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thess. 5:11) will surely awaken the sleepy Christians to their need for the local church. But the roaring lion is crafty and his hunting strategy impeccable. He studies his prey and considers which lying seed to plant to sprout the most doubts.
“Why go to church? They are all a bunch of hypocrites.” This classic line continues to effectively deceive many. He conveniently leaves out the fact that the church functions as a hospital for people who, in their own power, can’t act right. Nor does he point out the simple truth that it’s just as easy to find hypocrites at your job, your house, the grocery store, the gym, or anywhere you go where there are other humans. No, he must convince you that hypocrisy only exists at church, and therefore it’s pointless to attend.
Next, he’ll try to convince you that you don’t need “organized religion,” and you can worship Jesus on your own. Even though God has made it clear in his word that we need the church, many Christians too easily fall for this lie. Instead of the body of Christ being unified and whole, fully expressing each member’s spiritual gifts, we have become a disjointed, scattered people with body parts staying home or “watching online.”
Should this not work, Satan won’t be too shaken. He’s an experienced hunter and knows how to adapt on the move. He will tell any lie necessary to get you to separate from the regular gathering of God’s people. He’ll tell you every church leader harbors the same hidden corruption as the one you heard about on the news doing awful things behind the scenes. He’ll use guilt and shame to make you too embarrassed to be around other believers who seem to have it all together.
If that doesn’t work, our culture’s consumerism serves as a great asset. If you can “have it your way” when you buy fast food, why not at church? And, when you don’t get your way, just leave and find somewhere that will cater to you. If the sermon isn’t entertaining or the music isn’t as good as the concert you attended on Saturday night, then why even go? When the enemy can convince us that church is about us instead of worshiping God and serving others, it’s just a matter of time before we slip out the back door never to return.
Then, once isolated and separated from the community God has provided, the lion has ample opportunity to attack an easy target that no longer has support from others and cannot, on its own, put up a real fight.
God has provided protection for his people in the local church. If you deny the help he provides and reject his commands to meet together regularly, then you disobey your way out of his normal means of provision against such attacks. God is gracious even in our disobedience, but that doesn’t mean we won’t face the consequences of our self-inflicted isolation.
TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE
The lion’s best strategy against the powerful buffalo is to isolate and kill. However, when the herd stays together and stands its ground against its predator, its chance of success increases dramatically. Some herds practice mobbing tactics that enable them to use their size and numbers to fight off the hungry lions.
Could an isolated buffalo fight off the lions on its own? It’s possible, but their success rate increases greatly when they are surrounded by the rest of the herd. When isolated, they are more susceptible to attack with smaller chances to survive.
Can a Christian go through this life without church community? It may be possible, but the chances are slim, and Scripture warns against it. You can try to live the Christian life without the community God has provided in the local church, but by doing so you become a prime target for the stalking lion. He will wait for the right moment to jump on your back while digging in with his claws, then use his powerful jaws to clinch his sharp teeth around your neck. And you won’t have a brother or sister next to you to fight for you. No matter how strong you think you are, you are no match for the hungry lion.
But God gives us strength in godly community. Consider Ecclesiastes 4:9–10: “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
Don’t rob yourself of this life-giving opportunity provided by God. Find a Bible-believing and teaching local church, get involved in a small group where you can develop relationships, and use your gifts to build up the body of Christ.
Then, when the lion attacks, you won’t be fighting a deadly enemy all on your own.
This article originally appeared at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.