Do you ever feel tempted to drop out of church? To just stay home and watch church on television? Church at home is nice. You get preaching that you always like, you don’t have to dress up, the musicians never mess up, you don’t get asked to volunteer for nursery duty and you never have to deal with personal conflicts or church politics. The joys of staying at home often cause Christians to feel like they are much better off alone. The following words from Marshall Shelley tell the story of one man who learned the importance of community for Christian growth.
“Pachomius is hardly a household name. His face has never graced the cover of a magazine. Conscripted into the military, Pachomius was won to Christ by the kindess of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pahcomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who tought him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.
“In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse, dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. Trying to avoid the contagion of sins material and sensual, these men would wander the desert alone- fasting, pray and having visions.
“Such was the popular image of holiness: solitude, silence and severity. And such was Pachomius’ early spiritual training. But he began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors.
How can you learn to live if no one else is around?
How can you learn humility living alone?
How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?
How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?
“In short, he concluded, devloping Christian virutes demands other people- ordinary, ornery people. So Pachomius began an ascetic fellowship, where holiness was developed not in isolation but in community. Pachomius has been largely forgotten in church history, but he pointed out that as attractive as solitary sanctification may seem, it is life among others that develops the qualities God requires.”