A few years ago, I took my wife to San Francisco and we drove up to Muir Woods just north of the city. Muir Woods is filled with sequoia trees, many of them 1,500-2,000 years old. And they are huge. The highest sequoia trees in the world average over 250 feet high. That’s almost as long as a football field. They are amazing to behold. They are sometimes referred to as the largest living things on earth. When you stand next to one you are in awe. And you wonder how they have been able to grow and mature for so long? How have they not toppled over with all the storms, all the seasons they have faced, all the trauma they have endured?
The secret to their success is not their deep roots. In fact, their roots only grow a few feet deep.
The secret to their longstanding, to their continual growth in the same direction, is that they only grow in groves. You will never see one alone. Their roots intermingle with other sequoias next to them, and they prevent one another from falling.
There are other types of trees that have deeper roots and attempt to stand alone. And they become firewood.
Believers are built in the same way. No matter how deep we think we are in our faith – we will topple if we don’t live in community. God uses community to form us more into His image, to keep our hearts tender to His grace, to prevent us from falling. When the writer of Hebrews warns us from departing from our faith, he reveals that community is the antibiotic that will keep our hearts healthy and shelter them from hardening.
Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
While it is essential and noble for church leaders to want to “take their people deeper” through teaching rooted in the text, we must also connect people in community. Roots must not merely go deep. They must also intermingle.
Adapted from a chapter on community in my book, Transformational Discipleship.