One of the not-so-obvious insights from Jesus’ Parable of the sower is the need for good roots. In the parable, the seed thrown on rocky soil grew as quickly as the seed that was thrown on the good soil. But under the harsh dryness of troubles and persecution, the shallow-rooted plant withered while the plant on the good soil thrived. See Matthew 13:3-9 and 18-23.
In a horticultural sense, roots provide support along with pulling in nutrients and moisture from the soil. As Christ-followers we have two types of roots. Our primary root is in Christ. Paul wrote, “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6–7, NLT) Growing our roots into Christ feeds and waters our soul even if the rest of our experience in the world is dry and dusty. We grow roots into Christ by the things we’ve previously talked about – prayer and reading the Bible. As we do those we grow in our trust and our understanding of God’s love and grace.
Another type of root system is found in vital connections with other believers. A few years back Betty and I visited Alaska. One of our excursions was a nature hike through the Alaskan rain forest. The topsoil in that region is thin yet the trees grow several hundred feet tall. They do this by weaving their roots with other trees. In this way, they gain and provide support to those nearby and stand through Alaska’s turbulent weather.
We, as followers of Jesus, share a similar root system with the trees of Alaska. The Bible uses several metaphors to explain our interconnectedness. We are a body of many different parts (1 Corinthians 12), we are like living stones being fitted and joined together (1 Peter 2:5), we are a family (Galatians 6:10). God does not intend for our faith in Christ to grow and thrive in isolation but interconnected with others.
The most common expression of this interconnectedness is church. Church is simply a gathering of folks to worship Jesus, learn from the Word of God, and support one another. The forms of church vary widely. The importance of church isn’t the religious organization and tradition but the gathering and connection to others.
Our recent experience with the Covid pandemic has proven the need for in-person church. Yes, we did get by with only remote sermons. But most longed for the return of live in-person church. We need that connectedness. But the once-a-week service is only part of the answer.
Many followers have found that some sense of small-group provides a deeper interconnection than is possible in larger gatherings. These small groups of 2-12 folks have abilities and benefits. In these groups we share life. We connect with one another’s life changes and challenges, we ask questions and learn from each other, and we pray and care for one another.
I’m a part of a small group, meeting with them has been super supportive, especially through the Covid pandemic. Even in lockdown we met via Zoom and prayed for one another. We are interconnected in ways hard to describe. Our Sunday mornings services are fantastic, but I often leave feeling a bit isolated. There really isn’t time to meaningfully connect with others. That’s where the small group comes in and changes things.
We need our roots. We need to grow deeply into Christ and we need vital connections with others with faith in Christ. This is not just for our benefit but we are also to support and encourage others as they are also growing in Christ. That’s how we survive and even thrive during the storms and droughts of life.