As the light broke through the ripples on the water and danced along the tiny scales of the swimming shad, I was mesmerized. It was just so pretty to me, how the school worked together to flow along and dodge the rocks in their way. They would shift as one whole unit as they washed towards a boulder, and then come back into formation. The ones in the back of the school were reacting really before they even saw what the ones in the front were seeing. It was a beautiful picture of how helpful community can be.
See, a school of shad instinctively stays together. They know there’s safety in numbers. They are better off together, with other shad. That’s what church represents to me now. And I’m not even necessarily talking about a brick and mortar building. I think those are great too at times, and I’ve been taught, comforted, convicted and compelled by many a pastor preaching from a pulpit. But church, the big C church, is really about the body of Christ. A group of believers coming together regardless of the physical location to share the good news, further the kingdom, grow, comfort one another, serve others and shine light in this dark world.
Two of my favorite passages that illustrate the need for fellowship with a community of believers are found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and Matthew 18:20. In Ecclesiastes we read, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves and a chord of three strands is not easily broken.”
Looking at a simple school of shad, we can see that they understand the importance of community. There’s some safety in it, their chances of survival are better together. And how we level up even more as humans is found in Matthew 18:20 where Jesus said, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Individuals are more powerful together, even a school of shad knows that. But when we as believers gather in His name, we’re truly unstoppable and can overcome so much.
The devil’s influence can be seen in this school of shad as well. If you watch this video closely, you’ll see a shad peel off from the group every now and then. As the school is running away from my camera, each shad has to make a decision: decide to stick with the group and overcome the obstacle in front of them or break off on their own. All of you know that if my camera was a bass, the one that breaks off doesn’t have much of a chance. But fear does funny things, and shad break off.
I want to remind you that there is an enemy lurking, “looking for someone to devour,” (1 Peter 5:8). And isolation is where he does his best work. If the devil can get me alone, with nothing more than my thoughts, feelings and reasoning, he can wreck my soul and lead me down a very dark path. It happened to me a few years ago. And it’s subtle and gradual, and you won’t even see it coming.
Now I’m not suggesting the devil is jacking with the shad too, but he does use fear to make us break away from the group just the same — or hurt feelings, pride, ego, comparison, competitiveness, envy, guilt, shame and the whole lot. He’ll use whatever he can to to get us off by ourselves, knowing then he has a much better chance. We must fight the urge to isolate, especially for the men reading this. I get it, I’ve been there, it’s easier just to keep it all in and try to hold the world up on your shoulders.
But that’s a lie. It’s not our responsibility to save the world. God sent His Son for that (John 3:16). But we are to love people (Mark 12:31) and to comfort each other with the same comfort we are comforted with (2 Corinthians 1:4). So, I just want to encourage you today to seek out your school. If you’re a believer, find a group of other believers to learn and grow with. If you’re not a believer, give God a chance. Give His people a chance. Or perhaps even a second or third one if you’ve been burned before. And in time, you’ll find Godly people to do life with. You’ll find your church. By the Grace of God I did, and it has made all the difference.