Why are some men heroes and other men cowards? Why do some men stay and fight and others flee from the battlefield? Secular authors and economics professors Dora Costa and Matthew Khan explored this question by looking at factors that affected deserters during the Civil War. Their conclusion: relationships. In their book Heroes and Cowards, The Social Face of War, they state:
“Four brave men who do not know each other will dare not attack a lion. Four less brave, but knowing each other well, sure of their reliability and consequently of mutual aid, will attack resolutely.”
I believe these authors have uncovered an important biblical principal which is also key to healthy local church life. Since the desertion rate in the American church is far higher than the desertion rate of soldiers during the Civil War, this question deserves careful thought and study.
Perhaps this is why there are so many commands in scripture regarding relationships. There are over 50 “one another’s” in the New Testament indicating the importance and richness of relational life. Contrast this with the impersonal nature of many churches where people attend meetings but hardly know one another. God calls us into relationship and spiritual heroism as we work out our salvation and fulfill the great commission.
Paul urges the churches to be unified and stand fast in one spirit (Phil 1:27, 1 Cor. 1:10) Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs, not alone. (Mark 6:7) Proverbs also speaks a great deal about the importance of relationships. (Prov. 17:17, 27:17, 27:10, 13:20)
As we strive for faithful churches, let’s remember this principal. The accountability, safety, and camaraderie fostered by churches that obey the commands of scripture to fellowship together, pray together, know one another, host one another, invest in one another and build one another up radically changes the propensity towards desertion in the church.