The Bible teaches that Christians are to keep company with one another. It says, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another..." (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is clear from this Bible passage that God considers it to be of utmost importance for our spiritual well-being to spend time with other Christians. There are numerous examples in the Bible of God's people spending much time with one another. Being a Christian isn't something God meant for us to do alone; it is a team effort! Perhaps the following story can illustrate why.
The Reclusive Disciple
A faithful disciple of Jesus heard that one of his fellow disciples had stated that he no longer needed to spend time with other Christians. After hearing this, the faithful disciple decided to visit his reclusive brother one winter evening. After supper, the two men seated themselves in front of the fireplace making small talk. Eventually the topic of gathering with other Christians came up to which the reclusive disciple replied, "I don’t meet with other Christians. My faith is enough for me. I don’t need the encouragement of other disciples." Upon hearing this, the faithful disciple took the tongs from the rack next to the fireplace and pulled a single coal from the fire. He placed the glowing ember on the hearth. As the two watched in silence, the coal quickly ceased burning and turned an ashen gray, while the other coals in the fire continued to burn brightly. The faithful brother didn't say another word, but the silent message was not lost on the reclusive brother. He resumed meeting with his fellow Christians now understanding the importance of the mutual encouragement Christians offer one another.
Surround yourself by those who will help you make it to Heaven
It is a fact that we tend to become like those we associate with. If we spend time around godly people, we will tend to imitate them. The opposite is also true as this Bible verse states, "Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character" (1 Corinthians 15:33). It is vitally important to your growth as a Christian to spend as much time as possible amongst other believers. It is our duty as disciples to help each other make it to Heaven. We do this by living our lives as Jesus has taught us and encourage our spiritual brothers and sisters to do the same. The only way we can accomplish this is if we keep company with other Christians. As the story illustrates, spending time with other disciples will keep us on fire for Jesus. Spending time with people who have no interest in spiritual things will cause our fire to go out.
How can I find a group of Christians to associate with?
Start by asking God to help you and then start finding out about churches in your area. The word "church", as used in the Bible, refers to a group of God's people. The Bible uses the word "church" in two different senses. It can refer to all Christians the world over or it can refer to a local group of Christians. The context in which the word is used in a Bible passage generally makes it clear in which sense the word is used. The church is not a building nor is it some sort of organization, institution or denomination. A local church is composed of a group of Christians that meet together regularly and have pooled their resources to accomplish the good works that God wants His people to do. A church is not an "it", but a "they"! Unfortunately, the word "church" has come to include meanings that are not found in the Bible. To maintain clarity, I will refrain from using the word "church" as much as possible and instead use the definition of the word "church". This should help us keep a Biblical perspective.
As you try to find a group of Jesus' followers to keep company with ask yourself these questions:
Do they love one another? Jesus said that the true mark of His followers is that they love each other. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35). As a visitor, are they friendly with you? If it becomes apparent that a group of people doesn't demonstrate their love for each other (and for strangers) by doing what is in the other's best interest, this might not be a congregation you want to spend time with.
Is the Bible their guide? It seems inconceivable that people who claim to be disciples would not follow Biblical principles. Sadly, there are people who claim to be Christians who do not believe that the Bible is God's message to mankind. Similarly, they might claim to believe in the inspiration of the Bible, but fail to follow its teachings. Perhaps most remarkable of all is that some don't even believe that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Avoid such a group!
Do they elevate man-made teachings and/or opinions to the same level of authority as the Bible? "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible is completely sufficient to teach us what we need to know about going to Heaven. Man's wisdom only serves to hinder, confuse and divide.
What do they teach about the means by which one has his sins taken away? God loves us and has made a way for our sins to be forgiven and taken away. God made this possible, not because we deserve it, but because He loves us so much. He gives us the gift of having our sins removed. However, this gift isn't given without conditions. The Bible says God bestows this gift upon us only if we believe in Him, turn away from living a willingly sinful life, acknowledge our faith in Jesus and submit to immersion in water. If we do these things He forgives and takes away our sins. We then must live the rest of our life as a faithful disciple. Beware of any group that does not teach the same thing that the Bible teaches on this matter.
Do they make a clergy/laity distinction? The Bible teaches that all Christians are priests, "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God..." (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible does not teach that there are different classes of Christians. Whatever one Christian may do, all Christians may do. The idea of the clergy is a notion that is foreign to the Bible in regard to God's people today.
Do they do a good job of helping one another grow spiritually? The main reason the Bibles says Christians meet together is to help each other become better Christians. Are you getting spiritually fed? Are they helping you to increase your knowledge of the Bible? Do you feel encouraged and strengthened in your resolve to be a good disciple when you meet with them? Do they look for opportunities to tell others the good news about Jesus? Are they trying to help themselves and those who don't know about Jesus make it to Heaven?
There may be additional traits that are important, but the above considerations should be enough to get you started. It is imperative that you find other Christians to keep company with. Don't be discouraged if the first group you find doesn't turn out to be a good choice. Keep in mind that no group of God's people will be perfect, after all they are only human. Have confidence that God will help you find what you need.