Gary Glitter and Mike Leander wrote the song ‘I’m The Leader Of The Gang’ which rose to Number 1 in the pop charts in July 1973. It was a glam rock anthem based on a simple mid-tempo rhythm (the so-called “Glitter Stomp”) and loud chanted backing vocals such as “Hey!” and “Come on, come on!” If ever we needed reminding of the herd instinct with people (the need to belong!), this song clearly demonstrated this.
Gangs can, of course, lead us astray or become violent; they are often associated with criminal behaviour and activity. But the need to belong, to be part of something, is a very human instinct, and in some ways, the church could be described as ‘God’s Gang’. He is our leader and we are His followers. The New Testament does not really talk about lone Christians, but assumes God’s people will be part of a local gathering (the church, or ‘called-out ones’).
Paul is often seen as the great apostle, travelling all over the world, but as Luke makes clear in the book of Acts, he did not do this alone. On his first missionary journey, he was accompanied by Barnabas and John Mark; on his second, by Silas and later Timothy and Luke. In Acts 20:4, we see another list of people travelling with Paul, including Sopater, Secundus, Gaius, Aristarchus, Timothy, Tychicus and Trophimus. We know very little about these people, although their home towns reflect the success of Paul’s missionary journeys since they represent Berea, Thessalonica, Philippi, Derbe, Lystra and Ephesus, and the fact they were travelling with Paul indicates both the growth and the unity of the early church. It’s encouraging to see, as John Stott points out, that the fruits of mission had now become the agents of mission: this reflects how growth begets growth. It’s notable also that Paul was no lone ranger. He needed and valued the help and companionship of other people and frequently wrote of this. We all need to belong; we all need people. Ultimately, this is one of the ways that God helps us to grow.