The world has never been more connected. Companies are laying millions of miles of fiber optics and shooting satellites into space. Kids all around the world are texting each other on cell phones – even in the midst of jungles. Yet I talk to people all the time who feel more and more disconnected. They feel like they're out of it. In fact, I believe loneliness is a pandemic in America.
Our fast-moving lives have wreaked havoc on our relationships. We don't feel nearly as connected to each other as people did a generation ago. These days we can close our electronic garage door and step into our house without even greeting our neighbors.
Yet we were created for relationship. In fact the first thing God said was, "It's not good for man to be alone." God said that humans were not made for isolation. We were made for connection. Why? We were created in the image of God. The Bible says God is love. And to love, you've got to have somebody to love.
Pastor, one of the crucial purposes of your church is to help alleviate this sense of disconnection. There are probably people in your midst every weekend who aren't connected to your church in a meaningful way. That's why from time to time you need to tell your congregation why it's important to get connected.
When I do that, I often use four great word pictures of the New Testament church. Why? These metaphors tell us a lot about why God wants us to connect with one another. They give us a picture of what the church should be – and how it should alleviate the plague of disconnection in our society.
The Bible says that that being spiritually connected means:
We're built like a building. "In Christ you are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God" (Ephesians 2:22 NRSV). We are meant to fit together like bricks in a new building. It's essential that the parts of a building fit together. You aren't safe otherwise because there's no support. Likewise, those who aren't connected to a church family in any meaningful way have no support. Life is tough. We all need the support of people who care about us. Your church can provide that for the aimless multitude in your community.
We're joined in a body. "Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ's Body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others" (Romans 12: 4-5 TLB). What Jesus Christ did when he was here in his physical body, he wants to do today through the church. We are the body of Christ on Earth. We are his hands. We are his feet. All of us have to play our part. Being part of the body of Christ means we are a part of something bigger than ourselves, and if we don't play our specific part, the mission of the church is impacted.
We're born into a family. "I want you to know how people who are members of God's family must live. God's family is the church…" (1 Timothy 3:15 GW). This is my favorite metaphor for the church. It doesn't take any explanation. Most people think that Christianity is a belief system. There are beliefs in Christianity, but it's so much more. Christianity is a belong system. The Bible says we were born again into God's family when we became a follower of Jesus. It also says that we've been adopted into God's family. Both are great metaphors for what it should mean to be a part of the church.
Because those of us who follow Christ are part of God's family, we should accept one another and love one another. Now let me be very clear here. We don't approve of everyone's behavior. That's not love. If someone is doing something hurtful, approval is the opposite of love. But we must accept and love one another. Your family hasn't always approved of everything you've done, but – I hope – they've loved you anyway. That's a picture of the church that your congregation needs to see.
We're attached to a vine. "Live in me, and I will live in you. A branch cannot produce any fruit by itself. It has to stay attached to the vine. In the same way, you cannot produce fruit unless you live in me"(John 15:4 GW). Being connected isn't just a horizontal issue. It's a vertical one as well. Your congregation needs to be connected to God himself. Jesus says when we are connected to him it's like being attached to a vine. Fruit not connected to a vine dies. It's that simple. Your congregation can have all the interpersonal relationships possible, but if they are not connecting to God, they will not have the life that God wants them to have.
Paul continues Jesus' metaphor when he talks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. When we're connected to the True Vine, there will be certain spiritual fruit in our lives – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. If you're connected with God, those fruit will characterize your life. And that's the kind of connection we all want.
Connection is going to be a major focus of Saddleback Church over the next year. We're going to make every effort to connect people based on the five biblical purposes of knowing God, relating to God, growing in God, serving God, and sharing God.
If you've been reading Ministry Toolbox for any length of time, you know that we'll do anything possible to help you and your ministry. We're all in this together! I want to help you connect people to God and one another this year.
One way we're doing that is through Purpose Driven Connection. As a year-long member, you'll get four high quality magazines with stories, teaching articles, and practical tips for connecting with God and others. Each issue contains a DVD with small group curriculum – that's a new small group study every quarter! Plus every member gets access to a revolutionary online spiritual community. It won't replace the kind of in-person community your church offers, but it will allow your church members to connect with other people who want to grow closer to God and make a difference in the world.
Let's work together to help people make a connection this year!