Don’t Feel A Part?

 
“All the believers were together and had everything in common…every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people…” (Acts 2:46-47).
I’ve been giving these verses a lot of thought lately.  They describe the lifestyle of early Christians.  Those folks were together all the time.  They did not have nine to five jobs.  They lived in close-knit communities and literally “did life together.”  Obviously, they were not Americans!
Let me explain.  When ministers attempt to “Americanize” this passage of Scripture, frustration results.  I’ve pastored six churches and in each one, we struggled to promote an environment where people could genuinely connect.  Sadly, many felt disconnected from the overall body life of the church and seldom experienced the joy of Christian community. Seeing one another for two hours on Sunday morning does not build community; it may even foster pseudo-relationships.
Unlike the early Christians, we function in a job-driven world.  We have to eat and we have to pay our bills.  We need an income to sustain us.  We have to go to work.  Most of us work 40-60 hours per week, and when we get home, we’re often ready to relax.  Add school activities, meetings, meal preparations, yard work, miscellaneous family obligations and life becomes hectic.  Time becomes a commodity.  Involvement at church many times is placed on hold, or even replaced with life’s “busy-ness.” and/or other alternatives.
  
As a pastor, I sometimes hear individuals say, “I don’t feel part of the church.  Nobody talks to me.  Nobody knows I’m there or not there.”  While this is disconcerting to hear, I get what they’re saying.  I’ve thought long and hard about how we can remedy feelings of disconnection.  We’re making efforts at Hope Community to help individuals find their relationship niche. 
Soon, we are beginning the “Pastor’s Dinner Club.”  Families and individuals will be invited to join my wife and me for an evening meal together – on the church!  Food, both in the Early Church and today, unites peoples’ hearts and tummies like nothing else.  Inhibitions are dropped and effective communication results around dinner tables! 
Second, we plan to re-emphasize small groups.  Additional Hope Groups will be formed to help people make new friends. Be listening for future small group opportunities.
Finally, may I shoot straight?  Relationships require both time and work.  Nothing of value comes easy.  Hit and miss attendance at church, being non-participatory in special services, events, and get-togethers, and coming late and leaving early all make relationship building next to impossible.  Expecting others to take the initiative to “pull us in” is an unreasonable expectation. 
Cold, non-verbal body language repels people and builds walls instead of bridges into others’ lives.  Down-in-the-mouth attitudes, negative speech; critical, judgmental comments, poor listening skills, shyness, and aloofness contribute to feelings of disconnection.  All of us have tried to engage people who give one-word answers or just stare when talked to.  It’s like pulling teeth to carry on a conversation!
What is God saying to you about these drawbacks to good communication and meeting new friends?
One good way to feel part of things and to foster relationships is to become involved. Show up for work day, teach a class, lead a small group, sing on the praise team or play an instrument.  Ask your pastor how you can become involved. 
To pull away from opportunities for involvement makes connection difficult.  Early Christians were connected because they spent a lot of time together. 
Remember, social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and texting – are secondary communication venues.  Nothing surpasses the joy of hanging out with folks, looking them in the eye, hearing their voice and sensing their life pulse. 
Do you struggle with feelings of disconnection from Hope Community or YOUR church?  Let me encourage you to quit blaming others for your lack of disconnection, and begin today to more aggressively pursue opportunities to be part of a Christian community.  We’d love for you to make Hope Community your place “to do life” with other Christ followers. 

  

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