My primary responsibilities on staff involve helping people to get better connected to God and our church, and the development of small groups; I see the two as being compatible. But getting connected is not automatic for a lot of people. Many are content to sit back and receive what the church has to offer, but do not understand that the entire body needs to be functioning if the body is to be healthy.
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, yet we hear about people all the time who feel more and more disconnected. They feel like they’re out of touch and lonely. Loneliness can come even when we are surrounded by a million people in Virginia Beach.
Our fast-moving lives wreak havoc on our relationships. We don’t feel nearly as connected to each other as people did a generation ago. We are not sitting on the front porch at sundown, watching the kids play and talking to neighbors over the back fence. 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. The first thing God said was, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” God said that human beings 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 else around you.
One of the crucial purposes of our church is to help people get rid of this sense of disconnection. There are people in our facility every weekend who aren’t connected to our church in a meaningful way. That’s why from time to time we offer the Connections Class.
Part of that class emphasizes the four great word pictures of the New Testament church. 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.
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. Those who aren’t connected to the church family in any meaningful way have no support. Life is tough. We all need the support of people who care about us. King’s Grant can provide that for the people in our 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). That which Jesus did when he was here in his physical body, he wants to do today through our 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). I like this one because 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 have 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. Our people need to be connected to God himself, and 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. Our people can have all the interpersonal relationships possible, but if they are not connected 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 5:22-23. When we’re connected to the True Vine, there will be certain spiritual fruit in our lives. If you’re connected with God, those fruit will characterize your life, and that’s the kind of connection we all want.
From the Connections Class workbook, I teach about six symbols of the church:
- The Church is a Fellowship:
- Acts 2:42 – (they devoted themselves to fellowship, prayer, teaching…).
- Ephesians 4:3 – (united in spirit, bonded with peace).
- Romans 14:19 – (aim for harmony in the church, build each other up).
- John 17:23 – (Jesus desires complete unity, so the world will know that the Father sent the Son, and loves them).
- The Church is a Family:
- First Peter 3:8 – (be of one mind, sympathize with each other, love each other, have compassion, love, humility).
- Galatians 6:10 – (do good to all, especially to those in the household).
- Hebrews 2:10-12 – (we are declared to be holy and brothers of Jesus).
- First Peter 4:17 – (judgment begins with the family or household of God…).
- First Timothy 5:1-2 – (speak to others as fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters).
- First Timothy 3:4-5 – (must manage his own family well to lead God’s family).
- The Church is a Flock (Jesus’ favorite description for the church).
- John 10:1-30, Matthew 26:31, Matthew 25:33 – (Jesus’ imagery with sheep).
- John 21:16-17 – (the flock is led by a shepherd).
- First Peter 5:1-2 – (overseers and shepherds are leaders of the church).
- Acts 20:17-18, 28 – (elders are to keep watch over them, like shepherds).
- Titus 1:5-7, 1 Timothy 5:17 – (elders will direct the affairs of the church).
- The Church is a Body (not a business, an organism not an organization):
- First Corinthians 12:27 – (we are members of Christ’s body).
- Ephesians 5:23 – (He is Savior of the body, His church).
- Ephesians 1:22-23, Colossians 1:18 – (and the church is His body, made full and complete).
- Colossians 2:19 – (Christ is head of the body and He holds it together).
- Romans 12:4-6 – (the members of the body working together).
- The Church is a Bride:
- Second Corinthians 11:2 – (…I promised you as a pure bride to one husband, who is Christ).
- Isaiah 62:4 – (Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride).
- Revelation 19:7 – (…For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself).
- Revelation 21:9 – (Then one of the seven angels … said to me, “Come with me! I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb”).
- The Church is a Building:
- First Corinthians 3:9-10 – (…you are God’s field, God’s building. … I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care).
- Ephesians 2:20-21 – (In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit).