Too Small to Ignore – Community

Dr. Wess Stafford writes, “…let’s consider the church, which we fondly refer to as ‘the family of God.’ It is a place meant for inclusion and nurture, we tell ourselves. Then why do the various ages scatter in opposite directions the minute we pull into the parking lot?” Wess admits the value in age-grade curriculum for targeting cognitive learning but counters with, “I just fear that the pendulum may have swung too far in that direction. Attitudes and behaviors are more powerful outcomes than mere cognitive knowledge.”

Wess points out that oftentimes in church even adults are segregated: young adults, midlife years, seniors, etc. He concludes, “The word community is more than just a gray sociological descriptor. It is a God term, designed by the Creator…”

My observation is that in times past the term community was nearly always attached to a geographic location. Nowadays, technology has removed that. Perhaps the most obvious example is transportation. For instance, I commute 15 miles to church twice a week. My automobile makes that possible. I find it sad that, by and large, I only see the people I worship with at church… at church! Same with my job. The community of people I spend time with at work I only see at work. We don’t live together, shop together, eat together, play together, or worship together.

Technology has fragmented and stratified our relationships. The Internet is another good example. How easy is it to belong to a niche cyber community? There we can share our thoughts, opinions, hopes and dreams, all with strangers we know in no other context.

Facebook has tapped into this desire for community in a unique fashion. Unlike other social networking sites, it allows users to have online connections with real-life associations (for the most part) rather than anonymous strangers.

I just checked to see what my friends are up to on Facebook:

  • N. lost his wallet.
  • D. is engaged!
  • B’s son missed the bus.
  • M. has a sore throat.
  • C. watched Sense and Sensibility.

    So Facebook gives us a sense of community, but is it illusionary? I am now in touch with personal details of my friends lives, but is there not still a geographical and even relational chasm? I say relational because I learned these details of their lives by reading about them, not by hearing them communicated through a real live person.

    For instance, D. didn’t verbally tell me he was engaged. I didn’t even get the pleasure of hearing about it through a mutual friend who could have excitedly shared the news with me. Nope, I found out about it through black and white print on an impersonal computer screen.

    So what are some solutions to this lack of community? Recognition of the problem is a good start. Then, perhaps we can make conscious steps to overlap our relationships wherever possible. Could we attend a neighborhood church rather than commute 20 minutes? How about at work, is there a coworker who lives in our same neighborhood? If so, could we invite him over for dinner? Are there ways we could be spending time with church friends outside of church?

  • What’s for Lunch?

    Every morning in the High Schools I’m working in there are morning announcements broadcasted to all the students via intercom.

    Usually among the announcements a lunch menu for the day is given. Recently I heard one particularly un-appetizing sounding lunch menu, I forget what it was, something like burned lime flavored goulash delight with sides of broccoli and asparagus or something. Anyways, this particular day after the cafeteria menu was given the announcer stopped talking and there was a dramatic pause.

    Then in a low voice he said, “…but as for ME… I’m thinking Arby’s.”

    That really cracked me up. I wonder how many students went to Arby’s that day? I know I was tempted to!

    Not Being a Hypocrite

    Sermon On the Mount Study

    Lesson 7 from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

    Here is the question this weeks’ study starts off with: “Which of my words or actions might a person find hypocritical?” For me, reflecting on that question is convicting.

    Jesus says we are not to:

  • do our acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them
  • announce our giving to the needy with trumpets to be honored by men, as the hypocrites do
  • pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men
  • look somber when we fast, as the hypocrites do

    What reward does our pride desire from doing something “good”? Seems to me it wants recognition and praise from those around us.

    What reward should we want? Favor from God alone, our heavenly Father.

    The four phrases describing why the hypocrites do what they do are: 1) To be seen by men, 2) to be honored by men, 3) to be seen by men and 4) to show men.

    What happens when we get all this attention? It pleases us. So our reward then is our personal pleasure.

    My study book points out we shouldn’t get absorbed in the mechanics of secrecy, it’s the heart of the matter Jesus is getting to. The point isn’t that we can never pray in public or that a fast becomes pointless if someone knows about it (like your wife, who wonders why you aren’t eating supper). The point is we are to be behaving in such a manner as to gain favor from God, not to please ourselves. This goes against the instant gratification we desire.

    Incidentally, we will be rewarded by God for that type of attitude. Doesn’t it seem like everything Jesus taught is 180 degrees from conventional wisdom?

  • Labor Day: Weather & Prayer

    Labor Day Forecast 2009

    Earlier this week, a friend of mine and I specifically prayed it wouldn’t rain over Labor Day. At the time we prayed, the weather forecasters were predicting scattered thunderstorms all weekend.

    We wanted to take a couple guys out camping on my big boat (before it sells) Sunday night and couldn’t do that if there was any chance of lightning. Now, I know it’s debatable whether we should pray for “luxury wants” like good weather for yachting when there are other people in the world with real needs (such as food because they are starving). But we did anyways.

    Sooo, today is Saturday… and guess what? All predictions for rain are gone! In fact, I just saw an article in our local paper stating the weather this Labor Day is shaping up to be exceptionally ideal.

    So God answered our prayer with a “yes.” Here are some excerpts from the article:

    “In years to come, camping lovers and local lake managers may look back at 2009 as the year Labor Day weekend was as good as it gets…”

    “[This weekend will be] ideal weather for camping, with cool nights and warm, dry days. Lakes at good levels. Lush grounds.”

    “It’s perfect camping weather. You can’t beat it,” Lake Afton park manager Mark Sroufe said.

    And meteorologist Chris Jakub from the National Weather Service had this to say,“It’s pretty ideal, really.”