Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We spent Thanksgiving this year, with my extended family, in North Carolina. Thirty of the Banfield clan were present for Thanksgiving dinner, plus a few extras. I had the chance to connect with family members that we don’t get to see on a regular basis. It reminded me of how important it is to stay connected. Even as family, it is easy to let distance and demands keep us apart. Times like Thanksgiving remind us of how important it is to stay connected to the family.
We live in a disconnected world. Even with all of the various forms of social media, we can, and often do, live isolated lives. We can substitute virtual reality for face to face reality. Even though I talk with my parents every Monday night on the phone, it is not the same as sitting in their living room holding a conversation.
Recently I picked a book off of my shelf that I read several years ago. It is “The Spirit of the Disciplines” by Dallas Willard. In the opening chapters, Willard talks about how we have separated our physical life from our spiritual life, as if the two are not connected to one another. Consequently, we do not experience the transforming power of our faith. He makes the case that our faith needs to be integrated into every aspect of our lives. What we do with our physical being, on a daily basis, affects our ability to experience the power of God. We are spiritually weak, because we are not living out our faith in tangible ways.
One of the foundational aspects of living out our faith is staying connected with one another. We were not created to live life as a solo adventure. We were created to live lives connected in meaningful ways to one another. That is one reason why the Bible often equates our faith to being a part of a family. The family is the basic building block of every society. When the family breaks down, the society breaks down. It is true of the Church as well. If we do not stay connected to one another as the family of God, the Church will be weak and ineffective in our world.
Acts 2:42-47 describes the life of the early church. This snapshot of the early Church shows the power of staying connected. The key is that they lived life together on all levels. Because of this radical style of community, others took notice. Daily, new people were added to the fellowship. They were offering, in tangible ways, what people were missing; a sense of genuinely being connected with others.
Whenever my family gets together, we spend time remembering things from the past. One story leads to another story. We are soon caught up in past adventures. One of the things that God told the people of Israel to do was remember what He had done for them in the past. They were to tell the old stories to new generations. The same is true for the Church. One of the ways that we stay connected is by reminding each other of the many ways that God has been at work in our lives.
Whenever my family gets together, we bring each other up to speed on what is going on in our lives now. For instance, my younger brother has opened an art gallery. We spent time, as a family, poking around the corners of his facility; both what people get to see out front and what they don’t get to see in the back. As the family of God, we need to spend time sharing with one another what is going on in our lives; both what people can see on the surface and what they cannot.
When my family gets together, we spend a lot of time eating. The joke in my family is that we cannot get through the day without having three square meals. There is something powerful about eating together as a family. As the family of God, we need to spend time breaking bread together. Not just in formal settings at church, but at informal settings in homes and at various eateries. Sharing a meal with other members of the body of Christ can be a powerful bonding experience.
When my family gets together, we play games and have fun together. On this recent trip, my niece and nephew set up a projector and screen in their back yard and we watched movies outside, while we roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. As the family of God, we need to have fun together. In fact the more we can demonstrate the joy of the Lord, in tangible ways, the more attractive we become to the world around us.
Acts 2 tells us that as the Church lived out what it means to be the family of God, God added to their number daily. Lost people today are not looking for amazing worship services, as important as these are. They are looking for a place to belong; to experience genuine community. They are looking for a family. If we really want to see lives transformed for Christ, then we need to actively stay connected to the family.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.