It’s the dream many of us share. Getting wealthy without having to work patiently for it. Just like George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” when his dad says, “Still after that first million before you’re thirty” and George responds, “I’ll settle for half of that in cash.”
Don’t tune me out! I’m not just talking about money!
The same is true in the rest of our lives too. We want the return on our investment before we’ve made it. Or we want the 30 year return after 30 days. We want to work out for a couple of days and get the results of having worked out for a couple of years. We want to work on our relationship with our spouse, but we want immediate results.
We call it, instant gratification.
We’re like Veruca Salt in the chocolate factory. We want a goose that will lay golden eggs for Easter. And we want it now.
We’re not used to waiting for anything anymore. We can go to the store and buy pretty much anything we want. At worst, we order it on Amazon and it gets to our door in two days.
This is not a new problem. This is one the human race has been dealing with for Millenia. There’s a proverb about it that was written thousands of years ago. Which means, this issue was something that people were dealing with even before that.
Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32
The idea is, it’s better to be patient than to take what you want by force.
You get what you invest.
If you want to earn interest on an investment, you have to start with some capital. You’re not going to earn interest if you don’t put money in the bank. And, like any money coach will tell you, the best game is the long game. If you want to make money through investing, you have to be patient.
We kind of understand that, but do we practice this in the rest of life?
We want a good relationship, but are we investing in the relationship and are we playing the long game? Or, do we do what’s minimally required, and if things don’t work out right now how I want them, well, then I’m out.
The same is true for our church community.
Sadly, too many people are looking for that magic church where they walk in the door and everything “feels” right. So, they hop around, looking for a feeling. When the thing they’re looking for will only be found by committing to a community of believers and investing yourself in that community.
It’s not something that can be done for you. I, as a pastor, cannot do community for you. I can give you tools and steps to take. I can encourage you and do my best to facilitate the start of community, but if you’re going to experience life-giving community, you will have to have some skin in the game. You’re own skin, not someone else’s.
I want, very deeply, for you to know the joy that comes from being in deep fellowship with other believers. I do. You will never experience anything else like it. However, all I can do it encourage you towards it.
Are you frustrated?
You might be frustrated at the moment because you don’t feel connected. You don’t feel like you’re in community. Can I ask you some questions?
- How many times did you go to church last month?
- How many people have you invited over to your house for a meal or out for lunch after church?
- When you’ve been at church, have you tried to get to know others in the community, or do you just gravitate toward the same couple of people?
- When was that last time you served or were generous to someone in the community?
- Are you trying to get to know people outside of Church on Sunday, or are you just depending on Sunday morning?
- Do you come early on Sunday and stay late, or do you show up late and leave early?
More often than not, when we’re frustrated because we don’t have the community and relationships we long for, it’s because we haven’t done the work of investing in the community. We’re upset that no one cares about us, but we haven’t done anything to care about anyone besides ourselves. We think people should care for us, but we don’t reciprocate.
That’s not all…
Maybe you’re doing all or most of these things, but you still don’t feel like you have community. Well, I have a couple more questions:
- What are your interactions like with people?
- Do you care about the other person in the conversation, or are you just bragging and talking about yourself?
- Are you being critical and negative?
- Do you make fun of people or tear people down?
- Are you looking for mistakes that people make so you can point them out?
We hope to be creating and constantly moving toward the type of community we read about in the early church:
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42-47.
We long to experience that with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We also long to experience God adding people to His Kingdom through this community every day. I dream of the day when the phones will be ringing off the hook in the church office because we’re hearing about how people are coming to Christ through this community God is creating here.
However, to get there will require a change in our approach. We cannot approach this community with the motive of what we are going to get out of it. We must approach this community with what we can give to it. Read those verses again. Do you see anything selfish in there? Is there even a hint of, “me first” thinking?
Will you help us take a step toward this dream as a church? Will you step up your pursuit of this kind of community? Will you start to serve others and reach out to others? Will you come early so you can get to know someone new? Will you invite someone to go out to lunch with you after the service? Will you invite someone over to your house for a meal, or meet up for lunch during the week?
You know what I think will happen if we start pursuing one another in this kind of community? We will all experience the type of Christian community we deeply long for.