I remember the days when my mom would plan big family gatherings for occasions such as Thanksgiving, Easter and Christmas. She would often set a separate table for the kids to sit at – sometimes even in a separate room. As I sat at the kids table I would hear the adults talk all throughout dinner, sometimes even late into the night after they put us to bed. I dreamed of the day when I would finally get to join the adult table and have cool conversations and laugh about things that I finally understood. I am now over thirty and I don’t know if that has happened! Even today when my mom calls people for dinner I am still at the “kids” table. It’s a silly thought, but it got me thinking about what our generation needs. What it would take for my generation to feel loved and in community. We need to be invited to sit at the table. We need to be invited into relationship with a sense that we can make a valuable contribution to the conversation.
It is also time for us to grow up and learn how to create that connected community and live it out ourselves. This generation has so much information tossed our way whether it be through social media, podcasts, the news, employers etc. We have community but it is an online community. We can connect or disconnect at will. What we have lost is the face to face, person to person life-giving dynamic of community.
Our generation is very strongly motivated to have relationships because of their fundamental need to belong. A universal hypothesis for belonging states that people have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior. As people we need to belong – to one another, to our friends and families, to our culture and country, to our world. Belonging is fundamental to our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Our interests, motivation, health and happiness are inextricably tied to the feeling that we belong to a greater community that may share common interests and aspirations.
My family is one of my communities. We have a strong connection. We have things in common, we work together, we walk out our lives together. This connected community, my family, is one that is honest, that shows love. We walk through hurt together, we share our joys, we have struggles, we get angry, we laugh and we cry. As I experience this aspect of community with my family it reminds me of how much my generation is desperately seeking for the reality of a genuine connected community within the church. We want to start throwing our own dinner parties and we want to start sitting at the “grown-ups” table. Yet, I could have not done this on my own. I needed to see it happen, I needed to walk through this with my family to understand the value of a close-knit loving community.
This simple example gave me a picture of the necessity for a connected community in the church. Community is literally at our fingertips. We can Tweet a thought, Instagram or Snapchat an experience or blog a journey in mega seconds but it will never be a substitute for genuine community. A genuine connected community is the only way my generation can experience love. We must create genuine connected communities to reach our generation. Community is the hidden key to reaching and loving a generation. We want fellow believers that are willing to challenge us, to walk along side us and to live life with us.
Jesus is the consummate community builder. Jesus ate meals with people, went to weddings, had picnics and visited their homes. He would go to the market with them, He went to the synagogue with them and He met in small groups. As Jesus lived out community peoples’ lives began to change. The type of community that Jesus exemplified became evident in the lives of the disciples and the birth of the church in Acts chapter 2.
Acts 2:42-47- “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity, all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” NLT
Followers of Jesus began to build a connected community. They shared everything together. It is such a beautiful picture of how my generation experiences love. It was not a give-take relationship but simply a giving relationship. They gave what they had teaching each other and loving each other with no expectation of return .
We live in a busy, consumer society that encourages us to think only of ourselves. We are too busy to give of our time, too busy to share our experiences, too busy to have people in our homes and share a meal together, worship and pray together – yet this is what our generation needs most.
We can not learn this by simply attending a Sunday morning gathering. We need to be empowered, we need to be shown how to live out Acts 2:42. We need to be shown how to love God with everything and love others. We need people walking along side us letting us make mistakes. Yes we want to be challenged and inspired but more than that we want to be empowered! You want to see this generation loved, reached and growing? Help them create genuine connected communities. This is how we experience the love of Jesus.