< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Putting God in His Place Part III

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Putting God in His Place Part III

Another part about centering our lives on Christ is relationships with His people.

Social networking on line is huge! MySpace, Facebook, forums, chatrooms….On Facebook it’s all about sharing pictures and who writes on your wall, On MySpace it’s picking your top 8 friends, which are the ones that show up on your first page. Even the cell phone companies have a plan where you can pick your 5 (or however many) special friends to be in your network! I don’t think these things are meant to exclude anyone, it’s just that everyone has such a strong desire to included!

We aren’t meant to go through life without friends. We need relationships for support, encouragement, fun, relaxation, accountability and to make us feel like we matter. People are searching for that online. Why not at church?

While sometimes we crave a chance to get away and be by ourselves – no one likes to feel lonely. And the worst kind of loneliness is when you are surrounded by people, but have no real relationships. Polls taken have shown that most people have 10 or fewer real friends throughout their lifetime. I think this suggests that people are going around with an unmet hunger for acceptance, which can cause all kinds of bizarre and even harmful behavior. And I think this explains the internet social networks too.

A couple generations ago people didn’t move so much. A large percentage were born, lived and died in the same town and had a lifetime of friends built up there. That’s not the norm now. Jobs don’t last and people move. Divorce splits up families. Busyness keeps neighbors from sitting on their front porches after dinner talking.

Relationships require constant tending. Every human being was created with a need for love, trust, service with others and to be close to others.

As a church we need to be there for everyone who walks through our doors. We need to provide insights and courage to help others live a life of faith. We need to help others be better people because we expect them to be. Kids in school who have a teacher who expects good things of them, who acts like he or she believes the student is capable of greatness – do better. Employers who expect their employees to be talented, upstanding, etc – usually have employees who are. We should love people unconditionally while at the same time show them the potential we see in them.

Which means the church has to be a center of acceptance and love. No quarreling, no bitterness, no cliques, no Peyton Place - just encouraging each other to discover meaning and to follow Christ.

The author of the book Growing Your Soul says that when we do this, empty churches will fill up again. Faith living will begin. Believers will salt society in factories, governments and corporations. The Bible will be respected again as the authority for living. Pastors will be reenergized. Brokenness will be healed and peace will reign.

Where can we find a church like this? The most effective answer is to improve the one we’re in. We need to infuse every relationship in our church with the life of Christ. Then every person will feel valued and discover how fulfilling a Christ-saturated life can be.

Isn’t it true that when someone loves you it’s easier to love them back? If someone encourages you – it’s easier to encourage someone else? So logic would say – go ahead and make the first move. Get the ball rolling. Treat every person you meet as a person who has the potential to be a friend AND to bring you closer to God.

Of all the gifts you give to family and friends, none is better then the gift of yourself. Let people know you’re available to them. And then be available. Go out of your way to be helpful. Listen fully to the person talking to you. Love grows with expression just as commitment expands with practice.

Share dreams and spiritual discoveries with others – When we share our spiritual journey with someone else it keeps us from back sliding – it makes us accountable. Spirituality needs relations to really grow and flourish so our faith journey will be strengthened

Give people a reason to know that your support is dependable and lasting. Paul wrote “out do yourself in generosity, in loving, in service.”

Avoid anger, forgive quickly and forget retaliation! Practice unexpected kindness. Rejoice in other people’s good fortune. Sympathize with their pain and sorrow.

If we do all of these things as individuals – our church will become like this as a whole.

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