This week, Pastor John hands over the TAGD keyboard to Scott Williams, Northpoint’s Pastor of Adults and Families.
Truly Connected in a Counterfeit Culture
It is no doubt we live in a world that is driven and dominated by technology.
My wife recently went to Starbucks to have coffee with a friend. While they spent a causal hour talking, she couldn’t help but notice a group teenagers sitting at a distant table. They were there for about the same amount of time, but there was one glaring difference: this group of teens rarely said a word to each other. One would get up every so often to use the restroom or get a refill, but their departure would go largely unnoticed by the others at the table. What was the reason for their seemly disinterested display? Well, they were all too busy “connecting” on their smartphones, posting a status, checking Facebook, or watching the latest YouTube video. All the while missing the opportunity to connect with real, live people sitting directly in front of them.
But it isn’t just the teenager, is it? It’s the married couple we see at the restaurant for dinner with heads buried in their iPads or phones. It’s the dad on the couch paying more attention to getting an update on the scores than to his kids playing on the floor in front of him. Smartphones and tablets can bring much value to our lives, but they can also feed our sinful bent toward autonomy and counterfeit connections.
All to often we can settle for counterfeit connections that remain distant, casual, and formal rather than entering into close redemptive relationships that make us more like Christ. These are precisely the type of relationships that Christ and the gospel have brought us into. In Ephesians 4: 1-6, Paul turns from talking about the salvation we have received in the first three chapters, to a description of the new community we have in the church. He says,
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:1-6)
In light of the grace of God, Paul calls people into a new community of true connection that is characterized by humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance. He urges the church to maintain unity, not to create it. When we trust in Christ, this is the type of fellowship that we are granted entrance into and called to maintain. Even though this is the case, we often still settle for counterfeit connections instead of maintaining this type of unity.
Tim Lane and Paul Tripp in their book How People Change, give great insight into the realty that for the Christian, change is a community project, a project that our sinful nature tends to avoid. They offer a great list that helps us evaluate where we’re at when it comes to Paul’s description of Christian relationships. Consider the following and see if any of them apply:
- The busyness of life, keeping relationships distant and casual
- A total immersion in friendships that are activity-and happiness-based
- A conscious avoidance of close relationships as too scary or messy
- A formal commitment to church activities, with no real connection to people
- One-way, ministry-driven friendships in which you always minister to others, but never allow others to minister to you
- Self-centered, “meet my felt needs” relationships that keep you always receiving, but seldom giving
- A private, independent, “just me and God” approach to the Christian life
- Theology as a replacement for relationship. Knowing God as a life of study, rather than the pursuit of God and His people
Well, what do you think? Do any of the above apply to you? I know I see myself reflected in some of those statements. That is why we need the church. I guarantee that entering into these type of relationships with others will be messy, complicated and time consuming, BUT from God’s perspective, it is the best way for us to grow in grace.
Starting Sunday, August 24, we will begin a 3-week event known as Get Connected on the Heritage Hall Patio, where we will offer various ways for you to connect into deeper community here at Northpoint. The primary way in which we encourage our people to connect is in a Growth Group. A Growth Group is made up of 6 to 16 Christ-followers, who meet 2-4 times a month on various days of the week to apply the scripture and do life together.
Pastor Scott Williams