Healthy Connections Day 4: Connecting with Christians
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV)
Several years ago, I was discussing the virtues of the late great saxophonist John Coltrane with one of my good friends. We had been listening to some clips on the computer, which wasn’t doing the music justice. So I pulled out my copy of “Giant Steps” on vinyl and put it onto my turntable that was plugged into 5-channel surround sound. The moment the title track began, Mr. Coltrane’s tenor saxophone came clearly through the speakers. My friend said, “Woah.” When the music was connected to the right source, the difference was like night and day.
Today, we’re going to look at being plugged in at a local church. When a person just shows up on Sunday, punches their card and then goes home, it’s really a shame. There are all sorts of acronyms people have come up with over the years to describe them: SO-SOs (Sunday Only); SMOs (Sunday Morning Only); or PIFNIFs (People In Fellowship, Not In Fellowship). Maybe you have a few more you’ve thought up, too. Sadly, each of those acronyms describes a person that isn’t completely plugged in. Sometimes it’s unavoidable due to life circumstances, but sometimes it’s because a person is simply playing church. You don’t want to disappoint your family or the church leadership, so you show up. But you’re not really into it. This mentality is the exact opposite of what Luke wrote about the infant Church in Acts 2. In that era, they “devoted themselves to…the fellowship.”
One of the worst things related to this is that an unplugged person is missing out on so much. I’m old enough to have witnessed the spiritual downfall of many Christians that, for some reason, refused to plug into a local church. When the believers are together for church services, they are sometimes there. When the believers are together for outside functions, they are rarely there. They don’t know what’s going on in the lives of the other Christians in the church. So either they are trying to go through life alone, or they are making connections elsewhere. All the while, they could be tapping into a tremendous support system, become a vital part of a support system for others, and so much more.
Acts 2:42 brings out the value of connecting on a deeper level than just going to church together. Luke points out there was a sense of devotion to church-related gatherings (“apostles’ teaching,” “breaking of bread,” and “prayers”). These all imply church meetings for teaching, prayer, and the Lord’s Supper. But in my mind, a devotion to “the fellowship” rings different. I believe this implies a connection beyond the scheduled services of a local church. Being devoted to a fellowship of believers means being with one another (in some sense) more than the couple of hours at church on Sunday and/or (hopefully and) other days of scheduled services. As I’ve already intimated, being connected to those people is vitally important—to you and to them.
So, what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already, get connected! Attend every meeting or service that you can. Talk to people. Connect on a deeper level beyond the standard “How are you doing?/I’m fine” hamster wheel of futility. Get together for coffee. Invite people into your home. Be vulnerable and willing to share your heart with people you can trust. It might be outside your comfort zone, and it’ll probably take a little time. Like pop songwriter Ben Rector puts it, “You can’t make old friends.” You aren’t likely to start chatting with a person and immediately share your darkest fears! But you may be surprised how many people share the same issues, circumstances, fears, and pressures you are facing. Who better to talk through them with than another believer? You can pray for each other, share how you’ve handled certain things, and encourage each other in problems you’ve worked through. It’ll help you, and it’ll help them. The Christian life is not about making connections to use people for what they have, to try to further our careers, or to be part of a clique. It isn’t about what we can get out of people, but about what we can pour into people. Are we willing to make those kinds of connections? Are we willing to take the first step? Are we willing to be “devoted to the fellowship” to which we belong?