The Fullness Of Community: The Loneliest People On Earth

The Fullness Of Community: The Loneliest People On Earth

The Johnsons were a lot like most other young families. Dan worked and Kari stayed home with the kids. Dan’s day started fairly early due to the fact that he had to be to the shop by 6AM. Kari was on call 24 hours a day so she never really knew when her day would start. The days where the baby had colic she would be up at 1:30 AM and maybe not get back to sleep until 9PM that evening. Other days she felt fortunate that she didn’t have to wake up until their first grader had to wake up and get around for school at 6:15 in the morning.

Dan had a physically demanding job. He was a welder in a factory. Most days the job was made tolerable as he focused on the money that they were able to put into savings but on those hot summer days, in the non-airconditioned shop…there was nothing better than when he got to clock out and head for home.

As Dan would drive home he would always try to mentally prepare himself for the moment he stepped in the door because he never knew what he would find. Some days Kari would be emotionally exhausted and the house would be a mess and other days Kari would just be physically exhausted and the house would be a mess. No one ever told him how difficult life would be being a husband and a father of a first grader, a toddler, and an infant.

Unfortunately Dan had a long to do list when he’d get home from work in the afternoons. Whether it was mowing, feeding the animals, cutting wood, or playing with their 1st grader Dan didn’t get to rest. Kari’s life wasn’t less busy either. She looked forward to Dan being home so that she could do a few odds and ends pick up around the house and also cherish the few moments that Dan would help with the baby.

After the kids were in bed Dan would cherish the few moments that he would be able to sit in the recliner before he went to bed. It felt like it was the first time all day that he was able to sit and just rest. Kari would unwind in the bath and while doing so Dan would fall asleep on the recliner where he would stay until Kari would wake up once again with their three month old colicky baby. Saturday & Sundays weren’t much better. These two days of the week were used for three primary activities. House & Lawn care, children’s sports, and church. These activities took up most available hours, but on the average weekend they could usually find a few minutes to sit down an connect on life. They were too busy. They needed to simplify. They needed to make friends with other families. They needed to have others over. But, we’ll start that this next summer when we aren’t so busy…

This cycle continued for a number of years. It seemed as though every day ended with a worn out Dan & Kari. They thought that as the kids got older their lives would get easier. They did to some extent however the energy spent changing diapers and cleaning the food off the floor after dinner time was replaced by running their son to baseball practice and their daughter to piano lessons and their other son to a soccer game. Life seemed just as busy as it was before. They barely had time together as a family let alone as a couple.

The years passed. Their marriage seemed to be developing fault lines in it. Kari was tired of Dan’s pursuit of everything other than her and Dan was tired of Kari’s constant tiredness and never wanting to practice procreation. Kari tried talking to her sister about the problems they were having in their marriage but it always seemed like her sister was preoccupied with her own life. Dan never talked about anything so he just internalized it all. But he knew they’d never split up…they’d stay together for the kids.

Well, finally their youngest graduated from High School and was off on a two year stint volunteering in South America. One afternoon Dan looked at Kari and realized they didn’t even know one another anymore. Dan didn’t know Kari & Kari didn’t know Dan. But this wasn’t a unique situation that only involved their spouse. They really didn’t feel like they knew anyone. They attend sporting events with other parents at their kid’s school…but they didn’t know them. They attend a church 2 or 3 Sundays out of the month but they really never had any time to get connected there so it seemed as though they didn’t know anyone their either. They felt so alone…

The story of the Johnsons might possibly be your story. Never before in history has humanity been so connected but felt so alone. George Gallop, a sociologist, visited 148 countries around the world and asked key pointed questions to assess whether people feel happy, sad, lonely, or connected. After interviewing 6,000 Americans, compiling the results, he concluded that America is one of the loneliest nations on this earth.

What was found was that regardless of whether you were an introvert or an extrovert nearly every American would be able to rattle off a list of individuals who they would consider friends. When asked when was the last time you spent an extended amount of time with a friend they would be hard pressed to be able to name when that was. What is the regularity that you have a significant conversation talking with your friends face to face or over the phone most would answer about once a month. Though Americans have many friends…few Americans feel known by someone. Though Americans have never before felt so connected…they have never before felt so alone. I wonder if you can relate?

This morning we are kicking off a new series called The Fullness Of Community. Over the next number of weeks it is my prayer that God would clearly reveal a few things to you. First that he’d faithfully show you his heart for you to be connected in Christ centered relationships and then overlay that upon your life so that you can clearly see how you are doing in regards to that area of discipleship in your life. Some of you currently feel connected in relationships but are you allowing them to accomplish within you the things that God desires to accomplish. Some of you feel disconnected. Maybe sitting here this morning you feel like you are all alone. Maybe you feel like you can relate to the story of the Johnsons. You’ve been occupied by kids, maybe a spouse, work, keeping the homestead going, and you feel like a stranger in this world. No one really knows what you are going through and you don’t really know what others are going through either.

If you feel like you are all alone I pray that the Lord not only reveals to you his heart for your connectedness but maybe even more so he’d reveal to you the reason, or reasons, why you are disconnected. In the coming weeks we’ll be looking at the problems of individualism, isolation, and consumerism. We live in a society like few others that values individualism, isolation, and especially consumerism. I pray that in the coming weeks each one of us has an awakening as to why we so often feel alone and unknown by those around us.

This morning it is my desire to convince you that you are more able to fulfill your God given mission when, and only when, you are living it out in the context of intentional relationships with others. Not only will you be able to fulfill what God has called you to but you will also live a more deeply satisfying life as you find yourself in the context of relationships. Regardless of whether you are an introvert, extrovert, man, or woman you were designed by God to live life in the presence of people.

I hope this morning you don’t get vertigo because of the rate that we go through the Scriptures but what I want to do is take an overview of the life of Jesus. I want to look at specific snapshots of Jesus’ life that catch him in the context of relationship. Whether you consider yourself as being very spiritually young or you would consider yourself to be a spiritual giant…I think we all have something to glean from this morning. Look at Matthew chapter 4 with me starting in verse 18…

Matthew 4:18-22

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

People. At the start of Jesus earthly ministry he is immediately. Now I don’t want to insult your intelligence so if you already know this info allow some grace here…there are a few that I’m sure aren’t aware of this. Jesus grew up in relative obscurity. We catch a couple of glimpses into Jesus life as a child but it wasn’t until he was about 29 or 30 that he started to actively minister on Earth.

So what does he do at the beginning of public phase of life? He calls some men who will become his _______________. Will be come his ______________. Disciples…right? Everything that we are about to read in the upcoming minutes all happened after he called a few men around him to become his disciples. The mission of Jesus was to seek and save the lost and while doing so he was going to equip and train 11 men to carry on His mission. So what does he do with these disciples?

We see that he shares meals with them. Look at Matthew 9

Matthew 9:9-11

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

How would you complete the sentence: “The Son of Man came …”? There are three ways that the New Testament completes that sentence.

  1. ‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:45 esv)
  1. ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.’ (Luke 19:10)
  1. ‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking.’ (Luke 7:34)

The first two are statements of purpose. Why did Jesus come? He came to serve, to give his life as a ransom, to seek and save the lost. Only the third is a statement of method. How did Jesus come? He came eating and drinking. In fact it seems as though Jesus at and drank so often in public places that there were those who accused him of being a glutton and a drunk. Jesus valued eating with other people so much so that he proclaimed that would be one of the methods to fulfill his mission of creating disciples and seeking and saving the lost.

Jesus not only ate with His disciples but he went places and traveled with them. Look in Mark chapter 8…

Mark 8: 22a & 27a

And they came to Bethsaida…and Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi.

Mark chapter 8 starts out and the disciples are in he district of Dalmanutha. From that district they go to Bethsaida and from there onto Caesarea Philippi. So what are we talking about here in distances? Well from Dalmanutha to Bethsaida we have about 15 miles and then from Bethsaida to Caesarea Philippi we have about another 35 miles. That is about 50 miles +/-.

So often I narrow my focus of Jesus to coming to earth to seek and save the lost. But clearly from the amount of time that Jesus traveled with his Disciples one of his major goals was to develop those who believed in Him. If were to simply to save the lost he would have traveled by himself and wouldn’t have bothered with toting these 12 men around with him. But he didn’t travel by himself but instead brought them with him regardless of the inconvenience.

Have you traveled with people? When we’ve went out to South Dakota with many of you over the past two summers it has been a neat experience. Traveling with others you really get to know who they are don’t you? You get to see & experience them when they are tired. You get to see & experience them when they are both at their best and their worst. Jesus intentionally traveled with his disciples. Lodging…what about lodging? In that era of humanity they would have either stayed out under a tree together or they would have all sought lodging in a building together. They not only ate together…but they essentially lived together as well.

They not only lived together but Jesus involved them in ministry experiences with him. One of the many places we see this is in Mark 6…

MARK 6:31b-44

“Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Time after time we see the Disciples by Jesus’ side as His is ministering to people or as He is involving them in ministry experiences. Imagine that evening what the mood would have been like among the disciples. Sure they would have been tired because they helped serve over 5,000 individuals. But picture what the conversations would have been like.

If you are a guy you would know what they were like. Guys love to recount the story and revel in the victory. Whether it is a victory on the paintball field or a victory in a sports arena guys have a nack of retelling the story and reveling in the victory. That night as they were walking back into town or to the place they were going to bed down for the evening they had to have been reliving the moment that they were picking up the baskets that were FULL of broken pieces of bread and fish.

Well if we were to take the time to keep probing into Jesus’ life we’d see that Jesus spent time teaching the disciples how to pray and praying with them (Luke 11:1). He went to the synagogue to worship with his disciples (Mark 6:1-2). They knew one another so well that he corrected them when they had false views of who God was (Matthew 19:13-14). I don’t think it would be possible to make an argument that Jesus wasn’t with people. In fact he was with them so much that He regularly had to pull away from people to connect with the Lord in quiet & solitude.

So what does all this matter? What does it matter what Jesus did and didn’t do as he was making Disciples? How does this implicate you and I and our need to connect with people? Well we are able to start to connecting the dots when we go to Matthew 28…the ever infamous Great Commission…

Matthew 28:16-19a

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples

Being a disciple of Jesus involves making disciples of Jesus. I am very concerned by the state of the North American church in this era in which we live. It seems as though there are two extremes that exist and neither one of them accomplishes what Jesus intended. On the far extreme we’ve got the attractional model of church. Come. Attend. Feel good. Then on the other end we’ve got the tradationalists that says come to our programs…you’ll be a disciple if you get more educated.

But Jesus wasn’t about simply drawing crowds or educating people. He was about making disciples. How did he do that? Spending an exorbitant amount of time with the same people. He looked for those who were faithful, available, and teachable and then poured a ton of time into them. They took his command of going and duplicating what they saw him do seriously. The result? The result is a very close imitation to what they saw him do. Look at Acts 2…

ACTS 2:44-47

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”.

Isn’t this almost exactly what we saw Jesus doing with his disciples? What he passed on to them they passed on to others. This, in reality, is what God had planned since the beginning of time.

I want to submit to you this morning that if you are feeling lonely or even unfulfilled in your Christian walk it is because you most likely aren’t living the Life that God intended for you to live. Are you investing your life in others? Maybe more specifically this question: who are you intentionally spending time with for the sake of the Kingdom of God? Who is spending time with you intentionally building into you?

I believe that this was the desire of Jesus. Too often success in the Christian walk is interpreted as not cussing and not having sex outside of marriage. If you want to be a disciple of Jesus you have to allow God to put you in a place to be used by him in the lives of others. Yes, pour into your family…but Christ was very clear that His family stretches beyond genetic lineage.

One of the things I’ve noticed about small town church is that rarely will individuals step outside of blood relatives and venture into the joy of experiencing the broad body of Christ. You were made by God to enjoy & invest in the community of Believers. My prayer is in the coming days God would faithfully reveal to you why you may not be experiencing the fullness He has for you.

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