THE NEED FOR BELONGING:
How many times have you been to church, be it in worship, Sunday School, or small group and felt out of place, even in the smallest of ways? I think everyone has at some time. It’s not a great mystery that many who visit our site may be the anomaly of church attenders in this modern age. Those who study church statistics often see large numbers of the elderly as regular attenders, but young adults are a demographic that is sorely missed by many congregations, as well as parents with children in the home. Therefore, when there are those young adults and parents in attendance, there are many churches where they seem to be the exception, not the rule. Honestly, this can often make when they do attend to be a sometimes awkward experience, as they are surrounded by people that don’t have the same interests and cultural relevancies.
It pains me to say not only as a Christian writer, but as a pastor, that many in churches across America don’t get the necessary component of encouragement and the true connection that can come through open fellowship. I believe that while we can’t truly read the hearts of other people, something only God can do, we can easily surmise the possibility that if many backslid Christians had had the proper group behind them, encouraging them in prayer and edifying them in Scriptural principles, they may still be growing in their faith, instead of slipping back into old habits and regressing into worldly thought patterns. Being in the pastoral realm, I can admit that many preachers mistakenly believe, be it for whatever reason, that if only someone would come and hear a sermon, their life would straighten out; still, often as important to correct Bible teaching is that necessary social-group component. A church I grew up in had a slogan: “A Place To Belong.” I don’t think those were empty words, but they speak to a real need for believers.
I believe this is for several reasons:
INTERNAL LONGING FOR PERSONAL CONNECTION:
Genesis 2:18 (NKJV) And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
While, of course, we know that this verse was descriptive of the creation of Eve as a partner for Adam in a loving relationship, I don’t think it is rocket science in determining that God knows we need to seek out connection with others, whatever the level of that relationship. He places people in our lives to draw us closer to them and Him, but often, we will run from social connection for any number of reasons. Granted, while relationships take definite work and some can be destructive, they can prove to be of great benefit to us as people and even in our connection with the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:31-32 (NKJV) For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
It’s hard to hear sometimes, but we need people to tell us when we’re wrong. Can you imagine a world where righteous council was not present in any form? Sin-filled and chaotic doesn’t even begin to describe the way that world would be. Having those who can keep us accountable to what the Bible says is a resource sorely lacked by many, but it is so necessary; otherwise, we usually let ourselves off the hook and do whatever we please.
Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV) As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
James 5:16 (NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
It’s easy to see that people can benefit from knowing each other and allowing others to help out how they can. Two can do more than one, three can do more than two, and so on, and even if the work we’re to do is ours to do alone, it’s always good for a person to know that others ‘have their back’ throughout. As children of God, we need the strength that comes with Biblical council and prayers, I truly believe. If we go out knowing with full confidence that the Lord has established a work to be done through us and we also know that other believers are covering that endeavor in prayer, what a strength it is to us as laborers for Christ!
EDICT OF HEALTHY SPIRITUAL GROWTH:
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV) Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NKJV) Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.
I don’t think I should go any further without stating what’s obvious to me: God knows what He’s doing. Through Christ, He established the Church, which still continues today, and it does so through many ways, but a key, practical reason is believers are commanded to not forsake the chances of being together. Many do, sadly, in these times we live in, but they suffer for it in many ways. Christ-followers should be together: loving one another, serving together, comforting one another in hard times, and building one another up in the faith. It shouldn’t be seen as a choice, but as a necessity.
WHY GEEKS UNDER GRACE?:
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love my entertainment. That should be a given, but I mean I REALLY DO! I love it so much that people around me see some of my enjoyments as extensions of me. They see certain movies or games, and knowing how I feel about them, they tell me that they thought of me when they saw it. My congregation just knows that I’m a geek at heart, and they have no problems telling me that. Still, I pastor a church in rural Oklahoma. Many of my church’s members are elderly, and I love them dearly. Still, their interests don’t always exactly line up with mine. It’s not a bad thing, as I believe variety is the spice of life. We need different people doing different things, even in the Church, as unity is most beautiful when all the differences come together and work under Christ.
Still, because my passions are really a part of me, I think it’s important to seek out believers who are like me and enjoy what I enjoy, something in short supply where I’m from. The Internet has made it possible for all sorts of connections to take place; granted, many made aren’t always healthy or beneficial, but does that mean that God can’t use the Internet for His purposes? Absolutely not!
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NKJV) Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”
It’s a fact, though, that the Internet can be a cesspool of depravity, as we may know firsthand, and even longtime friends who enjoy what we enjoy aren’t exactly at places in their lives where we should seek out their council on spiritual matters. Personally, I feel so fortunate to find Geeks Under Grace as a reader, and now, I find myself writing for the website. The community that is building around what God is working through the site is amazing to see. Being that I married after online dating, I know firsthand that real human connection is possible through the Internet, even if it gets a bad reputation, and I am witnessing firsthand now through GUG that the work of God can happen even through digital means (who could imagine?)
At the website, I can read articles relevant to the topics important to me. Not only can I play a game or watch a movie, something I would definitely do on my own, but I can glean from it spiritual principles that will help me to not just consume entertainment but possibly even grow in my walk with Christ (a “win-win” if I’ve ever heard of one). I can find new ways to engage my friends who need Christ and need to walk in His plan for their lives. I can keep up though videos and podcasts on things that are happening now that impact me where I’m at and are relevant to me through what I enjoy. I can be a part of a community beyond the website that has an openness and honesty that sadly we don’t even get in most churches with people sharing in their sin struggles and opening up about prayer needs. Basically, I can be around people that get me and create friendships that extend beyond the screen.
The pastoral realm of leading a congregation is known to feel lonely from time to time. On top of that, my schedule keeps me from doing as much as I’d like with people on my limited free time, so I relish what I receive from GUG. None of us have everything figured out fully (myself included), and I love to see and read the views of other believers, even when I don’t always agree with what’s said. Still, seeing my generation excited in their faith is an encouragement that I know I need, and I’m sure you do to.
Should GUG replace the connection found at your local church? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I see the community as supplemental to my faith, but I know we all need to be connected and serving somewhere in the place God calls us to serve. Still, that doesn’t take anything away from my experiences here. I can look at all the folks on GUG and see believers all over my country dealing with the same things I am dealing with. Some days the struggles are easier, and some they are more difficult, but it’s refreshing to know that we are all in this together. I am thankful for many things in my life, and Geeks Under Grace is one of them. I hope it can be for you as well.