False Community, by Chris Norman

Father, Give strength to my words through Your love.

I once saw a sermon Francis Chan gave on YouTube. Ironically, he talked of people who had come to him extolling his various social media outlets...and how he had nothing to do with them. The accounts were useful to those who found them (myself included), but no matter the good they were, they just didn't come from the man himself. Good, even useful, but not quite true.

Like many in our interconnected society, I've been blessed with a chance to live digitally. I love my church and the loving (wink) dynamic we enjoy. I equally enjoy the culture of my uncle's church and the one my parents attend, in Georgia and Maryland respectively. However, no matter how great it is that I can worship via Soundcloud or see what my young adult ministry is getting into through Instagram, these windows are not the community proper. They are real, something that I've had to come more to terms with this year; even important for showing others what there is here. However, when the time comes for the ever important friction that comes from iron sharpening iron they don't always, as blacksmiths are known to say, skate the file.

We're followers of Christ! We can't let our work end at just reaching out with through social media; we are responsible for bringing men and women to meet our great Beloved! There's got to be a deeper purpose for us so that the difference in our efforts will be seen plainly in the fruit of our efforts.

We know through the Word of God that a community of believers has some pretty solid requirements to be able to emulate the perfect love of God here on the Earth. We've all heard it told that we should join together in our journey with one or two others because, "a threefold cord is not easily broken"(Ecc 4:12). Old man Solomon, wise as he was, had seen and learned just how effective we can be when our efforts and our very hearts drive us towards a common goal. These efforts require skin in the game. Simply throwing out a #praying won't really do the job. By all means, pray! Better yet, seek out your spiritual family and join them in prayer, and ask deeper questions to see how your brother or sister is doing. Make it clear that they know they're not battling alone!

Too often we can find ourselves content to share a post of profound nature without addressing the individual from whom the revelation came. This isn't a 'like' for the sake of Facebook friendship—it's a wonderfully simple way to reaffirm a good word! A good friend worded it this way; "it's like we're all chained together [in this life] but some of us are still shackled to the ground". I like to look to book of Hebrews to remind and encourage myself in the matter of a Christ-following freedom walk. Chapter 12 warns us to make sure that there's no bitterness growing in anyone's heart, and the truth from a good word can be shared over and over, especially with the one who delivered it. Why not personally share the impact a good word has on your heart?! Give one who's blessed you something to turn back to God and thank Him for!

What troubles most is a lack of depth in where social media leads us on its own. Name an app and I would almost guarantee that it has some form of scrolling enabled to let people quickly browse in a manner that has become synonymous with being 'relevant'; device in hand, thumb quickly moving from top to bottom of the screen and flicking back and forth for likes and saves. People refer to Facebook or Instagram stalking as a part of normalcy; it’s just how some people expect to get to know others. Sadly, there is little to be learned in these solitary ventures. This offers no way for presumption to be challenged, for a personality quirk to intrigue us.

If we look to our spiritual forbearers, we find Moses had been in a similar predicament. Exodus 33 reads: The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (vs. 1-3).

An angel AND all the opposition out of the picture sounds like a pretty sweet deal for the Israelites, but since God knew His people for who they really were, He knew they had to go without Him. Yet for Moses, the idea of going without God wasn't going to cut it. Sure, there had to be an elder or two shaking a cane at him for it, but he had already had a chance to speak with God, "as a man speaks to his friend” (vs. 11). This interpersonal level of communication is not something he could draw back from.

Clearly, it's not the same for a man to speak one on one with God as with a fellow believer, but I want to challenge everyone to be honest in just this thing—any good relationship worth having is worth having face to face. We were designed to see the strength in one another as God sees it in us. The social connectivity can reach further than our flesh, sure, but after that, the desire to fulfill the unique relationship that one member of the body can have with another must be filled—if not for the strength of relationship, then for plain truth. Just a little fuel for the fire.