The 2,000-year-old social network

April 27th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized


Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pinterest. Google+. Tumblr. Instagram. Flickr. Vine. Etc. We are the most connected “social” people in history. So why do so many people feel desperately alone and disconnected?

Futurist Alan Toffler warned that high tech demands “high touch.” Others have warned that the online “community” is an “artificial intimacy,” devoid of real-life relationships.

There’s still one place to find genuine community—and it’s not Starbucks. The apostle Paul wrote nearly two thousand years ago that we can find our need for connection and intimacy in the Body of Christ: the church.

      The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Black, white. Mac, PC. Democrat, Republican, Independent. Mainline, evangelical. Etc., etc. All are one as the Body of Christ.

Unfortunately what often breaks connections in the church is a sense of inferiority to others:

      Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

      But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).

There are also a few who break connections because they think they don’t need others or are better than others:

      The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

      In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad (1 Corinthians 12:21-26).

There’s nothing wrong with “online” relationships. (Some of my closest friends are people I rarely see in person, but we share a powerful bond through our relationship with God and our common interests—and emails and Facebook.)

Social networking is great. Just be sure you have solid “offline” relationships as well. And there’s nothing more solid than Christ’s Body, the church.

That’s why I believe “online church” is an oxymoron as much as bitter-sweet, jumbo-shrimp, and part-time pastor. Real churches don’t hide behind glitzy graphics and ghost-written copy—all perfectly packaged by some overpaid computer geeek. Real churches feature imperfect pastors and parishioners. And sometimes the music is dated, the doughnuts are stale and the sermon is boring. But it’s real.

Real is messy. Real is sometimes boring. Real doesn’t have all the answers. But real is a Sunday school teacher who still loves you after you throw up in the sand box. Real is a pastor who gets out of bed at 3 a.m. to meet you at the emergency room. Real is tears of joy when a member celebrates another year of sobriety.

The Googleplex doesn’t have folding chairs you can borrow for your graduation open house. Yahoo! doesn’t serve communion. And Mark Zuckerberg, no matter how much you LIKE him, won’t hold your hand at the funeral home or hospital room. Only real people in a real church can do that!

Get connected. Get real.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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