Summary: Everyone needs a place to belong. A place that fits us like an old pair of jeans. A place that's as comfortable as our favorite recliner. This sermon explores the benefits of belonging to a church family. Expository and alliterated.
A PLACE TO BELONG
Scott Bayles, pastor
Church in the Park, Modesto: 8/26/2012
Good morning again and welcome to Church in the Park. Whether you’ve been attending church your whole life or you’re just sort of testing the waters right now, I want you to know we’re glad you’re here. I love moving our churches outside and getting away from our regular worship routines, because it reminds me that church isn’t a place—it’s people. Church isn’t just something you attend; it’s something you are!
Have you heard about the little boy who attended church for the very first time? His parents asked what he thought and he replied, “Well, the music was nice but the commercial was too long.” I hope the “commercial” isn’t too long for you today. I just want to take a few minutes to talk to you about belonging.
Everyone needs a place to belong. A place that fits you like a favorite pair of jeans, that’s as welcoming as your much-loved and much-worn recliner at home. That’s the way we’re made. Not to be isolated. Not to be alone. But to be together—experiencing life with others.
And yet, Vance Packard calls America “a nation of strangers” and studies show that 4 out of 10 people experience feeling of intense loneliness. Our American culture produces people who more closely identify with characters on a weekly TV series than with their next-door neighbors. Everywhere you look, there are signs that people are hungering for fellowship, community, and a sense of family.
Every week this sweet little old lady waited in line at the post office to buy two stamps. One day, as she got to the counter, the postal worker told her, “You know, you don’t have to wait in line to buys stamps. You can get them from the machine over there in books of twenty.” The little old lady responded, “Yes, but the machine doesn’t ask about my arthritis.”
People long to be connected.
The Bible uses a lot of metaphors to describe the church, but the most persistent is that of family. In the New Testament, believers call each other brothers and sisters and, in his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul writes: “Now you…are not foreigners or strangers any longer, but are citizens together with God’s holy people. You belong to God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19 NCV).
Maybe there’s a pew in your home church worn in the shape of your bottom. Maybe you’re as comfortable in your church family as you are in your favorite pajamas. On the other hand, maybe you’ve never felt like you really belong somewhere. Maybe you’ve never known the blessing of being a part of something as big as the family of God! Either way, I’d like to share with you something that Solomon once wrote about the benefits of belonging:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV)
In his unparalleled wisdom, King Solomon says, “Two people are better than one…” He then goes one to describe three benefits of belonging.
First, belonging to a church family provides strength. Let me read that first verse again from the New Century Version, which says, “Two people are better than one, because they get more done by working together” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 NCV). Solomon had discovered a principle that holds true for every epoch of time—none of us can do alone what all of us can do together. There is strength in numbers.
In an old Peanuts cartoon, Lucy walked into the room and demanded that her brother Linus change TV channels. “What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?” asked Linus.
“These five fingers,” said Lucy. “Individually they are nothing, but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they become a force to be reckoned with.”
“What channel do you want?” sighed Linus.
Turning away, he looked at his fingers and said, “Why can’t you guys get organized like that?”
That’s the power of teamwork.
I don’t know what it’s like at your church, but at our church it seems like there are never enough volunteers to go around. None of us can do everything, but all of us can do something.
You know, the Jerusalem church in the book of Acts was a hodgepodge of believers from a variety of backgrounds, with different personalities, and sometimes conflicting opinions, yet they found a way to work together. They understood there is strength in numbers. And because they did, lives were changed—history was changed.