Summary: one of a series on Building Community
Building Community - Encourage One Another
People are less connected, less involved, less active in their communities today. People participate less in organizations and groups of every kind than they did a generation ago.
What we are seeing is that the "glue" which holds our society together, something academics call "social capital," has been getting weaker and weaker.
A book by Robert Putnam, a professor at Harvard, called "Bowling Alone," documents the decline in community life in American over the last four decades.
The title of the book comes from a trivial but telling example: the percentage of adults who belong to a bowling league today is only about " of what it was in the 1960’s.
There are other examples:
The percentage of people who volunteer in a political campaign - stuffing envelopes, making phone calls, going door to door - is today about half what it was in the late 1960’s.
Active membership in local clubs and organizations, like the PTA, has dropped by about half, percentage-wise, since the 1970’s.
People are visiting one another less frequently, having friends over for dinner or getting together to play cards less often.
In short, every objective measure of participation in community and civic life is declining. And we are no exception to these pressures.
Since September 11 we have all seen fuel prices falling dramatically - People are staying home and pulling in - It’s called cocooning.
We are no exception at MCC. The same forces at work in our society are at work in our lives.
Two steps we must take.
We have to work intentionally at building and maintaining community within the church, or these same forces will separate us and isolate us from one another as well.
We are rowing against the current of our culture; if we do nothing, we will get swept downstream. We have an opportunity!
Although the level of connectedness between people in our society has dropped, their need for connectedness has not. God made us social beings; people are still hungry for fellowship.
And as they see our community, our love for one another, our care and concern and support for one another, they will want that for themselves.
They will want to be a part of that. And we will have the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus Christ.
Because it is through our connection with Jesus Christ that we are connected to one another. Our common union with Him produces our union with each other.
So far in this series, we’ve looked at building community through acceptance, valuing and this morning through encouragement.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." -1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
From this verse, we see that encouragement and building one another up is not something that just happens naturally. Paul had to instruct them to do it.
And it’s clear that encouragement is very important.
Why is encouragement important?
Encouragement is important because it helps us keep the faith.
It helps us keep the faith In the face of out side pressure...
In case you hadn’t noticed, this world is opposed to the gospel. We need encouragement to continue standing firm for Christ in the midst of a world that rejects Him; to keep believing in something that many people consider a myth.
This world regards Christians as fools, guiding our lives by a bunch of fairy tales, trying to keep an out-of-date moral code, believing things that the scientists, historians, and philosophers have told them can’t possibly be true.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him." 1 Corinthians 1:18, 2:14 (NIV)
How many of you like to be thought of as a fool? [I didn’t say how many are fools]? Is that encouraging or discouraging?
Remember Kermit the frog’s song "It’s not easy being green" Well, sometimes it’s not easy being pure white and perfect either.
Just Kidding! But that’s how a lot of "normal" people
write us off. Pious, self-righteous and puffed up people who think we are perfect. God’s gift to themselves.
In the face of Internal struggle. Following Jesus calls for personal sacrifice. Jesus said that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
But He also said that in order to follow Him, we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross every day.
In other words, we have to be willing to give up everything, including if necessary our own lives, in order to follow Christ.
We have to be willing to suffer and sacrifice. That’s not easy. And then there is the personal struggle we all have against sin in our own hearts.