The Works of the Church_ Social Networking

Introduction

Social Networking sites are increasing becoming more popular among people in the United States. It seems as if everyone now-a-days has a Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter page that they use to network with others in their social circle. I did some research on these social networking services and would like to share some of my information with you:

Social Networking Services

The basic purpose of a social networking service is to build and reflect social relations among people. Let me explain: they gather people who share interests, activities, likes, and dislikes onto a single network that reflects the social relations of a community. Most of these services are web based and allow their users to interact over the internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging.

In my research, I discovered tons of different types of network groups:

Church groups, business related groups, followers of a specific musician, band, or actor, book authors, books, public speakers, photography agencies, causes, and movements… etc

The list goes on and on. There is a social group for almost any type of personal interest that an individual could have. But with all of these different kinds of groups filling the internet, I’ve noticed something that ties them all together. That one unifying factor, whether using Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter is undeniable. This one unifying factor is so large in number that it can’t be overlooked. This one unifying factor is the simple fact that every social network is comprised of people- individuals who have individual likes and dislikes.

Every network is comprised of individuals. These individuals have come together to show their support, or lack of support, for anything under the sun. If you’ve ever checkout any of the more popular social networking sites you would have quickly noticed that the individuals using the site have many different opinions on many different things. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a bias, and everyone has something that links them to something or separates them from something else. Everyone is different. No matter the social grouping or interest similarities everyone is different.

The Social Church Group

I believe the church is similar in this respect. Everyone that attends this church is connected by something or separated by something else. Everyone that is part of this youth ministry has something in common or something uncommon that might even be the dislike of someone else.

But, unlike the typical social network we have something bigger that should unify us besides the fact that we are individuals with individual feelings, thoughts, likes, and dislikes. We have one huge unifying factor that has the ability to bring us together and make use of that combined power. This one thing for the Church is, of course, Jesus. But you’ve all heard that before…

If the one unifying factor in a church or the Church Universal is Jesus, how come the Church and its local representations look so disunified or even hating one another?

And the odd thing, we see this disunity in Scripture as well. It seems as if the Church and its members look very similar to many of our social networking sites- simply brought together through by likes or dislikes of a particular thing or person. It seems that we look not much different than those people outside of the Church group.

Jesus himself summed all of Scripture up into one simple statement “Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says that all of Scripture can be brought down to one small phrase- love God and love others.

Now, as you may know this is our theme for the Gathering this year and I am totally excited to see what God does in and through us over the course of this weekend, as we gather together to hear Him. But is this theme merely a theme for a youth weekend or the very words of Jesus- who we say we follow? I hope this question will be answered for you over this weekend.

Personally, I don’t see anything else in Scripture as important as this single statement. I mean, if Jesus Himself- God, says that this single statement sums all of Scripture then I want to figure it out!

Love God and love others- seems so simple, but more times than any it seems as if we aren’t living this truth. It seems that too many times we get focused on everything else; we get focused on the doctrines or traditions of the Church, more so than the teachings of the King of Kings!

Tonight, I pray that this meeting is not just another meeting where we come together as a common interest group, but that this night turns into something a lot more.

Turn in your Bibles to Luke 5:17-26

“On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, your sins are forgiven you.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, ‘Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, ‘Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say ‘Rise and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – He said to the man who was paralyzed- ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.’ And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.’”

I want to address a few things very quickly. Jeremy Peeler, this Sunday hit this point very hard in his sermon.

  1. The Pharisees and Scribes were in the way of the paralyzed man getting to Jesus.

The men brought their friend to see Jesus. They knew that Jesus had the answers they were looking for, but upon arrival, they could not see Him because of all the religious people in the way.

Jesus had a lot of run-ins with the Scribes and Pharisees throughout His time on earth with us. Through a thorough look at the four Gospels, we can see that Jesus spoke very harshly and blunt to these men of religious thought. It seems to me that Jesus didn’t much like them or what they taught.

Luke records a story where Jesus was invited to a Pharisees home for dinner and the evening turned particularly hostile. Check this out:

Luke 11:48-54

[Read from Bible]

Jesus did not have too many, in fact no, good run-ins with any religious leader.

In this particular story about the paralyzed man, Jesus is surrounded by a lot of these Pharisees. They are testing him and trying his teaching to see if it is truth.

I’ve been in church work for some time now and have seen this Pharisaical mentality a lot. These people are the ones who come up to you after your sermon or song and correct everything that was “wrong” with it. These are the people who spend the entire time spent in the service critiquing the ones leading the service. From the front I can see these people a mile off, because they’re the ones flipping back and forth in their Bibles trying to find something wrong with everything your saying. These kinds of people are just like the Pharisees of old. Just like the Pharisees in this house, these modern day Pharisees seem to continually miss the message, the point, the reason, the love of Christ, because they are too caught up in the “rights and wrongs” of righteous living.

I can imagine these five men walking to the house to get to Jesus and tapping one of the men on the back, requesting to enter. And instead of getting a gracious, “please, come in” they get a “be quiet! Back away! You’re in my way!” How sad it is when people get in the way of Jesus…

I met a man earlier this week who had been pushed away from the church by these kinds of Pharisaical people. This guy was most-likely just recently released from prison or some sort of rehab center. When I met him, I’m also pretty sure he was a little hung over from something. I was with Charles Littlejohn and we started to talk to this man about Jesus. The first words out of his mouth were, “I’ve been there and done that.” This took me back! This guy goes on to tell us of all kinds of different churches that he had attended in the past. None of which, did he see Jesus in. This guy had been around the “Christian” block if you will and not seen Jesus! How could this happen?!

Unless what he saw was not true Christianity or Jesus for that matter. I believe that the number one problem we have in the Church in America is Phariseism. I believe that our pews and our churches are filled with people way too caught up in their religion to see Jesus. And the side effect of this is a teaching of good morality without a solid teaching of whom Jesus himself is and why he came.

2. The second thing in this story is the quick salvation that is given to the paralyzed man because of his faith.

Let me explain: the man was dropped into the sealing and immediately Jesus says “your sins are forgiven you.” Wow! Amazing! We don’t see Jesus sitting around waiting to see what the man says or to appraise his actions or motives, but sees his faith and forgives him.

Let me tell you very quick story from my life. I grew up in church. I’ve very rarely missed a single Sunday. I can tell you most of the hymns that we sing, the books of the Bible, the kind of clothes a “good Christian” should wear, and what I shouldn’t do on the weekend. I grew up in church.

When I was in high school, one of the schools I attended was extremely religious- to honest, it still is very much so. The class that I graduated with was extremely religious. Out of the 25 students I graduated with, only about 4 or 5 are living a God-centered life. One guy is a practicing homosexual, another girl is very loose with herself in Charlotte, and another is in the army living like every strong man should- having sex with a lot of girls and drinking himself into an early grave. The list goes on. Do I love these people? Yes! Do I envy their life styles? No!

How could so many students in a Christian school turn out living the way they are unless they came out without a true meeting with Jesus?

My experience at the school had its good parts but left me with a few religious scars, if you will. I never felt good enough. My clothes weren’t nice enough because we didn’t have the money to buy Abercrombie, or AE, or Nike like everyone else. In fact, we didn’t have the money to pay the 8,000 dollar a year tuition. My mom had to work at the school in order to send me to it. I graduated in 2004, with the expectation from my teachers that I would fail in life, not attend a college, as much as graduate from one. My self esteem was low and no relational support after walking the red carpet at graduation.

Why do I say all of this? To just bash my school and to tell you all that I’m better than that? I hope not…

Salvation is given freely and under no specific rules or regulations. At this school my salvation was earned and could be lost at every mistake. Forgiveness was not something that was taught, or even lived out for that matter. “Jesus loves you, but you better get right and act right and dress like a Christian should dress or he’ll kick you out of heaven!” was what I heard.

I fear that is what so many people hear when they hear “Hey, I’m a follower of Jesus!” I fear that the mentality of “Christian” in modern America could be leading people farther away from Jesus than running to Him for the free salvation that he offers.

With that said, let’s move on very quickly to the last thing that I see can be pulled out of this passage…

3. The four men that brought the paralyzed men to Jesus didn’t give up at the door; they persisted until they found Jesus!

So they arrived at the door only to see a line around the house. Tried to work their way through the crowd but pushed aside for the more important. So they went to the roof.

I want to stop here for a second and imagine this happening.

Jesus is in a house being bombarded with questions from people trying to “correct” his teaching. Then all of a sudden, the roof starts to make noise. Some small dust particles fall from the ceiling, then slowly bigger pieces start to fall as people back away making room for the falling particles. Then a beam of light shines in as a small opening appears. Then a larger opening and a hand then a face. Before you know it the roof has a large enough opening that a person could fit through it. And what do you know; you see four guys yelling, “Jesus! Don’t move! You’ve got to see our friend!” and a body slowly lowered to the ground. Imagine the change of atmosphere in the room…

Anger and tensions rising as Jesus sit in silence as the roof is ripped off. Only to hear him say “Because of your faith, your sins are forgiven you.” Wow! These guys in the room would have been furious! Now there looking up at the sealing at the four men holding the rope, thinking “what are these crazy guys doing, how can we get rid of them, how dare them disrupt our meeting!”

These four men went through a lot and most-likely a few hours of sweat to bring their friend to Jesus.

Let’s imagine ourselves in one of the four guy’s shoes for a moment. What must they have been thinking as the arrive to the house. Did they say: “Guys it looks as if we’re not getting to see him today…” “Surely we can come back tomorrow” Nope, more of a: “Guys Jesus is only a few feet away now; we’ve got to get our friend to him” “Look! Beside the house! Steps!”

When’s the last time any of us have thought that way about a friend in need of Jesus? When was the last time that any of us ever went to such extremes to lead someone to the feet of the great Healer?

It’s been a while for me… and I’m willing to bet it’s been even longer for some of you.

I want us to take the final few minutes and look at one more passage of Scripture: Turn to 1 Cor. 12:12-13 &27

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body- Jews and Greeks, slaves or free- and all were bade to drink of one Spirit… Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

Just like the social networking groups we talked about earlier, we are part of one group but made up of different individuals, with different likes and dislikes, talents and skills, body types and hair styles. But the fact of the matter doesn’t change, if we are part of the body we are part of the body! Nothing can take us away from the body, not can separate us.

The unifying factor of this Body is Christ! Christ is the reason we come together, the reason we live, the huge “like” that we have in common.

The really cool thing about being part of the church is that there are other members with other qualities and skills. We are not alone and the load is much easier to bear.

Take a practical look at the four men carrying the paralyzed man to Jesus. Could one guy alone do it? Most-likely, as long as the paralyzed guy didn’t weigh 400 pounds. This why we need the social network of the church; the partnerships; the connectedness of relationships with others. We all have different gifts and talents, but when we come together for the greatest cause ever, we can even greater things! And most importantly, unity of the Body brings God the most glory!

Take a look at the NT letters, more often than none, the writers are talking against division in the church. Why? Because division brings the mission to a screeching halt!

Conclusion

So, why all the push towards unity? I believe that God wants to do great things here with us! And the devil hates it. Take a look at this churches track record: time after time, whenever things started to improve, when God started doing the impossible, division happened. People got angry at one another for whatever reason and split, causing the Great Commission to come to a standstill while people worked through their differences.

Let’s look at Lincolnton’s track record for a moment: How many of you have attended another church at some other point in your life? How many of you know someone who has attended more than one church in a 3 to 4 year span?

How many of you have been hurt at a previous church? How many of you know of someone who was hurt at a previous church?

Last question: how many of you left a church or know someone who left a church because of tension that could not be solved?

Do you guys see that the Evil one is winning out!? Why do we fight with our fellow brother in Christ? Is Christ not good enough? Is not grace sufficient enough to cover all sin?

Final thought

God is at work here, and where God is at work, so is Satan…

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