This morning I want to discuss something that has never before been talked about in this church. In fact, I would guess that no one in this town has ever hear a sermon on the topic that we are going to tackle this morning.
And yet, through our discussion of this topic, I believe will better understand how to reach our community. I believe we will better understand how to grow as a church and as individuals, and I believe we’ll better understand the God who created us and loves us like crazy.
The topic that I want to discuss today is Facebook.
For those of you who know what Facebook is, you may wonder why it’s our topic of discussion today.
For those of you who have no idea what Facebook is, let me try to give you a summary:
From it’s own description of itself, Facebook is a website that helps you connect and share with the people in your life. But it is not just any old website. It is now the second most visited website in the world – second only to Google – and will likely become the #1 website within a month or so.
Currently it has over 350 million users. That’s how many people use this website. So what exactly do 350 million people use Facebook for? Well, just to give you an example, let’s say I log into Facebook. The first thing I might do is to update my status. Your status is basically meant to be a brief description of what’s going on in your life at the moment. So for my status I write might write “Dave is preaching a sermon about Facebook.” The when my friends log on to facebook, they will see that I’m preaching a sermon about facebook.
So after I update my status, I can read all the statuses of my friends. I might see that Greg just aced his chemistry exam and my mother-in-law is enjoying her time in Arizona. People can also post pictures or videos on facebook. So I might see a picture of my cousins from down in the states or I could watch a video that that my friend from Australia took of his new baby.
Then there are a whole slough of other features. So I might be reminded that my college buddy’s birthday is tomorrow and I might send a message to Grady asking him if he wants to come over for coffee tonight or I might even play a game of risk online with someone.
And that, in a nutshell, is Facebook. In a matter of minutes, I’ve caught up and re-connected with friends and family from around the world.
Now, my purpose this morning is not to promote or discourage Facebook use. Instead I want to use Facebook as an illustration of an increasingly important spiritual reality.
Consider this: Canada currently has a population of 34 million people – over 14 million of those 34 million people use Facebook. That’s nearly half of our population. Nearly 50% of all of Canada is using Facebook. Clearly Facebook is offering something that people want.
You have to realize that Facebook has only existed since 2004 – that means it has grown from 0 to over 350 million people in just six years. That is incredible! Imagine if the church grew at that rate!
Clearly Facebook has found something that people desperately want. So what is it? What is this draw to facebook that seems to have universal appeal? After all – it’s not just college kids using facebook. It’s moms & dads, Grandmas and Grandpas, uncles and aunts, teenagers. And it’s not a North American thing either. Turkey has 17 million users, Indonesia has 14 million, the Philippines has 8 million, Mexico has 6 million, India has 5 million. What is it about facebook that has world-wide appeal to people of all ages? What is Facebook offering that is drawing millions of new users every week?
Believe it or not – Facebook is offering the same thing that the church is offering. Facebook is offering something that each one of us desperately need. It is offering the very thing that we were created to have. Would you like to know what it is? Facebook is offering community. I’ll explain what I mean in a minute.
But first, think about the word community for a minute. In fact, let’s do a little etymology. (That’s the study of words.)
The root word of “Community” is “commune”. This can be broken down into two parts. The first part is the prefix “com” which means “together” or “with”. Then the second part, for those of you who have played “UNO” or have ridden a “unicycle”, you know that “une” means “one”. So we have “together” or “with” plus “one”
So community is to be “one with” or “one together”.
When we speak of the people who live around us, we talk about our community – we are one group of people living, working, and playing together with each other. That’s our physical community. We are one with them.
When we celebrate communion, we celebrate the fact that we share in the death and resurrection of Christ – being “one with Christ”. That’s a spiritual community.
Now the reason that Facebook has become so fantastically popular is because it offers us community. It offers us the chance to interact with others that would normally be impossible to connect with on a regular basis. And so it creates a new sort of community. We can be one with literally the rest of the world. And that strikes a real chord with us humans, because community is the very reason God created us.
God created us to be together with Him. The whole theme of the Bible is that God is with us. We talked about this earlier. To Abraham God says – I am with you. To Joshua – I am with you. To Gideon – I am with you. To the nation of Israel God sends Emmanuel – God with us. Before returning to heaven, Jesus declares “I am with you always.” God wants to be with you. He wants us to share life together with Him. He wants us to have community with Him.
Right from the beginning in Genesis when God created the first man, he declared that it was not good for man to be alone. (In Genesis 2:18; 21-24)
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.
23 “At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,? and flesh from my flesh!? She will be called ‘woman,’? because she was taken from ‘man.’”
24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
After God created Eve from Adam’s rib, God and Adam and Eve all enjoyed the perfect community, but only for a time. Before long, that perfect community was broken by sin. Remember how Adam & Eve hid from God when He came along looking for them? And then they tried to pass the blame to each other? They were no longer “one with God”. They were separated from him and from each other.
You’ve probably heard the expression that “Everyone is born with a God-shaped hole in their heart.” It’s true, but let me tell you a little bit more about that hole. This hole is the desire for intimacy – the desire to know and be known by another living being. It is the desire for community – to once again be “one with God”. Of course, this hole can only be filled by a personal relationship with God and I should mention that if you’ve never entered into that personal relationship with God, then please see me after the service and I would be happy to talk to you about how you can fix that problem.
You can clearly see this “God-shaped hole” in this generation of kids and young adults today and you can see how they are desperate for community. Their lives are ruled by their cell phone. They can’t bear to miss one call or one text message. The worst thing you could do to a teenager today is take away his cell phone. The second worst thing would be to take away his Facebook. Being in continual contact with their friends gives them a sense of community.
But it’s a shallow community at best. Sure there is constant contact, but it’s hardly intimate. It’s like the small talk you have with the gas pump attendance. It’s communication – but it does nothing to satisfy that deep down inside need to share the real you with someone else.
And the ironic thing is, the very things that people cling to for this shallow community are the very things that are keeping them from authentic community. At youth group this Friday half the kids were playing a game and half the kids were on their cell phones. Instead of playing the game and interacting with each other and sharing their life with each other in that way, their eyes and attention were glued to their cell phones. Ignoring the people that were actually in same room as them, they were lost in their little bubble, texting away on their phones. Their attempts to gain community are actually keeping them from it. Kids spend way more time on Facebook and their cell phones then they do talking with their parents or their siblings, and often even their friends. And in that way, they become even more starved for authentic community and thus push themselves even farther from it. It’s a vicious cycle.
But what does that have to do with us? Now that we have this information, what do we do with it?
I think this gives us a fantastic look at what the church is going to look like in the near future – what our church needs to look like in order to reach this next generation. This is extremely important because our world is changing faster than we even realize and if we want to be effective, we need to understand our culture.
Many of the things that the church used to do are simply not effective in reaching this generation because things have changed so much so fast.
For example in recent years one of the main tools the church has used has been programs. Programs for kids, programs for young adults, programs for singles, whatever… The problem is that now people are far too busy – the last thing they want is three nights a week of church programs. People want less in their schedule – not more.
Another key tool has been music. You can see that in the popularity of the Hillsong church or the other mega churches where worship is a major production. But today, if people want to listen to that type of music, they’ll just download whatever they like to their iPod and away they go.
We have to stay up to date with our culture so what we can meet them where they are. So knowing that this generation is starving for authentic community gives us a fantastic opportunity to introduce them to Christ and help them restore that authentic community that God create us to have with Him.
But now here’s the hard part – how do we show our physical community that we have the authentic spiritual community that they desperately desire?
Because I’ll be honest with you – they don’t see authentic community in church.
What they see is sitting in a pew for an hour on Sunday morning.
They see more demands of their time and money.
They see frowns at their bad habits.
That’s what they see. No wonder they aren’t flocking to the church. But do you know what would cause them to flock to the church? Let’s take a hint from Facebook – if it can grow from 0 to 350 million by offering a shallow community, what would happen if the church could model authentic community with each other and with our God?
The church would explode! It would be pentecost all over again. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t you love to see God totally transform our community?
If you do, then let Him start with you. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that if I want God to transform my community, then He has to transform me first. If I want to be a model of authentic community, then I need to have that authentic community first with my God. I can’t be a Sunday morning Christian. I need to get beyond the small talk in my prayers. I need to have an intimate relationship with my God. When I have that, then I can share that with you. And when we have that, we can share that with our community.
Jesus talks about this in John 17 when He prays for his disciples and for all those who would eventually become his disciples (that includes you and me).
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
Jesus is praying that we experience true community. That we would be one with each other and with God. Just as God intended when He created us. And look what will happen when we do – verse 23.
May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
When the world sees authentic community among us – then they will know that the “Good News” is true. That God did sent His Son. That there is forgiveness for sins. That God does love every single person. That we can have a real, deep, intimate relationship with our Creator!
So I challenge you to consider your own relationship with Christ, because we have to have authentic community with our God before we’ll have authentic community with our world. First of all, do you have a relationship with God? Have you accepted God’s gift of Salvation? Have you accepted his forgiveness for your sins? If not, that’s step #1.
Step #2, are you growing in your relationship with Him? Are you taking time to get to know Him through His word and through prayer? Are you letting Him transform you into the person He made you to be? Are you seeking out his will for your life and are you obeying Him as He guides you?
There are no magic steps to getting to know God – no more than there are magic steps to getting to know a friend. It’s just time and effort. Lots of time I wish I could just do A, B, and C, and whammo – I become a super Christian! But it doesn’t work that way. Life is our opportunity to develop and build our personal relationship with our Creator. There are no shortcuts or formulas. Just you desiring to get to know your God.
Do you desire to know your God? Then pray with me this morning…