Connection. The word seems trite, and many in a post-2020 ministry world may immediately put up their guard. Connection is what we’re supposed to be creating as the body of Christ, right? Then why does it seem so hard?
In the past 12 months, the very idea of connection fundamentally shifted. In a world afraid of contact with others, what it means to be connected to our not-yet-believing neighbors changed; our connection to those in our small groups and church faced challenges as social distancing seemed to create a distance deeper than physical space. In this environment, how do we form a vision leading us closer to true community—when a sustainable vision feels just as elusive as predicting the future? And how can we do so in such a way that doesn’t add the pressure of another thing to get right?
Christian, you’re not alone. We can find encouragement and inspiration to keep on—to keep striving for community as we keep “churching on.”
Reframe the Connection
This isn’t another clever gimmick for you to feel better about your connection efforts. This is a call toward a biblical understanding of connection and community for those in the church that’s attractive to those outside our congregations.
We get caught up thinking connection means what it did a year ago. We get stuck comparing and imagining we need the same type of community as the churches in the adjacent city. We think connection only matters for those inside the church, or conversely, that our connection efforts must solely be focused on reaching those outside our walls.
What if Christlike community and connection started much deeper? What if it didn’t start with your success reaching the unchurched but with your ability to be reached by the love of the very heart of church: the Father?
“Everything I have is yours, and everything you have is mine… Holy Father, protect them by your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one.” – John 17:10-11
To have connection we need to rest in the eternal connection of the Trinity in which we have the freeing privilege to take part. Through the Holy Spirit, we get to be connected to Jesus, the beloved Son, who gives us access to the Father’s love. We get to be one with others who are connected to Jesus, and we get to rest in His protection.
What greater connection can we seek to give others than that which we have first received?
Realize What’s Started
Instead of freezing into the pressure of creating connection and community within and without our church walls, we can pray for new sight. As much as 2020 changed what ministry looks like, new growth is happening because believers have not ceased being transformed by the Holy Spirit to be conformed to Christ’s image (2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29).
Pray for new eyes to see the growth the Lord has sustained, even in spite of our efforts. Where are people more connected to each other now than they even were before? What conversations have only been unlocked because of this season? Where are people becoming more individually involved in each others’ lives? What resources are becoming crucial to your church’s life that might not have been used previously?
Let’s celebrate this and seek to water it through our efforts and prayers.
Relax Into Your Role
Ultimately, when we’re casting a vision of community-building connection within and without our church, we can be encouraged by our inability.
Yes, we are all given unique roles in the lives of believers and not-yet-believers around us. We are given leadership responsibilities—in our own lives, in our families, in small groups or other church groups, and some of us on church staffs—and we must put effort into these roles.
In the end, however, we will never be the Savior. The community we create will always be flawed. Someone else’s connection strategy will always be more effective. Someone else’s outreach will always be more welcoming. It’s not about our efforts but our freeing role to (even imperfectly) invite people to surrender as they come to the feet of the perfect Savior.
We’re not the ones who can make real connection. Only Christ can. In fact, He’s ever inviting us into the rest of striving through His strength and then laying our efforts trustingly down at each day’s end. In the midst of our pandemic-induced suffering and in the midst of our sin—even our sin of trying to offer people a hope through our words and programs instead of through Christ Himself—we will always be insufficient. And that’s actually perfect.
This keeps us at the foot of the cross, resting in the finished work of Christ, armored with promises: He is near to the weary and brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18); His joy will never cease to be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10); He is the One who keeps us (Psalm 121: 5-8); His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).
May we make this our prayer as we journey through the days of 2021, come what may: Lord, keep us so connected to You so we cannot help but welcome those around us—both inside of and outside of our Christian community—into deeper fellowship with the Father whose love will never run out. Renew our vision for connection. As the body of Christ, may our connection to Him and to each other be so compelling that it leaves us in wonder and filled up to pour out rested, worshipful thanks to King Jesus.