If you’re reading this, there’s a fairly good chance that you found this article via social media. When you stop and think about it, it’s truly amazing how technology has allowed us to be connected and gain information. The internet has made life so simple. From sharing a Google doc in class to calling an Uber when your car broke down to even ordering a pizza by tweeting the pizza emoji (yes, you seriously can do this), technology is extremely useful. And yet, even with all of these amazing tools and ways to be connected, we often find ourselves isolated and starved for community.
A study done earlier this year found that the average Facebook user has over 150 friends. In our world of hyper-connectivity, it’s easy to assume that because we have all of these tools and opportunities, we’re naturally going to be developing deep and meaningful relationships. However, this isn’t always the case. Now, don’t get me wrong. Technology and particularly social media can help foster real relationships and help us stay connected. But so often we exchange the reality of true community (with all of its raw details and messiness) for the facade of digital “community.” Who among us hasn’t picked up our phone when sitting right across the table from a friend? And even though we can connect with anyone in the world with the tap of a finger, we settle for just watching their Instagram stories. We know hundreds of Facebook friends, and yet, we aren’t truly known by anyone.
As Christians, how do we navigate living in a connected world and a digital one? How do we balance using technology to develop real friendships in the real world and not get too drawn into the trappings of only viewing our friends’ lives online? How does the gospel shine its glorious light into our isolation and our loneliness? It does so by providing a community that isn’t built on our successes, likes, and the amount of followers we have. Our unity and our ability to be vulnerable before others is built upon the foundation that Jesus Christ laid when he paid on the cross the penalty due for our sins. And because the gospel provides everything that we need, we can leave our Snapstreaks, Twitter threads, and Twitch streams at the door.
One of the most amazing things is that true gospel-centered community is modeled for us again and again in Scripture. In fact, the Bible begins and ends with community. In the beginning, before time and space began, before processors and keyboards, before Instagram and YouTube, God was. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit lived in perfect community with each other. Before we were creating group chats, God was modeling for us what true community should look like. And at the end of time, the Bible describes a beautiful meal shared among friends and their King, where there will be no tears and no isolation. We are fully known and yet, amazingly, fully loved. God is a God of community. He wants this for his people. When we grow, rejoice, weep, and laugh together, we are modeling our King.
One of the things we say a lot here at Mercy Hill is that “discipleship happens in community,” and in a world where everyone has an online community, this is especially true. It’s so easy to feel connected when you are seeing everyone’s posts and highlights from the week. But true Biblical community is so much deeper than that. True community is an act of war against the darkness and isolation. It is a place to worship, study, fellowship, pray, and edify. True community is a picture of what is to come one day when our King returns.
How do you start this journey at Mercy Hill? To take the first step in connecting to life-giving community, I’d encourage you to visit the Grouplink page on our website. Grouplink is a three-week period that happens a few times a year where you can sign up for a group, connect with your group leaders, and maybe even send a few friend requests to the other members in your group.
–Nick Gercken (Ministry Resident)