By Marvin A. McMickle
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
(second in a series related to the church's celebration of 40 Days of Purpose.)
One of the most important and disturbing books of the last five or six years is entitled, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. The book is not about the sport of bowling, as much as it is about the fact that more and more people in American society are choosing to do more and more things alone. Bowling has always been the ultimate group activity. Whether you belong to a bowling league, or go bowling with a group of family or friends, bowling was always viewed as something that people did together. Sometimes you went bowling together for the sake of the competition, and sometimes you went bowling with a group simply for the sake of the companionship. But either way, people would go bowling as part of a group.
In Putnam's book, the premise is that we are losing our sense of community in America, and the ultimate proof of the fact is the things that more and more people are doing alone. Bowling is, in fact, only a metaphor for a wide range of activities. People go to the movies alone, as well as to restaurants, concerts, athletic events and even vacation. Some of this may be explained by the fact that a large number of adults are living as singles, and companionship is not always readily available. However, says Putnam, the more significant issue facing our society is that people cannot or will not sustain relationships over any length of time. As a result of that fact, more and more people spend more and more of their time "bowling alone."
There may be some areas of our lives where we can have just as much fun or just as rich of an experience when we are alone, as when we are in the company of others. However, there is one setting in which that can never be the case, and that is in our lives as Christians. At the very center of the Christian life is the word fellowship. The Christian life is not a solo venture where each one of us works out our relationship with God in isolation from all other believers. The best part of being a Christian is being a part of the fellowship of the church where you are constantly involved with other believers in the service of God.
There are some Christians who are content with a spiritual life that begins and ends with simply being a part of the membership of the church. That means that their names are on the church rolls, and they may attend a church service from time to time. However, being a part of the membership is not the same as being a part of the fellowship. Membership simply means that you are a number on a box of envelopes; fellowship means that you and I are committed to doing ministry and worship together, that we are mutually committed to the strength and vitality of this congregation, and we are ultimately defined and directed by our common loyalty and obedience to God and to God's word as revealed in scripture. As we start down this road this morning, let me ask each one of you to consider this question; are you a part of the membership or a part of the fellowship of this church?