More and more these days the pressures of joining any of a thousand different social networks is bearing upon me. I could choose from the craziness of MySpace, the security of Facebook, or even find something more specific that matches just perfect with my personality. All in all the point is to stay connected with people you may see regularly or maybe don’t see often at all. The concept is good, it’s just the execution that gets sticky at times.
Lately, I have had the joy of watching my wife join Facebook to keep up with some friends that we don’t see often. She created her profile, accepted a few friend requests, and onward into her networking she went. But that was only like a month or so ago. Now her network has grown significantly and people are pouring in to be her friend, “grow her garden,” “hug”, “tickle”, and even take quizzes to see how their personalities line up. Her email inbox poured in with updates from friends who are posting pictures, “writing on her wall,” and even showing updates of her friends who are becoming “friends” with other people. This might be a normal day for some people, but for my wife who just likes to see pictures and read a few short updates, I think it’s been a bit overwhelming. And that’s when I started doing some more thinking…
I have been following the phenomenon of “social networking” for the past few years now. I watch and read the news to see what people are getting into and what they are getting out of and how the culture has been changing due to this new way of staying in touch. In fact, it’s been interesting to watch and see how things turn out. For instance, I read an article about a year and a half ago from the creator of Facebook saying, “I want people to graduate from MySpace and join my community.” And as it turns out, more and more people are doing this. Facebook has grown in it’s popularity, especially in the past 6 months, and now MySpace will probably continue to try and reinvent itself to keep the flame alive. But there’s more to this then just a bunch of business “mumbo jumbo” and I believe it lies deep within the heart of every human being. That is the need for community.
Community is something every person deals with in their lives. It could be a simple as the community you live in or more personally your community of close friends. It could very well be the community you hang with on Friday nights, or even the community at your workplace. For some it’s the community in the military: Marines with Marines and Air Force with Air Force. For me it lies within my community at my church and the people I fellowship with. But it could be broader in the sense of saying that I am in community with all people who call Jesus Christ their Lord. Needless to say, community lies at the very core of who are. For Christians, like myself, we are called into community with one another by the Scripture. Christians need to meet together, pray together, worship together, and regularly do this because that is what God commands of us. God designed this thing called the Church, which is at it’s heart a community of Believers. And everywhere I go, when I meet a Believer, a fellow brother or sister in Christ, I am encouraged. I’m encouraged and happy to meet them because they share the same faith I do. The same goes for the Marines, who I mentioned earlier. When a Marine walks into a building and meets another Marine, they might be warmly welcomed and given a firm handshake. “Once a Marine, always a Marine” is their motto and it lives on with them wherever they go. As well this could include the local school system. There might be five high schools in an area, but you are proud to be called a “Bulldog” because that’s your school’s mascot and you’re a part of that community. So what’s the point? I’ve pointed out some places you might have community, but maybe no answer to the greater question of “why?” I believe the desire to be in community with others, whether online or in person, or in any way at all, comes from the God of the Bible. We have that desire to be with people and commune with them because that is part of the heart of God. A God who desires that all come to know his Son as their Savior and created a community for faith in Christ to grow. A place where people can get to know Him more and align their lives to His more. A place where the Scripture will be taught and the Church will be edified and continually pursue holiness. Community is where that will happen. No place else. The Church is an eternal community where people will, currently and in the future, live and worship together the God they love.
I wish I could take you back to a conversation Bethany and I were having last week about social networking. One thing we agreed was that people take this stuff way too seriously. Not that you don’t want to be serious in your online ventures, just that this isn’t what community is about. Community isn’t necessarily about how many friends you can have, or how many “walls” you can sign. Community is about people. People that care about the other people. Maybe these social networks are like a game, I don’t know. I just know you won’t find true community in this tangled web.