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The Gravity of Anonymity

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And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

I went to a missions conference in Vancouver last weekend, had a great time and heard powerful messages. But as I was reflecting on the conference, I was surprised to find that Missions wasn’t my main take-away. Instead, it was the importance of unity, community and fellowship.

I watched a fascinating documentary on the airplane about Albert Einstein. It said that according to the laws of physics and nature, bodies are drawn together by gravity. But the reverse is true according to our human nature. We don’t naturally come together in unity, community and fellowship, at least not well. Sure, at some early point in human history the individual hunter-gatherer benefitted from banding together but at some point, someone realized he could have his grain cake and eat it too, and so invented the fence.

Two instances and my reactions taught me about unity and fellowship through my reactions to them. The first was attending church on Sunday morning. The church had a great retro-contemporary worship, an inspiring missions culture and an intentional assimilation program. There was a bright information kiosk in the middle of the foyer and information volunteers were easily identified by their red lanyards.

After the service, I felt an inner conflict. Maybe you know the feeling: one side knows that you’ll be glad to stayed to say hi to someone and engage in conversation; the other says, “Just leave. No one has noticed you and no one knows you, so you can just slip out. You’ll probably never be back here again anyway.” There were lots of reasons for listening to the latter voice. I could get back to the conference to catch a great seminar. I could beat the lunch crowd. I could… well, I guess two don’t count as lots of reasons, and those two weren’t even good ones either.

There is a part of me that likes the anonymity of being a visitor, that likes a low profile. It’s easier to slip in, hear the message, have my one-on-one time with God, and then slip out. Done, and on to other things on a Sunday. But easier is not better, nor is it necessarily right. The writer of Hebrews says that some have gotten in the habit of neglecting to meet together. Bad habits are easy, almost effortless, to form. So we need to be reminded to resist this part of our human nature. We’re encouraged when we meet together. Actually it’s more than that: this verse is telling us to actively go and consider how we can be the encourager and how to inspire someone else to love and good works, and thereby start a chain reaction.

The other experience that taught me about unity was the conference itself. One distinctive of the conference is that it is planned, executed and sponsored by churches in Vancouver. Not one church. Not one denomination, but a kaleidoscope of churches, all making up the body of Christ. Coming from this church where we do many conferences (and with all modesty, I have to say, do them quite well), it was easy to spot things that could have been tighter, better, improved. But there was beauty and intrinsic value in the churches coming together for this purpose. I’m sure there are lots of stories about how sub-committees of people from different churches have argued, how difficult it is for so-and-so from this church to get along with that person from another church, but everyone perseveres and keeps in mind this verse from Hebrews and a great event is produced to the glory of God.

Unity and community are not easy. Often it’s messier and even less “efficient” than going solo. But easier and more efficient are not necessarily right.

I was almost out the door of the church, still incognito, but I turned around, waited a bit to talk to Joe with the red lanyard. He greeted me with a smile and cup of coffee, both of which were warm, welcoming and appreciated. I was glad I turned around.

The verse from Hebrews is not just about you, it’s about more than that. It’s about the body of Christ. The church needs you and you need the church. Someone out there could use some encouraging. Maybe that person is you.

 

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