As our year wraps to an end, a question on many hearts is, “do I belong?” If we are honest, this is the question that we ask ourselves all the time. When you ask the question such as, “am I strong?,” “am I pretty?,” “am I funny?,” “am I smart?,” “will I succeed?,” or “do I matter?,” you are really asking, “do I belong” or ultimately, “am I loved?” In this post-modern age of skepticism, information, and virtual relationships, this question is screaming at us and we work to answer it. We try to answer it through preoccupations with sports, media, shopping, work, and diverse dining experiences.
For centuries around the world, this question was typically answered by the idea of belonging to a family or being a part of a country/nation/tribe. People had strong senses of identity that rarely shifted: “I’m a barbarian, I’m a Roman citizen, I’m a Jew, I’m an Iroquois warrior.” The world has become more and more global, and people identify less with their families, countries, races, and social belonging has become more of a loose collection of friends, media choices, virtual groups, gym classes, universities, football teams, coffee shop attendance, etc. In the US, it seems that family/nation has moved more and more to the background of our consciousness as we assess how we belong.
A year and a half ago, my family and I moved to Mexico to work at the Manantial School in Puerto Escondido. Life is so different here and belonging is not easy. The usual social channels of comfort in the US do not exist. We can’t go catch a game or go to the YMCA, attend a cooking class, go golfing, shop at the outlets, or meet at the kids play place. Because of the absence of these superficial affiliations, we have been faced with the reality of “Who are we?” “Do we really love people well?” “What is our purpose?” “Does anyone love me?” This has made for a difficult transition to international missions; however, in the midst of the challenges, we have also begun to experience the reality of a real community. As we have persevered through the challenges by the grace of God, family has increasingly become what we are experiencing. Through church planting, we have begun to experience the joy and closeness of Mexican family.
In Acts 2:42 after thousands of people were converted almost immediately as the gospel was preached in Jerusalem, it was reported that their immediate unifying activity was to “devote themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.” These four activities stand in stark contrast to the world’s view of relevancy and belonging in this new age. Our gatherings and activities are not overly polished and rehearsed yet they are filled with joy and excitement about what God is doing. This is drawing people together and growing us into a family that perseveres through challenges and celebrates our victories! We choose to belong to the church and to exalt this belonging above all other affiliations.
As a church, we all agree and believe in the teaching of the apostles that Jesus Christ is the resurrected Son of God. We all choose to gather and pray together. We also choose to unite in the Lord ’s Supper, communing around him and how he died for us. This family, or church, is what I believe will be the only genuine and lasting movement that will unite people, not out of competition, greed, or ideology, but out of love and service.
As the year closes and you either come together with your family or seek to belong in other ways, I encourage you to remember that God is calling you to prioritize the Christian church, the only lasting eternal institution. All others will fade and eventually be extinguished and all that will ultimately be left is the body of Christ. How are you trying to belong? How are you seeking love? Give your life to Jesus and His church. The true spiritual church of Jesus Christ is the place where you can trust that you will always belong.
– Rob Moser, GEM Missionary