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The Buddy System

Psalm 119:63 

 

"I am a companion of all those who fear Thee, And of those who keep Thy precepts." (NASB)

Japanese crews preparing a building for demolition recently found the remains of a man in an apartment, and believe the man died a lonely death twenty years ago.  A skeleton clad in pajamas was found lying on musty bedding when workers entered the second floor unit where the man had lived.  The newspaper on the kitchen table was dated February 20, 1984.

Authorities say the man worked for a construction firm that built the apartments in 1973.  They believe he moved into the vacant building after the firm managing it went bankrupt.  They say the man, aged 57 at the time, suddenly stopped coming to work twenty years ago.  He was divorced and had children, but none of his family or friends ever asked police to search for him.  After hearing the gruesome news, a neighbor said,  "I had no idea that the apartment even existed. After I heard the news I thought, 'It's as if time had stopped in this one place.'"
(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

Relationships make our lives so much richer.  This story is certainly an extreme instance of someone who lived and died in isolation, but to a lesser extent, everyone who chooses not to engage with others risks dying a slow, lonely death and miss the opportunity of living a full, rich life in community with others.

IN GENERAL, THERE ARE BENEFITS to living in community with others.  For one, they make our DAYS RICHER.  In an article for MSN Money, Liz Pulliam Weston advises retirees, "Forget about the daily ups and downs of the market. What matters most are your health, your friendships, your family connections. . ."

She writes, "Another good way to combat depression and social isolation is by cultivating a wide circle of friends. Yet most of us have a tougher time making friends as we get older. Our lives get busy, our habits get more ingrained, we become less flexible. Happy retirees say it's worth the effort. Good friends of all ages can be a huge asset in retirement.  The older friends are important as sounding boards and guides to what's ahead. Friends our own age get our jokes and pop culture references, while younger friends give us fresh insights, keep us from getting too set in our ways -- and help prevent us from outliving all of our companions."
(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

Weston is writing specifically to retirement age people, but her advise has universal appeal.  Relating to people of all ages is heathy for everyone.  Can you think of a better arena to do so than the local church?  At our church, not only are we multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, but we are also multi-generational.  We are not living out our lives in an artificial community of people just like us, but have the rich experiences of interacting with people who aren't like us.

Living in community makes our lives richer, and there is also evidence that it makes our LIVES LONGER.  Several studies have linked religious activities with better health, but a recent study shows that church goers live longer. Certainly some of the longevity is explained by healthy habits promoted by the church, like not smoking and drinking, but even after adjusting for those things, researchers are still saying that church attendance promotes longer life. Doug Oman, the leading author of the study said, "We wonder if there's something else going on-like inner peace." 

So will doctors be advising their patients to start attending church as a habit of a health lifestyle? Orman doesn't think so, "There seems to be a widespread feeling that this would be inappropriate." Orman said. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

In an article for Newsweek, Claudia Kalb took a critical look at studies like this one that show the physical benefits of faith.  She rated the claims on a scale from very weak to persuasive. Three of the claims garnered a "very weak" evaluation from her, but she rated one--the claim that church service attendance promotes longer life--as "persuasive."According to her sources, the life expectancy increases from 75 years (of someone who never attends) to 83 years (of someone who attends more than weekly.)   (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

Personally, I'm not qualified to analyze the research or have an opinion why those who attend church live longer, but I am confident that following the teachings of the Bible will improve people's lives, and that the positive interaction that comes from living with other believers in community will not only increase the length of their lives, but improve the quality of their lives too.

Living life in community makes life richer and longer, but there is another benefit, it also makes us BETTER PREPARED TO FACE TRIALS.  In your bulletin is a blank sheet of paper, please take it out and crumple it into as small a ball as you can.  Even if you are Mr. Universe, the ball is still 75 percent air. University of Chicago physicist Sidney Nagel wondered how air could hold up something as thin as a sheet of paper. Nagel and his colleagues investigated their question by crumpling Mylar sheets and placing them under a heavy piston. They found that though most of the compression took place in the first few seconds, the piston kept crushing the sheets by small amounts up to three weeks later. 

The physicists discovered that squeezing a tightly crushed wad down to half its volume would take 64 times as much force as a normal person can exert. Nagel says,"Even a weight lifter isn't 64 times stronger than the average person."According to Nagel, paper balls resist compression because crumples in the paper consist of many small peaks joined by a network of ridges. To crush the ball further, each ridge has to buckle in two. Compressing the ball creates more ridges, which requires even more energy to break. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

In community, we are better able to withstand trials.  God's power is displayed as we form a network of ridges and small peaks that keep the community of believers from being crushed. 

2 Cor. 4:7-10 says, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed: perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body." (NIV)

Yes there are personal benefits to living in community, but there are also KINGDOM BENEFITS.

Mark 6:7 says, "Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits." (NIV) and Luke 10:1 says, "After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." (NIV) 

When Jesus sent his disciples out to minister, he paired them up.  They followed the "buddy system."  Why?  For one, two can work more effectively than one.  Eccles. 4:12 says,  "And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart." (NASB) But another reason is because the goal isn't just to get the job done effectively, but to grow while you are doing the job.  We learn from one another as we serve together.  Proverbs 27:17 says, "Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another." (NASB)   But a third reason, and perhaps the most important reason is that the Christian faith was not meant to be lived in isolation, but in community.  I'm not sure which is more important, the ministry we do while we are serving together or the fact that we are together while we are doing the ministry.  Acts 2:1 says, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." (KJV) 

Fellowship feeds our soul, extends our life span, gives us strength during times of trials and helps us accomplish kingdom goals.  And it is the second purpose God has for us.  Are you fulfilling it?  Are you making the effort to be in community with your fellow believers, or are you settling for living your life in isolation?

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