Our Need For a “Tribe”

Woman sitting by herself in an empty churchIf you read my recent article on Crosswalk, you know almost half of Americans struggle with deep loneliness. We long for connection. We were created to live interdependently. But in our busy, selfie-taking, and increasingly disconnected culture, it can be crazy-hard to find and cultivate healthy, thriving relationships. My guest today discusses this universal need, challenges to it, and how Jesus and the church were designed to fill that need. As you read Jason Joyner’s thoughts, prayerfully consider your friendships. Have you found your “tribe”? Your inner circle–those people who know your ugly and love you anyway? If not, ask Jesus to show you why and how you can move from isolation to deep connection.

Do You Have a Tribe?

by Jason Joyner

In a world that’s supposed to be growing closer, are you feeling isolated?

Today we’re more connected than ever. We always carry our phone with us. Why wait for a letter or card in the mail when you can text someone? People can travel to the other side of the world within twenty-four hours. We have the power of the internet to associate with each other.

Still, it seems people are increasingly lonely. Despite the way Facebook and other social media pretends to bring us together, they may actually isolate us, if not used properly. We post our happy side of life and see the same from others. Then when we run into them and ask how they’re doing, if they mention something seen online, we can glibly say, “Oh, I saw that,” and shut down the conversation.

If we’re too spread out with “friends” online it can keep us from getting into depth of relationship with a smaller group.

However, if we’re aware of this tendency, we can fight it. We can even use social media, our smart phones, and technologies that can push us apart to bring us together.

There’s a concept going around called “having a tribe.” The term was popularized by author Seth Godin, but it draws from a deeper well. Basically, a group of friends with text pulled from posttribe was a community. People within it knew their role and had assurance that others had their back. Being in such a tight-knit group is a deep source of identity. In our fragmented world, being in a tribe can bring life.

As Christians, we’re called to do life with one another all the time, not just gather for an hour or two on Sundays. Did you know that there are 59 mentions of “one another” in the New Testament? We’re supposed to love one another, be at peace with one another, encourage one another. This is the Christian version of Seth Godin’s concept.

I’ve seen this in my life through a group called Realm Makers. I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer and a Christian. I live in a region where there aren’t many Christians like me, and there aren’t a lot of people who enjoy these fantastical stories. It’s rare to find someone who shares my faith and a love for these genres.

I found Realm Makers, a conference for Christians who write sci-fi/fantasy a few years ago, and I’ve made some deep friendships within this group. We get together once a year in the conference, but stay connected through social media, video apps, and email. We encourage, pray, rejoice, and mourn with each other.

Having a group of friends that know me and are so supportive, has made such a difference. I don’t feel as isolated. I can enjoy my local church body more, because I don’t have expectations of others fitting that niche in my life. My Realm Makers friends meet that connection, so I can enjoy others where they are.

Two friends with quote from postsEven Christians, a family of faith designed by God to live in close community with one another, can get isolated in this modern world. But we have a built-in tribe through our shared faith in Jesus. Don’t let the busyness of the world or the shallowness of social media rob you of that connection. Reach out to others. Be that “one another” someone needs, so they can feel that sense of belonging. You can use the tools of our time to build deeper relationships.

If you do that, you’ll find your tribe, and you’ll be blessed for it.

Let’s talk about this! Do you feel like you have a tribe? What steps can you do to find such a community?

***

Jen here. Before you go, make sure to sign up for Jennifer’s free quarterly e-mailing. Subscribers receive great content–a short story, inspirational message, recipe and more–sent directly to their inbox, and a free, 36-lesson Bible study. Sign up HERE. (If you sign up for my newsletter but don’t receive the link to the downloadable study in your welcome email, please contact me.)

Get to know Jason:

Jason Joyner's author photoJason C. Joyner is a physician assistant, a writer, a Jesus-lover, and a Star Wars geek. He’s traveled from the jungles of Thailand to the cities of Australia and the Bavarian Alps of Germany. He lives in Idaho with his lovely wife, three boys, and daughter managing the chaos of sports and superheroes in his own home. Launch, a YA superhero story, is his first published novel.

Connect with him online by joining his Facebook group, The Heroes’ Hangout and follow him on Twitter and Instagram

Check out Jason’s novel, Launch:

Sixteen-year-olds Demarcus Bartlett and Lily Beausoliel are among a select group of youth invited to an exclusive, Cover image for Launch by Jason Joynerall-expenses-paid conference at social media giant Alturas’ California headquarters. Led by charismatic founder Simon Mazor, the world’s youngest billionaire, this isn’t the typical honors society. It seems that everyone here has some secret, untapped potential, some power that may not be entirely of this world. An ancient prophecy suggests that if these teens combine their abilities, they could change the course of history. The only question is: Will it be for better or for worse? Grab your copy HERE or on Barnes and Noble

 

 

 

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The Power of a Life Lived Well

Quote with background image of a strong woman

When all the violence, uncertainty, and hatred in the world bombards me, I have to remind myself I’m much more than a hopeless bystander. I possess great power—the power to impact lives, perhaps even entire communities, for good.

Do you remember the Saved by the Bell Days? When cartoons weren’t filled with sexual innuendo? When school shootings didn’t occur daily and parents’ concerns centered on their child’s grades and not whether they’d make it home alive.

Increasingly, this is the environment we live in, that my daughter is growing up in, and watching it all unfold, I can easily become paralyzed. I can believe the lie that our world is beyond hope and my choices don’t matter, not in the overall scheme of things.

But then I read about King Josiah, a young man who, upon discovering God’s forgotten law during a time of rampant and widespread idolatry, instituted complete and instant reform. (2 Kings 23:1-20) He burned altars erected for the Amorite and Moabite gods, annihilated pagan priests, and initiated a widespread return to godly living.

This took courage, perseverance, passion, and conviction—the kind that motivates one from merely seeing a problem to actually taking steps toward solving it.

Granted, as king, Josiah had much more power and influence than you and I, but no matter where we live or whom we encounter, we still have influence—and the power of the risen Savior residing within. So, in that sense, we actually have more power than an earthly, albeit godly, ancient king.

We know this intellectually, but I think sometimes we forget, or maybe we think, because we don’t always see the impact of our actions, that they have little effect. But God’s word says differently. Scripture promises every time I tear down idols in my heart and set it firmly on the things of God, more of the Holy Spirit’s power is unleashed in me. Whenever I choose love over hate, sacrifice and generosity over selfishness, and obedience over rebellion, God’s glory is revealed in me.

Through obedience, my life shines like a bright light or star in a culture of darkness, hatred, and pain. quote image with candles in the dark(Phil. 2:15) We likely will never physically tear down idols and pagan altars, like Josiah did, but each day, as we live for Jesus, our actions are tearing down strongholds. With each kind act offered, word of truth spoken, and life touched, we’re sending out ripples of hope and life that miraculously extend beyond us, our neighborhood, and even our generation.

Never underestimate the power of a life lived well.

Going Deeper With Living by Grace

When Living by Grace launched, our goals were two-fold: 1) To create a safe community where brothers and sisters could come together to build relationships centered in Christ 2) To encourage one another to draw closer to Christ.  We like to think of our corner of cyber-space as a modern-day-meet-at-the-well experience. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, back in biblical times, the local well was a place of community where women gathered to connect and share their lives with one another.

Today, we are so busy and spread out, it can be hard to connect on a deeper level. For many, Facebook has provided a safe and convenient way to develop, foster, and maintain relationships.

For some time now, Patty Wysong, one of our hostesses, has felt the nudge to go deeper than a short devotional or testimonial. She’s passionate about God’s Word and seeing others grow, but even more importantly, she has the grace to create a safe and encouraging environment where others feel comfortable expressing themselves.

I’m excited to announce the launching of Living by Grace’s first ever Bible study! Patty’s kicking us off with the book of James.

Join us at Living by Grace as we take our faith a little bit deeper.

Start at Patty’s blog to read her great intro, Faith in Action, then join the conversation at Living by Grace. And if you’re around, come back to Living by Grace Saturday from 11-12 to chat more about the passage.  (If you’re not on Facebook but want to be part of the discussion, shoot me an email and I’ll make sure to find a way to make that happen.)

 

Lives Intertwined

                    I’ve shared in previous posts how difficult our move to Nebraska has been for all of us. It has been less than two months now, but a blip, and yet, already we feel at home. Why? Because God placed us in a community of believers that opened wide their arms and have accepted us as family. The other night, reflecting on all God has done through the grace-filled men and women at our church, my husband and I discussed how difficult life must be for those who don’t have such a community.

Today’s post comes from a fellow Christ to the World writer. Vona Elkins Bankston’s dramas are broadcasted, via radio-waves, across the globe, sharing the saving message of Jesus Christ with millions, many in areas hostile to the gospel. Today she talks about leaving a faith-driven legacy. Her story reminds me, our church body is more than a gathering of people–it is an interconnected body, a family, divinely designed to provide love, community, and support.

A  Legacy of “Living out loud”  by Vona Elkins Bankston   

Psalms 145: One generation will commend your works to another, they will tell of your mighty acts.       

Nestled at the bottom of Bankhead Forest in Northwest Alabama, lies a little community called Wren. As you look to your left going south, you see a stately church with a steeple rising toward the heavens as a monument to the grace and love of a faithful God.

Since 1847-1848when the first Pleasant Grove Baptist Church was established… to the present time, the church has embraced the mandate given by Jesus Christ in Acts 1:8:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  This community of believers, (now in the third building) has been living out loud through evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and worship.

Recently the Young Adult men’s Sunday school class led by Rodger Nix, heard of a young couple with many needs who had moved into the community. The father was battling cancer; the mother was working alongside him in a tree grinding business trying to eke out a living for them and their four year old daughter.

The little church they attended helped as much as possible but were unable to provide that which the family needed most– better housing.

 Knowing his time on earth was drawing to a close, the desire of the father’s heart was to see his wife Deborah, and daughter Shirley Mae, settled into a warm, comfortable home before he passed from this life.

By talking among themselves and spreading the word around, others in the church and community joined in with the Young Adult Men’s class and started remodeling a house about five miles from the couple’s mobile home.  Materials were donated, monetary gifts were received and skilled laborers donated time and talent. The women joined the effort by providing household goods and furnishings.

A few weeks before his death, Gregg asked if he could come in person to express his gratitude to the church and the volunteers for being the hands and feet of Jesus to him and his family. There were few dry eyes in the church that morning as the little family stood before the congregation.

Not many weeks after that Gregg went to be with the Lord. The house was not quite ready for Deborah and Shirley Mae to move into, but Gregg died, knowing a comfortable earthly home would soon be ready for his little family to move in to.

 11 Corinthians, 5:1 says:   For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Gregg died at peace,  knowing he could look forward to living  in a house not made by human hands but by the hand of his loving Heavenly Father.

By “Living Out-Loud”  the Young Adult Sunday School Class left a legacy that will reach into future generations and witness to the mighty acts of God.

Vona Elkins Bankston has 3 married children,7 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren.

She writes Biblical monologues, skits for my church,and dramas and HEAR THE WORD Bible studies for Christ to the World Ministries. She belongs to a writer’s group called “STEPPING STONES” OF NORTH ALABAMA. Currently, they are writing short devotionals for a local newspaper. She has a heart for missions and believes the methods for reaching people can change, but the message must remain the same.
***
 
Life is tough. Tragedy and difficulties are bound to come. When they do, will you have a close family of believers to lean on? If not, how you can begin to develop those vital relationships *today*? No church body will be perfect. Humans are going to mess up. They’ll let us down, say and do things they regret. As will we. Finding community isn’t about finding perfection but instead, relationships. Don’t let unrealistic expectations or past hurts keep you from experiencing one of God’s greatest gifts–Christ-centered relationships.
 
 
I want to give a shout-out thank you to all the August’s Reach Out Donors:
 
Eddie Snipes with I Called Him Dancer, a novel quite fitting for this campaignJoAnn Durgin with Second Time AroundEileen Rife with Second Chance, another novel with an outreach focus; and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
 
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com. Authors, agents, and publishers, if you have a book you’d like to donate to my Reach Out Campaign, shoot me an email at the same address.
 
Have a great, interdependent week in Christ!

Step into God’s Circle

Our family has moved a lot. Moving can be tough. Painful. With each move, relationships are strained, some even severed as phone calls and emails dwindle. But the hardest part of moving is losing then reconnecting to a church family. When we first moved to the midwest, we struggled finding a church home. That was a very difficult time for all of us. Today, Sherri Wilson Johnson shares her story and what God showed her about the body of Christ.

Taking a Break From Serving by Sherri Wilson Johnson

I believe serving God is a good thing and that we can serve Him everywhere we go by showing our love for others and doing random acts of kindness—like paying for the meal of the people in the car behind you in the drive-thru or taking food to someone who is sick. The most common place to serve the Lord is in the church by loving, teaching and serving His people.

But what about if you find yourself in a position where you don’t have a church in which to serve? Or maybe you have a church but a situation in your life has created a barrier and you need to take a break? Is it really such a big deal? Can’t we just do good things for the people we come in contact with on a daily basis and call it even?

I have spent the last year as a Christian hobo, so to speak, searching for a new church home. Having attended church my entire life and having served routinely as an adult for the better part of twenty-five years, I found it temporarily refreshing not to serve when we left our church last year. It was nice not to have to arrive at church an hour early and stay an hour late to clean up. It was nice not to have to attend meetings and attend training sessions.

Galatians 5:13-14 says: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus gives us the command to serve and love others. And this is done both inside and outside of the church walls. However, I learned the hard way that if you’re not connected to a body of believers and serving within the walls of the church, it’s often easy to neglect the serving outside of the church. It’s easy to use your tithe money for something else. And it’s awful feeling like an outsider.

After about six months of being without a church home, visiting around looking for a new place to plant ourselves, my feet started itching to greet people in the lobby, teach women’s Bible studies, take up the offering, spend time with youth, and do the food bank delivery. The ice thawed and a new desire emerged from the frozen earth of my soul to find the place God wanted us to serve. Why? Because as sojourners on our way to Gloryland, we want to be together with other believers. We long for a place to belong in this crazy world where enemies nip at our backs.

We were not created to live this Christian life alone. We were not created to live only with our own desires being met, especially the desires of the flesh, which tend to blur out the need for accountability within the body of Christ. We were created to follow the example Jesus set and that is to serve others—with gladness (Psalm 100:2).

We are blessed to have so many choices in churches these days. There is a church practically on every corner. It may seem difficult to find the one that suits your family and meets its needs and also gives you an area to serve within your giftedness. I’ve been there. I understand. If you do find yourself in this predicament, I encourage you to pray and to seek recommendations from trustworthy, like-minded Christians who may be able to point you in the right direction of your new church home. If you have a church home but are currently not serving (for whatever reason) I encourage you to jump in somewhere and give it a try. Summertime is the best time to do it because crowds are usually smaller and church schedules are often more relaxed.

One thing I can promise you is this: When you serve, you give away a part of yourself to others—but you will receive so much more in return while doing so.

***

Sherri Wilson Johnson is the author of To Dance Once More and Song of the Meadowlark. She is from Georgia, has been married since 1988, and is a former homeschooling mom. She loves to write, read, eat ice cream, ride roller coasters and make people laugh. She loves Jesus and hopes to spread His love to the whole world through her writing. Visit her online:

http://sherriwilsonjohnson.com

Twitter: swj_thewriter

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Author-Sherri-Wilson-Johnson/138396456193536

http://sherrijinga.wordpress.com

And check out her novel, To Dance Once More:

To Dance Once More is the story of Lydia Jane Barrington, a Victorian debutante. Lydia lives on a plantation in Florida under the watchful eye of her father. She’s quite an independent young lady who does not want to fall into the trap (as she sees it) that her mother and sisters have fallen into—marriage and motherhood. She wants to travel the world and experience life before giving her heart to a man. One day, her eyes are opened to love and no matter what, she cannot forget the blissful feeling it causes. She begins to believe that love isn’t such a bad thing after all. Then she discovers a secret that prohibits any of her dreams from ever coming true. She begins a quest to free herself and her family from a future of bondage. Hearts are broken and lives are torn apart because of Lydia’s own selfishness. Will she surrender to a call that God placed on her life and be able to experience love after all? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

But it now!

Join us at Living by Grace as we talk about connecting with the body of Christ. There are so many reasons to isolate … past hurts, insecurities, busy schedules. And in today’s media-saturation with church services broadcasted on the internet, radio, and television, we may believe we don’t need God’s body. But God designed us to live in community,not isolation. To lean on one another. Isolation leads to loneliness and leaves us vulnerable to deception. I also believes it robs us of experiencing the love of God poured out through others.

More than that, I believe we will never find true fulfillment and purpose until we embrace the mission God has for us — at *each moment*. Because Christians don’t have shelf lives. (You can read an article about this here.) Wherever you are, in whatever stage you are in, God has a plan, an eternally important role, just for you.

We will never find a perfect church or perfect friends, just as we will never be perfect. But by God’s grace, we can find intimacy, purpose and fulfillment.

Bits and Pieces

To my subscribers, I apologize for the double-posting the other day. One of those “pre-scheduling” issues. As an update, however, our penpal ministry has grown, which is exciting. You may remember when I talked about the jewelry the orphan girls from San Miguel, El Salvador made. I’m still waiting to hear back from a couple of organizations who I hope will partner with us as we seek ways to help these girls finds ways to be self-sustaining, but in the meantime, our church sold their jewelry to its members and sent the money to Remar San Miguel. Antonio, the orphanage “father” sent pictures via FB showing these girls in wonderful new school uniforms purchased with the jewelry proceeds. It’s amazing how far money goes down in El Salvador! We’re gearing up to go again in January. This time one of our team members wondered if we might want to teach the girls to crochet knapsacks. So, we’re thinking about it. Of course, we team members need to learn how to crochet first. What’s that they say about the blind leading the blind? Oy! But where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

In the meantime, I’m on chapter seven of a new novel centered around El Salvador. The research is intense, on a heart level. But even as much of it breaks my heart, I’m also very encouraged because I believe long-term positive change is possible. As I mentioned before, I’m not trying to change the world, but I would like to drastically change life for someone. As the saying goes, each one reach one, right? On Friday our family’s meeting with a group from our church’s orphan ministry to discuss ways in which we can do just that.

I’d also like to invite you to join me at Laura Kurk’s blog where I share a short story very near and dear to my heart. About ten years back, while having a very rough day (uh, rough month, perhaps?), a friend called out of the blue.  Another friend sent me a card with Scripture that spoke specifically to what I was dealing with. As I thought about God’s tender mercies and how He often loves us through others, I wondered…what if the friend who called decided not to call that night? What if my other friend never tucked the card in the mail?

Now, I believe God’s Sovereign and would’ve reached out to me in some other way, but I still consider the question whenever I feel God nudging me to make a phone call, write a letter, send an email, or make a visit. What if the person God is sending me to is crying out to Him right at that moment? This story, posted on Laura Kurk’s blog, asks that very question.

Before I go, I’d like you to join me and five other ladies for a modern-day, “meet at the well” experience on Facebook. At Living by Grace, each day we’ll post devotions that will be used to launch into discussions. Our vision is that this Facebook community would become a faith-focused, “Cheers” experience. You remember the theme song? “Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came….”

I want to thank Eileen Rife, Gail Pallotta, Phyllis Wheeler, Salena Storm, and Yvonne Blake for helping us spread the word!

On Thursday, I’ll share more about this new faith-Facebook community. I hope you’ll join us!