The Value of Community: For the Kid Who Doesn’t Feel God
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.” 2 Peter 1:12
When it comes to being in touch with your emotions, I drew the short end of the stick. This isn’t to say that I am never emotional. The birth of my children, a great worship song, or the end of Rudy will always cause me to shed a tear or two. I love to read and there are moments when a Scripture passage will come together under some great teaching and pure elation is experienced. Sometimes when I hear even a simple Gospel presentation I will be in pure awe of God’s goodness.
But sometimes there’s just nothing.
There are all sorts of expressions for that lack of feeling. Whether it’s “being dry” or “in a valley,” the sort of summary conclusion is that you are not “feeling” God. This can be a very common experience especially in the lives of young believers. Sooner or later most of the students that we minister to will find themselves in this place.
When we open the pages of Scripture, there is a very common refrain that God gives to his people to keep them on track: Remember. I didn’t say God scolded them for not trying hard enough. God didn’t tell them to not worry about it and to do what they want. God invited his people to remember what HE had done. There is certainly an individual aspect to this reality. I think of Psalm 51:12, when David cries out, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
But I’m led to believe that most of the instances where God calls us to remember is in the context of community. And that is where I believe we can best minister to our students. We need to set before them a pattern of using the community of faith as a place where we are ultimately remembering the work of the Lord. This is done in several different ways.
If you are a part of a Christian church you should be regularly observing the Sacraments. God was well aware of our desperate need for remembrance, so he gave us something that engaged several of our senses at once: The Lord’s Supper. I mean, he in fact said, “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). When we participate in communion, we are certainly communing with Christ. But we are also communing with one another. We are reminding each other of the great mercies of our Lord Jesus, who atoned for every sin represented by every person who is also partaking around us, as well as our own. As it engages our thoughts, smell, touch, taste, sight and hearing, we are fully immersed in remembrance. We do this regularly to help remind us so that we are pulled out of our desert of dryness and into his cup of grace.
Community also provides us a context in which we study the Word of God together and seek to apply it to our communal lives. We have to fight against the individualism of our culture, especially with students. We do faith together as the body of Christ. One of the beautiful things that happens is that we encourage one another as we each take turns “getting it.” In his book, Judges for You, Tim Keller writes about spiritual community: “We need to be reminded of and study and apply God’s truths in groups. When several people look at a truth, one person (at least) is usually able to say Wow! The sense that person has of the truth can then spread to those of us who are stagnant and dry.”
We need to teach our students the joy of feeding off of other people of the faith. This is why it is so vital to be connected to the local church. And when we come together, it is not always about learning something new. And that’s a really good thing. As 2 Peter 1:12 above reminds us, the path to accessing all the divine power that pertains to life and godliness (v. 3) is ultimately found in remembering, even things we already know.
Each week our pastoral staff is led in Bible study by one of our elders. We don’t seek to cover new ground. We just soak in texts and speak truths to one another. It’s one of the most encouraging and edifying things I partake in. This is the reality to convey to our students, especially the ones who are dry. Remember the gospel. Remember the depths of God’s goodness and grace. Live it. Speak it to one another. Sing it to one another. Pray it over one another. And never forsake being with one another.