Small World

A few weeks ago, in the course of a conversation with a friend, he mentioned a name that sounded familiar.  I started asking questions about this individual and it turns out I know him. My friend responded by saying, “wow, small world.” As I think about it, a conversation that turns up a name that I know isn’t a new experience. In fact, this has happened to me numerous times over the course of my life. How about you? In any case, having mutual acquaintances isn’t the only thing that makes the world seem small.

The world of satellites and electronics have also made the world seem smaller. As an example, we can receive world news from our cellular phones anytime of the day. Not to mention, we see live broadcasts from all over the world even on our tablets and smart phones. And for another, we can use Skype or FaceTime to have a live webcam conversation with anyone from anywhere at any time. In fact, Heartland Church has done this on a couple of occasions even during a worship service.  We were able to see and talk to missionaries from our church that were deployed to Romania on a short-term missions’ trip. Yes, that’s right.  A live webcam conversation from 5,500 miles apart. Wow! “Small world.”

Of course, there are good sides and bad sides to the “small world” concept.  Our world may seem small because we have a healthy network of people we know, or because we intentionally keep people at a distance.
I think you’d agree that access to people, history, culture and events from around the world is mostly positive. It certainly helps us connect with other people and understand them better. However, a “small world” idea that excludes but a few people limits our ministry and influence. Living in an isolated bubble constrains relationship and makes loving people nearly impossible. Wait. Before you throw down your disagreement and make excuses, hear me out. Now, remember, from a biblical perspective, love isn’t a feeling but an act of your will to serve the needs of others. Don’t cheapen the word, love, by saying you love someone but never lift a finger to meet a need of theirs.

For that matter, besides the biblically based teaching about love, there is also the fellowship of believers to consider.  In the Bible, fellowship simply means to commune with other believers or to share in common.  In the natural practice of faith, Christians are to come together in love, faith, and encouragement. The very definition and practice of fellowship in the New Testament describe close, interdependent relationships. A powerful example of what fellowship should look like can be found in a study of the phrase “one another” in the Bible. For example, scripture commands us to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), honor one another (Romans 12:10), and serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13) just to name a few. Again, the idea of a “small world” as it relates to fellowship would only make sense when we are closely connected with a family of believers and know them on a personal level. On the other hand, isolation or aversion to relationships in the community of faith is an oxymoron. Moreover, a self-controlled “small world’ is antithetical to the Christian faith.

If that isn’t enough, remember the Great Commission as stated in Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8. Forthwith, we are commanded to take the gospel to the world. And not only the message, but helping others become disciples through building intentional relationships. Oh, for sure, there are times when you need to spend time alone in prayer and study of the scripture, but don’t forget to put what you learn into practice (James 1:22).  With that said, Christianity demands living in community, known as church, with other Christians. I know.  Demands is a strong word but, in this case, it is nevertheless appropriate. And beyond that, the Great Commission demands that we interact with people who don’t follow Jesus for the reason of making disciples. In fact, a Christian may describe his Christian community as a “small world” because he relates to and knows a lot of people; however, his world cannot be small in the sense of isolation. Moreover, it can’t be small because he avoids his ministry.

All in all, a heathy “small world” should acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and reflect our intimate knowledge of people as we connect with them through the process of making disciples who make disciples. In the course of spiritual maturity, you must become free from needless boundaries and fears that are centered on comfort and security.  And, for that matter, freed from the burden of selfish preferences. You must move from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. You must transcend from the depths of self-acclamation to the heights of glorifying Christ. Your vocabulary must move away from “I” and “me” to “us” and “we.” Now, my friend, live with purpose and allow God to set the agenda. Your so-called “small world” will soon be filled with a diverse group of people linked by faith and mission. As such, in the course of many of your future conversations, you will recognize the name of a person and your friend will exclaim, “small world.”

A Work in Progress,

Pastor Gene