A bunch of years ago, I worked at a bank. When I was being trained, there was this particular form we had to fill out and send in periodically. They taught me to take this piece of paper and roll it into a typewriter and then type into all those little boxes.
And I’m like, What? Are you kidding me? Why are we doing this? Why don’t we just make a template? I’ll make the template if nobody knows how to do it. I don’t have many skills, but I can do that.
And, they’re like, no, they, this is how they want it. It has to be in this exact form. We can’t have anything else. This is how we’ve always done it. This is how we always will do it.
So I promptly returned to my desk, rebelled, made my own template, used it, and submitted it. And you know what? They accepted it like I knew they would. Eventually, when other people discovered that I was using this template instead of the typewriter, they said, let me borrow that. Why? Because it worked.
Yes, they could do it the old way. And it would get the job done. But this was so much easier. I’ve always been an inquisitive person. My brain is constantly asking, why are we doing things this way? And why do we keep doing them this way?
One of the observations I made as I read about the first church that gathered shortly after Jesus’s resurrection is that many things happened in circles, not rows.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer. Everyone was awed by the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all people. And the Lord added to their number daily, those who are being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
The description of the early church begins with a wholehearted devotion to God and a relational devotion and dedication to one another. Their relationship with God was not something that was to be pursued or experienced alone in solitary form. They were devoted to learning together, spending time with one another, and celebrating communion.
This Emotional Life Study
PBS commissioned a study to understand the relationship between relational connectedness and happiness. Out of that research, they made a documentary, and it was called “This Emotional Life.” Researchers have found that people are happier when they’re with other people than when they are alone. The boost is the same for introverts and extroverts.
They also find that happy people are more pleasant, helpful, and sociable. Being around other people makes us feel more satisfied. And when we are happier, we are more fun to be around, creating an upward spiral of happiness.
I love that image, an upward spiral of happiness.
Now, I’ve experienced depression myself and that downward spiral. I don’t want to shower, but now I can’t go to the store and buy food, and I don’t have anything to eat. It just continues to go downward. But isn’t it awesome to know that the reverse can also be true, that there can be an upward spiral of happiness?
That just makes me smile. I love that.
Get In Community
Take the risk right here at the beginning of 2023. Get in a circle, and join a small group. You can find out about small groups and courses here.
Getting into the community with others; it’s crucial. If all you’re experiencing are the Sunday morning gatherings, then you’re missing out. Circles are critical. That’s where you get to be known and know others. I’ve made some of my very best friends and circles.
And I understand many of you do not need one more thing to do. I am busy. I get it. I have several jobs. I know time is precious, and nobody wants to add one more thing to their week. That’s because you’re thinking about it as one more task, one more commitment, one more thing to add to your calendar every week, every month, or however often your small group meets.
Community As Self-Care
What if you change how you look at “circles” to self-care? We all know how important it is to take care of ourselves. And we all know how much, in general, we don’t do that. Think about joining a small group to take care of yourself.
This is a request from my heart. We were created for the community. We were created to know and be known. We were designed to encourage to pray. We were created for circles. And to support one another.
Small groups are the place for honest conversations. That’s a place to be vulnerable. It’s a place to listen intently to others, to give and receive love and support. There are circles available here. If you are feeling lonely at church, and I know this from my own experience, too, it’s most likely because you’re not in a circle. If you’re waiting for an invitation, consider this your invitation you’re invited. And you’re wanted. You’re wanted, you’re needed, and you’re loved.