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Dear Congregational Family,
1. (Review from last week)  
The Present Day Plight of Discipleship:  Recently I read the book, “Ancient-Future Evangelism” by Robert Weber.  He addresses the global concern, that the Church is growing in converts, but oftentimes there is no depth of Christianity in convicts of belief, in commitment to the community of the Church, and in development of character and behavior.  The quote “It is a mile wide, but only an inch deep” has become increasingly true of the church in many areas.  He especially laments the shallowness of Christianity in America where “our zeal to go wide, has not been matched by a zeal to go deep.” Thankfully he does more than lament.  He points the church back to the early centuries of Christianity for some guiding principles of discipleship, which was centered around:  1. Believing (last week’s focus), 2. Belonging (this week), 3.  Behaving (next week).
2.       Belonging: Today we live in a world that is fragmented relationally.  This has been true since sin entered the world, and immediately Adam and Eve became disconnected from God and from each other.  Today we continue to live out that disconnection, as we hide in our own comfort zone, do our own thing, and insist on our own rights.  We crave community/fellowship with others, and we are drawn to it as it is a God-given desire and need; but at the same time we run from it.  In his book, Weber identifies three obstacles that keep us from experiencing true community.  They are:
a.       Individualism:  We prize our autonomy which literally means that we are “a law unto ourselves”.  We don’t care for accountability.  We live in a “me first” society, and we don’t like to be questioned regarding our values or lifestyles. 
b.       Isolationism:  Never before have we had so much technology at our fingertips which can keep up connected to the world every second.  However, never before has the world experienced so much loneliness and disconnection.  Thousands of Facebook friends, but known by no one!  Our “societal neighborhood” has broken down.  How can we connect again?
c.       Consumerism:  We have become driven to consume which also brings unhealthy competition, comparisons, and lack of contentment.  We are quick to demand our “rights” to get what is best for ourselves.  We attempt to relinquish God-given responsibilities for our brothers and sisters.  We become takers rather than givers.  We even “shop” for the best church to “meet our needs” forgetting that “church” is more than a mere spiritual supermarket!

What is the answer?  It is Christ; and the Church, the Body of Christ.  God has called us to be ONE in Christ and in the Body of Christ.  We BELONG to each other, just as we BELONG to Christ.  This message is as foreign to our ears today, as was God’s question to Cain (after he killed his brother).  “Where is your brother, who’s blood cries out from the ground?”  Cain replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  In other words, “Leave me alone God.  I’m looking out for myself, doing my thing, and just trying to get ahead in life.  I don’t have time, nor do I want to be responsible for my brother.  I don’t care that he is dead!”

Weber writes, “Conversion is not merely embracing an intellectual idea; it is taking one’s place within the body of people who confess Christ and seek to live out the kingdom of Jesus.” (p.38)  The early church understood that when one was converted to Christ, they were also connected to the community of Christ, the Church!

Early church father, Cyprian, wrote: “You can not have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother.” 

May God renew our love for the church, and for our local congregation at Ruthfred Lutheran!

God bless you as we continue,
​              “Growing Together in our Faith as the Family of God.”

                                             Pastor Carlson

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