I recently read an amazing benefit that Google offers its employees. If a person dies while being employed for Google, the spouse of that person will receive half of his or her salary for a decade-10 years. In addition to that, each child of that person who died will receive $1000/month until they turn 19 years old, or 23 years old if a full time student. As well, the spouse will have stock options for those 10 years as well. And for all of this, there is no tenure required. Meaning you basically don't have to invest anything or time before the opportunity will be available to you. No, this is not 1950....this is 2013. This is incredible. The story is right in that Google is treating its employees that are dead better than some companies treat their employees who are alive! You can read the story here.
I don't usually try to draw parallels too loosely from stories to apply some spiritual matter. However, I just can't shake this one, so humor me here. I just can't stop thinking about Google, and how much I have come to respect this aspect of this company. It almost makes me want to go out and buy a Chromebook right now. :-) I would venture to say if you surveyed employees of Google, they would be pretty happy in their sense of community with each other. They know if one of them goes down for the cause, others will step up and care for their families, etc. That's brotherhood. That's sisterhood. That's being a part of something that matters.
As I ask myself, when I think about church, do I think the same way? Do I think of a community of people that are living distinctly, for something that absolutely matters? Are we a people that all look different (not simply their little church group) but are unified around Christ, so much that we would go to extravagant, sacrificial efforts to advance the Gospel and love of Christ to a lost and dying world? Does that begin even in our own gatherings?
I can tell you that at times, yes, it does. Leslie and I have been on both ends of the spectrum. We have received love, care, and sacrificial love and practical matters when we needed it. We, at times, have felt overwhelmed by the care and love of the people around us. Unfortunately other times we have wondered why some churches even continue to exist, as there is not much Godly going on in them at all.
As I process in my young life, when we think about the Gospel in our individual lives, uniformly we must think about the Gospel in community. In fact, I would go as far as to say it is difficult to impossible to advance the Gospel life-long without a community around you. We call that church. Not the institution (although i'm not anti-establishment at all, like some), but the people. Not a worship service, but a group of people, that are different in areas of life but are unified by the Gospel of Christ. A group of people that say,
"No matter the cost-we will go".
"No matter the time-we will make it"
"No matter the sacrifice-we will sacrifice".
When the church is unified around Christ, and are willing to seriously relinquish their lives and comfort for the sake of the Gospel-mighty things begin to happen.
This begins in community. This begins in believers gathering together, not just to learn (although I am a learner, a continual student, and love to learn) but to grow. Believers that are willing to confess sin to each other, willing to sacrifice for each other, willing to listen to each other, and willing to serve one another. As this happens, we must also do the same to those who are not following Christ. Loving our neighbor as ourselves isn't just waving at them in the driveway. It isn't just a nice verse to put on a theme of a conference or discussion. It is real life. It is sacrificing for them. It is loving people, even when they don't love you back. It is even apologizing to them if you've wronged them, and sometimes even if you have not. It's illuminating Christ to them, and living in community with them, even if they do not follow Christ. It is openly sharing the Hope of your calling, in everyday life, with those you have been placed around to Shepherd.
So perhaps we can learn a thing or two from Google. Here you have a group of people, all from different backgrounds, all working for the same cause. When someone working for the cause has a struggle or even dies, the rest of the people come around them and make sure they are taken care of. Wow. What a testimony to the purpose and ambition of Google.
What is the testimony to the purpose of we, as followers of Christ? As a body, what is our purpose? What is our ambition? How are we living lives that are different and sacrificial? What are we really living for? Does it matter?
This week I will gather with a group of young married couples and discuss this very element for each of our lives. We will ask questions surrounding the element of community, and if it is even something we think about.
The question we can all ask ourselves, and should ask ourselves regularly, is, "Is the way I am living my life matter? It is driving people toward the Gospel? It is driving my heart towards deeper worship of God and community with followers of Jesus? Do I love Jesus and have more adoration for Jesus than I did a year ago?
The answers to some of those questions might trouble some of us if we are honest-and they should.
Praise the Lord for the Grace of Christ.
For the Glory of God.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.