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Nov 07, 2010

A Sense of Belonging

Passage: Ephesians 2:11-14

Preacher: Chris Buck

Series: Postcards from the Front: A Wartime Romance

Category: Ephesians

Keywords: alienation, belonging, passive, active, community, the church


From alienation from Christ and people God has moved us to belongingness in His family. But people can choose to experience that "belongingness" in two different ways: passive belonging or active belonging. This sermon explores the difference and what we as children of God are called to do and be.




“Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— remember that at that time you were separate [aliens] from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near (by the blood of Christ.)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”  Ephesians 2:11-14 NASB


I was stuck a week ago by John’s reading. The words, “aliens”, “separate”, “excluded”, “foreigners”, “without hope”, “far away” and “without God” began the rumination journey in my skeptical and Phillip Yancy trained mind. I begin to wonder how many of us, having been “brought near” still struggle with those words. I was stuck!

So let me take you back in my life about 35 years. Michele and I had just become believers. We lived in Hawaii. I was in the Navy. We were attending a church that was full of life and exciting. We had become involved in a group of couples destined to somehow be used of God to change the world.

            We were committed to Christ.

            We were sold-out.

            We were open to anything God would lead us to do.

            One by one, each couple went forward in this little church to commit to missions, pastoring, Christian Education, youth work…. Or as Isaiah 6 says, “wherever you lead us, we will  follow…”

            We were our own little family… trapped in Oahu by school, military service, no distractions, just a “call” (whatever that means).

So why do I share this? Perhaps, just perhaps it has something to do with from where we had all come. We were an eclectic group… even before the word was popular. Musicians, pastors, teachers, sailors, airmen, farmers, … and yes we had been lost, alienated, without hope, misunderstood, and in a real sense foreigners in a strange land… yet, we had a sense of what one author named Adam Blatner (MD) called “belonging-ness”

Out of this small group of couples, God has led them to pastor churches all over the world, missionaries (many still in service), teachers of major Christian Universities such as Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Northwestern, Trinity Evangelical, chaplains serving both Navy (myself) and Air Force. God heard the hearts of these men and women and used them…

Do we experience a “The Sense of Belonging-ness”?  What is it? What is it that make one feel, experience, live out, and sense this phenomenon called, “Belonging-ness”?


Lets take a few moments and examine the problem. Alienation.

1.         While belonging-ness is a term for the feeling of belonging… alienation is an experience of non-belongingness.

2.         Post-moderization has only intensified alienation. Almost celebrated it in our society. Being distinct, separate, solo, on your own, able to run, to move, is all part of this new age.

3.         Allienation involves people not feeling sufficiently connected… i.e. lack of belongingness (in Dr. Blatner’s opinion)… it remains one of the important yet overlooked causes for a variety of personal and social dysfunctions. Thus alienation is the lack of …. The absence of… the non-presence of belonging.

4.         Examples:

            A.        Nutrition. We get sick not only from toxins or infections coming from without, but also sometimes from not being able to take in substances that the body-mind needs.

                                    Example: Pellagra

Diseases like pellagra (lack of niacin, resulting in skin leissons etc) that you don’t hear about much anymore were unfortunately common among poor people, in institutions, and in others with vitamin-deficient diets. Because medical science in that era was still caught up in the relatively               recent recognition that there were germs, and, from that, beginning to understand what was causing so many diseases, pellagra was initially thought to be an infectious disease of some type. Efforts to find the pellagra germ were not fruitful, though; rather, it was necessary to break set, to look in a radically different direction, “out of the box.” Could illness come     not from eating something toxic, but rather not eating something that was needed? Once it became apparent that this, too, could be a source of pathology, other nutritional deficiency diseases were also discovered.

            B.        Exercise, Stretching, Movement Sleep all are common sources of dysfunction affecting school, work, sex, and family life.

            C.        By the 1940s, though, child development research had considered another interesting disease that was prevalent again in orphanages, variously called "hospitalism," "anaclitic depression", or “marasmus," and describing the way some babies became sickly and often died! They traced this not to not being fed, but not being sufficiently cuddled, touched, played with.


1.         Passive Belongingness  (Observer)

            Passive Observer Belongs and Doesn’t Experience.

            This intrigues me and gets to the meat of the problem. One can belong and not experience belongingness. One can be a member and not experience the club. One can sit and observe and not be in the game. One can affiliate and not be a member thus not belong.

            Let me take you to a passage to help you understand this. Hebrews 6.

                        4For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”

                        -Once enlightened

                        -Have tasted


                        -Fallen away

            Passive Observer Belongs but Gets No Fulfillment

                        One can join a fitness club… have all the benefits of membership, use the gym, play basketball, use the weights, buy the clothing, sport the logo, but still not belong… or experience belongingness.

                        One can join a medical foundation, go to all the meetings, invest in the outreach funds, even volunteer and never experience belongingness.

                        One can attend church, buy 2-3 Bibles, read all the journals, give their tithe, watch and even participate in miracles in peoples lives, give to missions, learn the church language and yet, still not belong… or experience belongingness. One can remain lost in Christ.            

What has caused this? Or what has contributed to this thinking? Perhaps the following might help us:  Battler states,

            As times change, traditional sources of belonging can be lost or diluted. We are in a postmodern era, an era that is characterized especially by an increasing rate of change in the world. As mentioned before, the world is qualitatively different from what many middle aged and older people grew up with. Consider these current trends:
             – People are able to move more easily, go away to college, travel internationally in the armed services, peace corps, or business, move among different jobs as part of career building.
            – Women also enter college and the work force more, and thus they, too, move more.
            – Grandparents move to retirement homes away from the neighborhood.
            – People’s old neighborhoods change radically. (The poet Gertrude Stein shook her head about her childhood home in Oakland, California, saying with a sigh, “There’s no ‘there’ there anymore.”
             – People more frequently meet and marry different kinds of people, and this leads to both some blurring and some clashing of religions, races, ethnicities, sub-cultures, classes, music, foods, and so forth.
            – New kinds of jobs and careers are emerging that didn’t even exist a generation ago, and we may expect that this trend will continue and that our children will be doing types of work that we cannot even conceive of today.
             – The future is less bright as we are all faced with challenges of unintended consequences of pollution, species loss, resource exhaustion, overpopulation, ecological degradation, global warming, and so forth.
             – Our world is disrupted by those who challenge traditional social role definitions. We are led to doubt what should be our culture’s appropriate expectations about gender, sexuality, religion, authority, education, and other categories.
             – We are challenged also to cope with the advantages and disadvantages of the exponential growth of the internet, other kinds of communications, and distributed (virtual) social networks nationally and internationally via the internet and its “social media” forms of YouTube, FaceBook, Second Life, multi-user video games, ubiquitous cellphone text-messaging, and so forth.

            As a result of all these shifts, the major traditional sources of the sense of belonging have been significantly  weakened:
            – roots in one’s neighborhood
            – roots with one’s extended family
            – roots with clubs, schoolmates, friends at church, community events
            – roots in affiliation with an ethnic group, special sub-culture, music, food, rituals, history
            – roots in knowing what one wanted to be, to become, expected vocation, social role
            – roots in a positive future, a feeling that things were going to be better for everyone

2.         Active Belongingness (Participant)

            Mark 5:25-34  Woman in the Crowd

            25A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and had endured much at the hands of many physicians,     and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse-- after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind Him and touched His cloak. For she thought, "If I just touch His garments, I will  get well." Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her    affliction.

            Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power proceeding from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, "Who touched My garments?" And His disciples said to Him, "You see the crowd pressing in on You,   and You say, 'Who touched Me?'" And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.

            But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.

Active Belongingness Has Buy-In


            -This Woman Made a Commitment

                        Despite the law that mandated she stay in doors

                        Despite the public opinion of her being on the streets

                        Despite the lack of or or possible outcome

                        Despitie possible rejection

            -This Woman Knew What it Would take

            -This Woman Understood the Consequences of Her Decision

            -It was Surrender or Die in confinement….in her home

Active Belongingness Touches

            The term “stroke” was coined by Dr. Eric Berne, a psychiatrist who in the 1960s developed the theory and method of Transactional Analysis. He used it in his best-selling book, Games People Play. Berne meant a stroke in the sense of the nonverbal equivalent of a pat on the shoulder, and could consist of an appreciative glance, a gesture of recognition, a kind or encouraging word. Strokes can be subtle, the little and even unconscious signals exchanged among people that make for the sense of community—murmurs of approval, nods, smiles, and the    like. Dan Goleman’s 2006 book, Social Intelligence, expresses a heightened appreciation of this pervasive dynamic

            Thus, as believers in a world lacking touch, stroke, emotional connection we have the privilege to actively touch. Connect. Let go into other peoples lives. No fear!

            Many years ago a Pastor, Dr. Gene Getz was so convinced of this he began teaching on what  he called the “One-Another Principle”. Applying the “one another passages in Scripture” he began to see change in his congregation. Love one another, serve one another, encourage    one another, help on another….. etc… Psychologically, his church began to touch…They were applying this thought of “stroking” one another.

Active Belongingness Pays Attention

            “An Angel Among Us”

            1.         You never know what is going on in the mind of that man or woman who appears in your life for no apparent reason.

            2.         Nothing in this life happens by accident. Ephesians 1:11

                        “…also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

            3.         You never know...

                                                “Let love of the brethren continue.  2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”   Hebrews 13:1-3

Lets STOP for a Second!!  Don’t Buy It!

10 WAYS TO AVOID Belongingness/Community WITHIN THE CHURCH

Adam J. Walker

  1. Keep conversations short.
    You are busy, you have a lot to deal with in your life, if you talk to someone you might get close to them and that takes time and energy that you don’t have. Just keep it short and sweet, don’t bother talking about anything more than the weather. If you don’t know a person is hurting, then you don’t have to do anything about it.
  2. Always sit in your “assigned” seat
    By always sitting in the same seat you always sit around the same people. These folks know the deal, and stick to the appropriate 30 second conversations: weather, sports, how the new preacher is doing, etc. Also, this keeps you from having to venture out, meet new people, and possibly sit next to someone you aren’t familiar with.
  3. Avoid new people
    It’s one thing to deal with all the people that you already know at church, but it’s another to actually meet new people. Seriously, you aren’t good with names, you don’t have the time, or the energy, so just walk right past anyone you don’t know. After all, they won’t notice that you totally avoided them.
  4. Come in late
    Don’t overlook the beauty of this one. By coming in late you totally avoid even the 30 second conversations. And (bonus), you avoid the new people! It just makes life easier.
  5. Leave immediately after the service (or early)
    This has the same benefits as coming in late, with the added benefit of getting on the road more quickly to beat those other churches to eat. This way you get out of that crowded church building so that you can go sit with your people and eat a meal. If you add this method with the coming in late method you could go to a church for years and never meet anyone.
  6. Be physically present but mentally absent
    When talking to someone, pretend to listen by nodding your head and saying “uh huh” while you are really thinking about what show comes on TV later that night. Basically, just don’t engage anyone on any level. After all, you’re just there to put in your “time” and then get on with your life.
  7. Don’t share a meal
    If you goal is to avoid community, this step is of the utmost importance, don’t ask people to lunch! Sharing a meal is an intimate thing that creates deeper relationships. So, when someone asks you to lunch fake a stomach ulcer or something, just get out of it.
  8. Stay very, very busy
    The busier you are, especially on a Sunday, the less time you have to “deal” with people. In fact, attempt to be so busy that when speaking to someone you never even stop walking past them as you say hello.
  9. Make your default response “everything is great”
    People will always ask how you are doing. Make sure that you have your “default” answer ready so that when they ask you are ready to say, “everything is great!” This must be your default response, otherwise you might actually let on that your life is not perfect, or worse, that you are struggling. This colossal mistake could lead to deeper conversation and deeper relationship. If you are going to really avoid community while in church, this is probably your best weapon.
  10. Don’t show up
    This is definitively your best method of avoiding community overall because there is no community where there are no people.


I am convinced that in order for one to experience a Sense of Belonging

that one must actively participate in it!! 

  Active Belongingness Produces Purpose and Meaningfulnes

            17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.   Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of  reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,   as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

In the next hour someone in this city will make a decision… stirred by the Holy Spirit of God…. They will get into their car… drive 1,5,20 perhaps a hundred miles to a church… they will sit in their car for 10-20 minutes perhaps even longer to make the decision to walk in… they will hope for rain, they will hope for a phone call inviting them away, they will think of all the excuses… then they will walk into the church…

What will they meet? Who will they meet? People guided by personal interest (passive belonging) or people like you…

            Actively participating and have bought in…

            Actively living out their purpose…

            Actively ready to respond…

            Actively ready to touch…

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away (aliens, separated, solo, alone) have been brought near (by the blood of Christ.) For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility”.

How will God use you today?

Lets Pray!!!