It was a time of simplicity. It was a time where real friendships were forged, the kind of friendships that lasted a lifetime. Going from memory, video consoles and games were in its infancy. During the summer months when school was out we would play several football games in the empty lot behind one of the apartment complexes. (This was a dirt lot and served as our artificial turf. The enclosed church yard, lush green grass, served as our neutral field when other streets challenged us to a game.). Not quite sure why or how it came about, but the church leaders never scolded us for using their field! We on occasion helped keep it clean and well manicured.
My minds eye recalls all of the block parties and birthday parties we all shared growing up. Kids of all ages running around and parents gleefully looking on. Hmm!! I can still smell some of the food and hear the hearty laughter as life seemed to be at its best. Comparing those days, no, years to today and I say to myself, "were we living in a bubble?" Everybody knew everybody. Parents, grandparents, cousins, brothers, etc. There were no strangers living within a mile of our little community.
Many a nights were spent sitting on porches and enjoying one another's company. We spoke of ambitions and dreams, fears and failures. Yet, I can only recall very few sad times. Life did present difficulties for the many families and still we carried on.
Eventually, one by one some of the older kids graduated high school and either went off to college, joined the military or startng working full-time. Rights of passage into adulthood. Now the younger kids like myself were the ones being looked up to by those who came into being later. We became the examples and guardians of a future generation.
We all lived life day-to-day. As children we did not have a true understanding of what it took for our parents to make all of this possible! No way!!! Whenever a need came up whether it be babysitting, transportation or financial, an emergency or a death we all rallied to help one of our own.
Looking back I can recall how the early church (Acts 2:42-47) and its members sold their possessions and goods to help out others members within their community who had a need.
"Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common and sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone who had a need. Continuing daily in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people."
That is what I miss the most between 'generation then' and 'generation now'. I miss knowing who my neighbors are and watching our two families become one. Community nowadays is just a name on a building or bank. Society today is at a disadvantage because they have no sense of community. The only commonality amongst people today is the town they live in. The early church had it right because it says "they had all things in common."
After while we too moved away and I began too feel a great loss because of my friends (family) I was leaving behind. Will things be the same? Will I meet and come to know people like the ones I grew up with? Will we have anything in common? I can answer yes to all of those questions. More importantly the people from my new community met some of the people from my first community and we essentially formed our own town. NOT!!!!
Once again back to the early church. Because of persecution they had to leave their present community and start over in other towns and cities. In doing this the gospel message was brought to many people who would not have heard it otherwise, therefore uniting the communities through Jesus Christ. My family was not forced to move because of persecution, however, the two communities I was a part became united by my family and I. My new grammar school played my old grammar school in basketball quite often and many more friendships were formed. Who would have thought that? Certainly not me.
This is what Jesus meant when He told the apostles in Mark 16 "go out into all the world..."
The "Community" is still alive, but only as the people within that community "go out and invite others to become a part of the community."
What if the early church had refused to go out and share the gospel? Might the message died there? I'm not sure. However, there would not have been much growth associated with that particular community. If we are not extending ourselves then as born again followers of Jesus Christ then we cannot grow and we will wilt and die.
If that happens then what will happen to the community, or the body of Christ?