No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
– John Donne, MEDITATION XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1572-1631)
For me, January 1994 began in the bitter cold of a Chicago winter. The windchill that year would eventually hit -74 degrees by the time I decided to move to the much more temperate climate of Charlotte, NC. But the weather was just a small motivating factor in the major life decision I was about to make.
At that point in time I was about 2-½ years out of college, had some solid “real world” work experience under my belt and, in ways I couldn’t recognize, was deeply searching. Searching for something I didn’t know or understand. Searching for truth, or at least some evidence that there may actually be a “constant” in my world. Perhaps some foundation that if I drilled down far enough, may help me begin to understand the Purpose of life.
In the midst of my search, it began to be apparent that someOne was searching for me.
A couple months earlier I had woken up to thoughts that seemed to be originating from some source other than me. These thoughts left a deep impression upon me that “I needed to go to church, it was time to go to church.” It was quite a surprising consideration because I hadn’t been to church in years apart from an occasional holiday.
Later that week, again to my surprise, I found myself in an encounter with two “born again” businessmen from two different states that didn’t know each other. We had just met each other over a business opportunity. By the time the conversation was over, they both encouraged me to visit Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago-land area. It didn’t take long before I found myself attending weekly. The Truth of God’s word being communicated in those worship services began to “get all up in my business,” so to speak.
During the first few months I attended church I began to question my current status in life. I was living in Chicago with the closest family member several hours away. I had many friends that I enjoyed being with but was aware that my fun-loving lifestyle was less than healthy. My main frustration centered around the fact that even after a couple years of operating as a “grown up” I still had no clearer understanding of who I was or why I was on earth than I did when I had started college years earlier. Finally, in a phone conversation with my mother who was living in Charlotte, I began sharing my concerns about my lack of clarity surrounding my life, personally and professionally. She encouraged me to consider moving to Charlotte and re-calibrate. In response to her suggestion I heard myself say “I can’t do that.” To which she said “I know, I know, you always have to do it on your own.” Those words instantly began to haunt me. Much to my chagrin, she was right, I had somehow developed a belief system that told me I couldn’t depend on anyone or anything…I had to make it all happen myself.
I could hardly sleep that night and through the late hours I pondered my “self made man” mindset. I began to challenge my current way of thinking. Through a fog of thoughts a clear memory started to shine through. It was some poem I had studied in my Senior year of high school English class. I kept hearing one line over and over, ”No man is an island…no man is an island…no man is an island.” At the time I couldn’t remember the author of the poem or the majority of it’s words, but the writer’s intent was not escaping me…not one bit. An obvious reality began to emerge. There are billions of people on this planet. I am not alone nor am I designed to “make it” in this world apart from the help of others. Within weeks I was packed and on my way to be near family for a fresh start in Charlotte. Within a year I met Jesus Christ and began the process of surrendering to a Spirit-led life.
ELOHIM IS COMMUNITY
Years after my conversion I was in a season of fasting and prayerful pursuit. I was leaning into God with questions about why we had not yet seen the level of “promises fulfilled” that we read about in the scriptures. I knew several people in deep pursuit of God’s “fullness” but it seemed to be elusive to us all. And then, driving home one night after a prayer meeting, I received the following understanding from the Lord…
Just like the Israelites crossing over from the wilderness to the Promised Land together, we also will not cross over into the Abundant Life promised to us as “individuals”, but as a “Community” (the Body of Christ). The Kingdom of God is a team sport.
Even God’s name proclaims His priority of community…
In the beginning ELOHIM created the heavens and the earth.
Elohim is a plural form of the name of God. It implies that though God is indeed One (singular), He is also the Godhead (plural) – Father, Son & Holy Spirit – and exists in constant, eternal community. Through the use of this reference to God in the very first verse of the entire Bible we are made aware of God’s communal nature and begin to see that when we were created in His image, we were “Created as Community.”
Therefore, now that the fullness of time has come for the Christian community to function as One, let us seek the Lord together for the full revelation of His intended Community.
Matthew Fleming is the State Director for the North Carolina Christian Chamber of Commerce (NC-C3). Matthew has a strong vision for the functionality of the Christian community as believers endeavor to operate in unison. He believes alignment and co-laboring from a united reality will be the catalyst for sustained Restoration in our world. Matthew can be reached at Matthew@nc-c3.org.