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Does the LEGO theory block fellowship?

Are people like LEGO blocks, possessing only so many pegs or connecting points with which to form relationships with others? Like the popular building toy pieces, do some people have more connective capabilities than others? And what happens when those contact points are all filled?

That’s the LEGO theory of fellowship and community.

The LEGO theory apparently originated with Larry Osborne’s 2008 book, titled Sticky Church - Leadership Network Innovation Series (Zondervan). In this volume, aimed at church leaders, Osborne discussed ways to build churches by welcoming newcomers without losing old-timers. The idea is to keep growing veteran congregants, while making room for new folks as well.

But something in the tenth chapter of Osborne's book has been bandied about by plenty of Christians lately. Maybe you've heard it. Such discussions may take his explanation out of context, but they surely can raise intriguing questions about fellowship and community.

“We all have a limited number of connectors,” Osborne wrote (see pp. 79-80).

“Introverts have a few. Some extroverts have dozens. But either way, once they’re full, they’re full. And when that happens, we tend to be friendly but to not connect. It’s what happens when you move to a new town and are excited by everyone’s friendliness, only to be discouraged three months later that you haven’t connected with anyone.”

Sorry, but I gotta say it. This concept bothers me a bit.

Over the years, my family has belonged to more than a few churches. We’re not exactly church hoppers, but we have moved around geographically every decade or so for career-related reasons. Suffice it to say, we have been church newcomers once in a while.

We’ve been in congregations that welcomed us warmly and immediately, and we’ve been in churches where we felt like newcomers (Read: “square pegs.”) for many years.

I’m starting to believe in the LEGO theory. At least, I have seen it in action.

About a year ago, we began attending a new church. We became members more than six months ago. And we hardly know anyone yet, although we scarcely miss a Sunday and have participated in some extra classes and activities.

We went to a newcomer dinner, hosted by a very sweet couple, and were introduced to some lovely families. One of the guys there surprised me by outlining the LEGO theory, claiming his LEGO pegs were already overloaded and that he had no room left for new connections.

 I’d never heard of the LEGO theory until that evening. Frankly, I was stunned.

Can you just see Jesus, holding out one hand and shooing someone away?

“Sorry, my LEGO connectors are all taken. I’m at full capacity. Go build community with someone else.”

Nope, me neither.

I joined an eight-week summer Bible study at the church and met a few folks, but I have not seen them since. Maybe we attend different Sunday services than they do.

We signed up for the church’s small group ministry last spring, and we’re waiting for the new groups to form. In the meantime, shall we point to the LEGO theory for our slow start at becoming integrated into the church community?

I’ve been accused of plenty, but never of being shy or withdrawn.

So this LEGO thing baffles me a bit, especially in a church with a reputation for friendliness and community outreach.

I like to think my own LEGO has lots of connecting points, as I genuinely enjoy interacting and forming friendships with tons of people. But, in our new church home, my LEGO is looking a little left out, with lots of empty pegs.

Maybe that’s OK for now.

Outside of church, my LEGO connectors are fully loaded. But I am willing to make room, as the Lord brings new people into my life.

Does the LEGO theory hold together, or is it merely a means of justifying cliques in church?

Maybe the LEGO thing offers an accurate description – at least, in some congregations. Perhaps some people really do only possess the capacity to sustain a limited number of friendships.

And maybe that’s not what Osborne meant. But we’ve surely heard his example used that way.

I gotta believe Jesus can break through those kinds of boundaries and restrictions. What can today’s churches do – to nurture existing relationships, while making room for outreach and welcome?

Pass me another LEGO block or two, would you?

Welcome and receive [to your hearts] one another, then, even as Christ has welcomed and received you, for the glory of God.
(Romans 15:7, Amplified)

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For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Protestant versions of the Lord’s Prayer include this portion. Catholic versions generally do not. This final line is known as a doxology, offering a final word of praise to God.

The inclusion feels fitting.

Together with the worshipful opening of the prayer, this final line focuses appropriately on God. Much of the Lord’s Prayer concentrates on presenting human needs to the Almighty. But this conclusion returns the attention to the One to whom we pray.

May all eternal praise be His alone.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV)

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17, NKJV)

 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. (Jude 24-25, NLT)

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13b, NIV)

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But deliver us from evil.

Headlines holler about horrific crimes, terrible injustices, and religious persecution in many parts of the world. Clearly, evil still rears its angry head around the earth.

Perils are plenty. But prayer is powerful. Rather, the One who hears our prayer is all-powerful.

Do we dare danger? Do we stand and sneer at sinister sorts? Or do we take every fear, doubt, and terror to the One who holds the future?

Pat answers don’t work. But God still listens and answers. He still holds our lives in His holy hands. And He calls us to carry our concerns to Him.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?

(Psalm 27:1, NLT)

In You, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed.
In Your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a rock of habitation to which I may continually come;
You have given commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.
Rescue me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the grasp of the wrongdoer and ruthless man,
For You are my hope;
O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
(Psalm 71:1-5, NASB)

What should we say then? Since God is on our side, who can be against us? God did not spare his own Son. He gave him up for us all. Then won’t he also freely give us everything else? (Romans 8:31-32, NIrV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

(Ephesians 6:12-13, NIV)

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7, NIV)

Sometimes I wish the trumpets would sound right away, heralding the end of the age and the calling of believers to meet the Lord in glory. What a day that will be, beyond all our imaginings.

Still, at the same time, I want to beg the Lord for a bit more time, so those we love can turn to Him as well.

Deliver us from evil, Lord. Deliver us ALL.

Draw us out of ourselves and into Your ever-strong arms of mercy. Pluck those we love from the clutches of evil in all its forms: addiction, deceit, greed, hatred, lust, pride, rage, revenge, and more.

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And lead us not into temptation.

We seem to pray for God’s protection pretty often. We holler for help when we are afraid of sudden dangers, worried about possible dangers, or stressing about horrors that may or may not happen to us.
  • What if a driver pulls out in front of us suddenly – or slams on the breaks without warning?
  • Maybe we pray when we wait for medical test results, identifying or ruling out a scary disease.
  • How about if a teen doesn’t show up at the appointed curfew, late at night?
  • We might ask for God’s help, if a noisy dog runs across the path, while we’re out walking alone.

Certainly, we pray for divine assistance when we find ourselves in a scary area of town, surrounded by sinister looking strangers.

But what about temptation?

Do we ever forget how dangerous temptation can be? I know I do – all too often.

What is so dangerous about temptation?

For anyone seeking to follow Christ and live under God’s blessing, isn’t temptation sort of like a fork in the road? Doesn’t it present us with the option of going God’s way or another?

What is the result of such a decision? And what if we miss this alarm, while we still have a chance to make another choice?

Jesus prayed, “Lead us not into temptation.”

OK, we know He did not succumb to it. But He surely knew we’d fight such battles. So He modeled the prayer.

How we need supernatural protection, strength, and power to resist temptation at every turn.

Temptations may start with things that are not inherently evil, but become harmful by overdoing. What temptations taunt you the most? What are the toughest desires to control?

Maybe it’s food overindulgence, drinking to excess, gossip, illicit sex, overspending, a chemical addiction, or something else.

He is able. We just gotta ask – and hold on for the answer. Nope, it’s never easy. But He is there.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41, NIV)

“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, NIV)

“For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18, NASB)

“This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:14, NLT)

Guard us, God. Lead us not into temptation, and keep us safe when we wander too close to the edge on our own.

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