The Move Away from Binging
Binging creates a shot of excitement, but it lacks sustained anticipation. I may have time to watch the entire a season of a Netflix show the day it releases, but you may have a work project or a kid’s birthday party. You may not be able to watch it all for another week or several months.
Anticipation can build for such a show, but only once and then it’s done. Maybe the show gets a second season but that’s it. Meanwhile, anticipation grows each week with shows like WandaVision as different layers are revealed and we all experience them together more or less.
Even Netflix, which popularized the binging format, is modifying its strategy with the next season of Stranger Things, perhaps their most popular series. The sci-fi horror show set in the 1980s will have nine episodes split into two volumes that will be released five weeks apart. Netflix is hoping to capitalize on weeks of speculation and anticipation between the two release dates.
The other aspect missing from binging is collective enjoyment. Every day people share their Wordle scores as their friends are working on the same word. After solving it, people can discuss the perceived ease of the word and compare the number of tries to get the correct answer.
The week in between new releases of a show on Disney+ is filled with episode breakdowns and discussions between friends about their latest theory. Viewers can share those moments in ways that simply cannot happen with binging shows. The shared nature of the experience allows communities to grow and flourish around the show.
Anticipation and Collective Enjoyment in the Church
Anticipation and collective enjoyment are sought after from a cultural perspective, but they are inherent in what it means to be the church. The very existence of the body of Christ features these two components.
Jesus, recognizing how these two play a role in uniting a group of people, instituted the Lord’s supper as a means of bringing His church together through anticipation and collective enjoyment. We gather as the body of Christ around the elements to remember, yes, but also to anticipate — and we do so together.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26, as Paul is laying out the instructions for taking the Lord’s supper, he writes: “For whenever you [plural] eat this bread and drink this cup, you [plural] proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (emphasis mine). Jesus also connected the meal with His second coming. “But I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you [plural] in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29 CSB, emphasis mine).
In John 17, his final prayer before being arrested, Jesus expressed His desire for the unity of believers. He asks His Father to make all those who believe in Christ through the message of the disciples one, but not merely one. His prayer is that we are one as the Father and the Son are one. The unity of the church is to reflect the unity within the Godhead.
Furthermore, the purpose of the unity is to serve as a witness to the watching world. Jesus asks that those who believe in Him would be one because then the world will know that the Father sent Him and loves them even as the Father loves the Son. The unity of the church is evangelistic and apologetic in nature. As we work and love together, we demonstrate to those around us that God sent Jesus and God loves them.
Longing for Community
Anticipation and collective enjoyment help to foster community. People long to participate in such things, whether it’s through a word game, a TV show, or something much more substantial like the local church. As we observe or participate everyday acts that elicit those feelings in us, we should reflect on what they’re designed to do for us—bring people together. Word puzzle fans can jointly appreciate Wordle and comic book show fans can find community in their shared weekly experiences. How much more so should those of us who claim the name of Christ and regularly partake in the Lord’s Supper be united through our anticipation of His return and our shared enjoyment of His meal? Jesus promised that our unity would be a witness to the world. The world continues to show they long to be a part of such communities. The only question that remains is whether the church will display such unity and draw others into the body of Christ.
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