Community Is... - Acts 2:44-46 - Nate Heitzig
Spirit Hacks, Tips and Tools for Mastering Your Spiritual Life.
First weekend of the new year-- who made a New Year's resolution this year? How many of you did that New Year's resolution have to do with the gym? OK. How many of you did it have to do with eating better, eating right, eating better foods?
How about something with learning? Do you want to read more books or-- OK, there we go. How about spirit? Did you want to make some spiritual New Year's resolutions to read your Bible, to evangelize, to pray?
And we've got-- you've made a lot of New Year's resolutions over here, the Zemke's. I love it. You guys had your hand up for each one. Come on. It's going to be-- 2019 is going to be a good year.
Well, I think New Year's resolutions are important. Because I think it gives us a goal to shoot for and I think goals are important. But one of the things that I've discovered, one of the difficulties of New Year's resolutions is a lot of people make these promises. And they're a big what?
And they say I'm going to do this. And they have this huge "what" they want to accomplish. But very few people attached to the "what" a "why."
So they say, well, I want to eat better. But they don't really clarify why they want to eat better-- for their health, or for the understanding of their body, or what that's going to do for their body. Or they want to go to the gym, and they have this "what"-- I want to look good. But they don't have the "why" behind it.
And so a lot of times when we have a "what" without a "why", what can happen is it can all of a sudden become very unimportant for us to maintain the "what." Because there's no "why" pushing us ahead, pushing us forward. I think we always need to start with why when we come into these kind of goals and these resolutions.
And that's what this new series we're in, Spirit Hacks, is all about. It's taking this "what", these important things that we all know we need to do and attaching a "why" to it, a "why" it's important for us to do it-- so that we can be better equipped to live the life that God intended for us to live. This morning we're going to be in Acts Chapter 2, verses 44 to 46 for the first message in this series called Community Is.
Now the other day I was sitting, thinking. And I was reminded of a very cold truth. And that is simply this-- adulting is hard. Can I get an amen? Adulting is hard.
It is difficult to be an adult. Do you ever wake up and just wish you could be a little kid again? Wish that somebody would pick out your clothes for you in the morning? Wishing that when you got out of bed, breakfast was already made for you?
Wishing that you could just get driven to school or to work? And that when you got out at a normal time of 3 o'clock every day, you would just come home and play video games and watch TV, and you could get tucked in at night, and a story read to you, and reminded to brush your teeth?
Adulting is hard. It's hard to be an adult. There's a lot of responsibility that comes with being an adult. Cooking, cleaning, taking care of homes and pets, paying bills and parenting babies, working full time jobs-- every day you wake up there are things you have to accomplish. There's things you have to do simply to live life. Simply to be a respectable member of society, there are things you must do.
And if we're honest, at times these tasks can seem difficult and mundane. But, luckily for us, there's a number of tricks, shortcuts, and skills that can make these everyday activities of cooking, cleaning, parenting, working-- that can make these activities easier and can actually increase efficiency. And our society calls these things life hacks-- life hacks.
And I did a little research online. And I found a few of my favorite life hacks. You can actually try these at home, and they might actually help you live life a little bit better.
One of the life hacks that I found is that if you're having a difficult time finding time to iron your clothes, instead of ironing, simply take one or two pieces of wrinkled clothing, throw it in the dryer with a few ice cubes, and turn it on high. And the water will evaporate, and it will naturally take the wrinkles out of your clothes. You don't have to iron your clothes. That's a life hack.
Another one-- has anyone ever dropped a glass and had broken glass end up all over your kitchen? That's never happened to anybody? Am I the only one who's that clumsy? Apparently.
Well, it's always easy to pick up the big pieces, right? But it's the small, microscopic pieces that, if you're like me, always seem to find their way into the feet of your children. I don't know what it is. It's like they're magnets to it.
Well, a life hack, in order to get rid of these small, microscopic pieces of glass is to simply take a piece of bread, put a little bit of water on it so it's damp, and then press the bread on the ground where the glass is broken. And the bread will naturally absorb and suck up those pieces of glass. It's another life hack.
Another great one is in order to clean and prevent mirrors from fogging, use shaving cream to clean your mirrors. I know it sounds crazy. But shaving cream will not only clean your mirror and get rid of the streaks, but it will prevent it from fogging up in the future when you take a shower. Sounds nuts, but you can try it.
Another one is to clean your microwave-- instead of scrubbing it, simply take a lemon, squeeze the juice of a lemon into half a cup of water, put it in the microwave, turn it on high. And as the juice and the water mixture evaporates into the microwave, it will clean your microwave and make it smell pretty good, as well. These are some life hacks.
I also found a website that has a number of life hack memes. And I wanted to share a few with you, because I think that they're actually pretty incredible. Number one, use a clean dustpan to fill a container that doesn't fit in the sink.
Come on! Isn't that a great idea? Has anyone ever had that issue? Where you're trying to fill a bucket or a container with water and it doesn't work? Well, use a dustpan.
Another one-- need an inexpensive cookbook holder? Try a pants hanger. [LAUGHTER] I mean, come on! Isn't that great?
Let's see if we've got another one. Put pancake mix in a ketchup bottle for a no mess experience. This is going to make Saturday morning so much better, isn't it, dads? It gets messy. But this is a great life hack to make it a bit easier.
Another one-- use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a barbecue. Not only is it convenient, but it also is going to help you cut down on dishwashing. Another great life hack, right?
Let's see what we have next. I love this one. Use a hanging shoe rack to store cleaning supplies and keep them away from the kids. Anyone have a full cabinet underneath your sink, and you don't know where to put more cleaning supplies? Well, there is an easy life hack for you to clean up some space.
Life hacks take things in life that are hard and find a way to make them a little bit easier. Once I was thinking about this principle, I realized that, at times in life, just how adulting can be hard, Christianing can be hard. Right? It can be hard to live the spiritual life that God intended for us to live.
It can be hard to walk with God. It can be hard to persevere in the world that we live in. Walking with God can be difficult. Every day in our spiritual lives there are things that we must do in order to be growing. There's things we must accomplish, things we must be practicing if we want our relationship with God to grow to its fullest.
And at times, walking with God can seem difficult. And if we're not intentional, even mundane. But, just like life hacks which make living life easier, there's things given to us within scripture, things that men and women have put into practice for centuries that, if done on a regular basis, you're going to see your relationship with the Lord not just grow by a few ticks, but grow incredibly larger than you could ever imagine, grow by leaps and bounds. You're going to see your relationship with God become easier and more fulfilling.
And these disciplines and these practices, as we're going to see throughout this series, really are the keys to spiritual growth. In this series, we're calling these things Spirit Hacks. And they include spending a little bit of time each and every day reading your Bible, being intentional with prayer, and communicating to God on a regular basis, telling friends, family, and strangers about what Jesus Christ has done in your life and evangelizing, honoring God with what he's giving you and giving back to him through your tithes and offerings.
And our topic this weekend-- investing in community by spending time with other believers. We live in a day and age here in America where I believe we've never been more divided or disjointed than we are right now. Rather than as a nation celebrating what we have in common, we tend to emphasize that which separates us. We tend to focus on politics or race or economy or gender. And we focus on the things that separate us rather than what unite us.
I don't know that we have ever been more divided in our country than in this day and age. Families are falling apart like never before. And as the divorce rate continues to rise, the most basic place that we are to find community, belonging, and a safe place is quickly vanishing for many children. And so since kids no longer have a safe place, since we can no longer find our identity or our belonging in the family unit, we're turning to other things. We're turning to college, or we're turning to social media, or we're turning to hobbies, or these different things that we believe we're going to find belonging in.
People are looking for a place to belong, a community where they can feel safe, a family that they can belong to, a place to genuinely love and be loved. And at its core, that's exactly what the church is supposed to be. The church is supposed to be a place where people can come and feel safe, a place where people can come and feel like they belong, a family they can belong to, a place to come and genuinely love and be loved.
That is what the church is supposed to be. The church, at its core, is a community. Now this word community is a word that's thrown around a lot today.
A lot of people say, well I just want to be a part of a community. I want to build community. We need to experience more community. And I don't think a lot of people really understand what it means.
So today we're going to look at our text, and we're going to discover what community is-- what it is. And as we look in Acts chapter 2, verse 44 through 46, we're going to see that community is a three-sided stone, if you will. It's got different facets and different sides. And as the love and the light of Christ shines through this prism of community, it shines in different ways to show its full brilliance.
And I would actually argue and say that community is all three of these things put together. It's not one or the other. And I would say that unless we have all three of these things in unison within our lives as believers, we're not going to experience community the way that God intended it. We're not going to see the brilliance of community unless all three of these things are present within our life.
And so we're going to see three things this morning that community is. The first thing that we're going to see is that community is life together. Let's read Acts chapter 2 verse 44 together.
"Now all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all as anyone had need."
Right here in Acts 2:44, we see the first reality it says, "and all who believed were together." They lived life together. And it continues on, and it says "and they had all things in common."
The word "in common" here, in the Greek, is a word koinonia. And this word koinonia literally means fellowship, communion, distribution, contribution, and partnership. And what the church did in having all things in common was they implemented this koinonia principle.
Now this principle is important. When the early church started here in Acts chapter 2, they had to implement this principle in a very real and practical way. They had to live in a communal mindset, because their survival necessitated it.
The early church was so persecuted that people in the cities that the early church existed in wouldn't do trade, wouldn't do business with those who called themselves Christians. And so the early church, the only way it could survive was by sharing what it had with one another, by living in a communal mindset, by selling their goods, their possessions, by taking care of one another. In all likelihood, the church wouldn't have survived that first century if it wouldn't have been for this communal mindset.
Now although the communal mindset has vanished, and we no longer need to sell all of our possessions and goods in order to take care of one another, the principle still applies. And the principle is this. God's people take care of each other.
God's people take care of each other. The early church looked out for one another. See, God has a unique plan for his church in this world today. Paul tells us in Romans 1:6 that we as Christians are the "called of Jesus Christ."
Now what does this mean? Well, to begin with, it means that God's people have been called out of something and into something else. The Greek word for church is the word "ecclesia." And this word "ecclesia" comes from the Greek verb meaning to call out.
And that is to say that God's people, the church, are called out of this world system that is hostile to God. But God's people aren't only called out-- we are called together. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 16 verse 18, "I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This Bible verse is a verse that's incredible. This promise of God that He-- He is going to build his church. He is going to build his church and not even hell can prevail against it.
It's an incredible promise. But it's a promise often misrepresented and misquoted by a lot of pastors and preachers. A lot of people think that this is speaking of a certain denomination, or a certain church or a building. But that is not what this passage is speaking of.
The word for a church here is also the word "ecclesia" that I said before. But here, in Matthew chapter 16 verse 18, the word "ecclesia" means gathering-- gathering. That is to say, we, as the church, are to be a gathering of people.
The word for hell here in Matthew 16:18 is the word "Hades." And the literal translation for the word "Hades" is death. So the full understanding of this passage is Jesus is saying, I will build my gathering and not even death can stop it.
Now pause for a moment and think about how true that is. Because if we fulfill the calling of God, and we are his gathering, and we are with one another, and we are encouraging one another and we are spending time with one another, and we have this togetherness community mentality, then even when we die, we will still be together. God will build his gathering, and not even death can stop it.
Because when we die, as long as our relationship, our community, is centered around Christ, we're going to be with each other in heaven for a really, really, really long time. So get comfortable with other believers, because you're going to be with them for eternity. He is going to build his gathering, and not even death can stop it.
The church that Jesus promises to build isn't a denomination or a building. The church that Jesus promises to build is you and I. And as long as we remain together and unified in love for one another, not even death can stop us.
We need to understand-- the future of the church, the future of you and I, hangs on our willingness to be one and to be united. The way that we build his gathering is through unity and community. It is through living life together.
Again, in Acts 2:44 we read, "now all who believed were together." I want to point that out because the text says all who believe were together-- not some who believe were together, or part of those who believed were together. But it says all, everyone who believed was together.
When I say everyone or all, who does that imply? All-- if I say everyone, if you're part of everyone in this room, raise your hand right now. There we go. Come on. We're getting this.
Everyone means everyone. All means all. And the principle is this-- the early church's identity as believers was visible by their proximity to one another, their identity as believers. Their identity as followers of Christ was demonstrated by their proximity to each other. That is to say that if you were isolated, if you isolated yourself, you were not one of them.
But if you were a believer, you were together. You were together. You spent time together.
You worshipped and prayed together. You studied the scripture together. You ate together. You gave your tithes and offerings together. You shared the gospel together.
This understanding is further clarified when Jesus said the world will know you are my disciples by your love for one another. He doesn't say the world will know you're my disciples by the cross you wear around your neck, or by the fish you put on the back of your car, or by the books you carry around, or by the Bible verses that you have memorized, or by the incredible theology that you've studied up on so that you can destroy anybody who disagrees with you. The world will know you're my disciple by your love for one another.
Understand this, church, your identity as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ is visible by your love for other believers. Togetherness, gathering mentality, unity, and community-- your identity as a believer in Christ is based on your love for the person next to you, the person in front of you, the person behind of you, the person who cut you off as you pulled into the parking lot this morning, the person at another church in town who completely disagrees with your understanding of the book of Romans. Your identity as a believer in Christ is based on your love for other believers.
The way that we build the gathering is by love. I want you to imagine for a second a world where people were skeptical about what you believed. And you said, wait a second. That's this world.
People think we're crazy, right? People hear that we believe everything written in a book that was written over 2,000 years ago. They hear that we believe in the Bible.
They think we're uneducated. They think we're crazy. They think we believe in myths. They're skeptical about our beliefs.
But don't stop there. Imagine a world where people were skeptical about what you believed, but envious about how well you loved each other. If they looked at your lives, and they said, man, I don't get the Bible. I don't get Jesus.
I don't understand why they believe what they believe. They seem crazy. But the way they treat each other is so uncommon. The way they love each other is so extravagant and incredible that I can't help but wanting to be a part of it. Because it's contagious.
A world where they were skeptical of our beliefs, but they were envious of our love-- the church is the only organization that Jesus ever started. And we, at spiritual rebirth, are all made a part of this wonderful gathering of believers that Jesus himself established. Acts 20 verse 28 says that Jesus purchased the church with his own blood.
He purchased it. He owns it. He is the head of it. Not only did he start it but he promised to bless it and to maintain it.
You and I are a part of this church that Jesus purchased, heads, and protects. And you need to know that he has a purpose for each one of us individually in this great plan of his. And yet, despite that fact, tragically many churches are shrinking dramatically in number. Many churches have faced horrible and divisive splits.
Many are disillusioned by what has happened to them in church, as well. And I hear people oftentimes say, well, there's too many hypocrites at church. Who's ever heard that said? There's just too many hypocrites at church.
Some people grew up in the church, spent a lot of time in the church. But some Christian hurt them or did something to them that caused them to hate the church and want to run from the church. And although we as a church are supposed to be marked by love, we're human. And we fail, and we mess up, and we end up hurting each other. And we end up wronging each other.
And oftentimes, the church isn't known by its love. But we're known by our hate. We're known by what we're against rather than by what we're for. We're known by hurting one another.
When a new person walks through the door, instead of being greeted with love, with affection, with a warm hug, with understanding, with grace, oftentimes we greet them with sideways glances, with dirty looks, with words whispered under our breath, with a turned shoulder, with a cold stare. Oftentimes, we're not known for our love. But we're known for the opposite.
And therefore, people decide to not be a part of church at all. And the term that people use is I've become bitter. I grew up in church, but I've become bitter. And I want to take a moment, and I want to speak to you.
If that's you, if you're here this morning and you're bitter, if you've been hurt by someone in the church, if somebody has wronged you and you're in pain, I want to take a second. I want to apologize to you. Because what you've seen in the church is not a reflection of Jesus Christ.
The church's is supposed to be a place that you can come and feel loved and cared for, a place that you can feel safe, a place that you can find belonging. A place that will speak the truth to you, but a place that, along the way to that realization of the change that needs to happen in your life, you're going to be surrounded by people who genuinely care about you and treat you well. And if that hasn't been the case for you, I want to apologize.
Because that's not what Jesus intended for the church. He loves you desperately. And so do we.
But even if you've been hurt, even if you've been mistreated, that doesn't give you an excuse for unbelief. And it doesn't give you an excuse to take God's desire for his church and relegate it to the past. Encountering an unloving believer doesn't excuse an unbelieving behavior.
It doesn't matter what you've done. And it doesn't matter what's been done for you. Jesus wants to take all of that baggage to the cross.
And here's the reality-- if people didn't come to church, then there wouldn't be any problems. The problem with church is people. Because people are sinful. People mess up. People hurt each other.
People damage each other. People say things to each other that they shouldn't say. And we can't decide when that happens that, you know what? I'm just going to avoid people now.
I'm just going to not be around people. Because again, the problem isn't the church. It's people.
If you want to not get hurt, you need to literally stay inside your room by yourself your entire life. Because the problem is people. People hurt each other. And you don't want to come to church.
Why is that? Well, because you've suddenly discovered that the church isn't made up of perfect people, but instead, of people like you and me, people who make mistakes. People who, yes-- even sin.
What did you think the church was? I've heard it said the church isn't a museum for saints. It's a hospital for sinners. And guess what? When you're in a hospital you encounter people who are sick. You encounter people who are bleeding and who need triage.
And sometimes those people bleed on you. Sometimes those people give you the sickness that they have. Because we're hurting, and we're in need of healing. If the church was for perfect people, then you wouldn't be allowed to come.
Think about that. If the church was for perfect people, then none of us could be here right now. And sometimes people try to spiritualize, and they say, well, I don't go to church because this isn't the church that God intended. This isn't what God wanted.
Guess what? This world isn't what God intended. God intended us to live in the garden in perfect unity and companionship with one another in Christ. But we messed it up. Sure, this isn't what God intended.
And it's never going to be until He returns and we go to heaven. But that doesn't take away what God has asked us to do. That doesn't take away what God desires for our lives. And if your theology separates you from people like you, you've got some work to do.
I'm going to say that again. If your theology separates you from people like you, you've got some work to do. Here's the reality.
We can't all be right, but we can all be one. If it's easy, you're doing it wrong. If it's hard, you're doing it right.
I once spoke to someone who mentioned a person who no longer attended Calvary, or church, or any church for that matter. And she said, however, well, he's still walking with the Lord. He just doesn't go to church anymore.
And this leads me to our next point, and that is this-- community is life together. But number two, community is life together in the house-- in the house. Look at Acts 2:45 as it continues by saying, "so continuing daily, with one accord, in the temple." Stop there.
You need to understand that is not an option for us as believers to take or leave community in the house, community in the church. If we are true Christians, we will want to be a vital part of all that God is doing today in and through his people. Hebrews 11:25-- and the message says this, let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging the love and helping out. We already learned about that, right? Life together, loving one another, this togetherness mentality-- but it continues by saying, not avoiding worship together, as some do, but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big day approaching.
Look, you need to understand-- church doesn't have to be some kind of miserable experience. I know some people think that it needs to be. Some people think that the more angry they look in church, the happier God is with them. They're, man, if I cross my arms and look like somebody just stole my car and killed my dog, that's going to make God really, really happy with me. Because it shows God how mad I am about my sin.
And so we turn into this weird experience where it's some kind of a sadomasochistic, spiritual experience. We walk in flogging ourselves. And after church, we're, like, man, that message was rough today, huh?
Yeah, it was. We really needed that. We needed that beat down. That was good.
And we think that it needs to be painful in order to be healthy. This is one of the reasons why I often say, look, even if you were born in the church of the frozen chosen, remind your face that you're happy. Because this morning, you're at Calvary.
And it's OK to have fun in church. It's OK to be vocal. It's OK to / it's OK to shout out a preach it, white boy, whatever you got to do.
It's OK to enjoy church. It doesn't have to be miserable. As a matter of fact, it should be enjoyable. We have the joy of the Lord.
We have the joy of the Lord in us. That is joyful. That is happy. And if you can cheer and shout at a political rally, you can do it at church, because God's way more exciting than a presidential candidate.
If you can jump around and sing at a concert, at a Coldplay concert, you can jump around and sing worship songs to your Heavenly Father who died on the cross for your sins.
Church doesn't have to be miserable. And if it is, you're doing something wrong. Church should be an oasis in a hot desert, a place to be refreshed, revived, and equipped to go back into the world that we all live in. It shouldn't be a place that we dread. It should be a place we look forward to, even long for.
We should get to Friday and say, man, I can't wait to go to church this weekend. Because I need God to speak to me. I need God to do something in me. It's been a hard week.
I feel hurt. I feel alone. I need to see other Christians this week. And not just see them as we walk in the door, I need someone to call me and say, hey, how are you doing? And I need to be honest with them about the pain I'm experiencing, because I need community. I need water to be poured out upon the hard soil of my heart so that God can speak to me.
Church should be something we long for, something we desire. Psalm 122:1 says I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord. The problem, though-- I find the reason that so many of us come to church, and we look like we're miserable, and the reason so many of us don't enjoy it, and that it feels like an obligation, and the reason so many of us fold our arms and furrow our brows, like somebody just stole our car and killed our dog-- the reason, I found, that's the case for many people is because we're consumers instead of a congregation.
See the New Testament doesn't know anything of the trend among many today to shop for a church as though they were shopping for some new supermarket to get nourishment from. Where one is on a quest to become more spiritual, more fed, wanting nothing to do with anyone else. I read that baby boomers expect three things in a church. And again, I want to point out-- I'm not saying this is true of all baby boomers. This is one study.
Please don't send me an email. I don't really read them anyway. So just save yourself the time. But it said that baby boomers expect three things in a church-- good music, social groups, and big meeting rooms. Now-- well, that can be the initial attractor for some to church.
What about the teaching of the word? What about worship? What about service and evangelism? Many people sample churches at the same rate that they sample soft drinks. And the moment they feel a little bit uncomfortable or challenged, they leave.
And a church will be built from the ground up just for your tastes and your wants. And so we hear all the time of churches that target and get built up because of an individual's taste. You have a biker church, a skater church, a heavy metal church, a cowboy church. And the slogan of one of America's fast food chains was alive and well in many churches today, and that is-- have it your way.
Have it your way. If you don't like the way things are going, just complain. If they refuse to change, go to another church that will do things the way that you want it to be done. Have it your way, because you are a consumer. And so we have a group of people who are consumers instead of servants, consuming instead of communing, spectators instead of participators, customers instead of disciples. And you better believe that our McChurches are producing McChristians.
And one of the beauties of the church, one of the incredible, wondrous truths of the church is our diversity. And when we get to this place where I feel like we all have to have the exact same tastes and desires and wants, we're missing what makes the church so incredible in the first place. It is our diversity-- different ages, cultures, tastes, races-- all with the most important things in common, Jesus Christ-- not snowboarding or cars or music or age, but Jesus Christ.
Here at Calvary, we have a huge emphasis on small group community. We call it connect groups. And I love that we have connect groups that speak to people in a unique stage of life. We have connect groups that are specifically for married couples, or connect groups that are specifically for parents with young children, or connect groups that are for empty nesters.
And I love that, because I think there is benefit. And there is need for us to find people that are walking through the stage of life that we're walking through and find unity and commonality and community in that. But the connect groups that I'm always the most amazed with and that I love the most are those that are comprised of people from all different walks of life. College students with empty nesters, young adults with young married people, people with kids with people who have lost children-- these people who have nothing in common except the commonality of Jesus Christ.
You know why I love it? Because it's uncommon. It's uncommon. It is uncommon fellowship. It is head turning, jaw dropping, unimaginable fellowship when we find commonality in the person of Jesus.
Because it's common to spend time with people that are into the same things that you're into. It's common to spend time with people who have young kids if you have young kids, because you meet each other at school and you decide to become friends. That's common.
But uncommon fellowship is hard. Uncommon fellowship is uncommon. But if we don't get this right, it doesn't matter what we get right.
Galatians 3:26 says you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
I believe that one should find a church where God is honored and where his word is proclaimed. And that's why we're here right now, isn't it, to worship, to learn, to change to help, to use the gifts that God has given us, and to be equipped to go back out into the world as changed people representing Jesus Christ? Jesus told us that we are to go into the world and preach the gospel.
And this is one of the things that connect groups fight for. As I said before, here at Calvary we place a huge emphasis on small group community. We call them connect groups. But we place a huge emphasis on this, this is so important to us for a reason.
You probably hear us talk about this all the time. We mention it every weekend. Maybe you're so sick and tired of hearing us talk about connect groups. And you're, like, stop asking me. I'm not going to go.
Stop. Stop telling me about connect groups. I don't care how great they are. I don't want to try it.
The reason we talk about it so much, the reason we emphasize it so much is because it's important. Because it takes what we have heard, and it gives us an opportunity to apply it, and it allows it to change us. Small group community turns us back from spectators into participators.
We're no longer just consuming. We are now communing. We aren't just creating customers, but we are developing disciples.
Your interaction with believers shouldn't only come once or twice a week when you come to church. Your interaction with believers should happen as you live life with them on a daily basis in homes, in restaurants, together, doing things with one another, from house to house.
And that's because community is life together in the house, and our third point, and our final point-- in your house, in your house. Look at Acts 2:45 as it continues by saying, so continuing daily with one accord in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart. I've heard it said that the holiest moment of the church service is when God's people go out the doors.
And that's because attending church isn't a spectator sport. Look, it's easy to stand for Jesus in a room full of people that love him. But it's hard to do it when you walk out those doors and you're in a world that hates him.
When you go back to work and you have people that look at you skeptically, when you have people that disagree with what you believe. And not only do they disagree with it, but they persecute you for it. They treat you poorly because of it. They say things about you behind your back or maybe to your face.
And it's hard to live for Jesus in a world that hates him. So what do you need in order to survive in a world like that? You need each other. That's the answer. You need each other.
See the Bible compares the church and our involvement in the church to being in a family. And that's because you can hide in an auditorium of 2,000. But you can't hide in a living room of 10.
You can come to Calvary to the 9:45 service. And it can actually be pretty easy to avoid community and fellowship. You can come in during the first song of worship when it's dark. And you can come in and find your seat and sit down.
And you can put a Bible next to you. Not because you're saving the seat, but because you want some buffer room from having to sit next to somebody you don't know, God forbid. And then you can avoid community by getting up during the last song of worship and exiting now and not having to talk to anybody on your way to your car and going home and being by yourself again. Woo, you can breathe.
You can hide in a room of 2,000. In a church of 15,000 people, it's actually surprisingly easy to never talk to a single one of them. But you can't hide in a living room of 10 people. When you walk in the door of someone's house, they notice you.
They greet you. They say hello. When you sit down in the living room, and there is only 10 seats, and you put your Bible next to you, somebody's going to pick that Bible up and sit next to you whether you like it or not. And you can't cross your arms and look like your dog just died and your car just got stolen, because they're going to ask you what's wrong, and they're going to pray for you.
And they're going to try to encourage you. And they're going to try to help you. And they're going to try to help you experience and see growth within your life.
The Bible also compares a church to being a part of a body. See, a hand can't exist apart from the rest of the body to support it. Sure, you can amputate it, and keep it on ice. And it can survive for a few hours.
But it can't grow. It can't thrive. It can't experience and do what it was intended to do unless it's connected to a body. And a lot of believers amputate themselves from the Church.
And sure, they might survive for a few months. But look at them a year later. And see where they're at, see where their life is at. The likelihood of growth, of change, of being a part, and doing what God has intended them to do is very unlikely.
God has commanded each of us to be a functioning, vital part of the church. And everybody has a part to play, and everyone has a seat at the table. It doesn't matter how far you've fallen, how far you've gone, where you're at, you have a seat at the table.
You have a part to play. You have a calling placed upon you by God, your Heavenly Father. You have a mantle that he desires for you to take. You have a platform that he desires you to stand on.
We grow together. We live life together. We work together. This is commonality. This is unity at its best. And at its core, this is what a family does. It doesn't matter how far you've fallen.
When you're part of a family, they're always there for you. This is what a family does. This is why we talk about this church as though it's a family, as though it's a home.
We say welcome home. We say we want you to feel like family. If there's anything we can do to go above and beyond to show you love, please let us know. Look, we don't just say it because it sounds nice. We mean it.
We are to live life as though we are a family. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that every member of the body needs to participate in the life of the church. And yet, did you know that less than 18% of Christians participate in small group community? Less than 18% of Christians are doing what God has called them to do by being with one another, by being together, by experiencing community, by being a gathering. Less than 18% are actually doing it.
That means that 82% of the body is missing in action. And it's not just in the church. Community in America is broken. A recent study shows that for the average American, there's only two people that they can confide in for any meaningful conversation. Most of us don't even know our neighbors. Most of us don't even have a relationship with the people who live next door to us.
I know it's hard for us to believe that we're that disconnected, that we're that isolated from each other. Because when we look around the world, there's never been more options for connectivity than ever before. Who in here has a Facebook account? Most people do.
The average Facebook user has 314 friends and is connected to 80 community pages. But let me ask you, if that community was real, authentic, and life changing, do you think we'd have such big issues as depression and loneliness plague our lives? In 2007, one study said that by the year 2020, the second biggest health issue around the world would be depression. In 2017, the American Psychological Association announced that loneliness now represents a greater threat to public health than obesity.
We were not meant for isolation. We weren't meant to live lives disconnected from each other. As a matter of fact, we were created in the image of a God who exists through community. We were made for community. And this goes all the way back to when God first said it is not good that man is alone.
See, community isn't about us. Community is about God. Community is an instrument of worship. Community is a weapon against sin. Community is a tool for evangelism.
That's why community so important. This is why small group community exists. This is why connect groups exist here in this church-- to fulfill God's plan for his church, for his gathering. And I would suggest to you that if you really want to walk with the Lord and grow spiritually, involvement in the church is an absolute necessity.
And when I say church, I mean what Jesus meant, gathering, not just attending. Community and relationship with other believers outside of these walls is the church. See, the church is more than a service. It's people living life together, helping one another throughout our city to serve our city.
And I really believe that the church should be the most compelling expression of community within our culture today. The church should stand in contrast to the counterfeit community that the world promises us. We have Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But when was the last time you spoke honestly to someone about your struggles?
When was the last time you poured your heart out to someone without any fear of judgment? How many friends do you have that you can call at any hour and pray with and say, hey, I'm struggling. I need you to pray for me. There is nowhere that you can experience a with one another gathering atmosphere better than in a small group, in a home with other believers.
I believe that we can, and I believe that we will see lives transformed through authentic gospel-centered community. Not awkward circles, not mini-home churches or judgment groups, but through true, life giving, gospel-centered community. And community is life together in the house and your house.
Can we make a commitment this year to build one another up in the love of Christ? Can we make a commitment this year to be a gathering? Can we make a commitment to encourage one another, to stand with one another, to live life with one another, to be involved with each other's lives, to focus on love and let love and unity and community build his gathering so that not even death can stand against him. I hope we will.
Let's pray. Lord, we thank you so much for your word and the truths that are revealed in it. Lord, we pray that we will take these truths to heart, that we would become better for it, that we would find somebody, anybody, and begin to build community and relationship the way that you intended it to be.
Lord, we are known by our love for one another. Let our radical love for each other, let our unity and our proximity to one another be a visible sign to this lost and hurting world that we are followers of Jesus Christ. In Jesus' name, we pray, and everyone who agreed said, amen.
We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at mystory@Calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at Calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.