What does having good Christian community have to do with changing the world? A whole lot!
Morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
The vision for this church…was birthed out in the woods.
In May of 2009, I decided to go on a prayer retreat, I rented a prayer cabin for 2 nights and 3 days
I had a lot of ideas of what Renovation Church could become before we started it…but I wanted to get it down on paper…in a way people could remember.
And it was there, in a prayer cabin, that I first wrote down, “To be a people…being changed by God…to change the world” (our vision)
But really, the desire for that vision…was birthed in me, much before that.
Do you ever read the Bible and then look at our churches in America and think, “Umm…how come we don’t look like what I’m reading in this book?”
I felt that way too.
Now, of course, every church is imperfect and has its flaws…we have many of them.
If you’re looking for the perfect church right now, this isn’t it. Sorry.
But by starting a church from scratch, we got to put a lot of effort into drawing up a vision for our church that COULD (maybe…just maybe)…actually change the world.
And this morning, we are starting a 3-week series on that vision of Renovation Church.
We want to lay out a blueprint for you on how we think God can use us, the people of Renovation, to change the world.
Now, I don’t believe that this is the only way that world-change can happen…but I believe it is indeed A way (a good way) that God can use A church to have a major impact for His Kingdom.
And I think this short, 3-week series is timely.
For one, in that we are just 3 weeks away from our largest outreach of the year…Easter.
And two, right now, we’re growing faster than we ever have before.
Over 100 of you are new just in the last 12 months.
And we want to bring you up to speed as to what we’re all about.
Our vision is this: “To be a people…being changed by God…to change the world”
Which comes from our 3 core values.
So when I started writing at that cabin in the woods 7.5 years ago, I started with the things that were on my heart that I wanted this church to REALLY value.
3 Things that would have to be on our blueprint for world change.
And they ended up being our 3 core values.
You can see them on the banners in the hallway.
And it’s out of these values that our vision was formed:
To be a people (community), being changed by God (Encountering God), to change the world (reaching people)
And so, what we’re going to do in this short series is take one week on each of those core values.
Today, I want to start with our core value of Community.
And specifically, I want to show you the relationship between community and world change.
Because this is a series…about how to change the world.
I want to show you community can actually be a catalyst (the thing that drives/creates) change.
But you’re not going to get all of the answers today.
This series is really one long message on world change, spread out into 3 separate weeks.
I think the best place to study that blueprint for world change…is the Book of Acts.
Which is the Book in the Bible that chronicles how the church got started and exponentially grew after Jesus went back to heaven.
We really get a great look in the first 6 chapters of Acts of what exponential change (particularly as it’s related to Christian community) can look like…
A MODERN-DAY PROBLEM
And we need to study that book…and its blueprint for world change
Because one of the things that’s very, very broken in the modern church in America is community-life.
Our churches have become merely large rooms where people gather together to consume something that might be of benefit to them.
This is true of the many of the large churches in America (certainly not all), but it’s also true of many of the more established churches in America.
I know just as many 50-year-old churches of 200 people where people walk in and walk out.
Sure they may know and recognize each other…but they don’t KNOW each other or SUPPORT each other any more than someone at a megachurch that doesn’t have community groups does.
Anyone remember doing “community time” growing up in church?
Where you would turn to one other and greet each other and have ‘community time’…and call it good?
That’s not what community looks like in the book of Acts either.
See, just coming to hear a message…and worship with a few songs…is not church.
Did you know, that the world “church” in the Bible never refers to a building or a place or a service.
They didn’t “go to church”…they were the church.
In the Bible, “church” ALWAYS refers to a group of people.
So “church” is not a service…it’s a people.
And if you don’t know the people, you’re not doing church.
Call it a class…or a service…or a teaching time…or a special prayer time…but it’s NOT CHURCH.
The church is a people.
And I know that’s not a typical take in America…
And I realize that’s probably not endearing me to many of you…
But if we want to do what the Bible teaches (not what other people in America are doing)…we have to see that the Bible teaches over and over again…that the church is where we are together in community
AND so, from the very beginning of this church (even at 100 people), we said that we were never going to pretend (as different as this sounds), that “THIS” is community.
You can’t know 100 people. 100 people can’t know you.
And certainly now, you can’t know 400 people.
And besides, no church ever grows beyond or reach more than 150 or 200 max when their strategy is everyone knows each other on Sunday morning and is cared for by the pastor.
You can’t have significant world change with that strategy
And personally, I don’t think I have the capacity to support more than about 5-10 people.
And that might be pushing it.
While I was doing Q&A’s for our recent land purchase…one of the most frequent questions I got asked was, “If Renovation Church grows to 800 people, won’t we lose the small community feel we have now?”
And my answer was always this: “No, we won’t.”
First of all, 400 is not a small church.
A 400-person church is larger than 95% of churches in America.
The reason it feels small to so many of you is that you know 30 people here…often really well.
And the reason you know 30 people really well is because 80% of you are in a House Group
And we hope that percentage never changes.
By the way, if you’re not familiar with what our House Groups are, they are groups of 25-30 people that meet weekly to hang out…someone shares a faith story of what God is doing, there’s a DVD teaching, and then 4-5 small groups breakout throughout the house.
And so our vision is, even at 800 people, to still have 80% of our people in a House Group.
If we don’t do that, if we just become a large church…where people just come on Sundays…we start doing something that doesn’t really look like how church is described in the Bible
COMMUNITY SUPPORTS PEOPLE
So what does it look like in the Bible?
And how does having good Christian community with each other actually lead to world change?
I want to give you a few of the ways community can lead to world change.
Here’s the first one (and it might seem counter-intuitive): Community supports people…especially when life is hard.
Now, that may not sound like something that leads to change.
That sounds more like helping people not fall away from God, not bringing people to God.
But so many of our churches in America, even the ones that appear (from the outside) to be effective are only running on about 50% firepower.
Because half of their people are falling away.
My mentor, Pastor Dave Reno of Grace Fellowship, told me last week that the average church needs to grow by 15%/year just to plateau…and be stable.
Because 15% of the people in an average church in America move away…or fall away…every single year.
At some churches, it’s significantly higher than that.
Some churches are notorious for turning over 30% of their people ever year.
And most of those people don’t just go to another church…they stop going altogether.
But what if they didn’t have to happen?
How much more of an impact could the church in America be making?
The Bible is serious about striking a balance of “YES, evangelism is so important…but so is taking care of the people you already have.”
It’s BOTH. It’s not one or the other.
And most churches just choose one or the other.
But when you just choose one, you don’t have an effective blueprint for world change
And I think one of the unique things about this church…is that we really try and do BOTH of those things well.
Sometimes other pastors will ask me, “What’s happening at Renovation? Looks like you guys are adding a lot of people”
And I often say, “I think part of it is…no one’s leaving”
It’s like Hotel California…you are stuck here.
But it’s not because of me, and it’s not because of Zach…it’s because of our community.
When you don’t know anyone at your church, it’s not that hard to leave when one day you don’t’ like the music anymore…or you don’t like the preaching.
But here… even if people determine that the preaching makes them uncomfortable…or the music’s too good … hard to walk away…because 25 of your best friends are here…and they’re here to support you and watch out for you
Too many of our churches are so focused on ONLY reaching people, that they neglect their own, thus losing half their impact towards world change.
But in the Book of Acts…the people of God aren’t just coming anonymously to hear the Disciples preach…they are TOGETHER.
You see this right from the start of the book.
Acts chapter 1 starts with the Christians …TOGETHER…listening to Jesus’ last words before he goes up to heaven.
After Jesus ascends we’re told that the new Christians are doing this:
(monthly for prayer gatherings??
(Acts 1:14) – NIV
14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
This is very different from modern-day Christianity.
If Jesus had ascended back to heaven from America in 2017..
It might have read, “And they all went back to their homes, to rest in their pajamas and listen to podcast teachings about Jesus by themselves…while waiting for the Holy Spirit”
If we really want to change the world, we have to have smaller communities where we support each other…otherwise, we’re losing half the people that can help us change the world!
I spent the last few weeks or so visiting all of our House groups.
My wife and I attend a House Group every week, but I got a chance to go out and visit the rest of them
And I witnessed, and heard about, some amazing stories of support.
I saw people open up about some pretty difficult challenges and struggles…and their group just stopped what was happening…and prayed for them.
Some of you need that in your life.
I saw people say to each other in group, “I’m going to be alone with my kids all weekend…and it’s going to be hard…like real hard”
And then watched as the other person said, “Just come over…and hang out with us!”
I heard stories of people who had started to drift away from God a bit, but their friends called them and said, “We love you…how can we help?”
I met a guy who drives from Grantsburg, Wisconsin…just to be a part of one of our groups.
COMMUNITY DISCIPLES PEOPLE
And so to make the biggest impact on the world, we have to first start with actually supporting and taking care of our people.
And we can do that through our groups.
And here’s the second way that community is actually a catalyst…community is often the best place for Christians to get discipled to look more like Jesus.
We’re going to get into this deeper next week, but let me say a few words on it now…because it’s yet another thing that I think is different about our church.
If we want to see real world change, we have to personally disciple people (be in their lives)…we can’t just amass people in a room for education.
Because life change requires application…not just the acquisition of knowledge.
Which is yet another achilles heel of our modern American culture
We have more information at our fingertips than ever before, we just aren’t so good at applying it.
It’s difficult to see a lot of change…or maturing in your faith…when you just collect knowledge from a speaker.
Now, it’s not one or the other here…you don’t have to choose from hearing from a speaker or being in community from other Christians…it’s both.
We’re told in Acts 2 that the new Christians would go, by the thousands actually, and listen to Peter and John and some of the disciples teach.
So, don’t hate on large churches.
There are some amazing large churches out there that are reaching TONS of people for Christ.
I think of North Coast Community Church…they have 10,000 people, and yet 80% of their adults are in community with each other.
And it’s a lot like the model of the New Testament.
Yes, the teaching crowds were large, but the communities…the churches (the house churches)…were around 15, 25ish people.
Because such an enormous part of our maturity in Christ…MUST happen in community!
The great writer, Eugene Peterson, says it this way:
“Love cannot exist in isolation: away from others, love bloats into pride. Grace cannot be received privately: cut off from others, it is perverted into greed. Hope cannot develop in solitude: separated from the community, it goes to seed in the form of fantasies. No gift, no virtue can develop and remain healthy apart from the community of faith. – Eugene Peterson
Without letting out people into your life to disciple you…you’re stunting your spiritual growth
I saw our communities of faith discipling people firsthand when I visited our House Groups.
I watched (a couple of times!) as brand new Christians asked questions like, “Where do I start reading in the Bible?”
And they got great advice from a small group of people who had walked that road before.
One night, I saw a guy share how he was struggling in his marriage, and then a man who had been married for longer than this guy had been alive, shared some wisdom with him.
I heard stories of women who felt compelled to seek God more in prayer, and started meeting on Monday mornings to pray
Stories of men who felt compelled to just study God’s Word more, and started meeting to do just that.
And see this is where, as it relates to world change, you have to ask yourself what in the world would Renovation Church look like if we didn’t have house groups?
There would be about half as many people here….
Most of us would be in a whole lot more pain…with a whole lot more questioning…and whole lot less mature in faith.
But, because of our community, God is changing us to look more like His son…and thus…setting us up to more effectively change the world.
IT SHINES BRIGHT
Not only does community support people and disciple people …thirdly, God always shines brighter through community.
In Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit comes down to empower them to change the world…He doesn’t do so while they’re all at their homes…growing spiritually on their own
Look at the first verse of Acts 2:
(Acts 2:1) – NIV
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
(Matthew 18:20) – NIV
20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
In Acts 4…when Peter and John are released from prison, the believers are all gathered TOGETHER…praying.
They’re not on their own, getting payer text updates while netflixing it up in their retro Zubas, they’re together.
And just as their friends get out of prison, we’re told they start praying (not for safety…like we do in America), but they pray for even more boldness to tell even more people about Jesus!
And then look at what happens next
(Acts 4:31) – NIV
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The power of God moves mightily…for world change…when we’re TOGETHER.
Look at even the progression of the seminal text for community in the Bible in Acts 2:
(Acts 2:44-47) – NIV
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Out of not only the teaching of the apostles at the temple, but out of this amazing, life-changing community they had with one another…THE LORD ADDED to their number daily those who were being saved!
We’re starting to see some of this, but I pray that 5 years from now, we see a lot more.
That people start coming in, to not just our Sunday morning gatherings, but to our House Groups.
And saying, “Wow…these people really care for each other. Wow! What is this?! I need more of this!”
We have an opportunity to work together…in community…for the glory of God…in just 3 weeks.
Of course the majority of what happens in community together at Renovation…happens in our House Groups…but sometimes we get opportunities to work together as one…to make a HUGE impact TOGETHER as a church
As you may have heard, we’re putting on a huge outreach for Easter Weekend…a massive egg hunt of 20,000 eggs…
We are expecting over 700 first-time visitors, and a whole lot of people standing up to give their lives to Christ!
By the way, not only do we have 20,000 eggs this year, as this event continues to become a bigger thing in our community, some local businesses are chipping in prizes to put in the eggs.
For example, my friends at Culver’s, of which I am a valued customer , have given us 300 free scoops of custard to put in eggs! 300!
By the way, not real scoops, the coupons for free scoops
And because Renovation Church is not a cruise ship, but a row boat, we’re on a path to change this world TOGETHER…as a church (a people of God).
Think about this: For our Easter services, it varies a bit, but we have around 60 volunteers PER service scheduled just to pull off a service in here and in kids on Easter.
In fact, the total number of volunteers slots we’ve already filled for INSIDE the building on Easter Weekend is 310 volunteer slots.
And, we need an additional 98 volunteers slots filled to facilitate the egg hunts outside….which we’re going to start filling today.
That’s 408 volunteer spots to pull off this outreach.
There aren’t even that many adults in our church
So sign-up your babies!
We should have no business being able to actually handle having 700 people visit in a weekend…and yet, we’re going to be ready for it!
Someone asked me once, “How do you guys do that?”
I said, “Together. We all do it together. No like seriously, everyone. And some people stay for a while…That’s how”
Will you be a part of this?
Will you say, “I want to BE the church…” not just come consume “church”
Will you say, “I don’t want to come just to be valued, but to add value”
Let God use you…as “the church”…together…to change the world.
In fact, let’s do this…get out your smart phone right now (go ahead)
Open up the Renovation App.
And tap on connect.
Then tap on Volunteer at the Egg Hunt.
You’ll see the 98 spots we’re trying to fill for the egg hunts outside
People to put out eggs
People to check wrist bands
People to direct the hundreds of cars coming in and out at once.
Go ahead and sign-up now.
If you prefer, there is a paper sign-up in the hallway as well.
98 Volunteer slots is a ton!
So don’t just say, “Wow, I pray someone else does this!”
Let God use you to serve others that weekend!
If you can fill more than one slot, great!
Honestly, it’s a ton of fun, and it’s so powerful to be a part of helping so many people meet Jesus.
So what’s the first step for you this morning?
Maybe it’s just to make yourself known…sign-up to serve at the egg hunt.
Start meeting some people here.
Maybe you’re ready to jump into a House Group.
Our hope is that, eventually, every adult is ready for that.
There are just 6 weeks of House Groups left.
It’s a great way for you to test drive it out.
You can sign up in the hallway or on the Renovation Church App.
Or if you’re not ready yet, I pray you will be by the Fall, as I’m excited to announce, we will be starting a brand-new House Group, our 7th House Group, in September.
We believe though…that if we can be a church…a different kind of an American church…one that looks closer to what you see in Scripture.
We believe that if can be a church that has incredible Christian community…where people are supported and discipled…that change is gonna come.
I hope you saw this in Acts today…
Every time the people of God come together, God’s impact is multiplied.
His light shines brighter.
If you have 400 flashlights and scatter them throughout the city, it’s not going to make much of a difference.
But if those lights start coming together…sometimes all at once…sometimes in groups throughout the city…God is going to move.
And that’s our Vision
Show VISION DIAGRAM
We’ll continue to talk about this next week…but we believe that if people get in community and can be supported AND discipled…
…that they’ll encounter God…and when you encounter God…He’ll change you.
And when He changes you, He always changes you TO change…to make an impact on this world.
And to reach more people for Christ.
Who thus, can then start the circle over.
And that…is a half-decent plan for how to change the world.
Join with us…be a part of this…and let’s change the world TOGETHER.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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