Most Americans in 2017 are lonely. It’s time to rediscover the village!
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church. Morning to you.
We live in interesting times.
If you think about how people have lived throughout most of history, they have lived together…next to each other.
In ancient times, they lived in cities, villages.
Many medieval people lived in towns with walls…for mutual protection and support.
Sure, there were always farmers, and pioneers…but even on the Asian and African continents most people lived together in villages.
And even if you did live out on a farm, most people went to town, interacting with others, on an almost daily basis
And what’s interesting about the 21st century is that more people are living in cities (compared to a rural setting) than ever before in history.
And yet, we’ve never been more isolated from one another.
I recently came across an essay from an author named Bunmi Laditan.
I don’t know where she’s at spiritually, but I think she describes what most Americans feel…particularly American parents.
“I miss the village I never had. The one where you’d know me and I'd know you.
I'd know your children, and you'd know mine.
“I miss that village of mothers that I've never had.
The one we traded for homes that, despite being a stone's throw away, feel miles apart from each other.
The one we traded for locked front doors, blinking devices and afternoons alone on the floor playing one on-one with our little ones.
“What gives me hope is that as I look at you from across the park with your own child in tow playing in her own corner of the sandbox, I can tell from your curious glance and shy smile that you miss it, too.
I miss the village I never had”
We have an electronic village, a social network, right?
But it seems like they publish a study every day now that says too much social media is bad for your health.
And yet they never say that about real friendship.
You never hear things like, “The New York Times just published a study that says hanging out with your friends twice a month will absolutely ruin you”
We long for the village…the village we never had, but most of us don’t know how to find it.
You look at your neighbors, and you wish you knew them (well, most of them anyway).
You wish you could just drop your kids off over there like your parents used to do with you.
You wish they’d just stop over for dinner whenever because you were that close.
We long for the village, but we don’t know how to find it.
Well, I want to tell you where to find it!
And not just that…I want to tell you that in the village, you will experience God like you’ve never experienced Him before.
THIS IS NOT THE TYPE OF LIFE GOD DESIGNED YOU FOR
But before we get there, we must start a bit higher.
A life of isolation is not the life God designed you for.
There was a study that came out in March of this year that said the biggest health risk facing middle-aged men isn’t smoking, it isn’t obesity, it’s loneliness.
Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, having a stroke, and the Progression of Alzheimer’s
In 2015, the results of 35-year study which studied 3.5 million people found that those who are struggling with loneliness see their risk of premature death rise around 30%!
This might not even seem believable to you…but remember the worst punishment they have for criminals (besides death) is what?
Loneliness is brutal to the soul.
God didn’t design you to be alone.
And one of the main places that God designed for us to never feel alone is: “the church”
And yet, the 21st century American church hasn’t been very conducive for helping Americans with this.
Most Americans walk into 21st century churches feeling lonely…and out…still feeling lonely.
Many churches are now designed around an entertainment-style, anonymous experience where one can walk-in, get some “Jesus-time,” and walk out…
…back to our lonely lives of facebook stalking.
That may be exactly what we’re like in 2017 (so I can see why it’s effective), but it’s not what we need.
And it’s not how the Bible describes the church.
We read these verses at least once a year in our church, so if you’ve been around here, I hope you have them memorized…because we need to
Let me read you the description of what the Christian church looked like in its early years (after Jesus went back to heaven) you tell me if it sounds like an average American church in 2017
(Acts 2:42-47) – NIV
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 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.
We read this at least once a year here because it’s a powerful model for what we think church ought to be.
Here at Renovation Church, for almost 8 years now, we’ve been trying to something really different.
The goal is to live out what the “church ought to be” based on what we see in Scripture.
Even if that looks really different than what we see in our culture.
And as we’ve strived to do that, we’ve experienced something powerful.
The fruit of living in God’s truth AND the re-discovery of the village.
If you’re new around here, let me tell you about what makes Renovation Church so unique amongst churches.
We do this thing…called House Groups...it’s a thing that not just 10% or even 50% of our people do.
An astounding 80% of every adult who calls Renovation Church home…is a regular in a House Group.
So, what are House Groups?
Over 100 of you are new just in the last year, so I don’t want to presume that you already know what they are…
House Groups are groups of around 20-30 people…
They spend the first 45 minutes of so in a large group with everyone together
Eating delicious food, getting to know each other
Watching a DVD teaching done by me
And they spend the 2nd 45 minutes in small groups.
Where they take what we talked about in the message, and start to apply it to their lives
And these groups meet every week.
I can still vividly remember a number of pastors telling me, before I started this church, that this idea would never work…
Because people are busy…and it’s not 50 years ago…people don’t hang out with each other like that anymore.
But see, that is precisely why they do work.
Because not only is this what we need right now, this is what we were created for.
We need to rediscover the village again.
We have 7 different House Groups on 5 different nights (Sunday – Thursday)
Including a brand-new House Group on Monday nights.
House Groups are great because they are large enough that they are not awkward like a lot of other social situations.
We often say, it’s like going to a big BBQ where you know by the end of the night, you’re going to find someone you connect with.
Our hope is that every single adult who calls Renovation Church their home…finds a House Group where they can find a community who’s going to support them & encourage them in their faith.
Right now, you are attending what we call “the anti-consumerism church.”
We don’t want you to just come and be fed AT church.
We want you to BE the church. Be A PART of the church.
Sign-ups for our House Groups start…TODAY.
You’ll get a lot more details on how to do that during announcements.
Let me just say...
If your schedule is an issue…or childcare is an issue.
Talk to us…we can give you ideas.
Find a way to invest in this.
Remember: The absolute best thing you can do for your kids is to grow spiritually yourself.
If you’re not growing, they’re not growing
Even if you can only come sometimes…or you rotate with your spouse some…or pay for childcare once a month so you can both come together…
Find a way to get in a community where people can spur you on towards Jesus and encourage & support you.
Don’t let anything hinder you from doing that.
If you were in a House Group last year, and you love it…would you just shout out quick the name of your night, so people know what to join??
HOW GOD SPEAKS, GROWS, ENCOURAGES, AND CHALLENGES YOU
But I’m not just recommending this because it’s popular, or because it’ll help you put more people around you and help you meet more friends.
It’s deeper than.
Every single one of us needs God in our lives.
As much as possible.
The more of God you let into your life, the more you’ll be like Him.
That’s the “Gift of His Presence”
Take a look at this large container over here.
This represents your spiritual intake.
It’s the amount of God you’re letting into your life.
The more, the better right?
We want to be a people BEING CHANGED BY GOD to change the world
But you have to encounter Him to be changed by Him.
So are you letting God into your life?
There are 3 major ways that we open ourselves up to God speaking to us, encouraging us, challenging us, supporting us…etc.
I suppose you could make a case for 4 or 5 ways, but let’s look at 3 main ones today.
#1) There’s prayer.
We talk to God.
Every time you stop to talk to God (or better yet, listen for Him), it’s an opportunity for Him to speak to you, encourage you, challenge you, hold you up…you name it
Let’s call this the “Prayer Glass”
(Pour some water from 1st glass into container)
That’s more of Him, you’ve let in…thus, the more you’ll likely to look like Him
#2) There’s Reading God’s Word – The Bible
Every time you read the Bible, it’s like turning up the volume knob of God’s voice…and he can speak to you, encourage you, challenge you…
Let’s call this the Bible glass
(Pour some water from 2nd glass)
And you’ll see growth in your faith…
More of Him…makes you more like Him
#3) The third major way we let God into our lives is by surrounding ourselves with other Christians.
By letting God speak to us…through the village of His people.
Now, that can happen somewhat on Sunday mornings
You listen to the teaching of God’s Word on a Sunday, and God can speak to you, challenge you, or encourage you.
By the way, if you’re here, on Week 2 of the 3-Week challenge…congratulations!
You made it back!
That’s a great thing!
Come for week 3 next week!
However, if I were to describe the average American Christian in 2017…
I would say they do a little bit of praying…a little bit of Bible reading…
But for the most part, the average American Christian hasn’t yet picked up the third glass…what I would call “The village glass”
God has yet to really speak through the village to them…in a personal way…helping them with their real struggles and issues.
And this is a significant challenge to our spiritual maturity as American Christians.
Because speaking through others is a MAJOR way that God wants to speak to us, encourage us, and grow us.
To leave 1 of the 3 glasses on the table is going to majorly stunt our spiritual growth
Let me get theological for a second.
The Bible tells us that God puts His Holy Spirit in all believers.
In other words, His presence often comes through when you’re in their presence.
The Bible puts it this way:
(1 John 4:11-12) – NIV
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Let me tell you how this happens in House Groups…because God is moving, through His Holy Spirit, in people like you, ALL THE TIME in House Groups…
“And it’s happening on a personal level…and on an exponential level…a level that could never really happen if spiritual encouragement and support was something only our “church staff” was supposed to do.
I reached out to our Elders, the leaders of our 7 House Groups), and I asked them to share with me some real-life examples from the past year of how they often see this playing out in their house groups:
Let me share with you some stories from our House Groups.
There was a woman in one of our groups this year whose plumbing for her bathtub broke…and started leaking through the floor into their basement.
Her husband happened to be in a different country while this was happening, and she was home alone with their 3 kids.
So, she sent an email out to her House Group (her village) asking what to do.
Three separate people from her group came over right away to help…and even called and hired someone to fix it
And then someone else from her house group paid for it to be fixed.
There was another woman in one of our groups whose husband went on our Haiti Trip in February, but she ended up throwing out her back the day before he left.
That next day, people from house groups brought over a week’s worth of meals (a week’s worth!), they checked in often, prayed often, and even offered to watch her son.
That’s a village.
Do you have that in your life?
When you rediscover the village…you find support in the big things…and even the little things.
One of my friends from church was just telling me this week that he found a swing set online that someone was giving away for free.
He wanted to get it for his kids, but didn’t have an easy way to get it to his house.
So he reached out a few people in his house groups to see if they would help.
And within a few hours, he had someone with a truck, and 7 guys willing to help move it that upcoming weekend.
One of the things that I continually hear from the people in these stories is that they feel God encouraging them and supporting them…THROUGH His people.
Have you picked up that glass in your life?
Or is it still on the table?
When you rediscover the village, you discover the third glass.
And God will grow you!
If we look at the entire story of the Bible, one of the things we notice is that most of the words that God spoke to His people were spoken THROUGH His people.
In other words, it’s a rarity that the audible voice of God is actually heard (like at Jesus baptism…or when God called Samuel the prophet).
Most of the time, God is speaking through people like Moses, or David in the Psalms, or through His prophets, or even the Bible Authors themselves writing letters.
This is a major way that God wants to work in your life…He wants to speak to you THROUGH other people
Have you picked up this glass?
If you feel like you haven’t had a need for it, trust me, at some point you will.
Let me read you an email I received this past year from someone in our House Groups:
My wife and I found out today at her 16-week appointment that we lost the baby sometime this week.
This is obviously a tough thing to hear considering it’s not our first miscarriage either.
I know that when we went through our first miscarriage prior to going to Renovation and thus prior to starting a relationship with Jesus, it was devastating, and I was at a complete loss of what to make of it and how to go on; what would the future bring? Could we have another kid? Why was this happening to us?
Now, we still have those questions, but in conversations with my wife, we now know the answers; God will work it out for good; we may not understand it now and may never understand it until we are in heaven, but we KNOW God will use this for good.
The only reason I know that is because of what the amazing people of Renovation have done for me and my family and I am so grateful for that;
As my wife and I are crying, we are getting phone call after phone call, and text message after text message of support and prayers from all the amazing people in our house group…and it means so much that it is hard for me express in words.
So, this has been a terrible day, but through the tears and the questions, God is really making himself known through the people of Renovation; and know that my family and I are forever grateful for that.
When the storms of life come, have you picked up that glass? The glass from the village?
Are you in a position where God (as that email said) can make himself known to you…through His people?
By the way, this is what “the church” was always meant to look like.
Remember the church is not an institution, it’s not a service, it’s the “people”
We need real-life people, friends who know us, in our lives to help us not just when we need support…but when we get off track too.
I watched some people in our church make some pretty tough mistakes this year.
And yet, I saw their house groups…their people (the Church!) rally around them with grace.
It was powerful to watch.
We’ve had multiple couples this year who we’re taking steps towards seeking divorce.
And yet, with not just 1, not just 2, but with multiple couples this year, our house groups banded together around them, and they’re no longer seeking divorce and are instead seeking healing in their marriage.
Now, not every story ends up that way.
But many do!
When we allow God to move through that 3rd glass!
Picking up the glass for the first time can be scary…most of us, in the 21st century, have never lived life in the village.
We’re not even really sure what it’ll be like.
And so maybe you’re intrigued by this, but nervous.
But let me tell you…it’s worth it.
Yeah, it’s hard to take the first step. It’s not always easy.
Take the step in faith…
But nothing ever worthwhile seems to be very easy at first
Pick up the glass from the village. Let more of that Living Water in to your life!
For those of you already in a House Group…I would ask you:
“Are you picking up the 1st and 2nd glasses?
You can’t just pour in the 3rd one!”
PICK UP THE GLASS
And some in house groups are just beginning to pour out more of the 3rd glass.
It takes work, right?
These types of relationships are what can happen when you pick up the glass and start walking into the village…but they don’t happen day 1
Relationships, friendships, take time.
It’s hard to open up to other people.
We’re not so good at it.
And some of you are just starting to get to this point in your house group.
I’d say some of our House Groups are even further along at this than others.
And even that is a measure of time.
Some of our groups have been together for years now…
While others have just started
And coming out of isolation… doing life together with other people…rediscovering the village…takes time.
But it’s totally worth it.
And it’s absolutely what we were created for.
Because God does some of His best work…in the village.
Let me pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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