Training Partners: Community
Having other Christians spur us on is critical to our success as followers of Christ.
a. Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
b. I started running consistently three years ago.
b.i. I gotta tell you though…there were many failed attempts.
b.ii. When I was in high school, I lived right next to the track, and every July and August before soccer started, I would go down to the track and run a mile as fast as I could…and that was my training.
b.ii.1. I always told myself I would keep it up once soccer started, but it never happened.
b.iii. In College, I think I tried running like once a year…every year. And it was usually the same time everyone tries it. That one oddly warm day in the Spring right after the snow melts.
b.iii.1. Holy Cow! It’s 62 degrees out in March …I know, I should go for a run!
b.iii.1.a. And that seems like an amazing idea until we actually start running…and then we remember why we hate running.
b.iv. I tried a few more times after college.
b.iv.1. I think there was one time where I even ran 6 or 7 times before I got busy again and gave up.
b.v. And then finally, about 3 years ago. I got it. I started to run consistently. Like 3 times a week.
b.v.1. So what happened? How did I finally get it after so many failed attempts??? I had a training partner.
b.vi. I convinced my friend, and now Sunday Night House Leader, Jared Hibma, to go running with me.
b.vi.1. And so we did. Like 3 times a week. And he just talked my ear off the whole time…I barely said a word. Ok, that part’s probably not true. Ok, it’s not true.
b.vi.1.a. But we would run together consistently 3 times a week.
b.vi.2. And it worked. Because on days I didn’t feel like going, he’d probably said something very counseling like (as he’s a professional counselor), “Hey, come on…let’s go. You can do this.” And I would.
b.vi.3. And on days he didn’t want go, I’d say something inspirational like, “What? You afraid you can’t keep up with me? You’re pathetic.” And then motivated by guilt, he would go.
b.vii. And it totally worked. We ran. Consistently. We developed a habit.
b.vii.1. That is until the worst day of my life, May 28th, 2009, when after a short 2 mile run, Jared looked at me and said, “I think I’m done running.”
b.vii.1.a. And it just hasn’t been the same since.
c. We are continuing our God’s Gym series this morning where we are looking at different disciplines, practices, or methods we can do to get closer to God.
c.i. It’s all based on this passage in 1 Timothy
c.ii. (1 Timothy 4:7-8) – NIV
c.iii. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
c.iii.1. And so we want to learn ways that we can train ourselves to be Godly.
c.iii.1.a. What are things we can do to purposefully grow in Godliness…
d. And today, we’re going to look at the importance of “Training Partners.”
II. SUNDAY MORNINGS
a. If I can, I want to look at this topic by diving into a passage in the book of Ephesians in the Bible.
a.i. It’s a letter in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul who was one of the early Christian leaders.
a.i.1. Let’s look at what he has to say about the importance of having training partners in our spiritual walk…and also I would add training “Coaches” to that as well.
b. (Ephesians 4:11-16) – NLT
c. 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
d. Okay, so there’s a lot in there about how we as a church community, as a body of believers, can help each other in our faith.
d.i. I want to kind of go through this passage as we go along, but lets start now with the first two verses… Let’s look at them again
e. (Ephesians 4:11-12) – NLT
f. 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
f.i. So, these are 5 key leaders in the church.
f.ii. Apostles are like those who lead entire ministries
f.iii. Prophets are those who hear from God well and speak His word to people
f.iv. Evangelists are those who share the faith with many.
f.v. And pastors and teachers are well…pastors and teachers of the faith.
g. Now, in the modern-day church, those are often rolled into one or a few leaders…but they are still there.
g.i. Yet, I think we miss what the verse actually says about their role.
g.i.1. It says they are to “EQUIP God’s people to do his work and build up the church.”
g.i.2. Yet, I believe one of THE main reasons that the vast majority of churches in America have either stalled or declined is because they turn this command in the Bible upside down.
g.i.2.a. Instead of having the pastors and leaders equip the congregation to go out and do ministry…the congregation demands that they sit back and the pastors do the ministry.
g.i.3. But when you read the New Testament, it looks NOTHING like the mid-twentieth century American church where the pastor visits every member in the hospital, shakes everyone’s hand, preaches every sermon, takes each member out for coffee each month, cleans the toilets, and holds every prayer meeting.
g.i.3.a. Good luck changing the world that way. There are some great pastors out there…but they’re not that great.
g.i.3.a.i. Church was never meant to be a one-man band.
g.i.4. One of the main reasons I believe God is working like crazy in our church right now is because it’s not all about all pastoral staff.
g.i.4.a. We have plenty of ministry teams, our house groups are about multiplying care of people, small group leaders visit with people, they teach people…we’re multiplying ministry.
g.ii. But…the Bible says that MY role as the leader of the church is to be your equipper…not your mama.
g.ii.1. Now, we’ve got people who want to sit with you and shepherd you and help you along…but this…what we’re doing right now…is meant to equip you.
g.ii.1.a. Equip you as the Ephesians passage said to things like 1) Unity in the faith 2) Maturity in Faith (not to be blown around by every new idea AND 3) to Speak the truth in Love
g.ii.2. And look at THAT! That’s like what the vision our church is.
g.ii.2.a. The vision of our church is Being Change TO ______
g.ii.2.b. To be a people being changed by God to change the world
g.ii.3. And that’s what my role is…to help you… (and it’s just ONE of the disciplines…but to help you be better changed by God to change the world!)
g.ii.3.a. And that’s what that passage said: Grow in maturity and then go out and speak the truth.
h. But here’s the thing…coming each week to be equipped to do your mission, which the Bible explicitly says in Mt 28 (Go and make disciples), we call it being changed to change, but coming each week to be equipped IS a DISCIPLINE.
h.i.1. It’s not only a discipline, but it’s also a checkpoint. A basic safety net from falling away.
h.ii. Check this out…studies show that even if you’ve faithfully attended church for 20 years, all it takes is 3 weeks for you to stop attending.
h.ii.1. If you for 3 weeks in a row say to yourself, “Meh…I’m tired or…meh…I don’t think I’m going to go today.”
h.ii.1.a. Even if you’ve been going for 20 years, by the 4th week, there’s a really high chance you won’t be back.
h.ii.1.a.i. ISN’T that crazy??!?
i. But this…what we’re doing right here…is a check point. A safety net.
i.i. And it’s good for you to be here.
i.i.1. Over the last 50 years, and I’ve covered this before, people have overemphasized the importance of Sunday morning…”Church” is SO much more than that.That’s why we’re all about HGs here.
i.i.1.a. BUT…BUT…let’s not de-emphasize it either.
i.i.2. It’s a good thing to be good at going to be here.
i.i.2.a. Not because we should…but because it’s good.
i.i.2.a.i. But let me let you in on something…sometimes…we should even go just because we should…
i.ii. See…that’s what DISCIPLINE really means. People who are disciplined at working out…really disciplined…they work out even when they don’t FEEL like it.
i.ii.1. And that’s the advantage of being disciplined in God’s Gym…sometimes…this rollercoaster of life is going to require you to keep at it…even in the times you don’t feel like it.
i.ii.1.a. Hopefully, 90% of the time you are PUMPED to come and be equipped.
i.ii.1.a.i. But, I’m going to be honest…there WILL be times in your life when you’re not. And that’s where discipline has to kick in.
i.ii.1.a.i.1. Discipline is the safety net that keeps us from cracking our head on the ground spiritually
j. Coming to church allows us to keep our mind constantly refreshed and renewed by God’s Word
j.i. (Romans 12:2) – NIV
j.ii. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
j.ii.1. This is the sort of constant maturing that the Ephesians text was talking about.
j.iii. But Sunday mornings refresh the heart too. That’s part of why we do worship every Sunday.
j.iii.1. Church is really just like going on a really good date with Jesus every week.
j.iii.1.a. Now, in my own life, as I’ve mentioned before, I go on a date with my wife every week (mixed it up and went to Eddington’s this week), and that date is GREAT for our marriage. Really great.
j.iii.2. But, and this is a weird way to look at it. What if we only went on that date? Wouldn’t work right. It’s great. A great start. But we need more.
j.iv. The same is true when it comes to Spiritual Training Partners
k. Now, I believe there are 4 stages of what I call “Training Partners” in the Christian faith.
k.i. Stage 1: Regularly Attending Sunday Mornings
k.ii. Let’s roll with the running analogy, this is like coming to hear a lecture on running every week.
k.ii.1. Now, if you were a runner, and your aim was to get better at running. This would be a good thing. You would learn techniques to get better at running.
k.ii.1.a. Is it the best possible thing you can do OR all you need? No. But is it good? You bet!
l. But there are some more stages.
l.i. And here’s what I want you to do as you listen today…. I want you to identify what stage you are at… Then…I want you to jump up a stage sometime in the next week or month at most.
l.i.1. And some of you, maybe you’re not even on the chart yet…so it’s just as simple as jumping to stage 1.
III. BASIC COMMUNITY
a. Ok, so on to stage 2.
b. Stage 1: Regularly Attending Sunday Mornings
c. Stage 2: Spending time with other Christians
d. It’s getting to know other Christians and starting to hang out with them. Spending time outside of just the instructional hall.
d.i. In our metaphor, you would not only now be hearing some teaching on running each week, you are now going to a social gathering with a whole bunch of runners as well.
d.ii. Now again, if your aim was to get better at running, this would be a good thing.
d.ii.1. You would pick up some things on running. Maybe be able to ask a question or two about running even.
e. But here’s the thing…Often…in just a social gathering like this…people never get around to the topic at hand.
e.i. You might be hanging out with your running buddies but never talk about running.
f. Now, this is definitely a step up from just being a nobody in lecture hall, but you can see how it’s still not ideal.
f.i. And unfortunately, even a lot of churches have stopped here. They just simply have fellowship get-togethers and fellowship dinners, and community pot-lucks!
f.i.1. And that’s great. And getting Christian friends is good…and really important…but every time the Bible talks about fellowship (or community), it is always tied into something spiritually happening as well.
g. So, let’s move on to stage 3 of “Training Partners” in God’s Gym
h. Stage 1: Regularly Attending Sunday Mornings
i. Stage 2: Spending time with other Christians
j. Stage 3: Joining Something Like a House Group
j.i. Something where you are going to get together with Christians every week…socialize…but also grow together…and start talking about what God’s word means for your own lives.
j.i.1. If we go back to the running metaphor, this would now be like, hearing a weekly lecture, hanging out with some running friends, AND like joining a running club.
j.ii. You are actually doing the work w/ other people now. You are working it out. You are, in our example, running together.
j.ii.1. And when you run together…your friends can challenge you to pick up the pace and grow…they, can, if they’re a good partner, unlike my friend Jared Hibma, challenge you to keep going…and there are A LOT of growth benefits here.
k. This is what our Ephesians passage talks about in verses 15-16
l. (Ephesians 4:15-16) – NLT
m. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
m.i. We, as followers of God, are a body. Each of you bring something different to the body of Christ…and thus, can challenge and help and support another person.
m.i.1. For instance, my brother-in-law (who happens to attend this church) is massively strong. He could rip you in half if he wanted to. Although he wouldn’t. Muscles like a lion…heart of cuddly puppy.
m.ii. He lifts weights 5 times a week, and it shows, literally. We made a deal that maybe sometime this summer, we could be training partners for a week.
m.ii.1. He could show me a thing or two about weightlifting (which I desperately need), and maybe, maybe, I could show him something about running.
m.ii.1.a. And spiritually, the body of Christ is similar…we each have different gifts we can train each other with!
m.ii.2. But, our American consumerism has forced many of our churches into becoming deformed bodies.
m.iii. Look, the passage says that we are a body, but the head of the body is Jesus.
m.iii.1. But do you know what a lot of Christians have become?
m.iii.2. (They haven’t forgotten Jesus is the head, but they forgot about the body)
m.iii.2.a. So, all we have is a bunch of arms with a head on them running around. A bunch of legs with a head on them.
m.iv. And you can’t change the world like that…but you can weird them out
m.iv.1. So we want to be A PEOPLE being changed by God to change the world.
n. And COMMUNITY is so important not only to us changing the world, but to us surviving as a follower of Christ
n.i. Around 100 years ago, when Christianity first started taking hold in Africa, that many of the early Africans were super dedicated to prayer.
n.i.1. In one particular village, each believer had a separate spot in the thicket where he or she would go out to pray.
n.i.1.a. Over time, the paths to their individual place would become well worn.
n.i.2. As a result, if one of the believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others, and they would kindly remind the believer, “Brother, or Sister, the grass grows on your path.”
o. But we don’t get that if we’re not in community. If we’re not running with other people. If we don’t have training partners.
o.i. And that’s dangerous. I’m serious. It’s dangerous. Your faith is too important for you to try and do it on your own.
p. The Bible point blank tells us this:
q. (Hebrews 10:24-25) – NIV
r. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
s. So, if you need to get to this stage, what are you going to do? Seriously, how are you going to do it?
t. I can give you a couple of options.
t.i. You could check out one of our House Groups. Now, I know, there are only 2 weeks left. But 2 weeks of meeting Christians in this church will transform even your normal Sunday morning experience here.
t.i.1. You won’t feel so alone.
u. OR, or I could say, AND…this summer, we are going to be doing something really cool for community.
u.i. All summer long, on Wednesday nights, we are going to be meeting at the Wilson’s house (just on the other side of Radisson)…and every week we are going to have sort of a picnic-style community gathering.
u.i.1. Yard games, great food, & plenty of great people. Kids are even invited to come.
u.ii. And then for the last half of the night, we’re going to watch a cool video each week: Videos like the one I mentioned last week about the missionaries who reached that tribe in Papau New Guinea, other videos of fantastic messages by pastors better than me, etc.
u.ii.1. And, to top it off, we might do it outdoors since we do, after all, have a portable screen and projector.
u.iii. But, I bring this up to say, this is going to be another great option (since we won’t have house groups for a few months, for you to get connected with other believers, & really grow spiritually too!
v. And by the way, watch out for this summer.
v.i. Summer, for the Christian in Minnesota, is like what Christmastime is to the dieter.
v.i.1. Christmas is when everyone who was doing well on a diet finally loses it. So many Christmas parties…so many Christmas cookies…and egg nog…
v.ii. And every summer, Christians get busy and try and go on it on their own for the summer.
v.ii.1. And let me be honest with you. It doesn’t work.
v.ii.1.a. My heart is just broken as a pastor every Fall.
v.ii.1.b. People come back just spiritually dry…hurting… OR…they don’t come back.
v.iii. What happens when you stop running for 3 months?
v.iii.1. Either it just SUCKS to start running again
v.iii.1.a. Or, you don’t start running again.
w. But take your faith seriously. Think eternally when it comes to your summer schedule. I mean that.
w.i. Don’t just settle for what you do every year. Find a way to keep training this summer. Life is too short, and too important, for us to walk out of God’s Gym for 3 months every year.
a. Okay, so I said there were 4 stages of Spiritual Training Partners…what’s the 4th?
b. Stage 1: Regularly Attending Sunday Mornings
c. Stage 2: Spending time with other Christians
d. Stage 3: Joining Something Like a House Group
e. Stage 4: Accountability or Mentorship
f. The 4th stage is to meet with another Christian one-on-one either for accountability in your spiritual life OR for them to mentor you.
f.i. See, because even in the 3rd stage, when you join a running club, it’s not like they are going to stop the whole group to work on your mechanics.
f.i.1. They’re not going to make everyone stop so you can run drills on your stride.
f.i.1.a. But if you had a partner…you could stop and do that.
f.i.1.b. Or, if you had a coach…they would take a look at it for you
g. So, in this stage, you are hearing a lecture on running every week, you are hanging out with other runners, you’ve joined a running club, and now you have a running partner…or even a coach.
g.i. And if you did that…I’m telling you…you would make INCREDIBLE improvement in your running.
g.i.1. And the exact same is true in your spiritual life.
h. So what’s an accountability partner?
h.i. It’s where you just meet once a week or every other week or even once a month TO get together and ask each other tough questions about your life
h.i.1. Are you reading the Bible? Are you praying? Are you keeping your eyes pure? Have you forgiven that person yet? Is your heart focused on God? Are you falling more in love with Jesus?
h.ii. See, something like House Groups are great…and it’s honestly an AMAZING start, but even in my House Group, we don’t spend 40 minutes a week getting into MY stuff.
h.ii.1. Now, if someone in my small group is really dealing with something that week, we talk about it.
h.ii.1.a. If I’ve got some things that week I really need prayer for, we pray about it. AND THAT’S AWESOME.
i. But, we often need more on our own
j. AND, even though we really want people to share and be completely open in House Groups, we realize that there probably are a few things you wouldn’t share even with a close group of 6 people.
j.i. But you might, and You SHOULD, share them with at least one other person who can help you through it and keep you accountable.
k. That’s why for the last 3 years I’ve had an accountability partner. I meet with him every week. Every Monday. And we can ask each other tough questions. And take the time to talk through some tough stuff. And it’s great.
l. Look at what Hebrews says on this:
m. (Hebrews 3:12-13) – NIV
n. 12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
n.i. And if we are encouraging one another like this, we can catch it when the other person’s heart starts to drift. But that’s a discipline. A discipline in God’s Gym.
o. And that can be a real peer-to-peer accountability relationship…or maybe you even want to find someone a little further along in their faith to mentor you.
o.i. OR, maybe you ARE a little further along and you could mentor someone
o.i.1. And some of you NEED to do that. What a joy to do that!
o.ii. Listen, we know that what we’re doing as a church, in some ways is a complete re-wiring of just the standard consumeristic church…
o.iii. And I know this is going to take time…but sometimes,. I still see people caught in old ways.
o.iii.1. It’s easy to feel like…but there are just so many new Christians here…people who don’t know very much… And I wish our discussion level in HGs could dive into some more…complicated topics…
o.iv. But stop for a moment: HOW Amazing is it that many of you that have been believers for a long time are actually finally in a church with new believers?? Isn’t that ultimately what you want?? I hope it is.
o.iv.1. It’s amazing! It’s incredible! What an opportunity!
o.iv.2. This is what we’re here for. It’s not just about us and us advancing on to learn at the 300 and 400 levels.
o.iv.2.a. We aren’t about sheer individual consumerism.
o.iv.3. This is a church…not Wal-mart! And a church is a body! Not an arm with a head attached.
o.iv.3.a. And I beg those of you that have known Jesus for a while…start praying about who are some of these younger believers that you can invest into?
o.iv.3.a.i. Maybe God is even putting someone on your heart that you could meet with and help.
p. And Others of you…maybe God is telling you to set a relationship like this up, to find an accountability partner. Maybe someone already in your House Group.
p.i. Maybe God’s putting someone on your heart right now that you need to ask to be your accountability partner.
p.ii. Someone to meet with twice a month. Once a month…to get together and ask hard questions. To train together. To fight together.
p.ii.1. Because this is a war. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from sin. He died in our place. And we’re in a war. A war for eternity.
p.ii.1.a. And our job is to fight w/ God to take the devil down and depopulate hell.
p.ii.2. And that takes training. It takes a willingness to get serious about our faith.
p.ii.2.a. But it’s worth it.
p.ii.2.a.i. I mean after all, we were worth dying for.
p.ii.2.a.i.1. Let’s pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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