Us Not Me
As American individualists in a consumeristic society it’s easy for us to forget that Christianity is more about us than it is about me.
HOW WE LIVE
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
American Culture, like any culture, is constantly changing.
What defined American Culture in the 1940’s and 50’s isn’t what defines American Culture anymore.
And that’s true of many different cultures around the world.
I read one sociologist this week who put it this way, “The large change in American culture has been “a shift away from values of community, spirituality, and integrity, and toward competition, materialism and disconnection.” (or isolation)
Let me just briefly tell you three of the ways that our culture has changed in the last few generations.
For one, how we think about our duty to EACH OTHER has really changed.
It used to be, back in maybe your grandparent’s generation (depending on how old you are), that everyone in a neighborhood knew everyone.
And if little Johnny and his friends were horsing around in the street, neighbor Betty had no problem grabbing Johnny by the collar and taking him home to his mother!
That’s a good way for neighbor Betty to get arrested nowadays
But back then, everyone knew everyone and everyone tried to look out for everyone…in at least a basic capacity.
This is still true in many places around the world.
When we were in Rwanda in August…we asked one of our translators what the government does about the poor.
And he said they divide “the poor” into three levels.
And the first level...the marginally poor, the government tells a neighborhood, “Take care of these people, they’re poor! The widows…or these kids don’t have food or a place to stay...Take care of them!”
And we asked, like true Americans, and do the neighborhoods do it?
And he said, “Of course they do!”
But we’re not a “collectivist” culture…a culture that thinks about the “the group first”
We’re an individualist culture. We think about the individual…ourselves…first.
Secondly, and similarly, we’ve also become a culture of non-interference.
We love the adages like,
“My life is none of your business.”
“Don’t tell other people what to do or how to live”
And every moral of every children’s program I’ve seen in the last 12 months boils down to “you just be you!” …Daniel Tiger.
And thirdly, we’ve also become a very consumeristic culture.
Whether we know it or not, our lives are geared around getting the latest, greatest, and best product for “this guy”
But the unintended consequence of the now marriage of individualism, non-interference, and consumerism is a whole lot of LONLINESS.
We’re saying, “You live your own life, don’t tell me what to do, and I’ll do what makes ME happy!”
And guess what…everyone has left us alone…to do what we want…and live how we want…by ourselves.
And we are some of the loneliest people to perhaps ever walk this planet.
And that doesn’t just mean a person living alone.
Many married people are lonely because they don’t have any close friends besides their spouses.
Even suburban families are lonely because they don’t even know their neighbors.
And let me tell you why I think so many of us are STUCK in this:
We’re stuck because we’re trying to solve our loneliness…and perhaps part of our spiritual emptiness…through the very methods that made us lonely in the first place!
Even the way that Americans look at Christianity is often very individualistic, non-interfering, and consumeristic.
We pop in and out of churches…
We don’t know a whole lot of people…nor do they know us
We want the services and teaching to be tailored to us…
If we’re busy that week, we’ll just consume the teaching online later…in the privacy of our own home or car
Even our spirituality is yet another expression of our individualism and consumerism.
And thus the way we attempt to be spiritual doesn’t really work…because it too…just leaves us lonely.
We think…if I just have ME & JESUS…that’s all I need.
But that’s not anywhere near the path to spiritual growth that the Bible describes.
And that’s why once again, as we finish our Refocus series today, we need to REFOCUS.
“And take the focus off of Christianity being about “ME” and our own self-improvement…and make Christianity about “US” like the Bible describes.
WHITE WATER RAPIDS
Most American Christians tend to think spiritual growth comes from one avenue: God.
If they read the Bible, pray, and spend time with God, they will grow!
And that’s partly true
And we see some, very modest, results from that.
But that’s actually only a fraction of the Bible’s description of spiritual growth during our life’s journey.
The Biblical picture of spiritual growth is a bit more like white water rafting.
(SHOW WHITE WATER RAFTING PICTURE) - Leave up until verse
Life is hard.
If you haven’t hit the rapids yet in your life, you will soon enough.
If life is rafting down the river…one that occasionally has some nasty white water rapids to contend with…here’s how most American Christians do it:
They pick up a book from the guy who invented White Water Rafting.
His name is something like The Almighty God.
In His Book, He gives the best advice on how to navigate life’s rapids.
We read it…when we have time of course.
We bring it with us on the raft…and when we’re nervous…like when it looks like we might fall out altogether, we call to this Almighty God figure…on our satellite phones, and ask for some guidance on rafting.
Or if he could make the turbulent waters a bit less…turbulent
But yet, those are just a TINY fraction of the ways God wants you to navigate your life.
And having just one person, in what was supposed to be a 6-person raft…is never going to end well.
It’s either going to spin in circles or hit a rock pretty quickly.
Here’s what God wants for your life:
Yes…He wants you to read his book on navigating the rapids.
Yes…He wants you to call him often on your satellite phone to heaven.
But…He also wants some other people in your raft!
Some people who’ve paddled through these rapids before
Some who’ve called God before…and maybe know Him better
THAT is God’s plan for your spiritual growth.
He didn’t create you to paddle alone.
I said earlier that we tend to think that our sole avenue for spiritual growth is just our own individual communication with God.
But the Bible says (in 1 Cor 3) that when you believe in Jesus as your Savior, that the Holy Spirit (who is God) comes and lives inside of you.
And therefore, all of His followers are like “carriers of Jesus” to us
And so God wants to grow you spiritually not JUST through direct communication with Him…but also:
By challenging you that you’re on the wrong fork on the river …and He can do that via the Holy Spirit in someone else on your raft
Or maybe by encouraging you to keep going when you just can’t paddle anymore…and He can do that via the Holy Spirit in someone else on your raft
But when you do it alone…you’re missing out on a large percentage of the ways that God wants to move in your life.
Who’s on your raft??
Do you have people on your raft that are following God and can be a carrier of God to you?
Some of you…in the last year or two have started to let more people onto your raft.
And my encouragement to you this year, is to invite more of those people to speak into your life.
Give them the freedom to challenge you…to help you.
God didn’t create you to paddle alone.
But here’s the thing…and this is our complete blind spot in our individualist culture:
God didn’t create you to paddle alone…which MEANS…He didn’t create the person next to you to paddle alone either.
WHICH MEANS…they need you to help paddle their raft!
The Apostle Paul says it this way in the Bible:
(Romans 12:4-5) – NIV
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Americans literally are the most individualistic culture in the world
So we naturally just think, “Yeah, other people SHOULD help me in my raft!”
We can think about that for days and have it not even cross our minds that, “Oh yeah, that means I also should be helping other people myself!”
But Paul says we all belong to each other.
Elsewhere Paul says:
(1 Thessalonians 5:11) – NIV
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
And so I would just ask every one of us today:
Who’s on your raft?
And who’s raft are YOU on?
BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY IS CHRISTIANITY IN COMMUNITY
Because that is what Christianity is supposed to look like (people rafting together)
Do we see that? Does Christianity look like that to us?
The difficulty is: Christianity always marries the culture in some ways, which is why it’s important to look hard at the Bible.
And then ask the question: Are there ways that we are letting our culture shape our Christian faith TOO much?
So we’ve got to step back and ask: How did spiritual growth happen in the Bible?
What did Christianity look like…in the Bible?
Not in other churches in America.
Not back in Grandma’s hey-dey.
What did it look like in the Bible?
The Book of Acts…which is the story of the early church is SO important to us here.
Christianity did not explode in growth because a bunch of people on their own discovered God, and made sure they just kept their faith locked up in their private lives.
From the very beginning Christianity is shown to be not a practice for individuals, but a faith lived out by a community of people.
Here’s the most common description of the early church:
(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.
The Biblical picture of Christianity is always a bunch of people on a raft…navigating life’s choppy water’s together
The Bible is unfamiliar with faith lived out in isolation.
Now, I wish I could, but I can’t easily make your neighborhood look like this.
But we can offer you something like this…right here…at Renovation Church.
And that’s our House Groups.
Of if you’re a middle school or high school student, these same principles apply to you in Youth Group.
(Show Remedy Slide) – just for about 8-10 seconds.
Which, our Youth Ministry, the Remedy, for 6th – 12th graders starts again THIS Wednesday at 7pm!
Pick up a map in the hallway or look at our website
You’ll get to hear more of the details about House Groups during announcements, but the gist of it is that these are groups of 20-30 people…who:
Spend half the night in a fun large group eating delicious food and getting to know each other
Watch a DVD teaching done by me
And spend the second half of the night in small groups.
We have 6 of these different groups that meet weekly on different nights.
And over 75% of our adults are in a House Group.
In America today, even in American churches, that’s almost unheard of.
So why is it working so well?
One, it’s because the groups are large enough that they’re not awkward.
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.
And two, because we’ve created a culture, a Biblical one, where people white water raft WITH you.
And they help you live life.
And when you’ve spent much of the last few years lonely, it’s invigorating to have people on your raft again!!
One of my favorite things in the world is to just hear stories of people caring for people in our House Groups.
Let me share some of them w/ you from the last year:
I officiated some weddings of people from our church, where I thought, “Yep, they invited their whole house group…their friends”
I saw couples go through hard times like a miscarriage, and yet, get SO much support and prayer from the people in their group
They weren’t paddling through the rapids alone.
I saw people who walked in here for 6 months without knowing anyone, and finally signed up, and said the very next week, “It’s a totally different experience to walk in here…and recognize 30 people! And they knew my name! And said hi!”
I saw friends who got together with friends, and finally said, “I need help.”
I saw other friends reach out to their friends who were starting to drift off course and say, “HEY…are you okay?”
I really appreciate House Groups even in my own life.
My wife and I have been in a House Group since they began.
But at House Groups, I’m just lay-person David…one of the people.
I sit in the back during my DVD teachings, so no one sees me laugh at my own jokes.
But let me just tell you what my House Group did for me in the last 12 months:
In October, our 3rd child was born…and as some of you know, bringing a baby home is always a (exciting time J) bit of a transition.
And yet, almost every night for two weeks, a different person from my House Group would show up at my house with a meal…or better yet…Culver’s…to help us in our time of transition.
In the Spring, my mom was diagnosed with cancer.
And many of you expressed your sadness with me …but the people of my House Group…supported me, put their arms around me, helped, and prayed.
This summer, as we’ve had a few times, where we couldn’t find someone to watch our kids…especially with my mom not being able to help as much, people from our group stepped in, and helped.
And as my raft hits rocks or rapids, the other people paddling with me, keep me afloat.
And that’s just my story.
The reality is, this happening for over 200 people in our church!
And it’s powerful.
Most of us in this room are just itching for them to start again.
Who’s on your raft?!?!??
House Groups…Biblical Community…goes beyond just hanging out, laughing, studying Scripture and applying questions to your life.
It’s putting yourself on a raft with other people.
It’s not just about 90 minutes a week…it’s about the rest of your week.
It’s about your life.
And this is God’s vision for you as a follower of Christ.
God knows that He can do so much more with your life when you have other people in your raft!
And so many of us need this.
Some of you are in your 20’s and school or college is over.
And it can be a weird transition to go from having SO much community around you to almost no community.
Put some new people on your raft.
Others of you are in your 30’s or 40’s
If that’s you, I want to read you something from a New York Times article…one that aptly describes our culture…but maybe doesn’t have the right remedy.
Here’s what it says:
In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children's play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends—the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis—those are in shorter supply.
As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading.
Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.
No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.'s [best friends forever], the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It's time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.'s (kind of friends)—for now.
Do you feel the pain of our individualism there?
It feels like we’re out of luck
You might be thinking, “Yeah, I could use some more people on my raft, but where am I seriously supposed to be meet more good friends at 32 or 45?”
It’s not fast. It’s not immediate. But God will make it happen.
Or maybe you’re an empty nester
And life has changed for you. Maybe it even feels quiet around the house.
And somedays you’re so thankful for that, and other days, you miss the noise.
God still wants some people on your raft…and you…maybe more than ever…need to get on some other people’s rafts.
Find a way to make this happen.
If you can’t come all the time, “sometimes” is always better than “no times”
Because then at least you’re putting people in your life.
Find a way to invest in this.
For some, it’ll be the investment of childcare.
But remember, the absolute best thing you can do for your kids…is to grow spiritually yourself.
Your kids will never develop like you want them to, if you’re spiritually cold.
If childcare finances are a major issue, talk to us about it…we may be able to help.
But find a way to get some more people on your raft.
A MOVEMENT OF US IS BETTER THAN A MOVEMENT OF ME
And here’s where this whole picture gets even more beautiful:
This is where this whole Refocus series comes together:
Because when we make it about HIM, and we make it about US, it’s easier for everyone ELSE…to see Him.
Because a movement of “US” is always more powerful than a movement of “ME’s”
Our relationship with each other is what makes God shine brighter.
And actually, to our culture in particular, this is one of the best witnesses we can give.
One of the best ways we can show the Goodness of God to a culture of lonely people…is to show them our friendships…which are unlike anything many of them have seen.
Many people are longing for these types of friendships and they don’t know where to look.
But this is our vision: To be a people being changed by God (TOGETHER)…to change the world.
Because the Biblical picture of Christianity is always a bunch of people on a raft…navigating life’s choppy waters together…with the ULTIMATE purpose of reaching those who are drowning.
And that leads us to next Sunday…one of the most important days of the year for us: Family Fun Day
(put up Family Fun day Slide)
Next Sunday…we are having a huge outreach…where we will be having Food Trucks give out FREE Cheese Curds, Mini Donuts, Kettle Corn, Shaved Ice, Roasted Corn, and Cotton Candy…all Free to everyone who comes.
We’re also going to have a FIELD full of inflatables for kids, face painting, yard games, balloons, and more!
There will be 3 services next week: 9:00, 10:15, & 11:30
This is going to be huge.
I’ve already talked to so many of you who are inviting people and are telling me that it’s an easy invite (Want free Cheese curds? Do your kids like to jump? Looking to try church again? This is the Sunday!)
And people are responding!
If you’ve been wanting to be bolder in your faith lately, this is the PERFECT first step.
Hand someone a card.
Or today, maybe even right now, get on Facebook and message your friend.
Or text them and an invite.
Pray and let God USE you!
Our pre-registrations for new children are flying in…even a week early. There are going to be a TON of people here next Sunday.
And so I want to ask three things of you before I step down.
#1: If you haven’t invited someone yet, don’t miss this opportunity.
We’ll give you three more invite cards at the door today when you leave.
There are people drowning all around us.
As Mark Warder said last week, “We are not ashamed of the Gospel…because it’s the free gift of salvation”
You may help save someone’s life for eternity!
Be bold! Be proactive.
Don’t just sit around waiting for opportunities.
The disciples didn’t just sit around in Jerusalem waiting for God to bring them opportunities.
God can’t use you if you’re on the sidelines of this thing.
Let Him use you.
#2: Please pick up an oar and help.
This is an effective outreach. We are going to see literally HUNDREDS (plural!) of visitors.
And we still have around 40 holes for volunteers (parking, inflatables, etc.) with just 7 days to go.
Don’t let that happen.
If we all come at this just as consumers…then we fail.
If hundreds of people come, but no one’s there to serve them…then we fail to show them how we’re any different.
Please…sign-up on your app, or better yet, visit the hallway and sign-up
#3: As you may or may not have heard, the outside festivities for Family Fun day will be open from after the first service all the way until 3pm in the afternoon…
And so many of our visitors…the majority of which will not know Jesus…will be just hanging out, outside, at our place.
Again, don’t just come for yourself.
Let’s shine brightly for these people who are looking for God.
If my neighbors, and my friends come, I want you to do that for them.
When people come because they saw something on Facebook, or a billboard, let’s do that for them.
So be bold, 2 or 3 of you, go over together, talk to people you don’t know, and let’s be absolutely incredible hosts next week.
God is giving us an opportunity that few churches ever get…so when you come next Sunday…come on mission.
Come REFOCUSED…not on yourself…but to live for Him.
COMMISSIONING (AT END OF THE SERVICE)
This week is one of the most important weeks in the life of our church.
Hundreds of us will be reaching out to people who don’t know Jesus…and courageously inviting them to a place where they can hear of His forgiveness.
And as SO many of you are wanting to boldly invite people this week, I want to leave you today with a Scripture verse
(Deuteronomy 31:8) – NIV
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
God is already in front of you.
If it’s His will, he’s already preparing hearts.
As you go out, He will be with you.
God is going to do great things through us this week.
As we leave today, let me pray over us that God would use you to do just that this week.
Let me pray…
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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