Thursday, June 26, 2014

How to Kill the Family

This past Sunday we concluded our series called The Family and I talked about How to Kill the Family. Here's a transcript of the sermon in case you missed it: 


The Family—Week Five

We’re kind of finishing up this series that we’ve been calling The Family this morning, and I want to ask you guys a question.  Who is your favorite villain of all time? 

(Darth Vader)

Darth Vader.  That’s a good one right there.  Somebody else—favorite villain of all time. 

(Hans Gruber)

I don’t even want to know what that is. 

[LAUGHING]

(It’s Die Hard!)

Oh, that’s right.  Die Hard?

(Yeah)

Oh, okay.  He was a good villain, now that you mention it.  Captain Hammer?  Arm and Hammer? 

(No!)

You guys just don’t even know.  I’m thinking like the Joker, you know?  Common villains.  You guys have been telling me random people.  Why do I even ask you questions?  It’s so funny.  We all love villains.  I mean for the most part.  Actually, some of you have that dysfunction where you like the villain better than you like the hero in the story.  I remember Levi, when he was younger, always wanted to be the bad guy, and I’m like, “What is he going to grow up to be, a sociopath?  I mean what’s the deal?”  I think that’s just the pastor’s kid.  But he always loved the bad guy and wanted to be the bad guy.  We all love villains, you know?  We especially love villains like… Matthew and I were having a conversation this week while we were sitting in CVS waiting for our malaria pills to be filled for our Haiti trip that Liz and I are going on, and I said, “Matthew, who is your favorite villain of all time?”  And he thought about it for a minute and he goes, “It’s got to be the Joker.”  I’m like, “Well, you’ve got to tell me why is it the Joker?”  He goes, “Because the Joker is like purely evil but feels no guilt or remorse.”  Like in Batman, he just loves… Heath Ledger plays a fantastic villain and we love his character; we love what he does.  

But the truth is, even though we love villains, none of us wants to be the villain, right?  And the reason why you don’t want to be the villain is because villains are known for bringing death and destruction, and none of us wants to have a reputation for bringing death and destruction, do we?  I mean we don’t want people talking about us going, “Oh yeah, they want to take us all out,” you know?  None of us wants to have the reputation of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban or some of the fictitious villains that we hear around.  Even though we like them, we don’t want to be the villain. 

But here is the deal.  Today we’re going to talk about something that really maybe you don’t even realize or not, and that is that even though we don’t want to be the villain, we actually, without even realizing it a lot of times, play the role of a villain in a church family and can cause destruction and not even realize that we’re doing it, because we do certain things that are destructive and we just don’t talk about that stuff and we don’t think about that stuff, and so we’re guilty of playing the villain in a church family and we don’t even realize we’re playing the villain in a church family, which is why today we’re going to talk about… Actually, I don’t ever say the title of my sermon, but I like the title.  We’re going to talk about “How To Kill The Family” today.  And some of you got really excited when I said that, because you’ve got that one family member that’s been driving you crazy and you’re hoping you can go all Dexter on them and kill them without anybody finding out about it.  But I’m not talking about that.  What we’re going to talk about today, actually, is little things that we can do and things that we maybe we don’t even know we’re doing that can kill our church family. 

Now we all know that there are things that we can do to kill our immediate family or to destroy our immediate family.  I mean I’ve kind of made a list this week of things that people do to hurt their families—their immediate families—like addictions or affairs or selfishness or disrespect.  I mean those are destructive things for our immediate families.  Some of you are carrying around scars because you experienced things like that in your immediate family and it messed you up for a while.  Some of you are still recovering from things like that that destroyed your immediate family.  But here’s the deal.  There are things that you and I can do individually that can have a destructive effect, not only a negative effect, but a destructive and deadly effect on our church family.  And if you’re here this morning and you’re not a Christian, some of the things that we’re going to talk about today, the reason you’re not a Christian is because you’ve seen Christians do some of the things that we’re going to talk about today.  And I understand that, because here’s the deal.  We’re not supposed to act like that.  We’re not supposed to do some of these things that we’re going to talk about.  And if we could fix this—if we could stop doing these things that hurt our church family, that kind of rip our church family apart, that can kill our church family—if we would quit that, then we would be so attractive to people who aren’t Christians.  Actually, I think they would want to spend more and more time with us.  So we’re going to talk about that. 

To set the stage, I want you to open up your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1.  If you don’t have a Bible, we’re going to put just one verse up on the screen.  You can pull it up on your Bible app on your phone, because we’re going to look at something that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth that was kind of a warning for them.  I don’t know if it’s a warning—just kind of a correcting statement to them—that I think is so relevant to us as kind of a warning, kind of a preventative statement that he says.  And before I read that, let me tell you a little bit about the church in Corinth because it’s important that you kind of know what’s going on in that church. 

Some of you are messy, but none of you are as messy as the people were at the church in Corinth, because what’s interesting about the city of Corinth—it was this melting pot of people from all over the world; it was a major trading city; and a bunch of pagans and then all of a sudden these pagans heard about Jesus and they became Jesus-followers.  So what you had is a bunch of Jesus-followers who were pagans before they were Jesus-followers, who made up the church in Corinth.  And since that was the case, all these pagans came to the church with a bunch of weird beliefs—a bunch of messed-up beliefs—and a bunch of very strange behaviors.  For instance, in the church in Corinth you had a guy who was sleeping with his mother-in-law and there was a group in the church who were like, “That’s kind of cool.”  I mean they were a little messed up, you know?  You had another group in the church, whenever they would gather together for worship, like they would treat the communion table as an all-you-can-eat buffet.  And there were others who would come and get drunk off the communion wine, which is why we serve grape juice, because I’m afraid some of you would get carried away, you know? 

[LAUGHING]

But seriously, that’s what was happening in the church in Corinth.  And then you had these other groups who were fighting against one another and talking bad about one another.  And you had one group saying, “Well, we follow Paul” and another group saying, “We follow Apollos” and another group saying, “I don’t know who we follow, but we don’t like any of them!”  And there’s all this stuff going on in this church.  I mean it’s just a messy, messy environment.  And it was to this messy church that Paul writes the letter of 1 Corinthians.  It’s really a fantastic letter that you should read, but I just want to read one verse out of chapter 1—it’s verse 10—because I think Paul writes something that we need to listen to.  It’s kind of a warning to us of what could happen if we don’t make sure we get rid of those things that can kill our church family. 

Look at what he says in verse 10.  He says, “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other.”  Now let me stop right there for a minute, because we need to think—what gives Paul the authority to appeal to the church in Corinth?  Well, what gave Paul the authority was that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, which means that Jesus appeared to Paul face-to-face.  If you know the story, Jesus appeared to Paul while he was on the road to Damascus, turned his world upside-down, and he goes crazy.  But Jesus personally, face-to-face, called Paul to be an apostle, which means that Paul had the right and had the authority to actually command the Corinthian Christians to get along.  Paul had the right and the authority given to him by Jesus.  I mean it’s one thing for somebody else to say, “I’ve got authority,” but when Jesus gives you authority, I mean that’s pretty impressive, right?  Paul had been given authority by Jesus.  So he could have commanded the Corinthian Christians to get along.  He could have kind of powered up and puffed up and got all mean and bad and said, “You know what?  Get along or I’m coming to take you out.”  He had that authority from Jesus to do that.  But instead, what we see here is Paul does something completely different.  As he tells these Corinthian Christians who couldn’t get along to get along, to live in harmony with one another, he does that with love, because like we said, he begs them—he pleads with them—to get along.  He begs and pleads with them to live in harmony as a church family. 

And then he says this—the next sentence—he says, “Let there be no divisions in the church.”  Now we read that and we’re like, “Let there be no divisions?”  This is a church that’s full of divisions.  I mean all kinds of different people from all kinds of different backgrounds that had all kinds of weird, different beliefs filled the church in Corinth.  And Paul says, “Let there be no divisions in the church.”  The Greek word for “division” there is the word “schemata.”  We get our English word “schism” from that, and it means “to tear or to rend or to rip apart.”  So basically, what Paul is pleading with them to do is to stop ripping apart their church family—stop tearing apart their church family—that their church family is too important for them to be ripping it apart, because that is exactly what they were doing; they needed to stop it. 

But then look at what he says.  He says, “rather” or “instead”—instead of tearing one another apart, instead of ripping one another apart—instead of that, “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”  Paul is basically saying, “Instead of tearing one another apart, instead of talking about one another behind each other’s back, instead of fighting over who is going to get communion”—it’s ridiculous, we think, but that’s what they were doing—“Instead of doing all these things that cause divisions, start thinking like one another.  Start having the same purpose.”  Now when we think “thinking like one another,” we think “cult” and “drinking the Kool-Aid,” don’t we?  That’s what we think, because we’ve seen so many weird things.  You think those people who show up at your door dressed in the white shirts and the ties, and they all have the same thinking process and they don’t seem to ever think on their own.  That’s not what it’s talking about here.  It’s not talking about having no thoughts of your own.  It’s talking about intentionally submitting your thoughts to a same kind of belief system where Jesus is the head of the church—he goes on later to talk about that—where Jesus is the head and you all think alike because you had the same purpose, the same goal.  That’s what he tells them to do. 

Well, I just think this is an incredible verse.  Actually, I came across it a couple weeks ago when I was doing my daily Bible reading and as soon as I read this verse, I paused, and I started thinking, “Okay, Paul says let there be no divisions in the church.  What are some things that could cause divisions in our church family here at Hub City?  What could cause divisions among us?”  And I started to make a list and then I said, “You know what?  I’m going to ask our leadership team.  What do they think are some things that could cause divisions in our church?  What do they think are some things that could really kill our church family?”  On Monday night, when we met, they kind of came up with a list, and I wanted to share their list with you—some things that I think if we’re not intentionally working against could kill our church family.  Look at what they shared.  I just used some of the ones that they mentioned. 

The first one is selfishness.  Now we know that, right?  I mean none of us like to be around selfish people.  They drain you dry, right?  I mean why?  Because they’re only thinking about themselves.  And some of you, right now, you’re thinking about yourself.  You are that person, you know?  Selfishness though—we know how damaging selfishness is to relationships.  We do not want to be around people who are selfish.  It’s the same in our church family.  Selfishness, where we think only of ourselves—where we think solely about ourselves—leads to all kinds of problems.  All kinds of problems.

Another way that we can kill the family—a lack of love.  A lack of love.  And you know why that can kill our church family?  Because Jesus says that the thing that should characterize us as His disciples is our love for one another.  Actually, Jesus, in His letter to the church in Ephesus, in Revelation, said the thing that He had against them is that they had lost their first love.  They had lost the love that they had for one another and the love that they had for Jesus.  He rebukes them for not loving one another.  And later on, in the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul really says that if you don’t have love for one another, then anything and everything else you do is completely useless.  Like we could have had 10,000 or 20,000 people at Movies in the Park, but if we can’t love each other, then that’s just a waste.  It’s just a waste of time and a waste of space.  That’s how important love is.  A lack of love—it can kill our church family.

I’m going to give you another one.  Gossip.  This actually, I think, is the number one thing that destroys church families.  Gossip.  You know what gossip is, right?  It’s talking about something or someone instead of talking to someone about something.  That’s what it is.  And here’s the truth.  We all do it, don’t we?  We all do it.  I know that you’re going to go home and you’re going to talk about me, you know?  That’s just how it happens.  It’s cool.  But what happens when you talk about someone or something instead of to someone about something is we unintentionally—we don’t mean to do this a lot of times—we drive a wedge in between the person we’re talking to and the person we’re talking about.  It happens all the time.  We’re influencing the person we’re talking to about the person we’re talking about and we’re driving a wedge.  It divides.  It rips apart.  Gossip is dangerous, man.  It’s dangerous. 

Here’s another one—another way to kill a family.  Not prioritizing the family.  Think about it.  If you have an immediate family and you have an absentee dad or an absentee mom, you can’t have a healthy family with an absentee dad or an absentee mom.  It leads to dysfunction, right?  It’s the same in our church family.  If you have a church family member who is absentee… And here’s the tension is to think, “Well, I’m just one person and there are 100 people here.  One out of 100 is not that big of a deal.”  Actually, it’s a huge deal, because each one of you has a specific part to play in our church family, and when you’re not playing your part, the whole family suffers.  That’s why this not prioritizing the family could be very, very dangerous.  

Here’s another one.  We did a whole series on this a few months ago.  Not forgiving or not overlooking small things.  As Christians, we really should be habitual forgivers, right?  I mean we have been forgiven by God for all of our sins.  And since we have been forgiven, we should continually be dishing out forgiveness to one another.  But instead, what we do a lot of times is we hold onto grudges.  But bitterness and resentment and unforgiveness—man, that can kill a church family.  That can kill a church family.  Some of you have experienced that in a church family.  You know how dangerous that is. 

Let me give you another one.  Disrespect.  And really, when you think of disrespect, the way I define disrespect—it’s how we talk to one another or how we talk about one another.  Disrespect, a lot of times, has to do with tone.  If you are a parent and have a teenager, you know exactly what I’m talking about, because they can be saying all the right words but their tone is so disrespectful that it’s not… They’ve disrespected you even though they’re saying the right thing.  It’s how you say stuff.  Have you ever thought about how you come across to people?  I’m always fascinated by listening to people and listening to them talk to one another.  People can come across so mean and they don’t even realize it a lot of times.  They don’t even realize they’re being disrespectful.  We’ve got to do some self-assessment here.  Are we doing that?  Actually, did that picture come through, Clay, that I had on the notes?

(Yep)

It did?  Okay, put it up there.  It’s up there.  Thank you.  This was on Facebook.  I don’t like most of the stuff on Facebook, but I thought this was cool.  10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion.  90% are due to the wrong tone of voice.  When I saw that as I was working on this sermon, I thought that was a great description of what it means to be disrespectful to one another.  How we talk to one another is so, so important. 

Look at the next one.  It’s unconfessed sin.  I don’t know if you realize this or not, but did you know that your individual sins impact the entire church family?  Did you realize that?  Like you thought they were secret.  We think that a lot of times.  But our individual sins actually have an impact outside of our individual lives.  And your individual sins can impact the entire church family.  That doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect and never sin to help out your church family.  Not at all.  What it means though is that we need to develop a habit as followers of Jesus where we’re confessing our sin and repenting of our sin, because the truth is all of us are sinful, right?  We sin all the time.  I’ve had a little anger this week.  Not towards Jason—I don’t have any anger towards you—just the whole situation.  You know the stages of grief?  I feel like I’m working through the stages of grief.  One of the stages of grief is anger and I promise you… Some guy cut me off… Actually, I was driving to Movies in the Park last night.  No lie.  And this punk teenager in a little sports car pulled up behind… I’m such a bad person.  I’m sorry.  But he was riding my bumper like—I’m not lying—that far from my bumper, and I… If I wasn’t going to Movies in the Park, I would have slammed on my brakes.  I had the projector in the back so I knew it would mess up the projector for Movies in the Park.  But I was just angry with him for riding so close to my bumper when there was no reason for him to.  And I’m usually not like that, you know?  So I had to say, “God, I really need to confess that as a sin.  It’s okay if that person gets in an accident in the next five minutes, but God, I just confess my anger as a sin.”  Just being real.  But the thing is all of us sin, right?  I mean that’s just stupid.  I know.  But we’ve got to develop this habit of confession and repentance so that we don’t let unconfessed sin get in the way of our family, because it can kill our church family. 

And the last thing is unrealistic expectations.  This is true in every area of life, right?  I mean when Liz and I had premarital counseling, the only thing I remember from premarital counseling was the advice that the guy said—the pastor, his name was Bob.  Bob said, “You know what?  Okay, lower your expectations.  If I can give you one piece of advice, just lower your expectations.”  That is fantastic advice because here is the deal.  Most conflict that Liz and I have has to do with unrealistic expectations.  It does.  It just has to do with unrealistic expectations.  And I think a lot of conflict in churches comes about because we have unrealistic expectations.  Like some people think that they’re looking for a perfect church, and there’s no such thing as a perfect church.  So having unrealistic expectations can kill a church family. 

Each one of those things on that list can kill a church family.  That’s why we need to guard against those things.  And when we do that we can do what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  I’m going to read the verse again and look at what he says one more time.  “I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be…” how many divisions? 

(None)

“…no divisions in the church.”  And then read this last sentence out loud to me.  “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”  Actually, let’s all read it out loud this time, okay?  Here we go.  “Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”  Now we read that and we’re like, “Well, that’s really good.  Thanks, Paul.  Appreciate that.”  But the question is “How?”  How do we do this?  How can we be of one mind, united in thought and purpose?  Well, thankfully Paul tells us in another one of his letters. 

In the book of Ephesians 4:2 we read this.  Look at what Paul says.  And really, he’s telling us how we can be united.  Instead of working to kill the family, how can we work to bring about health in our church family?  Look at what he says in verse 2:  “Always be humble and gentle.”  Now that’s a fine sentence, except for the first word, right?  “Always be humble and gentle.”  We want other people to always be humble and gentle, but we don’t really want to be humble and gentle all the time.  But Paul says, “Always be humble and gentle.”  But what does it mean to be humble?  What does that mean?  A lot of times when we think of being humble, we think that we need to think bad about ourselves or think less about ourselves like, “Woe is me”—that’s being humble.  That’s just another form of pride really.  That’s not being humble.  Being humble is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.  And the reason you’re thinking of yourself less is because you’re thinking of others, which is why in another one of his letters Paul kind of defines for us what humility is.  Look at Philippians 2:3-4.  He says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble”—and here it is—“thinking of others as better than yourselves,” to which we write, “But they’re not better than me,” right?  I mean how often do we think that other people are better than us?  We don’t.  We think we’re better than other people, don’t we?  It’s something we have to intentionally do.  That’s why he says, “thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests”—which is what we often do—“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  That’s what it means to be humble.  So he says, “Always be humble.” 

But then he says, “and gentle.”  What does it mean to be gentle?  Well, I think that being gentle, it’s like this.  When we speak to other people in a way that doesn’t make them feel worthless and like crap.  Like you have all… When we speak to one another and we add value to their life, that’s what it means to be gentle, even if we’re saying something hard.  Like you’ve had both experiences before in your life where someone who was in authority over you speaks to you—whether it’s a boss or a teacher or a parent—and they speak to you in such a way and they correct you in such a way that makes you feel good about yourself even though you just got corrected.  They make you feel good about yourself.  But you have others that speak to you in such a way and you walk away feeling horrible about yourself.  You feel worthless.  That’s not being gentle.  But being gentle is being able to speak to others where you add value to them, saying hard things to them but in a way—that goes along with the tone—that makes them feel good about themselves.  Actually, this is such an important thing that in the book of Proverbs, Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, said this about it.  In chapter 15:1 he says, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”  Now we know that.  We’ve experienced that.  Some of you experienced it at work this week with your boss when they were harsh to you.  But some of you experienced it in a way where somebody said something kind of hard to you but they said it in a gentle way and you weren’t angry about it.  That’s how Paul says we need to act. 

Well, he goes on:  “Always be humble and gentle.”  And then he says, “Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”  Now we want other people to be patient with us, right?  I mean honestly.  And we want other people to make allowances for our faults, don’t we?  I mean don’t you want someone to make allowance for your faults?  We do.  But we don’t want to do that to other people so often.  But Paul says that we need to be the ones that are patient with other people and we need to be the ones that make allowances for one another’s faults, which is exactly… I’ll go back to Proverbs and read something else that Solomon wrote.  In Proverbs 19:11 he wrote, “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.”  I love that.  They earn respect by overlooking wrongs.  This is the same thing that Paul says, that we, as a church family, if we want to be healthy, we need to cut each other some slack, right?  And you know why we need to cut each other some slack?  Because we need people to cut us slack sometimes, don’t we?  We all mess up.  We all do dumb things.  We all say things we wish we… I mean if I haven’t made you mad yet, just hang out at Hub City a little bit longer.  I probably will, you know?  I’ll probably do something to upset you, say something dumb.  Some of you are mad because I said “crap” earlier, you know?  I’m going to do something to upset you.  I guarantee you.  I promise.  That’s why we need to make allowances for each other’s faults—because we’re all faulty; we all make mistakes.  And you know, when we do that, it keeps us from holding onto grudges.  It keeps us from coming to that place where we don’t forgive others. 

Look at verse 3.  He says this—finishes up his instructions—“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”  What’s incredible about this verse to me is that what Paul commands us to do as Christians—as followers of Jesus—is to do our part individually to keep the church corporately united and at peace with one another.  We—each one of us—has an individual part to play to keep our church as a family united and at peace with one another.  And that word “peace” is a relational term—that we are relationally at peace with one another as a church family.  See, not only do we as individuals sometimes do things that could kill our church family, but we as individuals can intentionally do things that contribute to the health of our church family.  And that is exactly what I want to happen with those of us who consider Hub City Church our family. 

I came across a quote.  I got distracted and didn’t write down where I got the quote, so I’m just telling you I didn’t come up with this on my own.  I stole it from somebody else.  But I just love this.  It says this:  “Believers must sense the need for the health of the church and take personal responsibility for it’s maintenance”—I love that—“take personal responsibility for its maintenance.  This is such a needed truth in our day of individual rights and privileges and personal preferences.  Believers are personally responsible for the corporate health and vitality of Christ’s body.”  Christ’s body is just the church.  “This means you.  Only active submission to the good of the whole can maintain peace.”  That is a fantastic quote.  If you want that… Actually, some of you, you need to email me and get that quote and like print it out and put it on your dashboard to remind yourself of that.  I mean it’s so good, because we all have a part to play in contributing to the health of the family. 

So here’s what I want you to do.  In light of all that we’ve talked about, in light of what Paul says, where he says, “Don’t let there be any divisions among you.  Don’t rip one another apart.  Don’t tear one another apart.  But live in harmony.  Be united.  Be humble and gentle.  Always be humble and gentle…” In light of all that Paul says, I want you to do two things this week as homework, okay?  This is it.  And you might want to write these down to remind you.  The first thing I think you need to do in light of what we’ve talked about is that I think you need to repent and ask God to forgive you for the times you’ve done those things that could kill the church family, like maybe go back to that list that we mentioned—those things like gossip and disrespect and lack of love and unforgiveness and unrepentant sin and all that kind of stuff—and spend some time confessing that sin to God… confessing your part in the problem to God.  I really want you to do that.  I want you to be a people who habitually ask for forgiveness, because we all need it.  And I think we need to ask for forgiveness for those times that we have all done things that could kill the family.  That’s one thing I want you to do. 

But then the second thing I want you to do this week is I want you to commit to doing your part individually to make our church family as a whole healthy.  I want you to do that.  I want you to commit to doing your part individually so that our church as a whole, as a family, can be healthy.  And some of you, you need to think about whether you want to make that commitment, right?  I understand that.  But others of you, you’re ready to make that commitment today.  And so here’s what I want those of you who you’re ready to make that commitment today, here’s what I want you to do.  I want you to take your commitment card—your little connection card that’s in your bulletin—and I want you to pull it out, and on the bottom of it where there are some lines, I just want you to write a simple statement—“I commit to do my part to make my church family healthy.”  Here’s what I know about commitments.  When we make commitments, actually God grows us spiritually whenever we make commitments.  He does.  That’s one of the main ways He grows us spiritually—when we commit to do things.  And I want us to be a church family that’s committed to the health of one another.  And that happens when we decide to do what Paul says in these verses. 

So let me pray for us.  God, thanks for today.  Thanks for letting us talk about this.  I am so grateful for our church family and I really do believe we are healthy and I thank you that we don’t have the divisions like they had in Corinth, that you really are helping us to get along.  But we know that we have an enemy who is out to kill and to steal and to destroy, and that Satan wants nothing more than to destroy Hub City Church.  But we don’t want to let him do that.  So would you give us the wisdom and the courage to do our part so that we can individually contribute to the health of our entire church family?  Whenever we’ve done things that actually are damaging to our church family, would you convict us of that sin and help us to confess that sin?  And I thank you that you say that if we confess our sin that you are faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  I just want to tell you thank you for this church family.  I really do love them and I want what’s best for them and what’s best for us so that we, as a church family, can bring as much glory and honor to you as possible.  We love you.  It’s in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen. 















Thursday, June 12, 2014

Committed to the family

Two Sundays ago I shared what I think is one of the most important messages in the almost 6-year history of Hub City Church. I talked about what it means to be committed to one another as a healthy family. In case you missed it, or if you're just curious, here's the transcript:


The Family—Week Two

Hey, if we haven’t met, my name is Jonathan.  I am so glad you’re here today.  Today is a fantastic day for you to be here, and I’m not making that up.  I say that a lot of times, but I really think today is just a great day for you to be here because I think today is going to be a defining day in the life of our church family—what we’re going to talk about today—because we’re doing this series that we’re calling “The Family,” and we’re not talking about family like the people you’re related to “family;” we’re talking about family like “church family,” and what that’s all about and what that means.  Last week Mike kicked off the series.  It was a fantastic message.  If you have not heard Mike’s message, actually we didn’t get the message recorded, but we have a transcript of it and I posted it on my blog.  You can go to JonathanEverette.com and find that and read it.  It was just a fantastic way to kick off this series, where it really talked about what God does in the church is He takes this extremely diverse group of people and He throws them all together and He says, “You’re a family.  Get along.  Do your part.  Play well with one another.”  And it’s really, really cool. 

I loved how Mike kicked off the series last week and we’re going to pick it up where he left off today.  And here’s what I want to do.  I want you to think for a minute, or try to answer for yourself this question in your mind.  Not out loud, Jason Holden.  Oh, he’s with the kids.  He’s not in here.  What is it that makes up a family?  If you were to define “family,” what would you define “family” as? 

Right after church today Liz and I, we’re going camping.  We bought a camper a couple weeks ago, so we’re like living the life of luxury.  We were camping in a tent and now we’ve got a pop-up.  Ooh, yeah.  And so we’re going to use it for the first time and hopefully I won’t die pulling it to the beach, because I’ve never pulled anything in a trailer before, so this is… You might want to videotape this.  But we’re camping at Myrtle Beach State Park and when we’re reserving our spots for Myrtle Beach State Park, they ask you how many cars are going to be there, and my brother’s coming, so I’m like, “Two cars.”  And so you have to read the little instructions.  Actually, it’s three paragraphs of things that you can and can’t do at the state park, because South Carolina’s like that.  And one of the things is they define what a family is.  And that is one to two adults with their children that are tagging along, basically is what it says.  That’s their definition of a family. 

But if you try and define what a family is, if you were to go out in the street and say, “Hey, could you tell me what’s a family?  What makes up a family?” you’d get all kinds of answers, wouldn’t you?  Because there are all different shapes and sizes of families.  You’ve got your traditional family with Mom, Dad, two kids and a dog—not a cat, because those are of the devil.  Then you’ve got single-parent families, which are… Man, it would be so difficult being a single parent, I think.  You’ve got families that are adopted families.  You’ve got immediate families.  You’ve got extended families.  You’ve got families where you’ve got grandparents raising grandkids.  You’ve got foster families.  I mean when it comes to families, there are all kinds of families.  That’s why when it comes to defining what a family is, it’s really tough to nail down.  I mean every type of family is represented in this room today, and so we really can’t answer, “What makes up a family?”  But there is another thing that we all know is true about whatever family it is that we come from, and that is that no matter what kind of family you’re a part of or what kind of family you come from, we all have that one family member that we kind of wish wasn’t a part of the family.  You know what I’m talking about?  It’s like your own Cousin Eddie.  I mean you’ve got that one family member that you wish was a part of somebody else’s family.  I mean you just can’t stand them.  You just don’t get along, you know?  Which leads to a whole other…

Take, for instance, last week—where we were last week—we were at Liz’s family’s reunion.  I have never been to Liz’s family reunion because they’ve never had a reunion, because up until two years ago, the family wouldn’t even talk to one another—like they hated one another.  And then God did some work in the family.  It was pretty cool.  And so they had their first ever Harris Family Reunion.  And some of you know this about Liz’s family; others of you, you’re going to learn this right now.  But Liz has somebody famous in her family.  Actually, her cousin is the star of the reality show “Lizard Lick Towing”—Ronnie.  Anybody watch that show?  I have never seen it, so I can’t say that I have, but I learned that there was a show—I didn’t even know there was a show of that—but Ronnie is her cousin and he is this redneck, kind of… I don’t know.  He’s weird looking, man.  He’s a weird looking guy.  If you’ve seen the show, you know.  Man, he’s a weird looking… He’s got blonde hair; he’s a big… So I went to this family reunion expecting everybody on that side of the family to look like Ronnie, you know?  And so I kind of prepped myself for this.  I was a little worried, okay?  I was just nervous.  Ronnie didn’t show up, because he’s too famous for a family reunion.  But his brother and sister showed up, and you know what?  They were normal.  Like they looked like normal people.  And I was like, “Wow, I can handle this.  I can get along with these people.”  But it was just strange.  But he’s like the outcast in the family, you know?

But when it comes to families, there is this whole other dynamic that comes into play, and that is “Is your family a healthy family or is your family a dysfunctional family?”  Now if you’re like most families, you kind of have a combination of both, right?  You’ve got a little bit of health and a little bit of dysfunction.  That’s how it is with my family.  Sometimes we’re healthy.  Other times we’re a little bit dysfunctional.  But this whole health and dysfunction dynamic that plays along with the family, which makes me wonder a very, very important question, and that is:  What is it that makes a healthy family?  Like not what makes “family,” because there are all kinds of different families that come in all different shapes and sizes.  But no matter what family you come from, what is it that makes a family a healthy family?  You ever wonder that?  Well, I was thinking about that this week and I think that there are really two things that are essential ingredients to a healthy family.  I want you to write these down.  Actually, I hope everybody got a bulletin, because there is a place on the back for you to take some notes.  I want to encourage you to write some stuff down today.  I’m going to give you some things to write down because it’s so important that I want you to write it down and not forget it.  You can type it into your “notes” section on your iPhone or whatever other worthless phone you might have… but don’t be on Facebook.  Just kidding.

But what makes a healthy family?  Two essential ingredients, I think, for a healthy family:  LOVE and COMMITTMENT.  See, healthy families—not perfect families, because there is no such thing as a perfect family—but in healthy families people love each other and they know that they are loved, and they are committed to one another, and they know that they are committed to one another.  That’s what makes a healthy family.  They love one another and they are committed to one another.  But what’s interesting is that the two ingredients that make a healthy family also make a healthy church family.  Like in order for us, as a church family, to be healthy, we have to love one another and we have to be committed to one another.  And today, I want us to talk about what it means to be a healthy church family that loves one another and is committed to one another.  And the reason we need to do that is because when it comes to the church, I mean think about it—we are a bunch of mismatched, mixed-up, mixed bag of sinners and messy people that God has kind of thrown in together and He says, “Now you’re a family.”  And since we’re all these different people with different personalities and all this, we’ve got to figure out how it is that we can be the healthy family that God has created us to be.  Now don’t hear what I’m not saying.  I’m not saying that I want us to be a perfect church family, because there is no such thing as a perfect church family.  You’re a part of it.  So you know that you messed it up for the rest of us.  But there is a way for us to be a healthy church family and that is for us to love one another and be committed to one another. 

I want to show you a verse that Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:15, where he really tells us what God’s family is.  Look at this.  In my mind, this is our theme verse for this whole series.  Paul is writing.  He says God’s family is the “church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”  God’s family is the church of the living God.  We, as the church, are a part of God’s family.  Now if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, and you’re like, “I’m not a part of the church.  I don’t even like the church,” then He’s not talking to you.  He’s talking to those of us who call ourselves “Christians,” those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus.  He says, “If you’re a follower of Jesus, you’re in the family of God, and the family of God is the church of God.” 

So what I want us to do is I want us to talk about how we can be committed to one another as a healthy church family.  We’ve talked about how to love one another in the past.  We’re going to talk about that in the future a little bit.  But today I want us just to narrow in on this whole idea of how it is that we, as a church family, can be committed to one another, so we can be a healthy church family.  And here’s what I want to do.  I want to teach you something today.  Something I learned back in grad school—I read a book in grad school called A Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren—and in one of his chapters he talks about this thing where it’s different levels of commitment, and it’s called “Community D├ęcor” and he shares different ways of being committed to one another as a church family, and I want to teach that to you.  And this is what I want you to write down.  I’m going to kind of describe each level of commitment to you and then we’re going to go back to the Bible and we’re going to open up to the story of the early church, and we’re going to see how each of these levels of commitment is illustrated right at the beginning of the early church, right when the early church got started. 

So here we go.  Are you ready?  You guys ready? 

(Yeah.)

Two and a half of you.  Thank you very much.  Mike was the half.  Sorry, I don’t know where that came from.  That wasn’t in the notes.  I apologize.  I love you, Mike.  I really do. 

Let me say this.  Let me tell you why I want to share this with you.  The first reason why I want to share this with you is I want you to understand what a healthy church family looks like, because in all honesty, most of us have no idea what a healthy church family is supposed to look like.  You will after today.  You will after today.  And then what I also want you to walk away from here with is a picture—an idea—of where you are as far as being committed to Jesus’ church.  I want you to do a little self-assessment this morning.  So let me talk about each one of these. 

We’re going to start off with COMMUNITY.  And I think we’re going to put a long paragraph on there.  You don’t have to write all this down, but you can, and maybe you should.  Or you can just take a picture of it with your phone and you can save it that way.  Some people take notes like that.  I think that’s kind of cool.  I’m not that technologically savvy.  But let’s talk about COMMUNITY.  The community is people who don’t yet attend Hub City Church.  That’s who the community is—people who don’t yet attend Hub City Church.  They may or may not know that our church exists.  They may have a friend that comes to Hub City.  They may not have a friend that comes to Hub City.  But basically, the people who are in the community are people who have no real connection to Hub City Church.  I mean there is just no connection to Hub City Church.  Maybe they come to Movies in the Park or something like that, but basically, there is no connection to Hub City.  Now I want you to think about what our community is as a church.  Our community is Spartanburg County.  Now in Spartanburg County there are around 270,000 people.  I don’t know if you realize that or not, but there are around 270,000 people in Spartanburg County.  And a study was done a few years ago that showed that 70% of the residents of Spartanburg County are what you would call “un-churched.”  They are not involved in any kind of church family at all.  They are not involved with any local church, which means that in our county—Spartanburg County—there are 189,000 people who are in our community—who are people who we either want to be a part of our church family or we want them to be a part of another church family.  Actually, I think we need lots of churches to reach 189,000 people, because I know I don’t want to be a pastor of a church of 189,000 people.  But that’s who is in our community.  That’s the community for us.  These people, they haven’t been a part of our church; they’re not a part of our church; they’re not a part of any church—there is 189,000 of them surrounding us right now.  Most of them are at home right now watching television, drinking their coffee; they’re going to play golf, but they’re not a part of any church family.  So that’s the first level of commitment.  And they’re level of commitment is really zero.  There is no commitment there whatsoever. 

Which leads us to the CROWD.  Let’s talk about the CROWD for a minute.  The crowd represents people who either come a few times a year or they even come to Hub City once a month, but really when it comes to being committed, they are not committed at all.  This isn’t on the screen, but you might want to write this down.  They are curious but not committed.  That’s what people in the crowd are.  They are curious.  They are curious about what we’re doing.  Maybe they’re curious about Jesus.  But they are not committed to anything we’re doing.  But what’s unique about someone who’s in the crowd—because we’re the only church they know anything about, if somebody were to ask them on the street “Hey, are you a part of a church?” they’d say, “Yeah, I’m a part of Hub City Church.  I only go twice a year, but that’s my church, man, you know?  Hub City Church is my church.”  They are in the CROWD.  They are curious but not committed.  And here’s what I think.  Some of you who are sitting in this room today are in the crowd.  And there is nothing wrong with being in the crowd.  But there is something wrong if you call yourself a follower of Jesus and you stay in the crowd—as we’re about to see.  See, what God wants for each of us who call ourselves His followers is He wants us to move up to the highest level of commitment as His followers—and we’ll get to that in a minute.  The CROWD. 

Then next we’ve got the CONGREGATION.  Now these are people who attend more regularly.  They come two to three times a month.  They may serve occasionally.  They may give sporadically.  These are people who have made a decision to follow Jesus.  They have been baptized.  But what designates someone who is in the congregation from someone who is in a different level of commitment is they are consumers rather than contributors.  That’s huge.  They consume what we, as a church, have to offer rather than contributing to what we have to offer.  We have a leadership team here at Hub City Church—our leadership community—and we were talking about this a couple of weeks ago, and we really think that the majority of you are in this level of commitment right here.  You are in the CONGREGATION level of commitment.  You come a couple times a month.  You help out here or there.  You give some here or there.  But really, you’re more of a consumer than a contributor.  And there’s nothing wrong with being a consume, unless you stay there forever—because God never intended for His followers to consume religious goods and services for their own benefit.  He created you, as His follower, to contribute to the mission of the church, which is to make disciples who make disciples, and to reach the world so that everybody can know Jesus.  You were created to contribute.  You weren’t created to consume, but the problem is we live in America, where we’re all consumers, and so we fight against this tension, where our culture is consume, consume, consume, but God says, “If you’re going to be a part of my church, you need to contribute.” 

Which leads us to the next level of commitment, and that is those who are COMMITTED.  Now when I say “committed,” I’m not talking about like to an insane asylum, even though some of you might need to be.  But when I’m talking about people who are committed, I’m talking about people who are very involved.  They serve regularly.  They give regularly.  They attend regularly.  And what really designates someone who is in this COMMITTED stage is they move from being a consumer to a contributor.  They are no longer consumers, but they are contributors.  Now if you’ve been coming to Hub City Church for any length of time and you were to say, “Hub City Church is my church,” then I have something very, very important I want to say to you, and that’s why this is such an important Sunday and this is why I’m so glad you’re here.  And that is that the people who are in this COMMITTED group are what we would call “members” of the Hub City Church family.  Now if you’ve been coming to Hub City for a while, you know we’ve never ever talked about membership before.  Some of you have actually asked, “How do I become a church member?” and we’re like, “We don’t really have that,” because we haven’t.  In our five and a half year history of Hub City Church, we have never had church membership.  But we’re kind of growing up as a church and it’s about time for us to do that, and so as a leadership community, we kind of talked about this and said, “Now is the time for us to kind of throw this out to everybody.”  And when it comes to the Hub City Church family, those who are in this COMMITTED group—those are the ones that we would consider Hub City Church members.  Now I know that if you grew up in church or you’ve been a part of a church for a long time, the whole idea of church membership is a little confusing, and the reason why is because we think of church membership kind of the way… American Express has that commercial that says, “Membership has its privileges.”  You know that commercial?  Well, that’s great for American Express, but that’s horrible for the church, because membership doesn’t have privileges in a church—even though I think it does—but membership comes with responsibilities in God’s church.  It comes with responsibilities.  That’s why people who are committed have moved from being consumers to being contributors.  See, in a lot of churches, the way you become a member is you walk down an aisle and you say, “Hey, I want to be a member,” and the church votes on you, and you’re a member.  But you know what that means, basically, is you just get your name on a roll somewhere.  Some of you have done it, right?  Like someone on our leadership team, they said that their name is still on some roll… I think it was Darryl.  Where are you, Darryl?  Darryl, what church are you a member of?

(First Baptist.)

He’s a member of First Baptist, even though he’s been coming here for five years.  It’s just funny.  Because his name is on a roll somewhere.  But think of how ridiculous that is in terms of family.  It would be like I could have a sign up sheet hanging on the door at my house, and the way that you can become a member of the Everette family is you would go and write your name on the sign up sheet on the door of my house.  It would be like Nathan having a friend come over and say, “I want to be a member of your family” and we’d be like, “Hey, put your name on the list, man.”  You know?  “You’re a member of the Everette family!  Thank you so much.  You don’t have to eat dinner with us.  You don’t have to do anything.  But you are a member of the family.”  That’s not how it works in the Everette home, man.  If you’re a member of the Everette family, being a member of the Everette family comes with expectations.  Like we expect you to follow the household rules.  We expect you, in the Everette family, to respect the other members of the family.  We expect you, as a part of the Everette family, to contribute to the well being of the family by doing age-appropriate chores.  There are expectations that come along with being members of the Everette family.  Now my neighbors go to church here—Mark and Lainey—they live across the street.  I don’t have the same expectations for Mark and Lainey and Paten and Savannah that I have for the people who are in my family, because they’re not—they’re my neighbors; they’re not my family.  There are expectations that come with being a part of the Everette family.  There are responsibilities that come with being a part of the Everette family.  We expect you to love the entire family, even if you don’t feel like it… which is often, you know?  I mean if you’ve got kids, you know that.  But we just expect that of you.  We have that expectation. 

Well, the same thing is true of being a member of the Hub City Church family.  See, we think that membership comes with responsibilities.  It comes with responsibilities—not like overwhelming, but simple responsibilities, like attending regularly, being a part of a hub group, serving somewhere, giving financially to support the mission of Hub City.  See, members contribute to the well being of the entire family.  And do you know why they contribute?  Because they’re committed.  They are committed to the mission of Hub City, just like my family is committed to our family being the best family that it can be, even if we don’t like each other all the time.  If you ever ask my kids, they don’t want a crappy family; they want a great, healthy family… even if they’d rather Mom and Dad leave for a few hours, you know?  They want a healthy family.  And we want the same thing at Hub City, which means we’ve got to be committed to one another.  That’s that group—the COMMITTED—they’ve moved from consumers to contributors. 

And then the last group, the last level, and that’s the CORE.  Now the CORE really are those who take ownership and provide leadership for the church family.  The people who are in the core, they have key ministry responsibilities.  They have key roles on teams—they have leadership roles.  But I know what some of you are thinking when it comes to this whole idea of core.  You’re thinking, “Are you telling me the core is like the ruling class of Hub City?”  Not at all.  The core has nothing to do with ruling.  It has everything to do with being the greatest servers, the greatest contributors, and the greatest givers who have the most responsibility at Hub City.  That’s who the core is—the people with the most responsibility, who provide leadership—essential leadership—to make sure things happen, to get people involved, to get people plugged in, to help other people grow as disciples of Jesus. 

It’s kind of like this… I was trying to think of a way… something I could use to illustrate the CONGREGATION, the COMMITTED, and the CORE, and this is kind of how I would describe it.  I am a Clemson football fan and for 12 years we went to all the Clemson home games.  This past year was the first year we didn’t go to the games.  But every year that we went to the games, we sat in the nosebleed section—because we’re cheap like that—way up high, and we loved watching the games.  We’re fans of Clemson football.  The fans of the football team are like the people who are in the CONGREGATION.  They’re fans.  The players on the team are like those who are in the COMMITTED group, because they are committed.  And the coaches are different from the players.  They are still a part of the team, right?  But a coach has more responsibility, don’t they?  The coach is more accountable.  A player at Clemson is not going to get fired if they don’t do their job.  They might lose their starting position, but man, if the team starts losing, Dabo is gone, you know?  They’re going to kick him out.  Some of you would like that already.  I heard that, Janet.  God saw you too.  I was waiting for a comment there.  It’s like in my family—Liz and I provide leadership.  My kids are the players on the team, you know?  They have to unload the dishwasher, make their beds, clean their rooms, clean the bathroom and things like that.  There are responsibilities that come with that.  But these are the categories—COMMUNITY, CROWD, CONGREGATION, COMMITED, and CORE.

Now here’s what I want you to do.  If you have your Bible, I want you to open up to Acts 2, because in Acts 2, what we see is really each of these categories illustrated in the life of the early church, right at the beginning of the early church.  If you don’t have your Bible, we’re going to put these verses up on the screen for you.  You can use your Bible app.  If you need a Bible, let me know and we’ll get you a Bible because really, I think you should go home and read this chapter this week.  Some of you read it before you got here because I put that in the email.  Let me kind of set the stage for what’s going on in Acts 2.  In Acts 1, it was right after Jesus rose from the dead, and He appeared to the disciples for a period of about 40 days, where He taught them all kinds of things.  But one of the things that Jesus told the disciple was that “I want you to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes, because when the Holy Spirit comes, the Holy Spirit is going to empower you to be my witnesses all over the world.”  Well, chapter 2 begins with the Holy Spirit showing up.  Now let me just say, before I read this, I know that if you’re not a Christian and you don’t believe the Bible and you don’t believe in Jesus that what we’re about to read is going to seem really, really weird.  I understand that, because we’re talking about the Holy Spirit, which if you don’t believe the Bible, I think it’d be weird to believe in the Holy Spirit.  But we actually believe that God is in three persons:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and right here, what we see is the Holy Spirit showing up on this group of believers. 

So look at Acts 2, starting in verse 1.  It says this:  “On the day of Pentecost, all the believers were meeting together in one place.  Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them and everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.”  Now just picture what’s going on.  It would be like all of us in this room, the Holy Spirit coming down on us, and all of us would start talking in different languages.  Like some of you would be talking in Hebrew; some of you would be talking German; some of you would be talking Spanish; some of you would be talking Russian; some of you would be talking some click language from Africa, you know?  It’d be weird.  And all of us start talking in all of these different languages and the reason we’re talking in these different languages is because we’re going to tell all these other people about Jesus here in just a minute.  But just imagine.  That’s exactly what happened here.  And I actually think it’s pretty cool that when the Spirit shows up, He does this incredible thing and caused people to speak in languages they had never taken a class in.  But what we need to notice that’s very, very important here is the Holy Spirit is what enables and empowers this group of people to be the family of God.  And just as the Spirit of God enabled them to be the family of God, so the Holy Spirit of God enables us and empowers us to be the family of God.  We need the Holy Spirit. 

But then look what happens next, because what happens next is we see an illustration of the COMMUNITY.  Verse 5:  “At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem.”  So the community for the early church were these devout Jews who were living in Jerusalem.  But as we’re about to see, a lot of the people in the community all of a sudden become a part of a CROWD that wants to find out what’s going on.  Look at verse 6:  “When they heard the loud noise”—that’s all these people in the community—“When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.  They were completely amazed.  ‘How can this be?’ they exclaimed.  ‘These people are all from Galilee’”—which means that these people were all rednecks from some hick town, because that’s what Galilee was, and here are these rednecks from this hick town who had no education at all and all of a sudden, they’re speaking in all these languages along with all these other people, and they are just shocked by that and they’re curious about what’s going on.  So it says:  “These people are all from Galilee and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages.  Here we are Here we are—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans, and Arabs”—in other words, there are all these different people, which is a great picture of the church, right?  All these different people from all these different places coming together—“And we all hear these people speaking in our own languages about the wonderful things God has done!” 

And then look at verse 12:  “They stood there amazed and perplexed. ‘What can this mean?’ they asked each other.”  See?  Right here we see something interesting about this crowd.  What drew the crowd was they were curious about what was going on.  This is the CROWD.  They went from the COMMUNITY, who had no idea that anything was going on, to a CROWD, who was curious about what was going on.  And so they showed up to check things out.  But what we see next is not everybody stayed in the crowd.  Some people thought that the disciples were nuts.  Look at what happened in verse 13.  This is awesome.  It says:  “But others in the crowd ridiculed them, saying, ‘They’re just drunk, that’s all!’”  Because we all know that alcohol forces you to speak in a language that you don’t know, you know?  “They’re just drunk.  They’re speaking Arabic,” you know?  I don’t know.  I’m sure some of you have been drunk before and you did not start speaking a language that you didn’t know.  But these people, basically what they did is they blew off the disciples.  They just blew them off and they went back to the community. 

But not everybody blew them off.  Some people were still curious.  And so they stayed around.  And this crowd, they gathered around wondering, “What’s going on?  What’s happening here?”  All of a sudden Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, stands up, leverages the situation that this crowd showed up, and starts to preach to them.  And basically—I’m not going to read his sermon because it’s kind of long—but if you were to outline his sermon, he just tells them a few simple things.  Basically, he preached that “Jesus came.  You killed him.  God raised Him from the dead.  We’re all witnesses of the fact that God raised Him from the dead.  And you need to repent, believe and be baptized.”  That was his sermon.  This was a real simple sermon—“Jesus came.  You killed Him.  You’re responsible for His death.  But God raised Him from the dead.  We’re all witnesses of the fact that he rose from the dead.  You need to repent, believe, and be baptized.” 

After he does this sermon, something incredible happens.  All these people that were in the crowd, listening to the sermon, 3,000 of them moved from being in the CROWD to being in the CONGREGATION.  Look at verse 41.  It says this:  “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.”  3,000 people moved from being in the CROWD to being in the CONGREGATION that day.  The congregation was made up of those who believed and were baptized.  This is very, very important for being a part of the congregation—believing and being baptized is essential for that.  And there were 3,000 of them.  And let me just say—some of you, you’re at the point where you believe, but you have never been baptized, and I just want to encourage you.  There is a place on your connection card that says, “I want to be baptized.”  If you’re interested in being baptized, I encourage you to take this step of obedience and say, “I want to be baptized.”  And here is something really cool.  On July 6, we’re going to have another cookout after our worship gathering at Scott and Debbi’s lake house and we’re going to do baptism in the lake, or we’d like to if some of you sign up, and so just to let you know that.  We have a cow trough that we baptize in as well, but I think it’s kind of cooler to do the lake… even though I love our cow trough. 

(It’s the Hub Tub.)

It’s the what? 

(It’s the Hub Tub!)

It’s the Hub Tub.  That’s good, Nathan.  I like that.  Don’t take a bath in there.  That’s weird.  But we’re going to do that.  You can sign up on your card about that.  But here is something interesting I find about people who are in this congregation—these 3,000 people.  When you think about what they did—they believed and they were baptized—actually, that is where most churches draw the membership line.  They allow you to be a member of their church if you’ve believed and you’ve been baptized.  If you do that, you can get your name on a roll.  But I think it’s clear from the next few verses that we’re about to read that these people who believed and were baptized, they took a next step of commitment.  They went beyond just believing and being baptized.  And I think it’s this next step of commitment that they took, which really designated them as members of this local church in Jerusalem that had just started.  And let me tell you, these here are some of my favorite verses in the entire New Testament, because these verses paint a picture of what I want our church to be and what I think God wants our church to be. 

Look at verse 42.  It says this—after 3,000 of them became believers—it says:  “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.  They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people”—and “all the people,” that’s the people in the community.  And then look at this:  “And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”  Now I want you to notice out of this passage what these people did to show their commitment—to show that they were committed, to show that they had moved from the CONGREGATION, who had just believed and been baptized, to people who were in the COMMITTED group.  They “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship,” which is meeting together, to eating together, including doing the Lord’s Supper regularly, and to praying together.  They met together regularly in the Temple, which means they met together regularly in large groups, which is kind of like our Sunday worship gathering, and they met together regularly in houses, which is kind of like our Hub Groups—our small groups.  They did that regularly.  And then they shared their money and possessions to meet needs.  They shared that stuff. 

I love what happens as the result of their commitment.  As the result of them showing these things, as a result of them doing these things, we read that “each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”  Like more and more people were becoming a part of the family of God because the people who were a part of the family of God were committed to the family of God.  There is a link there between being committed to the family of God and God doing something through the family of God and bringing more people into the family of God.  It’s just incredible what happens.  There is this amazing link between their commitment level and God using them to turn the world upside down.  And can I say, that is exactly what I want to happen here at Hub City, with the Hub City Church family, and that’s why doing life this way is really what it means to be a member of the Hub City Church family.  So COMMITTED.

But what about the CORE?  Where is the core illustrated in this story?  Because that’s the end of the chapter.  We go to chapter 3 next and something else happens.  Well, the CORE—that’s the apostles—the 120 believers who received the Holy Spirit to start off with, who provided leadership to this new church, the ones who provided direction to this new church, the ones who had the teaching—“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”  The core were the apostles and the leaders.  And what’s interesting is the early church always had a leadership structure.  They always did.  I’ve talked to people that have said, “Well, there was really no leadership in the early church.”  I’m like, “I don’t know what Bible you’re reading,” because there is definite leadership.  Just read through the book of Acts.  People were continually bringing things to the apostles saying, “What do you think about this?  What should we do about this?”  But what’s interesting is as their leadership team continued to grow, more and more people became a part of the team, which is exactly what God wants for each of you.  See, I think God wants to grow each of you into someone who is a leader—to that CORE level of commitment. 

So think about these.  We’re going to put all five of them up on the screen:  COMMUNITY, CROWD, CONGREGATION, COMMITTED, and CORE.  I want you to do a little self-assessment real fast.  What’s your level of commitment?  Where would you say you are on this list?  I want you just to jot it down on the top of your notes real fast.  Just jot it down—where are you?  Be honest with yourself.  You don’t have to share it with anybody.  I’m not going to check your answer on the way out or anything, you know?  But where would you say you are as far as your commitment level?  And then here’s what I want to challenge you to do.  In light of where you are, what do you think God wants you to do to move to the next level?  I’ll give you some suggestions.  I think for some of you, you are kind of at the CROWD level; you have been curious for a long time, but you’ve never believed and been baptized, or maybe you believe but you’ve never been baptized—what you need to do is be baptized.  Others of you, you come once a month, maybe twice a month—you need to up your commitment a little bit, start attending more; you need to start serving somewhere, somehow.  Some of you, you need to start giving to up your commitment level.  Others of you, what you need to do is you’re like, “Well, you know what?  I’ve just kind of been lazy and haven’t exhibited the level of commitment that I know is needed to be a part of this church family” and you know exactly what it is you need to do, but you’ve been putting it off, but God’s been talking to you about it for months.  Well, now is the time, I think, to up that level of commitment.  What is it that you feel like God wants you to do to move to the next stage?  That’s what I want you to do. 

Like I said, I’m not going to hunt you down.  You can stay where you are for as long as you want and I’m not going to get mad at you.  But here’s what I know.  God has something planned for your life.  And key to God’s plan for your life is you being a committed member of the family of God, and that means being a committed member of a local church family.  And I don’t want you to miss out on what God has for you.  A key part of what God has for you is being committed to your local church family.  That’s what it means for us to be a healthy family. 

And you know, last week Mike talked about how the church is so revolutionary, if you think about it, because the church is really the only organization in the world that’s made up of diverse people.  Most organizations are made up of people who are alike.  If you’re part of the NRA, you like guns.  If you’re a part of PETA, you don’t like animals… I mean you do like animals—sorry.  You don’t like eating animals, or killing animals.  That’s what I was about to say.  You hang out with people who are like you.  The church is unique and it’s made up of everybody from everywhere, from different backgrounds and different personalities, from Republicans and Democrats and Libertarians and people who hate politics, you know?  And it’s made up of all kinds of different people and how revolutionary that is. 

Well, just as revolutionary as that is—it’s even more revolutionary, it’s even more countercultural in our noncommittal society for us to commit to being a part of a local church family.  And when we commit to being a part of a local church family, God uses that local church family to turn the world upside down, which is exactly what happened in the book of Acts, and I think is exactly what could happen here at Hub City if we would up our commitment and be committed to one another.  And just one more thing that I’ll share with you.  Like I said, we’ve never had membership here at Hub City and people have asked, “How do I become a member?”  Well, now we can tell you, because really, it has to do with this COMMITTED level of commitment.  And we’re going to talk about it in more detail in a couple of Sundays.  Actually, we’re going to have our first ever membership class—how to be a member of Hub City Church family—on Sunday, June 22, from 5:30-7:30 in our offices.  I’ll be telling you some more about it.  Here is the deal.  I invite all of you to come and be a part of that class.  At the end of the class we’ll give you the opportunity to decide whether or not you want to commit to having that level of commitment.  You don’t have to.  You can keep coming to Hub City.  Can I pick on you for a minute, Darryl? 

(Yeah.)

Darryl was a little nervous about me sharing this because he doesn’t want any of you to leave, because you’re like, “Oh, I can’t make it to that level of commitment.”  I’m telling you, I want what’s best for you, but you can stay at whatever level of commitment you are.  That’s between you and God.  But we want to give you an opportunity to be the kind of people that God wants you to be.  And in order to do that, you’ve got to be committed to a local church family.  So we’re going to talk about that in more detail in that class. 

Where does God want you to be?  What do you need to do in light of what we’ve talked about?  That’s your homework this week. 

Let’s pray.  God, I thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk about this.  I love this church family and I am so grateful for everybody who is a part, people who have been coming for years, people who maybe this is their first Sunday—I am just so grateful for them.  And I’ve worked for a number of churches and you know that I couldn’t say that I really loved some of them, but I really do love these people.  But even more than me loving them, I know that you love them and that you want what’s best for them, and what you want for us as a church family is you want what’s best for us and what’s best for us is for us to be committed to one another and committed to you and committed to our local church family.  So my prayer is that you’d give us the courage to make that commitment.  It’s going to take some rearranging of schedules for some of us.  It’s going to take us getting up earlier some days when we want to sleep in.  It’s going to take some courage and some discipline.  Would you give us that courage and that discipline?  We love you.  It’s in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.