Welcome to Hope City! I am so glad to see you all today. Today we are starting a brand-new series here called #Community. We are going to be spending the month of February talking about relationships! But before all you singles get squirmy on me, we’re not going to be talking about marriage, nor are we talking about dating. But the principles that we will talk about I believe will strengthen your marriage, and will increase your likelihood of getting a date… Can I get an AMEN to that? We are going to be honing in on something that everybody wants, but maybe we’re not too sure how to get it. I hope that you’ll join us each week for the next 4 weeks… Maybe make a commitment to be here for the next 4 weeks as we dive into #Community. I believe that after 4 weeks, your life could be more fulfilled, and satisfied when we embrace what God has called us to! Anyone interested? Alright…
This past week I had the incredible privilege of going to Manta Ecuador with Operation Christmas Child, and a crew of pastors from around the country. I spent time in 4 different churches and witnessed first-hand what God can do through a simple shoe box gift. Like this picture of my new friend Jason… I can’t wait to share more about that with you… It truly was an incredible trip… But something funny happened on this trip.
I took 3 flights to get from here in Sarasota to Manta Ecuador. I flew from Sarasota to Charlotte, and then from Charlotte to Greensboro N.C. where I then boarded Samaritans Purse’s DC-8 combination passenger and cargo plane to fly from N.C. to Ecuador.
The first two flights were your standard run of the mill flights, small… tightly packed planes… Everyone files on, aggressively takes all the overhead compartment space that they can, and then stakes their claim once seated. Well, I did what any good American does, I reached into my bag, pulled out my oversized headphones and put them directly on my ears.
Symbolically I was saying, I don’t want to talk, I want to read, write and play games on my phone. And so I did! I shut the world out for the next 3 hours. It was completely delightful!
Well, I land in Greensboro, get off my plane, and head to the van that was going to transport us to Samaritan’s Purse and their official hanger. We start to load on their “DC-8 jet”, and everything about this is different.
• The men that screened us at “TSA” were the ones flying us there!
• We walked through the hanger, under the wing, right by the jet engine, towards a set of stairs in the back.
• Climbed in to this plane to find 6 rows of seats in the rear of this plane.
There was nothing normal about this.
And yet, I decided that this wasn’t going to interrupt my long standing tradition of shutting out the world during this 6 hour flight! 6 hours! This is a long time. You got to understand something. I talk for a living. I listen for a living. And I’m an introverted extrovert, which means I love people, but I also need private time to refuel and rest. And now I’m on a plane with 28 other men and women who TALK FOR A LIVING! THEY WERE GOING TO WEAR ME OUT!
I started to put my headphones on, and this well intentioned college pastor sitting next to me goes, “Don’t you just love this? No one is on their phones, everyone’s talking and enjoying their time.”
“Uh huh… yeah. LOVE IT. LOVE…. IT…” (DRIPPING WITH SARCASM, while putting on the headphones)
It was in that moment that I realized that I have a problem. I’m a pastor that’s supposed to love people. And yet I’m highly allergic to talkative people on planes! My throat gets itchy… I start getting antsy… Looking for the emergency exits… But for real… there are times when I intentionally avoid community because I’m afraid to engage in it. I know it’s going to cost me something, cause me to do something, or require something from me. And I am happy to withdraw and drown it out.
I made plans to read a book. I needed to work on my message for this weekend… I’ve been trying to make it to level 25 in this DOTS & Company game…
And this isn’t good.
I’m not alone, though. You all do it too. Don’t judge me too harshly! You’ve slipped the headphones on, even if you don’t know it. You’ve waited in your car just a little bit longer until you’re next door neighbor finishes walking the dog back into the house so you don’t have to talk… You’ve intentionally looked the other way to avoid eye contact with someone you know wants to talk…
We all have pushed community away from one time or another. Or we’ve been so frustrated by it, or didn’t know what to do with it, so we just said, I’m done! And yet, there is a deep yearning on our part to be connected with one another. This is why social media is so prevalent in our society. It provides the best of both worlds. You get the feeling of connectivity, and community, while being in complete control at all times! Tired of community? Toggle the Do Not Disturb switch. Community has become something we are quickly distancing ourselves from and yet deeply desiring at the same time.
This isn’t good. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. Listen to what God has to say about it. In Genesis 2:18, from the very beginning, God saw Adam alone, and said,
The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18
This is the theme for our series… Being alone is not how God designed you to experience life. God designed you to be in community with others, and in community with Him! And yet, somehow, we decide to block out the community that we were designed for.
I wonder if for today we can all just take our headphones off for a second and take a look around. I wonder if we could embrace engagement. For the remainder of this morning, I’m going to ask you to engage with me, and while I know you may want to slip back into the comfort and the quiet of your own muffled world, I’m begging you not too. Because I need you. We need you. We need Community.
The problem is that most of us just don’t know how to have it. To start, we must identify what we mean when we say community. Some people say community is…
Community Definition- Broad moving towards specific
• Community= a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common… Like, my community where I live is called Shadow Oaks Estates… Those of us who live in that development are from that community, and yet that just doesn’t seem like enough. It’s not real community. I can live there and still feel empty.
• Community= a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Well, this falls a part too, because as we have seen here in America, our community may be defined by a feeling, but the moment we stop sharing common attitudes, interests and goals, we fall apart. The moment we can identify and label you as something OTHER than me, community is broken.
Which is why for the purposes of this series, we are defining community as
• Community= a group of interdependent people intentionally living together for a purpose. Now we are getting somewhere…
God’s word speaks clearly about our need for community and I want to invite you this morning to take a look with me in your Bibles as we see how the early church embraced community… Turn with me to Acts 2:42-47… That’s page ***** in the Bible’s around you. Right now we are reading through the 4 gospels, which tell the story of Jesus here on earth… the book of ACTS is like part 2 of that story. This is when you see the church form and start to live out the mission that Jesus had charged them with going & Making Disciples, baptizing them, and Teaching them to Obey all that He commanded.
At this point in time the Apostle Peter, stands up and addresses a crowd and tells them that Jesus died on a cross for the forgiveness of their sins, and defeated death by raising from the dead 3 days later. And because of this, they had the hope of a relationship with God! And Verse 41 says,
41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Acts 2:41
All of a sudden, their first church plant showed up with 3,000 people in it! WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? What’s next? How do you even begin to care for all these people?
Look at what they did next.
42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. Acts 2:42-43
These men and women, devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship. Do you know what this word fellowship means? It’s the Greek word Koinonia, which carries with it the idea of close mutual association… they were interdependent and connected. It means community! They were all in… pushed their chips to the middle and said we are here. They revealed something to us, that we can’t miss this morning. Community is a Commitment, not a Commodity. We don’t purchase community. You don’t have community because you bought a home! You don’t move into community, you commit to it!
Think about the difference between a house and a home. It’s easy to build a home. You get some concrete, some cinderblocks, some 2×4’s and away you go. Grab a hammer and nails, and you’ve got yourself a house in a matter of months. But a home is not built with a hammer and nails. A home is built by the shared experiences of great JOY, and the sad reality of enduring great sorrow. A home is built in the midst of the tensions of life and the incredible thrills as well. Houses are built in days, homes are built over the course of months & years.
These men and women were devoted to this new community! They were committed! They didn’t see community as something that they were owed, but rather something they invested in!
They just got practical about it! They SHARED MEALS TOGETHER- which means they spent time together. There are few things that engage people more than sharing a meal together and inviting someone to sit around your table. THEY PRAYED TOGETHER, which means that they gathered their hearts together around their spiritual concerns. We do this every week here at Hope City on Wednesday nights we meet for Mid-Week prayer. I want to encourage you to come on out and try it. It’s an hour of our week that we set aside to be quiet before the Lord and bring our spiritual concerns before Him! Come this Wednesday night! This new community prayed together. But they also were DEVOTED TO GROWTH, devoted to the Apostles Teaching. This is why I challenged you today to make it a priority to be here all 4 weeks of this month! Wherever you are, I want to encourage you to take one step closer in your commitment to community. Community is something you build, not something you buy! Let’s build this together here at Hope City!
These men and women also did something else…
44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:44-47
Do you see this? What did they do? They SOLD, GAVE, MET TOGETHER, BROKE BREAD, ATE TOGETHER, and PRAISED GOD TOGETHER. What is the single thing that ties all of these words together? They are all verbs! They are action oriented. These men and women knew something else about community… and that is WE DO COMMUNITY, NOT GO TO COMMUNITY. Community is not something that just happens to us, it happens because of us! There is intentionality behind what these men and women did. They had reason to sell their property and their possessions. They were giving it to others, to those who were in need.
Do you remember when Hurricane Irma hit? Neighbor was out helping neighbor, friend was helping friend, we were doing community! It wasn’t something that we went to… it was something that we were doing! Think about September 11th, 2001. America was never the same! We changed. there was no better image of community than that. It didn’t matter your skin tone, it didn’t matter your age, or your financial portfolio. We were in this together. People jumped in and acted. They helped, they grieved together. The nation collectively held hands and said we’re in this together.
If you’re new to church, or you’ve been away from church for a long time, I want to encourage you with something. Hope City is a great community to get involved in. We do community here at Hope City because Jesus showed us community. He was in community. Jesus was in community with God the Father, and with the Holy Spirit from the beginning of time John 1 says. We are an active church community that is interdependent on one another! I hope you know that we are here for you!
If you’re a long-time church goer… you’ve been around the block, you’ve been going to church since you were in diapers… Can I say something to you out of love for a second? WE DO COMMUNITY, NOT GO TO COMMUNITY. We need to stop church hoping, simply because you didn’t get anything out of the worship that day. Can we stop treating church like a commodity? Or I just wasn’t connected. No one would talk to me. Community is not something that we go to. Just as we don’t go to the Church, we are the church. These four walls do not define us as a church. For real! We don’t even OWN THESE FOUR WALLS! WE RENT THEM! You don’t have community because you go to a church. You have community because you get involved… You actively DO something about that community.
This is what I love about Joe and Julianne Rill. You’ve heard their story over the past several weeks. Joe & Julianne, are our connect group coordinators here at Hope City and they are serving in a role that is fostering community, but they themselves would tell you that they moved to Sarasota and it took them months, maybe even a year to be a part of a community!
What are you waiting for? Don’t let life go by. Remember, Community= a group of interdependent people intentionally living together for a purpose. We need one another. We are interdependent… and we are intentionally living together in Sarasota #ForSarasota because we believe that God is #ForSarasota. We will do whatever we can to grow this community.
And look what happens back in Acts…
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Their was exponential growth! They saw people being saved daily. People were coming to know Jesus on a daily basis. They were placing their trust in Jesus and this new community was growing. Why? Because Community Is Contagious! It is a lot like laughter… It draws you in… You hear someone laughing, and it makes you want to find out what’s funny? Remember when you were kids and someone would start to giggle? You knew it was the wrong time… You knew mom was going to give you that evil eye… the I dare you glare. But you couldn’t help it… someone else was giggling and before you know it you were giggling too. It’s contagious. So is community.
As I told you, it was one of the coolest things to ride on Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 plane. But you know where my head was… I wanted my headphones on, and my eyes down. But I don’t know if you’ve ever rode on a private plane… There just aren’t the same rules. Yes, we had to have our seat belts on when the pilot turned the sign on, but other than that, it turned into a flying living room. People were up and about. Standing around. It looked like the lobby after church. CHAOS! People hanging in the galley in the back. Grabbing cups of coffee… And before you know it community is forming around the plane. The sound of conversation was unreal for it being on a plane. Well, let me tell you what happened to me. All of a sudden, my talkative pastor buddy sitting next to me says, this guy over here took over a 42 Year old church and has doubled it’s growth. Huh… so, he calls him over and starts talking. And wouldn’t you know it that before you know it, I’m standing in the aisle next to Phillip from Seattle and we were laughing, talking and swapping stories for well over an hour! I got sucked in. I literally shifted my headphones from here to here. Community Is Contagious!
And so let me ask you, would you be willing to shift your headphones. If you’ve got them on… Maybe go ahead and slide them down. Or maybe you’ve got them around your neck, they’re in the ready for whenever you need to quick pretend that you’re unavailable. Would you fold them up?
Here’s why this matters. Look back at verse 45 with me.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What does this have to do with community? More importantly what does this have to do with you and me? Let me tell you, Who added to the numbers that day? THE LORD! It was God who brought the people… The Lord, is always the one who does the saving. And yet, God trusts us to do the caring. He says, I’ll do the saving, but you will be the community.
God will only bring the number of people we are prepared to care for! He isn’t going to entrust us with more people if they are going to show up and have no one who is willing to care for them! We need to care for one another, and this is best done in community!
This is why we have started mid-week prayer. We want to care well for all of you!
This is why we tithe here at Hope City. We give 10% of our income back to our church. This cares for people, families, serves our community, and reaches people around the world. In fact, I want to ask you to make a plan with your tithes and offerings. Did you know that you can set your tithes and offerings to be recurring? You can set this to your schedule, maybe this is your pay schedule, or once a week. Whatever it is for you. Would you consider doing this? Why is this important? Recurring giving is how we know that what we’re able to budget for. We are in the process of hiring a youth pastor, because we know that God will only bring the number of people we are prepared to care for, and we need to be prepared. I told you this back in October. One of our goals for 2018 is to pour into the next generation… God has brought us so many kids and students—we would be irresponsible not to care for them well. I loved this picture… This is our 3-5th grade girls connect group. Jenny Young, and Joelle Steinhoff are leading this group and doing an incredible job pouring into these girls. Let me tell you… this is contagious. God will grow this if we’re prepared to care for who He brings. This is why I’m asking you to have a plan for your tithes and offerings.
We have connect groups because we know that discipleship happens best in groups. That circles are better than rows… We are intentionally creating space for you all to get into smaller community to invest and encourage one another.
Our dream team is a place where people are interdependent and united around a purpose. Our dream team is like a growth accelerator for community. If you’re new at Hope City, or you’re looking for community, this will infuse community into your life faster than you’ll know what to do with it.
Community is contagious. We must be ready to care for those God brings our way.
This is why we need you. We need you to intentionally put down the headphones, to unplug and connect. Community is InterDependent. We need you, but deep down, you need others. We need one another. Community is shaped by you, and yet at the same time it shapes you.
This morning, as I’ve been talking, some of you have realized for the first time that you and I are a lot alike. It’s easy for us to avoid community. It’s easy for us to not engage with those around us.
So let me ask you, where do you find yourself muting community, or avoiding community?
Think for one minute where that is. Maybe for you it’s at work, or in your neighborhood, at school, or even here at Church.
What if this week you tried something different, what if this week you leaned into community? What if you looked for opportunities to engage with people around you and intentionally care for them? Imagine what God could do through you!
Linger in a conversation… Ask the Lord to show you someone who needs you this week.
God designed us for community and He always has!