ONE: One Family

Categories: ONE 2015

This is the second week of our series called ONE. This series will last through the rest of November, taking us right up to our Christmas kickoff in December. That’s also our official launch here at the school. This is our third week here at WT, and we’ve been using the month of November to learn how to do church here at the school so we’re ready for our December launch. But we’re not just using this month to prepare our new facility. We’re also using this month to prepare ourselves. We are exploring who we are. Why are we here? Why did we make this move? Why does Connect exist in the first place?

This month is not just about learning where things go and how to set things up. It’s way more important than that. We’re listening as God reminds us who we are, why we’re here, and what He has called us to do.

That’s what this series is all about. Let me pray for us and we’ll get into the second week of this series.

Monday night is trash night at our house. And that means that our 7-year-old son, Brock, has a job to do. He has to empty all the trash cans in the house and take all the trash to the garage.

This past Monday, Brock was doing his job, just like usual. Nicki and I were upstairs watching Downton Abbey. Actually, Nicki was watching Downton Abbey. I was sitting beside her, wondering if something was ever going to happen on this show, EVER! It never did.

But anyway, Brock was busy gathering up all the trash. When he was finished, he marched into our room, put his hands on his hips, and declared, “My job here is done!” And he marched out.

My first thought was, “Wow, that was more exciting than anything that has happened on Downton Abbey.”

My second thought was, “Brock knows his job and he does it. He doesn’t complain about it, ever. Actually, he does it joyfully because he knows that he is doing something to help his family. It may seem like a small thing to me, but to Brock, he is doing his part. He is doing his job because he is part of a family.”

Here’s the thing…if you’re part of the church, you’re part of a family. And today, we’re going to have a little family meeting. Now, I know some of you are here just checking things out. And I’m so glad you’re here. Today will give you a lot of insight into what makes us tick here at Connect. If you want to know what our church is all about, you’ll get a very good glimpse of it today.

But for those of you who are part of our Connect family already, today is going to be very healthy. We’re going to take an introspective look at who we are. And who we are is a family.

That’s exactly what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2. He told the people of the church in Ephesus, “You are members of God’s family.” (Ephesians 2:19b, NLT)

That’s what the church is. The church is God’s household, God’s family. And if we are in Christ, then we are part of that family.

That doesn’t mean that we’re a perfect family. Has anybody ever seen a perfect family? This week, you’re probably going to get together with your family for Thanksgiving. Some of you are really looking forward to it. But others of you, if you’re honest, are kind of dreading it.

You’re dreading it because you’re sure that Uncle Jack is going to get drunk. Your cousin Sally is going to show up with her latest boyfriend, and by the way she’s carrying his baby. Aunt Martha is going to do nothing but criticize everything. Your turkey is too dry. Your rolls are too hard. Your mashed potatoes are too lumpy. And then you’ve got your cousin Steve, the religious legalist, who will look for every opportunity to be condescending and condemning to everyone who doesn’t live up to his standards. He’s just a royal religious jerk. And then don’t forget that half of your family are Republicans and half are Democrats, and that’s always a fun time.

And by the time you cut into the pumpkin pie, you’re wondering why the Pilgrims and the Indians started this whole Thanksgiving thing to begin with.

Family can be crazy, can’t it? No family is perfect. And that goes for the church family, too. We are God’s family, but we are far, far, FAR from being a perfect family.

That person sitting on your left. They’re jacked up. So is the person sitting on your right. And in front of you. And behind you.

Every person you see in a Green Connect shirt…they’re jacked up. Every person you’ve seen on stage today…jacked up. And that includes me. In fact, there are times when I think I’m the most jacked up person in this church.

But here’s what makes the church so special. We’re a family, not based on our goodness, but based on God’s grace. Here’s what we have to understand. We don’t deserve to be part of God’s family. You do not deserve to be part of the church. And neither do I.

But we are part of God’s family, not because we are good, but because He is good. That means that there is a place for you in this family. It’s a crazy, messy, jacked up family. It’s a family made up of people who make mistakes. People who sometimes hurt and disappoint each other, but who also forgive each other and love each other.

But it’s only possible because Jesus loved us enough to give His life for us. That’s the only hope that we have. Jesus paid the price for our sin so we could be a family of people who are forgiven and free. That’s who we are, and that’s what we’re all about. We’re all about connecting more and more people to Jesus. Inviting them into the family of forgiveness and freedom.

But for us to carry out that vision and mission, we have to do it together. We have to do it as a family.

The truth is, either we’re one or we’re done. Those really are the only two options. Either we’re one or we’re done.

We are a family, which means we’re in this together. We are on mission together. We are united. We are one.

If we’re not, then nothing else matters. A church simply cannot live up to its God-given potential if it is divided. If there are warring factions within the church. If different people are all pushing their own agendas. That church is never going to take any new ground. Ever.

That’s why unity is so essential. That’s why we are guard dogs about our unity here at Connect. Unity is essential to who we are and what we’re all about. It’s really true. Either we’re one or we’re done.

That’s what Paul tells us in the book of Philippians. We’re working through a couple of verses in Philippians 1 in this series. In these verses, Paul called the Church to unity. He calls us to be one.

Starting in verse 27, Paul said, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” (Philippians 1:27-28a, NIV)

Look at the connection that Paul makes here. He calls our church to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. And we do that by being one. By standing firm in the one Spirit, and by striving together as one for the gospel.

Here’s what that means. When there is division in a church, that church is showing that they are completely unworthy of their mission. Last week, we saw that the gospel is our one mission. And Paul tells us very clearly that when a church is divided, that church is completely unworthy of their mission.

When a church lets division over trivial matters derail them…when there is distrust and disunity among the leaders…when the people of the church have a “what’s best for me” mentality instead of a “what’s best for the mission” mentality…that church is showing that it is completely unworthy of the mission.

Either we’re one or we’re done.

But here’s one of the reasons why I really do love our church. We are one. Those aren’t just words. It really is true. We are one, and that means that we are NOT done. We’re not even close to being done.

Go back and look at how Paul described it. He said that a church shows that it is worthy of its mission when the people of that church strive together as one for the faith of the gospel.

The gospel is our one mission, and we strive together as one to carry out that mission. But what does that mean? What does it mean to strive together?

We strive together when we serve together.

One of the things that I get asked about a lot is the volunteer culture here at Connect. The reason people ask is because here at Connect, around 75-80% of our people volunteer on at least one of our teams. But here’s what we might not realize. This isn’t normal! 75-80% of people serving in a church is not normal.

In the average church in America today, only 45% of the people actually serve in any way. I’m absolutely terrible at math, but even I know that 45% is less than half. In the average church today, less than half of the people serve in any way, shape, manner, or form. That means that more than half of the people who show up at church on any given weekend come just to take in the show.

That’s not what Paul had in mind when he called the church to strive together as one. Striving together doesn’t mean sitting together. Striving together doesn’t mean being spectators together. Striving together means serving together.

There is a huge misperception in the church today. It shows up specifically in the American church. And that misperception is that church is about attending. It’s about sitting and watching.

I come to church and I watch. I watch other people greet me. I watch other people teach and lead my kids. I watch other people run sound and media and lights. I watch the band play. I watch the preacher preach. And then I leave and I critique the quality of the show. Did I like that or not? Did I enjoy that or not? Was it a good show or not? Did it satisfy my taste or not?

That’s not how we look at the church. That’s how we look at a concert. That’s how we look at a performance. That’s how we rate a restaurant. But that does NOT describe our relationship with the church.

We are called to strive together as one. And striving together means serving together. When we’re striving together as one, that means that every single one of us comes to church, not asking, “What can I get out of this?” but instead we come asking, “What can I put into this?”

And I’m so thankful to be part of a church that gets it. We take that seriously. That’s why Connect has the best volunteer culture of any church I’ve ever been a part of in my life.

And we hear that from people who visit our church. They talk about how warm and welcoming our Connect Team is. They talk about how friendly our Connect Kids team is. They talk about how passionate our band is. And on and on and on.

And when I hear stuff like this, all I can say is, “What you see is what you get. That’s not fake. That’s not a show. It’s real. It’s because our people understand that they’re an integral part of our mission. They know that what they do really matters.”

And that’s the key for a church to strive together as one. Every single person who serves buys into the vision. They know that what they do matters. They know that they are critical to their church carrying out its mission.

And so here’s the little family meeting part I told you about earlier. If you serve in any way here at Connect, here’s what I want you to hear from me as your pastor: THANK YOU!

If you serve on our setup team, thank you for showing up early to turn this school into a church. None of this appears by magic. All the gear in this room, all the signs, all the stuff in our kids’ rooms, none of it just appeared. It’s there because a dedicated team of servants showed up at 7:00 am to set it up.

But if they didn’t do that, then nothing else could happen here today. Absolutely nothing. If the people on this team didn’t serve, then church wouldn’t happen today. Worship wouldn’t happen today. People wouldn’t hear the gospel today. Nothing would happen today if these people decided to just show up and sit instead of showing up to serve. Thank you.

If you serve on our security team, thank you. We live in an increasingly dangerous world, and we have a team of people dedicated to watching over our church to keep us safe. They are watching over our kids rooms. They monitor all our worship environments.

And think about what that does. When a new family shows up, it’s intimidating. They go to drop their kids off in one of our Connect Kids rooms, and they’re a little uneasy about it. That’s totally understandable. But then they see that we have a team of people that are there to keep watch. To make sure everything is safe and secure. That means their kids can have a great time at church, and mom and dad can come into this room to worship and to hear the gospel without worrying about the safety of their kids. That’s HUGE! But it’s only possible because we have a team of people who didn’t show up to sit. They showed up to serve. Thank you.

If you serve on our Care Team, thank you. Thank you for loving our church so well. Thank you for going above and beyond to care for people. To pray over people. To deliver meals to people. To show appreciation to people.

The church is a loving family, and you lead us in love very, very well. Thank you.

If you serve on our Connect Team, thank you for being the face of Connect. Our Connect Team are the folks in the green shirts that make everyone feel welcome every week.

Did you realize that when someone visits a church, they usually decide within the first 7 minutes whether they’re coming back again or not? And by the way, that doesn’t mean the first 7 minutes of the service. That 7 minute clock starts from the second they drive onto the parking lot. And that’s one reason why our Connect Team is so vital.

It starts with the smiling face in the parking lot. The people who hold open the doors. Who help people find kids classrooms. Who hand out bulletins. And on and on and on. You are the very first impression people have of Connect, and first impressions are usually lasting impressions. You are the first touch that people have. Your attitude, your smile, your warm and welcoming approach is what opens the door for us to connect more people to Jesus. Thank you.

If you serve in Connect Kids, thank you for giving of yourself to lead and love kids. One of our core values here at Connect is God loves kids and so do we. And we want that to shine through in everything we do.

Kids are not an afterthought at Connect. They are a priority. And what happens in Connect Kids is not babysitting. It is a vibrant and essential ministry.

When a child comes to Connect for the first time, we want him/her to leave thinking, “Church is fun! I want to come back!”

If you grew up in the church, you might not have gone to a church that you thought was fun when you were a kid. I didn’t. Church wasn’t fun. A lot of times, church was boring.

But now that I’m a pastor, I’m committed to leading a church that does it differently. I want church to be fun and engaging and impactful for kids. And I’ve got my own market research in my own house. We’ve got a seven-year-old in Connect Kids. And if there is ever a Sunday where Brock is sick and can’t come to church, you know what he does? He cries. He never wants to miss church. And that is exactly what we want to keep building.

And what about Sports Camp? Oh my gosh, there are hundreds of kids that get absolutely bombarded with love through our annual Sports Camp. If you don’t know, our church hosts a free Sports Camp every summer for hundreds of kids from all over Clermont County. It is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

But none of that would be possible without our servants. None of it would be possible if our people showed up to sit instead of serve. Thank you.

And it’s not just our kids team. Same thing goes for our Connect Students team. Our Jr./Sr. High students meet on Sunday evenings. And our team of servants does an amazing job leading this ministry.

Just think about the world that our students are growing up in. They are growing up in a culture that has lost its mind. And trying to navigate that culture gets more difficult everyday. And our students are never going to do it perfectly, but they know that they have a safe place where they are loved. Where they can have fun. Where they know that they are accepted, even when they get stuff wrong.

And again, I’ve got my own market research in my house. Our other son, Ryan, is in middle school. And going to the Connect Students gathering is the highlight of his week. He loves his church and he loves the people who lead this ministry.

But none of that would be possible if this team didn’t have dedicated people who are willing to serve on Sunday evenings. There are a lot of other things they could be doing on Sunday nights, but they choose to serve and love our students. And Connect wouldn’t be Connect without them. Thank you.

If you serve on our Worship Ministry, thank you. Most people will never know how many hours are put in each week to make our services happen. These folks don’t just show up to sing or play. They walk in prepared, rehearsed, and ready to go. And because of that, people can focus on God instead of being distracted by a service that lacks excellence.

If we don’t give our best effort in creating our worship services, then we are communicating that we believe that God deserves less than our best. That will never happen at Connect. Excellence is not our idol, but it’s also not optional. We don’t expect perfection. We’ve never had a perfect service, and we never will. Perfection isn’t the standard. But excellence is, and we’ll never apologize for that. We want to give God our excellent effort. And when we do, people can connect with Him in a service that is real, authentic, and excellent. Instead of wondering why we don’t care more about our services, they can connect with God who cares about them more than they will ever know.

But none of that would happen if the servants in our band and on our media team showed up to sit and not serve. Thank you.

Can we just stop right now and give God some praise for what He’s doing through all the people who serve here at Connect? It’s awesome!

Again, if you’re just here checking things out here at Connect, the past few minutes may have felt a little weird to you. But I hope you see that this is something that we have to celebrate. The volunteer culture that we have here at Connect is not normal, but it is very, very special. Our volunteers, our servants, are what make Connect, Connect. They are why we are on mission. They are why we are one.

Now, if you’re not serving yet but this sounds like something you want to be part of, you’re right. It is. Being part of a team that strives together by serving together is something really special. There are openings on all our teams. Especially on our setup team, our Connect Kids team, and our Connect Students team. There are places for you to jump in and serve right now.

You can go to our serving page and get all the details. You can see what each team is all about, and there is a link to a contact form at the bottom of the page. You can shoot us an email and tell us that you’re ready to jump in. Go ahead and pull out your phone and do it right now. I promise I won’t be offended!

Seriously, how could you NOT want to be part of this movement that God is launching here at Connect? How could you NOT want to be part of this movement to connect more and more people to Jesus?

This is what we’re all about. The gospel is our one mission, and we are one family striving and serving together to carry out that mission.

It’s simple, really. Our seven-year-old understands it. Every time he gathers up the trash on Monday night, he does it joyfully because he knows he’s part of a family, and serving is just part of the deal.

The church is God’s family, and serving is just part of the deal. But it’s a great part of the deal. Here’s what happens when we serve. We get in on what God is already doing. Serving is what allows us to partner with God in what He’s doing. It’s how we get in on everything that God is up to in our church and in our lives. It happens when we serve.

I remember one email I got from a lady. She and her husband had been attending our church for a while, but that’s all they were doing. They were sitting, but they definitely weren’t serving.

She emailed me and asked this question. “Why don’t I feel any passion for my faith?” Essentially, she said, “I’m just bored with it all. I know that my faith should be important to me, but it just doesn’t get me jazzed up anymore.”

I can’t remember exactly what I said to her in my reply, but I do know that I wussed out. I wasn’t bold enough to tell her the real truth. I should have been bold enough to say, “It’s because you believe following Jesus is a spectator sport. You show up to church once or twice a month, and sit and watch for an hour. But you never do anything. You don’t serve in any way. And if that doesn’t change, nothing else will.”

I didn’t say that to her. I should have, but I didn’t. I wish I had another shot at that email. I can’t change my response to her, but I can change my response to all of us. If you want your faith to matter, serve. If you want your faith to be the centerpoint of your life, serve. If you want your faith to vibrant and alive, serve.

If all you do is sit, it will never happen. Ever. It won’t happen because that’s not how God set this whole thing up.

Here’s God’s plan for us. Jesus Himself told us, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man [which is Jesus referring to Himself] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43b-45, NIV)

Jesus, God in the flesh, did not come to be served. He came to serve. He served us when He gave His life as a ransom for ours. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. And His perfect life allowed Him to be the perfect ransom payment for us. We were enslaved by sin, but Jesus’ death paid our ransom in full. We are not slaves anymore. We are not held captive by the garbage in our past, or even in our present, anymore. We are fully forgiven, totally free. And it’s all because Jesus served us by giving His life for us.

And that’s our example. Jesus said that if we want to be great, we will serve.

That’s how it works in God’s economy. Service is the key to greatness. So if you want a great faith, if you want a great relationship with the Lord, if you want great peace and great hope, serve. Service is the key to greatness.

We strive together when we serve together. We have one mission, and we’re pursuing it together.

We’re getting ready to open up the next chapter here at Connect when we have our official launch on December 6, and we absolutely believe it’s going to be the best chapter yet in the story that God is writing for us. But we’ll only see it come about if we are one.

Either we’re one or we’re done. There really is no third option. These are the two choices that God has laid out for us. Either we’re one or we’re done.

But I’ve got great news for you. We are one, and that means that we are NOT done. We’re not even close to being done. In fact, God is just getting warmed up here at Connect. We haven’t seen anything yet. The best really is yet to come. We are one, and that’s why we’re not even close to being done.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor