This is week #10 of a critically important series called This Is How We Roll. In this series, we’re listening as God tells us who He has called us to be as His people. As people who follow Jesus, who are we? What do we do? How do we roll?
Those are the questions we’ve been answering in this series. And the next two weeks of this series are going to be crucial. Over the next two weeks, we’re going to be talking a huge, foundational change that is going to be happening here at Connect.
And it’s all centered around this truth: we live in community. How do we roll as Christ-followers? We live in community.
I want to take a little poll this morning. I want to see which one of us here today has the most Facebook friends. Go ahead and pull out your phone if you need to check. Or you can just go with your best estimate.
How many of you have more than 100 Facebook friends? Raise your hand.
More than 300?
More than 500?
At this moment, I have 649 Facebook friends. Anybody have more than that?
Social media has created a really interesting phenomenon in our culture that I’m not sure ever really existed before. In the age of social media, we are more connected and more disconnected, both at the same time.
I have almost 650 Facebook friends. It would appear that I’m some kind of extroverted, social butterfly who just makes friends wherever he goes. That is actually very far from the truth. Just ask my wife. She’ll tell you.
It might surprise you to know that I’m actually a pretty introverted person. Some people don’t believe that because of the line of work I’m in, but it’s true. I’m an introvert doing an extrovert’s job.
So how does an introvert have 650 friends on Facebook? How could someone who is pretty quiet and shy in social situations have that many friends? It’s because social media has changed the meaning of things like “friends.” It has changed the whole idea of connection and community.
The truth is that social media isn’t true community. While it feels like we’ve never been more connected, in a lot of ways, we’ve never been more disconnected.
But this is what we’re going to see today…as the church, God calls us to something more. Something deeper. Something harder, but something better.
He calls us to live in community. Not in digital community. Not community in cyberspace. Not social media community. But real, authentic community. That has always been God’s plan for His church.
Let me prove it to you. We’re going to be in Acts 2 today. Acts 2 tells us about the very beginning of the church. If you want to know how this whole church thing got started, read the book of Acts. And specifically, read Acts 2.
So what we’re going to read today is God’s blueprint for His church. Acts 2 represents the church in its purest form, because it had just started. People didn’t have time to mess it up yet. Today, we’ve had over 2,000 years to mess it up. But in Acts 2, the church was in its infancy, and it’s the purest form of church that we can ever find.
And what did the church look like in its purest form? Look at Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, NIV)
The book of Acts was written by Luke, and in this verse, Luke tells us what life was like in the church when it first began.
He tells us that believers devoted themselves to four things. The apostles’ teaching. Fellowship. Breaking of bread. And prayer.
Here at Connect, we strive to devote ourselves to these same four things.
The apostles’ teaching is represented in our church by the preaching of the Word of God. Our church is devoted to the preaching of the Word. We take it very, very seriously.
The breaking of bread is the Lord’s Supper, or communion, which we observe every week here at Connect. Some churches don’t take communion as often as we do, and we’re not judging them at all. But when we look at the early church, it’s clear that they took the Lord’s Supper each time they gathered, so we want to do the same thing.
Prayer will always be an integral part of who we are as a church. We are devoted to praying with and for each other. We are devoted to praying for God to lead and guide our church wherever He wants us to go.
The early church devoted themselves to these things, and so do we.
But here’s the deal about those three things: all of them can be done alone if that’s what you want to do.
You can sit by yourself at church and listen to a sermon. Actually in today’s digital age, you don’t even have to do that. You can listen to a podcast of a sermon and be completely alone.
You can take communion alone. It’s a very individual act of worship. You don’t talk with other people. You don’t interact with other people, because through communion we all personally reflect on what Jesus did for us. In a lot of ways, it’s a very individual thing.
You can pray by yourself. You don’t need anyone around to pray. It’s something you can absolutely do alone.
So, in some ways, these three things can feel relatively safe because they can all be done individually. You can do them all on your own.
But fellowship is different. You can’t have fellowship by yourself. Fellowship, by its very definition, requires community. It requires other people.
Luke says that the early church DEVOTED themselves to fellowship. He didn’t say they talked about fellowship. He didn’t say they held Bible studies about fellowship. Luke says that they DEVOTED themselves to fellowship.
It wasn’t an afterthought. It was their focus. It wasn’t “the icing on the cake.” It was part of the cake itself.
In the early church, fellowship was just as important as the preaching of the Word of God. It was just as important as remembering Jesus’ sacrifice through the Lord’s Supper. It was just as important as prayer. It mattered that much.
The early church devoted themselves to fellowship with other believers, and that can only be found in one place. The church, the Body of Christ.
Now, let’s be sure we know what we’re talking about. The word “fellowship” is kind of an old, churchy sounding word. But it’s a good word. It’s a word we need to understand.
Fellowship doesn’t mean scheduling a potluck dinner after church. If you grew up in the church, you probably know what I’m talking about.
“After church today, we’re going to have a fellowship dinner in the fellowship hall where we will extend the right hand of Christian fellowship to one another and enjoy the dinner prepared by our fellowship committee.”
That’s the way the church has defined fellowship for years. Essentially, it has come to mean that we’re going to eat together.
Now, I like to eat. I’ve got nothing against eating together. In fact, our church recently got together for a chili dinner. It was awesome. We had everything from mild to melt-your-face chili. We had everything from vegan chili to deer chili. We’ve got a big umbrella here at Connect!
But when it comes to this concept of fellowship, it’s so much deeper than that. It’s more than eating together. It’s about doing life together.
The word that is translated “fellowship” in this verse from Acts is the Greek word koinonia. Now, I don’t care if you remember that, but I do want you to remember this.
The word literally means, “the shared life.” That’s what fellowship is. It’s the shared life. It’s about doing life together. It’s about living in community.
That was one of the hallmarks of the church when it started. And nothing has changed over 2,000 years later, because God still calls his people to live in loving, authentic community.
It’s one of the main reasons why we need the church.
Do you realize that the Bible never talks about a churchless Christian? Ever. Never ever.
A lot of people say things like, “You know, I like Jesus. Jesus is cool. I dig Jesus. I just don’t like the church.”
Well, the Bible calls the church “the bride of Christ.” So essentially, you’re telling Jesus, “I like You, I don’t like Your wife.”
If you come up to me and say, “Mike, I think you’re cool and all, but I really don’t like your wife,” it’s not going to go well for you. Trust me. You don’t want to do that.
But that’s exactly what a ton of people try to do with Jesus and the church. And I will be the first to admit that the church isn’t perfect. It’s very, very, very, very, very, very, very far from it! But the church is still the bride of Christ. The church is still the body of Christ. And despite all it’s shortcomings, you and I still need the church.
The church is where the people of God find community.
It comes down to the choice of insulation vs. isolation.
When we go it alone, when we live in isolation, we are much more vulnerable. We are vulnerable to sin, because we have no accountability. We are vulnerable to attacks from Satan, because we are living with no support system. We are wide open to all kinds of things when we are isolated.
But community helps insulate us from this stuff. Community gives a layer of protection that we just don’t have when we go it alone.
When I was a freshman in high school, I rode the bus to and from school. And my sister who is four years younger than me rode the same bus. For those of you who don’t know, my sister is legally blind. But she has never let that stop her. Ever. She really is one of my heroes.
Anyway, I remember one particular day on the bus. I was sitting in the back, because I was in high school and the bus was my kingdom, with all these elementary and Jr. Highers there to be my humble servants.
On this day, my sister got on the bus, and was moving slowly down the aisle, because moving slowly is the only option for her. And then I saw it. I saw a Jr. High punk behind her make a gesture and start mocking her because she was moving so slowly. And my reaction was swift and decisive.
Now, let me give this disclaimer. I’m not advocating this. Students, I’m not at all suggesting that this is what you should do on the bus. Parents, please don’t blame me the next time your kid gets in trouble on the bus. Okay?
Anyway, in that moment, I didn’t think. I just reacted. I grabbed this boy by his shirt collar and yanked him down into the seat with me. I pulled his face right up to mine, nose to nose, and I proceeded to inform him who I was and what I would do to him if I EVER saw him even look at my sister in the wrong way ever again! That’s the edited version of what I said to him. I really can’t tell you what I actually said to him.
But let’s just say…homeboy got the message. The next time he was walking behind my sister, he would stay behind her by like 8 feet. If she stopped, he stopped. If she backed up, he backed up. He was never a threat to my sister ever again.
Now, why was that threat removed? Because my sister lived in community with me. That community provided insulation, it provided protection that she wouldn’t have had if she were alone.
That’s the wisdom that Solomon gives us in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes when he wrote, “Two are better than one [Right away, he says that community is better than isolation], because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. [Some of you have fallen…you’ve hit the ground hard…and no one has been there to help you up because you’ve been living in isolation.]
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? [Some of you have grown cold. The candle is burning low, and it has left you calloused. Jaded. Cynical. Community is an insulation. It keeps us from growing cold. It keeps the fire going. But isolation does the exact opposite.]
Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” [We’re all in a fight in our lives, but community reminds that we’re not fighting alone. Community reminds that we’re surrounded by people who love us and pray for us and will go to bat for us. Isolation means we’re in the fight alone.] (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)
It all comes down to the choice of insulation vs. isolation. Here at Connect, we choose insulation. We choose the shared life. We choose community.
We choose loving community that paves the way for authenticity. Community allows you to be real. It gives you room to not be perfect.
That’s why we embrace this truth. Here at Connect, it’s okay to not be okay. It really is. It’s okay to not be okay. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to have it all together. You don’t have to have a shiny, polished, perfect life.
Because the truth is that none of us has the life. I struggle with things that you would never believe a pastor would struggle with. And I struggle with those things every single day of my life. If perfection is the requirement, then I’m handing in my resignation because I’m completely unqualified.
But in reality, my shortcomings and failures and sins are why I need the church all the more. I need to be surrounded by people who have been changed by grace. Who live in grace. Who give grace away consistently and freely. Those are the people I need to be around. And you know where I find those people? In the church.
Now, maybe you have a church background where this hasn’t been your experience. Maybe you haven’t seen much grace in the church. Maybe your experience has been judgment and self-righteousness and condemnation. Maybe that has been your church experience. I’ve experienced it, too. And it’s ugly. I mean, it’s uglier than those dudes on The Walking Dead. It is UGLY! Some of the meanest, nastiest, most self-righteous, vindictive people I’ve ever met in my life, I’ve met in the church. If that’s been your experience, I get it. Believe me…I get it.
But you also need to know that not every church has fallen into that trap. I know of all kinds of churches where people are finding grace, and life, and second chances, and freedom. I know of all kinds of churches like that. And I’m proud to pastor a church like that.
In the book of 1 John, the Apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8, NIV)
Did you catch that? “Whoever does not love does not know God.” That’s pretty strong. That means that a church that is not a loving community is not even a church. I’m not sure what it is. A concert? A gathering for a motivational talk? Whatever it is, I’ll tell you what it’s not. A church without loving community is not a church.
We believe that here at Connect, and that’s why we have some major changes coming. We believe that we can do a lot more to foster loving, authentic community within our church. And the changes that are coming are going to be awesome. I could not be more excited about it. But now that I’ve got you curious, you’re going to have to wait until next week to hear about! (I’m so mean!) Next week, Brian Morrissey is going to be preaching, and he is going to lay out the new vision for community here at Connect. Whatever you do, do NOT miss next week. Brian is fired up to preach, and he is going to be casting an awesome new vision for community in our church next week.
The reason we’re doing all of this is because this is how the people of God roll. God hardwired us with a need for community.
It goes all the way back to creation. In Genesis 2, after God created Adam, Scripture tells us, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18a, NIV) So God created Eve.
It is not good for us to be alone. That truth stretches all the way back to creation.
The truth is, we were created for community. We were created for insulation, not isolation. We were created for the shared life. We were created for community.
Now, I want to talk to the guys for a second. Fellas, let’s be honest…this isn’t always our strong suit, is it? I know there are exceptions, but as a general rule, we isolate ourselves way more than ladies do, don’t we?
A lot of guys choose to hang out in their mancave, isolated and alone. And I’m not saying that’s always bad. Like I said earlier, I’m an introvert. I actually do better when I have time set aside to just be alone. But times of solitude aren’t the same thing as living in isolation. Periods of solitude can be healthy. Living in isolation is very dangerous. And by and large, men are a lot more vulnerable.
Ladies just seem to get the whole community thing a lot more than we do. When ladies get together, they talk. About everything. Literally everything. And I’m not making fun of them at all. I’m pointing out that community seems to come more naturally to them.
When guys get together, they talk about the game. They talk about how long it took to get here, and how other routes would have been faster. They talk about the new craft beer they tried. They tell stories about the glory days when they were younger. But there isn’t a lot of depth or authenticity to the conversation. It’s pretty surface level, a lot of the time.
And again, I know that’s not always the case, but that’s the tendency that a lot of men have.
The point is, living in community is a risk. It feels dangerous, because community requires you to drop the mask. To stop pretending. To quit the charade. To be real.
But let me ask you this…isn’t playing the game exhausting? Isn’t it exhausting to keep up the act? To look the part? To wear the mask?
It’s exhausting to be fake, but it’s freeing to be real. That’s what community allows you to do. If you are in real community with someone, they will allow you to not be perfect. They will understand that you struggle. They will help restore you when you sin.
Because community is based on Christ. Jesus is the common bond that creates community. We can be old or young, man or woman, hipster or redneck, carnivore or vegan, Republican or Democrat…none of that creates true community. We have a common bond in Jesus, and that’s the foundation for fellowship. That’s the core of our community.
In 1 John 1, John wrote, “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7, NIV)
Did you catch that last part? “We have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
Our fellowship is based on Jesus. It is based on the freedom that comes when we know Christ. It is based on the joy that comes from knowing that Jesus died on a cross to forgive all our sin.
That’s why the church can have real, unfiltered, honest, authentic community. Because we all know that we sin. We all know that we fall short. We all know that we’re a work in progress. And we all know the freedom that comes when we realize that we’ll never be good enough, but Jesus was good enough for us.
That leaves no room for self-righteousness. That leaves no room for condemnation. And it leaves no room for masks and disguises. It leaves no room for faking it. Instead, it paves the way for authentic community.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be part of a church like that. And the crazy thing is, people who don’t even know Jesus want to be part of a church like that.
How do I know that? Because that’s what happened when the church began. Go back to Acts 2. We saw how the early church was devoted to community, to fellowship, to the shared life.
That’s what we see when we skip on down to verse 46. “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, [Did you catch that? Sincere hearts. That means they were real. They were honest. They weren’t faking it or trying to impress other people. They were honest, authentic, and real.] praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. [They’re living in authentic community. But now watch this.]
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47, NIV)
Because there was such a real, loving, authentic community in the church, more and more people were drawn to the church. More and more people came to believe in Jesus. More and more lost people became found people.
When a church has community that is the real deal…not fake…not hypocritical…not self-righteous…when a church has real, authentic community, people will notice. And even if they’re not sure about all this Jesus stuff, they hunger to part of community like that. Because they’ve seen enough of the fake stuff. They’ve seen enough of the faux community that our culture offers. They’ve seen it all, they’ve tried it all, and all they’re looking for is a place where they can belong, where they will actually be loved and accepted, no matter what.
That’s what draws people to Jesus and His church. It’s not a band, or cool lights, or a hip, relevant preacher. I’m not saying any of that stuff is bad, but what people need more than anything is love. Acceptance. Grace. And that’s exactly what Jesus gives.
He gives us grace because He died in our place to pay for all our sin. He accepts us right where we are, and then slowly takes us where He wants us to be. And one of the ways that He takes us where He wants us to be is through community. Through people who love and accept and support and forgive us.
I want to be part of a church like that. And I’m so thankful that I AM part of a church like that.