This is Week #11 of our series “This is How We Roll”. My name is Brian Morrissey and I am the Worship & Teaching Pastor here at Connect.
We’re nearing the home stretch of this series where we have been laying out every single aspect that defines who we are as a Church and how we roll. And today, we’re going to stomp the gas pedal to the floor as we talk about living in community here at Connect.
If you’re checking out our church for the very first time today, we are so excited that you are here. You picked a fantastic day to come because today, we’re unveiling a brand new vision for the future of community at Connect.
Throughout this series, we’ve been talking about how we’re doing away with traditional church membership and moving to a biblical definition of partnership. Members have rights, partners have responsibilities. And in just two short weeks, on November 9, we’re going to empty out our membership roster at Connect. During those few moments, we will officially be a church of zero. But on that day, you will have a chance to sign on and say, “I’m All In! I want to partner with Connect.” I cannot wait for what God is going to do that day. It’s going to be awesome.
Before you sign on to something though, you need to read the fine print. You need to make sure you’re not getting the raw end of the deal and that’s why we launched this series. The fine print is being talked about, discussed and examined.
We have no secrets at Connect because we believe wholeheartedly in transparency. Look, we’re not perfect, but we know someone who is. There is not a perfect person in this room because here at Connect we know that Jesus is the only one who was, is and ever will be perfect. I am not perfect, you are not perfect and it’s something we talk about all the time because we believe that the healthiest route to authentic community is transparency.
So this morning, we’re going to take a transparent look at a blueprint for the future of authentic community at Connect. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and unveil a vision that God’s been laying on our hearts for the better part of the last year and a half. We’re going to see how we live in community
When I went to college, I began to prepare for what I would need. Moving eight and a half hours away from home, there was no way I could just call mom and dad up and have them run something to me. I needed to make sure I had all of the tools I would need to succeed. And one of the things my parents helped me to get was a brand new computer.
It was a custom made Windows ’95 Computer with a 2 (yes, 2) Megabyte hard drive. This was a fantastic PC. It had 2 floppy drives and was one of the first machines with a CD-ROM drive.
And when I got the PC to my college dorm room, I set it up and began typing papers for my courses on it and saving them. One day as I was typing away, my PC locked up completely and I was confused. So I asked my roommate, who knew more about computers at the time than I did, what had happened and he showed me a simple workaround. He asked if I had already saved my document, which thankfully I had and then he walked over to my keyboard, held down three keys and the program instantly rebooted and I was back to working again.
I asked him to show me what he did and he demonstrated again that if I held down the Ctrl-Alt-Del keys at the same time, I could reboot the program in perfect working order again. I was ecstatic. I didn’t have to start from scratch, I could simply hit a specific combination of keys to unfreeze my PC as long as I periodically saved my work and I wouldn’t lose everything I had worked on to that point.
What we’re going to do here at Connect is hit Ctrl-Alt-Del on our current system of Small groups and reboot them. Not because they’re working ineffectively. It’s simply because we see that they could accomplish so much more than they are right now. If we want to build authentic community here at Connect, then we have to start with a complete reboot of our systems that define, create and nurture authentic community amongst our church.
So, this morning, I’m going to take you on a guided backstage tour of the new blueprint God is laying out for us in the life of our Connect Groups to produce an authentic community by building relationships one at a time.
Let’s pray and we’ll dive in to it.
When we launched Small groups over 4 years ago, we were being intentional about what we wanted. We knew that in order to grow larger as a church, we had to grow smaller at the same time. We developed a system of groups based on a semester sign-up not unlike a college course selection.
You simply signed up for your topic of choice and grew in community with others based on what you want to learn. And through this system for growing, we learned along the way about needs that every single church has regarding community.
Mike read from this Scripture last week and we’re going to camp out there this morning. So travel with me back to the Book of Acts, chapter 2. Here’s what the early church devoted themselves to:
“42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (Acts 2:42, NIV)
These are the things we need to focus on as we begin to build authentic community here at Connect. One of the things we’ve realized with our current model of Small groups is that people come into our current system of groups bringing needs for community with them. As those needs change, the groups need to change with them.
Our picture of what community could be and what our groups could be needs to increase. It’s like a fish in a small bowl. If you were to go and purchase a goldfish from a pet store and place him in a small fishbowl, then he’s only going to grow as large as the bowl he’s placed in. But if you place him in a tank that is sized larger to fit his needs, a tank that will adapt with him as he grows, then he has the ability to grow much, much bigger.
So, let’s construct a larger tank. Let’s build that tank to fit a growing changing need for authentic community. Let’s adapt a model of groups that fits and meets needs across the board, no matter if you’re 9 or 99.
Let’s answer the question “How”? How do we structure Connect Groups to build authentic community here at Connect?
The answer may surprise you. We want our Connect Groups to be the Church on a smaller scale. Everything the church does, our groups do. Giving, Serving, Living, Loving. All of that in a smaller condensed scale. And when you begin to try and wrap your mind around that, it seems incredibly audacious.
But this morning, I’m not only going to tell you that we’re going to do just that and more here at Connect, but I’m going to show you how.
Mike told us last week that true biblical community is found through people living in a realm of insulation, not isolation. Isolated people are easy to pick off one by one. They have no support structure to survive. The lions always go for the isolated animal because there’s no assistance from the rest of the herd. When you’re insulated, you’re protected. You can survive and grow because you have help from others. You live, grow, serve and change together.
We want to build an authentic community at Connect that centers on building relationships one at a time. That’s what Jesus wanted for his church and the vehicle to get us there is found in our new model for community that Jesus established through the very first church.
Read Acts 2:42-47 with me. “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
That is biblical community. We’re given a picture here of the Church in its earliest, purest form. This is how Jesus intended the church to run – through Small Connected Groups.
Look at some of the things the early church did: Devoted to biblical teaching, Fellowship through shared experiences and meals together, Sharing through generosity, Sacrificial serving for those in need, Daily connectedness including prayer for each other, Worshiping together, and Adding new people.
Connect, we as your leaders want our groups to look like biblical definition of community. We want to hit Ctrl-Alt-Del on our current system of groups and reboot them to look like the church in its earliest form so that we can begin to foster an authentic community here at Connect.
So how do we do that? Where do we start? We’re going to focus completely on building this community one step at a time and God has laid out a vision for a three pronged strike to get us there.
It starts with Scripture. Look at Acts 2:42 (NIV) again, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…” Jesus built the Church. Jesus died for the Church and this is how Jesus wants the Church to run, so let’s start by studying His Word. Unless you are reading the Bible, unless you realize that Scripture is all about transformation and not information, you won’t even get out of the driveway on the road to eternal life.
We recognize that at Connect and we’ve built some pretty awesome classes to teach the transformation that can be found in Scripture over the past few years.
How many of you have attended either Ground Floor or Second Floor? That’s awesome! For those of you who don’t know what that is, Ground Floor is an introduction to all things Jesus. Who is He? What did He do? What is our response to Him? As a matter of fact, we just offered Ground Floor during this past semester of groups. Ground Floor is an example of a class.
Classes are where you go to learn. Someone teaches you something you want to know more about and you learn and grow from that.
I love to teach. Teaching a concept to someone else is a passion for me. I graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in education and I have always wanted to teach. The reason is because something awesome happens when you see another person grasp a concept they never understood before. The lightbulb goes on and you can watch them own truth. Nowhere is that more prevalently needed than in the church and if we’re not learning how to be transformed by the teaching of Scripture, then we’re not truly devoted to the very first aspect of community which is biblical teaching through Scripture.
Here at Connect, our first avenue for community will revolve around Classes. These will be 8-12 week gatherings designed to help our partners build community by understanding scriptural concepts in a learning environment. We are going to continue to offer classes such as Ground Floor, and Financial Peace University (where you can learn how to biblically manage your finances), we will tailor specific men’s, women’s and couples’ classes to foster accountability and marriages, and we will periodically offer new classes as the need arises.
The early church devoted themselves to learning God’s Word and here at Connect, we will too.
The second vehicle we will use to build community here at Connect is the one I’m most excited about because it’s the vehicle that will get us there the fastest. If classes are the Reliable Pickup Truck you use to get things done, then this vehicle will be the Ferrari Sports Car you want to be in the most.
Our second vehicle for community will be our brand new Connect Groups. These Groups will be made up of 5-6 families or individuals who will live in authentic fellowship , the “shared life” together. They will learn together, they will grow together, they will serve together, they will be generous together, and they will build relationships together.
Beginning February 2015, we will launch these brand new Connect Groups. In the few months leading up to that, we will be forming a brand new Community Team that will oversee the implementation of the groups and manage/monitor them as they run. We will also be diligently training leaders behind the scenes in order to equip them to carry out this new vision of building authentic community.
Each group will then branch out to reach as much of our area as we can possibly reach. Do you live close to Eastgate? We’re going to have a group that meets close to Eastgate. Do you have Thursday nights available as your only night? We’re going to have a Thursday Night group. Do you have children and need a group with similar circumstances? We’re going to have a group for you.
Whatever your reasons for not plugging into a group have been in the past, we’re making it so that you can grow in a Connect group, no matter what your individual needs are.
These groups will form together and then meet, going through what we’re going to call a “dating period”. You have 8 weeks to try out your group and see if it fits. If you don’t like it, simply return yourself to the Community Team and we’ll plug you and your family in to another group where you’ll have another eight weeks to figure out if it “fits”.
And here’s why we’re giving you 8 weeks to make sure the group fits you. Because this group is going to be your insulation as you build community. Your group will continue to meet together year round until it grows from a small group to a large group.
Let’s go back to Acts 2 again because we’re going to get our definition for our groups from that passage. Verses 44-45 say this:
“44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45, NIV)
When you live the shared life in community, in insulation, there are several by-products. Our new Connect Groups will be built so that the group partners will be able to live this Acts 2 mentality out. The goal of these groups is for us to foster close relationships with each other. Here’s some examples of how your group will live in community together.
Your group will care for each other’s needs. We’ve already talked about how our classes will revolve around Scripture. Our groups will as well. Your group may be comprised of 2-3 married couples with kids, a single guy, a married couple with no kids and a retired couple. There’s a wealth of knowledge contained in that group due to shared experiences in life. The best way to learn is from each other.
Your group will choose what you want to learn about. Maybe your group wants to focus on prayer. You can spend 4-6 weeks talking about prayer. Maybe your group wants to focus on parenting. Great! Spend 6-8 weeks talking about parenting. Maybe your group wants to talk about the book of Leviticus, which would be awesome! Fantastic! That’s what my group’s going to do! I’m totally kidding. Spend 24 weeks talking about the book of Leviticus.
Let’s say your group wants to take a month off because schedules are hectic and life is crazy. That’s fine. You can decide to do that because that’s how community is done. But those decisions are made on a group by group basis.
And whatever a group decides to study, we have a wealth of resources at our disposal to help you get started. If your group needs to change location or night of the week, or time that you meet, you can do that because community and fellowship need to be a little flexible and they need to be set up to embrace change. These groups will be.
There will also be built-in accountability with these groups. Proverbs 27:17 says, ” As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” We want our Connect Groups to model this truth of Scripture.
In our current system of groups it’s very difficult to open up and be transparent with other people that you are only in a group with for 8 or 12 weeks at a time. Now, I’ve seen it happen and I’ve seen healing take place in group members lives through our current semester system of groups, but it doesn’t happen as frequently as it could because there’s not enough time for some people to feel comfortable or trusting enough to share the intimate details of their struggles.
Our new system of groups is tailor made for accountability and transparency. You will be able to feel comfortable sharing because you meet with the same people week in and week out. You are insulated by these people in your group because you are constantly caring for each other’s needs. You’re sharing, other people are sharing and it’s an environment where transparency and authenticity are given a chance to blossom and shine.
Like we said earlier, this is the biblical picture of authentic community. When you live in community with someone, you have fellowship. You experience the shared life.
Imagine a group that cares for each other’s needs so much that when a group partner misses Sunday church for a few weeks, the group has already contacted them to find out if everything is okay in life, if they need any help. Imagine a group that is so connected that they decide to take a week and go down to a local food pantry to serve the community together. Imagine a group that loves each other so much that when one of their group partners is sick or in the hospital, our Care Team are the second ones to arrive because the group has already stepped up, visited and prayed with that person and lined up meals so they can rest easier. Imagine a group that is so invested in each other’s lives that each group partner prays for each other daily.
Connect, that is all possible through these groups and more. It’s truly the shared life.
J.J. Watt is a defensive back for the Houston Texans. If you follow football at all, then you have at least heard of him. He is one of the most successful players in the game today. A few months ago, J.J. Watt heard about a young fan of his who had been bullied at school every single day. The bullying got so rough, that the kid didn’t even want to go to school. He had no friends and was incredibly isolated because no one would hang out with him. The kid loved football and just wanted to play with others so that one day he could be like J.J. Watt who was his favorite player, but he was told that he was too skinny and small to play, so he felt incredibly left out.
J.J. Watt heard about this and did something about it. Rather than tell you, I thought I would show you this morning. Check this video out.
Now, he’s a part of a team. Now, he’s got buddies who have his back. Go back to Acts 2 again: “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44-45, NIV)
In a Connect Group you have everything in common. You are together. Anyone that has need, has those needs met because the group has your back. The group is a living, loving, authentic community. That’s the vision for these new groups.
So, how do new people get plugged into these groups? In the past, when a new person visits Connect and decides to make it their church home, they may have had to wait 3 months or more before plugging into a Connect Group. Not anymore.
As new people plug into our church, they can immediately come to the Community Team where we will introduce them to a couple of Group Leaders and plug them into groups for their 8 week dating period. Your group will grow and change as new people jump into Connect. Everything in life grows and changes. It’s how God has set up the world to be.
Ephesians 4:16 says this, “16 From [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16, NIV)
And here’s the really cool part. After enough new partners have jumped into your group, you will begin to notice that it has transitioned from a small group to a large group. Now instead of 10 people, your group is busting at the seams with almost 20.
It becomes difficult to really know and grow with people in a group of that size, so our groups will have to undergo a metamorphosis at that point.
God has given us many examples of how growing things change in life, but never is it more evident than in one of the most basic building blocks of life, the cell. That’s right, we’re going to have a biology 101 lesson at church this morning.
All living organisms on Earth are divided into cells. The main concept of cell theory is that cells are the basic structural unit for all organisms. Cells are small compartments that hold the biological information and equipment necessary to keep an organism alive and successful. Living things may be single-celled or they may be very complex such as a human being.
In larger organisms, the main purpose of a cell is to organize. Cells hold a variety of pieces and each cell type has a different purpose. By dividing responsibilities among different groups of cells, it is easier for an organism to survive and grow.
If you were only made of one cell, you would be very limited. You don’t find single cells that are as large as a cow. Cells have problems functioning when they get too big. Also, if you were only one cell you couldn’t have a nervous system, no muscles for movement, and using the internet would be out of the question. The trillions of cells in your body make your way of life possible.
It’s the same way with the church. Our church here at Connect will be made up of smaller cells that will help our community to function. But there’s another process that happens in cells that is really cool and that’s the process known as mitosis.
Mitosis is what is known as cell division. It is a biological process by which a cell divides into two or more cells. During mitosis, the nucleus of the cell splits and the DNA inside the cell is replicated. The parent cell divides into two identical cells, each has the genetic material of the parent cell and has the capability to divide again.
This is how we will grow our community. As new people come into our groups and they become so large that it is impossible to continue, each group will undergo a period of mitosis if you will where the group will subdivide and then, instead of 1 group, we have two, each with a leader and group partners, set up for accountability and the shared life. We’ve created two living thriving communities with the same genetic makeup as the original one.
And think about this for a minute. As our groups grow, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8, 8 becomes 16, 16-32, 32-64, and 64-128. And after just 6 subdivisions, we’re running 128 Connect Groups here at our church and we haven’t even broken a sweat. Imagine trying to find a group that fits your lifestyle needs and demands from 128 groups. That fires me up!
That gets me excited! So, you have Classes and Groups as two vehicles towards fostering community, but there’s still something missing. There’s still a vehicle that we haven’t touched on and that’s the reason we are building a third avenue towards this idea of building relationships through authentic community.
You will know people in your Connect Group very well. You share life with them, so you’ll know them. You’ll be involved in building community with others through our classes, but it still leaves a large chunk of the church out. How do you build community with them? What’s the avenue there?
How many of you attended our bonfire event a couple of weeks ago? Mike mentioned it last week. It was awesome. We had some crazy fellowship happening there. I had a chance to talk with people I’m not normally around in an environment where I felt incredibly comfortable to talk with them. How many of you would like more events like that?
I thought so. That’s where our third vehicle comes in because the third vehicle for community will be Hangouts. This is the cruise ship of vehicles for community. Hangouts will be at least once a quarter and will be fellowship events where we simply ask you to come on out and hang out. We’re not asking anything from you, we just want something for you – to build community with other people in a relaxed setting.
Just like our video a few minutes ago, Billy went and just hung out with a group of peers and played some football. He had a great time with them and fostered relationships with them.
We already have two of these events scheduled. We do an annual kickball hangout before we serve together at Sports Camp in the summer and we have another bonfire slated for next Fall. There will be an early Spring hangout and a fourth one that we will schedule, but the point and purpose of this is to foster relationships church-wide.
When you hang out with people, you get to know them. You get a relaxed setting to have a conversations you wouldn’t normally have and it meets the need of community on a church-wide scale. At our hangouts, everyone’s on the cruise ship and we’re going to party together.
We’re going to bring these three avenues of community to Connect because authentic community is all about people building relationships with one another in Jesus. It’s about family. Your church family.
You and I have biological families, but this family, your church family is going to be your eternal family. I hope and pray that your biological family meets Jesus and lives in heaven forever with Him, but your church family, your eternal community family is what should come first. It’s where you should build your strongest relationships.
And family is chaotic. It’s not perfect. Sometimes, it’s a huge, painful, annoying mess. Family is awkward, family is hard, family is complicated, family is trying, but you love the family. You serve the family. You don’t give up on the family. And this community is family.
It’s time for you to get involved with your family in community. Mark Driscoll says that the difference between a family dinner and dinner at a restaurant with your family is you have to get involved. You can’t just sit there and say, “Well, I didn’t like the chicken.”
You try doing that to your mother at your next family dinner. I guarantee your father will do something to you. If you go to a family dinner and just sit down, they’re going to look at you and say, “what are you doing? You need to set the table. Hey! Get up! You’re part of the family.” You have to get involved.
“Um (snap, snap) I would like some dessert.” “Oh, (snap-snap) No. You want some dessert? Get up and get it out of the fridge.” You have to get involved. When dinner’s over, you don’t just leave your mess for someone else to clean up, you have to bring it to the sink and scrape it off and scrub your own plate off. You have to be involved. This is what our whole partnership idea is all about. You have to plug into the family and be involved. Some of you already treat Connect like family.
You come early to serve. You’re giving generously by tithing. You’re plugged into one or more of our volunteer teams. You’re in a Connect Group. You’re helping by praying with people. This is family. I know sometimes it’s not perfect, it’s a mess. It’s a big crazy family, but it’s my family and I want to be involved.
Partners live in community as a family. That’s why we’re giving you so many different ways to get involved.
Let’s look at our Scripture this morning again. Acts 2:46-47. “46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” (Acts 2:46-47a, NIV)
I want you to hear me on this: we’re not stopping or replacing what happens on Sunday mornings. This is all in addition to that. Notice that the early church still met together as a church. That’s where new people get introduced to who Jesus is. It is our primary vehicle for reaching lost people with the Gospel and next week, Mike is going to be back with an incredible message breaking down our need to share the story of Jesus with others.
Community is the next step. Classes are where we will devote ourselves to God’s Word. Groups are where we will live the shared life and Hangouts are where we will praise God and enjoy the favor of all the people. And with those three vehicles in place, we can build relationships through an authentic community here at Connect.
And that all leads to something awesome – look at the result of all of this community. It’s found in the second half of Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47b)
The result of community is growth. Growth in individual lives, growth in needs being met, growth in fostering close relationships, growth in healing through accountability and transparency, and growth through people finding Jesus. We’re growing the family of God one relationship at a time.
You can go lots of places to find community. Starbucks has community. Football stadiums have community. Concerts have community. Schools have community. Book clubs have community, but none of them has Jesus. Jesus is the thread which turns community into authentic community.
And today could be the day you turn your life around to find the community He has in mind for you. Growing things change. It is a constant of life. As we grow, we change. But what never changes is the fact that Jesus loves you and wants so much more for your life than you have right now.
If you hear nothing else this morning, hear this. Jesus wants you to be free from guilt and free from sin and free from death. Jesus wants you to live in heaven in an authentic community with His church forever. He wants that so much that He came to this earth to give up His life in order to cement an eternal community with His church forever.
We’re His church. You and I, if we have given our hearts and lives to Him. There’s nothing you can do to escape the love of Jesus. It’s there. It’s a free gift. We’re ready to welcome you into this authentic community of believers we’re building here at Connect, but don’t miss the most important, critical step. You’ve got to trust Jesus with your life. Without that, you’ll never experience the freedom He wants for you. You’ll never find forgiveness, a second chance, a healed heart, a cleansing of past sins. You’ll never find grace.
I want that for you more than I want anything else because I know what it’s like to not have that. You need that and if you want that, as soon as we dismiss today, right out in this hall is a room called the Green Room. It has a big sign out front and there are people that will be in that room, who will confidentially talk to and pray with you about any decision you need to make or anything you need to talk about. That’s why we set this up, so that you can find healing, grace, and Jesus.
So we’re going to close a little differently this morning. Normally the band comes back up here and leads us in a final song, but we’re not going to do that this morning. I want this to be the final note you leave with.
We’re pumped up about the vision God is laying out for us and where He’s leading us as Connect, but it has to start with Jesus. If you need Him in your life, if you need to come back to Him because you’ve been running for so long, then this is your moment. I’m going to pray and then you will be dismissed this morning. Head over to that Green Room. Meet our Care Team. They’ll pray with you, encourage you and love you because that’s how Jesus feels about you.
Let’s pray and then you can be dismissed this morning.