This is week #12 of our series called This Is How We Roll. That means that we have this week, next week, and then this long series will come to a close. It’s been long, but it’s been amazing. Throughout this series, we’ve been exploring who we are as people and as a church that loves Jesus. What do Christ-followers do? How do we roll?
Part of it has involved some foundational, fundamental changes to the way we do church here at Connect. Brian talked about some of those big changes last week. And I could not be more excited about what we’re going to be doing to develop healthy, authentic community here at Connect. And I’ve had so many people tell me how pumped they are about these changes. If you weren’t here last week, please go online and check out Brian’s message from last week. He gives an incredibly passionate and detailed description of our new vision for community here at Connect.
But here’s what we’re going to see today. Just because we have community does NOT mean that it’s a closed community. In fact, the church can NEVER become a closed community. We’re called to do the exact opposite.
In fact, Jesus Himself had something to say about that. In Matthew 23, Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13, NIV)
Keep in mind who Jesus was talking to here. He was talking to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. In other words, the religious leaders of the day. Jesus always saved his harshest criticism for religious people.
And look at what He said. “Woe to you” when “you shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.”
There are serious consequences when we shut the door on people…when we create a closed community in the church. Jesus died on a cross to open the door for EVERYBODY to come back to Him. And our job as the church is to make sure that door STAYS open.
Yes, we are a loving community at Connect. But we are a community on mission.
Dr. Tim Keller said, “Community without mission is cancer.”
Community without mission builds walls to keep people out. Community without mission shuts the door of the Kingdom in peoples’ faces. Community without mission creates disease, decay, and death in a church.
But community WITH mission throws doors open. Community WITH mission has both a love for one another AND a love for people outside of Christ. Community with mission knows it’s not just about growing deeper, but it’s also about growing wider. Community with mission isn’t either/or. It’s both/and.
That’s what we’re going to explore today. Let’s pray and then we’ll get into God’s Word.
I love it when somebody just tells me what they’re all about. I hate it when people try to hide their agenda, divert attention, and change the subject. Needless to say, I don’t like a lot of politicians.
But I love when somebody says, “You know what…this is what I’m about it. Here it is. Boom.”
I love that.
And I’ll give you an example…I love Arby’s new ad campaign. Have you seen their new slogan?
“Arby’s. We have the meats.”
I love this. The commercials are pretty dang funny. They got Ving Rhames to do the voiceover, which is awesome. The only better person I can think of would have been James Earl Jones.
But more than anything, I think this is brilliant because they’re just telling you who they are.
“We’re Arby’s, and we have the meats. We’re all about meat. So if you’re vegan, you probably won’t like us. If you’re a member of PETA, you probably won’t like us, either. But this is who we are.”
This is so much better than their previous ad campaigns.
“Arby’s: Slicing Up Freshness.”
What the heck does that mean? That’s pretty lame. But this one was the worst.
“Arby’s: It’s Good Mood Food.”
What genius came up with that? Those stupid commercials put me in a bad mood every time I saw one. But I love the one they have now, because it simply showcases who they are.
A lot of Arby’s competitors are doing the exact opposite. They’re busy trying to hide who they are. For example, have you seen what McDonald’s is trying to do now? McDonald’s is now trying to portray their food as wholesome and healthy. Dude, if I’m ultra-concerned about health, I’m not going to hit the McDonald’s drive-thru. I’m just not. So stop pretending to be somebody you’re not. Just tell me who you are. I might like you. I might hate you. But just be honest about who you are.
That’s the new direction at Arby’s, and I think it’s brilliant. I love it when people are honest about who they are and what they’re all about.
It’s one of the things I love about Jesus. Jesus was forthright. He was to the point. He never ducked a question or skirted an issue. He was honest about who He was and what He was about.
In fact, He tells us exactly that in Luke 19:10 when He said, “For the Son of Man [which was a reference to Himself] came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV)
That was His mission statement. And it was so succinct He could have wrote it on Twitter. It’s way less than 140 characters.
Jesus was completely upfront, absolutely honest about why He came. It was a search and rescue mission. He came to seek us…He came to save us…because we were lost.
Now, I know the word “lost” can cause some people to bristle and take offense. “What do you mean I’m lost? I know exactly where I am.”
But that’s the deception that we are sold. The truth is that, apart from Christ, I can never truly understand who I am, why I’m here, what my life is about, what my purpose is, etc.
Our culture tries to offer all kinds of band-aid fixes. Our culture values social justice and volunteerism and all these other opportunities to do good, and I’m not saying that it’s bad. I’m just saying that, even when we do good things, life will still never make sense apart from Jesus. If I take Jesus out of the mix, then I really am totally, completely, absolutely lost.
And that’s exactly why Jesus came. Because I’m a messed up, jacked up, train-wrecked sinner who could never find my way out of the mess that I made. He came to seek me. He came to save me.
Which means that I was lost, but now I am found. That’s who the church is. The church is made up of found people. That’s who we are. We are found people.
The church isn’t perfect people. The church can never be arrogant, self-righteous people. The church isn’t people with perfect marriages and perfect kids and perfect jobs and perfect lives. That’s not who we are.
Seriously, you should have seen what happened this morning while some of us were getting ready for church! Moms trying to do her makeup. Dad’s getting dressed. Meanwhile, the kids are losing their minds. They’re arguing and fighting and setting off fireworks in the living room. It’s chaos. Mom and Dad then proceed to lose their minds. They’re not sure if they need to bring their kids to church to worship or to have an exorcism.
It happens, doesn’t it? Our lives aren’t perfect. We are still very imperfect people, but we are people who know the beauty of this thing called grace. That’s who we are. We are people saved by grace. We were lost people, but because of Jesus, we are found people.
And today, we’re going to talk about what it means to be found people. And we’re going to use a story in Acts 5.
Let me set the scene for you. The church had just started. And it was awesome. God was moving BIG TIME in His church. The apostles were preaching the gospel. They were healing people. They were casting out demons. It was unbelievable!
And that’s when this happened. In Acts 5, starting in verse 17, Luke wrote, “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.” (Acts 5:17-18, NIV 1984)
Wait a minute…this wasn’t how things were supposed to go. This wasn’t in the script. The apostles were preaching about Jesus. They were healing people in the Name of Jesus. And then from out of nowhere, they are arrested? Are you kidding me?
But life doesn’t always go according to the script, does it? Life can blindside us. Life can knock us to the mat.
But we have a God who has promised to never leave us and never forsake us. He never promised that bad stuff won’t happen to us, but He promised to walk through it with us.
That’s what happened with the apostles. Look at the next verse. “But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.” (Acts 5:19, NIV 1984)
The apostles were in prison, but God didn’t allow them to say there. God is not about His people being imprisoned. He’s about setting them free.
That’s the first thing we need to understand about being found people. Found people are free people.
The apostles didn’t free themselves. They couldn’t. They would have never been able to break the chains, bust through the door, and subdue the armed guards. It wasn’t going to happen. They could never have freed themselves. God had to intervene.
We didn’t free ourselves, either. Jesus had to set us free from the prison of being lost. Jesus had to set us free from fear, and hopelessness, and condemnation, and sin. Jesus set us free.
That means it’s not about anything I have done or anything I could ever do. I am not set free by my good works and my religious activities.
I’m not set free because I listen to KLove, or have a fish on my car, or quote Lysa TerKeurst on Facebook, or read Max Lucado books. I’m not saying those things are bad, but this isn’t where freedom comes from. I’m not free because of anything that some Christians use to keep score.
I am free because Jesus died in my place. I am free because He rose from the dead to give me a new life. It’s all about Jesus. It’s all about what He did to set me free.
That’s who we are as the church. We are found people, and found people are free people.
If you are in Christ, you are free from the prison of trying to do enough good things so that you can make God accept you. You are free from chasing after the approval of others. You are even free from your opinions about yourself. You may feel like a loser. You may feel like a failure. You may feel like you’re not worth much of anything.
But because of Jesus, you are free from all of that. Because of what Jesus did for you on the cross, you can KNOW that you are loved. You can KNOW that you are valuable. You can KNOW that you have worth. You can KNOW that you are free!
Are we feeling the freedom here today, church? If you are in Christ, you are free!
I told you a couple of months ago that my family finally got a dog. Our kids have wanted a dog for years, but I always said no. But little by little, our two boys wore me down. And I finally caved and we got a dog.
Finley is 2 years old, and he is cage trained. Whenever we leave the house, he’s in his cage. When we go to bed at night, he’s in his cage. In fact, Finley is so comfortable in his cage that a lot of times when we’re all home, he will voluntarily go lie down in his cage. The cage door is open. He is free to come and go. But a lot of times, he chooses to be in his cage.
And one day when I saw this, it hit me…there are a ton of Christians who choose to do the same thing.
We have been set free. The cage door is wide open. But so many times, we choose to go back into the cage. We choose to return to our prison.
You have been set free from the sins of your past. You don’t have to live in that prison anymore. You have been set free from guilt and shame and regret. You don’t have to live in that prison anymore. You have been set free from the opinions of judgmental and condemning people. You don’t have to live in that prison anymore.
The cage door is open. You are free.
The Apostle Paul summed it up in Galatians 5 when he said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1a, NIV)
Paul is being purposely repetitive here. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. In other words, Paul is saying that freedom is the whole point!
If are in Christ, you are not imprisoned by your past! You are not imprisoned by your failures! You are not imprisoned by the opinions of other people! You are not imprisoned by shame, or guilt, or regret, or sin! If you are in Christ, you are free!
We had a couple of baptisms last week. We’ll show the videos of those baptisms next Sunday. One of the baptisms was for a lady in our church named Dorothy. Dorothy has been coming to Connect for a few months. She has no church background. She has a very painful past filled with guilt and regret.
But last Sunday was a game changer for her. I baptized Dorothy, and when she came up out of that water, she broke. She was sobbing. But it wasn’t tears of sadness. It was tears of freedom! Dorothy has been set free from her past, and she was completely overwhelmed by that.
I think those of us who have been in the church for a while, maybe for most of our lives, tend to forget that. We tend to forget what it’s like to know you are free for the first time. We tend to forget the joy…the overwhelming joy…that comes into someone’s life when Jesus sets them free.
Forgetting something like that is tragic. It really is. If our freedom in Christ ever becomes common and ordinary to us…if it ever becomes something that we take for granted…we’re on very dangerous ground.
As I hugged Dorothy last Sunday, I was reminded what true freedom does. And it’s not just something that happens when we meet Jesus for the first time. It’s not just something that happens when we’re baptized. If you are in Christ, it’s something that happens every single day of your life. You live every day in freedom because of what Jesus did for you on the cross.
That’s who we are as found people. Found people are free people.
And because I’ve been set free, I have a responsibility to point others to the One who can set them free, as well.
That’s why we have to embrace this truth. Found people find people. This is one of the core values of our church. Found people find people.
Found people are free people, and this freedom is so good that we can’t keep it to ourselves. That’s why found people are called to find more people.
Go back to our story in Acts 5. Luke tells us, “Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. [Found people are free people. But now look at what the angel told them in the next verse.]
“Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” (Acts 5:17-20, NIV 1984)
God freed the apostles from prison, and as soon as they were free, this is what they were told to do. “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
They were free people, and they were immediately called to go find people.
And the same thing is true for us today. Found people are free people, so found people are called to find more people.
Let’s break down what the angel said to the apostles.
As soon as the apostles were free, the angel told them, “Go, stand in the temple courts.”
At first glance, we probably don’t understand how risky this was. They apostles had been arrested by the Jewish leaders. The temple courts represented the very center of the Jewish faith. In essence, the angel told them to go back among the very people that had thrown them in jail in the first place.
It was a huge risk. And if you go home today and read the rest of Acts 5, you’ll see that the apostles did pay a heavy price for this. But they were found people, and they had to do everything they could to find more people.
There is an inherent risk in evangelism. There is a risk in sharing your faith. There is a risk of rejection. Alienation. Even persecution. The risk is there. It’s real.
But it’s a risk worth taking. When the angel said, “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he was telling the apostles, “Go meet the people right where they are.”
A lot of Christians expect to meet people where they want them to be. Doesn’t work that way. We have to be willing to meet people where they are, which means that evangelism is messy business.
Can you meet a homosexual right where they are? Can you meet an atheist right where they are? Can you meet someone who is angry and antagonistic toward your faith right where they are? Can you meet them and love them right where they are, or do they have to change in order for you to love them? Do they have to fix some things for you to love them?
I don’t know about you, but I’m really thankful Jesus doesn’t operate that way with me. Jesus meets me right where I am, and then He slowly takes me where He wants me to be. But His love is immediate. It meets me right where I am.
And that’s the love we’re called to have for people. Love that doesn’t come with strings attached. Love that meets people right where they are. It’s a risk. It opens you up to hurt and pain. You can get wounded giving this kind of love…but it’s worth it because of this simple truth: found people find people. Found people know what Jesus went through to find them, and they’re willing to take a risk to help find other people.
That’s who we are as a church. We are found people who find people. That’s why, here at Connect, we focus on the outsider, not the insider. We exist for people who don’t know Jesus yet…people who have never even darkened the door of a church. We also exist for people who used to be part of a church, but for whatever reason, they walked away. Maybe they’ve been gone for a month. Maybe they’ve been gone for a decade. That’s why we’re here. To hold the door open so they can come back to Christ.
Tony Morgan wrote this on his blog this week. “I’d rather have a welcoming church than a friendly church. The welcoming church is always thinking guests first. They expect new people to show up every week. They are intentional about how they greet and welcome those guests. They are intentional about how they communicate, worship and teach with guests in their services.
Friendly churches, on the other hand, can be some of the most unwelcoming places in the world, because the focus is on people who already are part of the church.”
Here at Connect, we don’t want to be a friendly church. We want to be a welcoming church. There is a big, big difference.
For example, we had a new guy that visited our church a few months ago. Never been here before. He came in right before the service, and he was told not once, but twice that, “These seats are saved.”
Now, I have no way of knowing who said this to him. And I’m sure it wasn’t mean-spirited or anything like that. I’m sure it was said by people who were saving seats for family or something like that.
But just think about it from his perspective. First time in a new church. You try to sit down twice, only to be told that you can’t sit here.
That happens in friendly churches, but it should never happen in a welcoming church. For those of us who call Connect our home, it’s our job to give up our seat. To move over. If need be, to sit separate from the rest of our family.
I’m not yelling at you. I’m not angry. I just think we all need this reminder. Jesus didn’t die for your seat. He died for the person who might need that seat.
That’s why we ask the people of Connect to take the worst seats. The worst seats are in the middle of the row and right upfront. So if you partner with us here at Connect, when you come in next week, we ask you to move in and move up. That leaves the best seats…the aisle seats and the back rows…for our guests.
The reason we ask our partners at Connect to do stuff like that is simple…because found people find people. Found people will do whatever they can to hold the door open for people…to welcome them…so they can hear the gospel of Jesus.
The angel told the apostles to “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
After you go to them…you don’t wait for them to come to you…you go to them…after you go and meet them where they are, then you can tell them the full message about this new life.
The full message is the message of Jesus. If we never get around to Jesus, we’re not really sharing our faith. Contrary to what a lot of people want to believe, it’s not enough to just live a good life or to just do good things. It’s not enough to just talk about God, because that can be defined in a million different ways. Everyone you meet can have a different definition of who “God” is.
But our God has a Name. His Name is Jesus. When found people are serious about finding people, it means we’ve got to point them to Jesus.
And one of the best ways to do that is to tell them about this “new life.” That’s what the angel told the apostles to do. “Tell the people the full message of this new life.”
The most powerful evangelistic tool you have is your story. Your story of a new life. How has God changed you? What difference has Jesus made in your life? When you invite someone to church, tell them what a difference your church has made in your life. Attach your story to it.
You don’t have to preach a sermon or debate theology. All you have to do is be willing to tell your story. Is your story messy? Is it broken? Is it very, very far from perfect? So is mine. And so is everyone else’s story who follows Jesus.
But our story isn’t about how good we are. It’s about how good God is. It isn’t a story about how we saved ourselves. It’s about how Jesus saved us in spite of us. It isn’t a story about how everything in our lives is now puppy dogs and sunshine and wonderful. It’s a story about how life is really hard, but we have a God who walks through it all with us.
That’s my story. That’s your story. And that’s a story worth telling.
Psalm 107 says it so clearly. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:1-2a, NIV)
God never intended for you to keep your story quiet. He redeemed you, which means He bought you back. Jesus died to pay your ransom. And then He rose again to give you a brand new life. To set you free. Found are free people.
And now His desire is, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” Found people find people.
You have a story worth telling. You may not think it’s dramatic. You may think it’s actually kind of boring. But if your story involves Jesus…if it involves God working in your life…it is automatically a story worth telling.
Is it a risk? Sure. Will some people ignore you? Yes. Will some people even mock you? Absolutely. But is it worth the risk? Without a doubt.
A church that is not willing to take the risk to reach out beyond its own walls is not a church. At least, it’s not a church by God’s definition.
The church was never intended to be a holy huddle. It was never intended to be “us four and no more.”
That’s why our church has taken the steps that we’ve taken in the last year and a half.
If you’ve been with us for a while, you know our story. But some of us are pretty new to Connect, so I just want to remind you what has brought us to this point.
Last year, our church left a building that we owned to start holding our services here at the hotel. On the surface, it seemed more than a little bit crazy. And we took more than our fair share of criticism for it. In fact, I even heard of some churches who were bashing our church in their leadership meetings! (Which I always thought was a great use of their meeting time!)
But here’s what’s not crazy…the heart behind the move that we made. We made this move because found people find people. We moved out of our old building so we could begin meeting in a facility that was in the middle of the marketplace. And what we started seeing is that people started coming who would never have walked into our old building. But there was something about our new environment that felt safe enough for them to give it a try. And we got to share the gospel with them. And we got to see them come to faith in Christ. And we got to baptize them.
That’s also why we’re searching for our next location. We’ve been very open about the fact that the schedule here at the hotel has become unworkable. There are just too many dates when our space is not available to us. So we’re in hot pursuit of our next location. Not so we can become comfortable, but so we can find even more people.
So you know what? People who don’t know us and don’t know our heart can criticize all they want. We’ll just keep on making heaven more crowded. We’ll just keep on being found people who find people.
And that’s my prayer for the Church. Not that every church has to leave their buildings. But my prayer for the “Big C Church”…and my prayer for our church here at Connect…is that we wouldn’t let a risk stand in the way of finding people. That we wouldn’t let criticism stop us from taking bold steps to find people. That God would bless our ministry and our mission, that His Kingdom would grow through our ministry, and that through our church, more and more and more people would see Jesus. Encounter Jesus. Be changed by Jesus.
That’s my prayer. I pray that we will always be found people who find people.
And if Jesus is not the Savior and Lord of your life, my prayer is that you’ll allow yourself to be found by Him. He’s pursuing you. He wants to seek and to save you. And I’m praying that you would stop and surrender to Him.
We have some people in our Green Room that would love to talk and pray with you after church. If you’ve got some stuff going on in your life…or if you want to talk about giving your life to Christ…whatever you need, they’ll be ready for you in the Green Room after church.