This is the second message in a huge series called This Is How We Roll. It’s a huge series because it’s 13 weeks long. But it’s also huge because of the impact this series is going to have on our church.
In this series, we’re talking about how we roll as a church. What has God called Connect to be? What has He called us to do?
What has God called your family to be? What has He called you to do as an individual follower of Jesus?
That’s what this series is all about.
So if you’re here just checking things out…maybe you’re seeing if Connect is a good fit for you and your family…maybe you’re not even sure if you believe all this Jesus stuff…we’re just glad you’re here. In this series, we’re going to talk about who we are as a church. You’re going to get an honest picture of who we are and what we believe as we follow Jesus.
Let’s pray, and then we’re going to jump into week #2 of This Is How We Roll.
We are partners. Everybody say that out loud with me. “We are partners.”
Last week, we explored the fact that we are a church that belongs to Jesus. That’s how we roll.
Today, we’re going to see that we don’t roll alone. We roll together because we are partners.
Check out this story from the book of Luke. In chapter 5, Luke writes, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.
He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” [A lot of times, Jesus’ commands don’t make a lot of sense to us. This didn’t make any sense to Simon, who is also known as the Apostle Peter. They had already fished all night, and they didn’t catch jack squat. But Peter obeyed, not because the command made sense, but because of Who the command came from. Because it came from Jesus, Peter obeyed.]
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5:1-11, NIV)
This is such a cool story. Jesus gives Peter’s crew a miraculous catch. And then He uses that experience to show them what is going to happen when they start to preach the gospel. Instead of catching fish, they will reach people with the message of Jesus.
But I want to back up to something in the story that we usually miss. Jesus told them to let down their nets for a catch. Even though it didn’t make sense, Peter did it anyway.
Look at verse 6. “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.” (Luke 5:6, NIV)
They had fished all night, and caught nothing. They had given up. But Jesus had greater plans for them than they had for themselves. He had a huge catch waiting on them.
We have to remember that Jesus has greater plans for our church than we do. You know that dream you have for our church? Jesus’ dream is bigger. You know what you hope our church can accomplish? Jesus’ plan is bigger.
And the same thing is true in your own life. You know that dream you have for your family? Jesus’ dream is bigger. You know what you hope God can do with your life? Jesus’ plan is bigger.
Jesus always has greater plans and dreams for us than we have for ourselves. But a lot of times we miss that because Jesus defines “great” differently than we do. A lot of times, Jesus’ definition of “success” is much different than ours. But here’s what we all need to learn…Jesus’ definition is always better. Jesus’ hopes and dreams for us are bigger and better than the hopes and dreams we have for ourselves.
That’s true in our lives. That’s true in our families. And that’s true in our church.
Jesus has greater plans and dreams for our church than we do. But to see those plans and dreams become a reality, we have to do what Peter’s crew did. We have to be obedient, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Peter and his crew had fished all night and caught nothing. And then Jesus told them to cast out their nets again. It made no sense. But Jesus had greater plans than they did.
And when they cast out those nets, they caught so many fish that the nets began to break.
Now, check out the next verse. “So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” (Luke 5:7, NIV)
Jesus had greater plans for these fishermen than they had for themselves. But they would have never been able to receive it if they didn’t partner together. If these fishermen didn’t partner together, the only thing they would be left with would be broken nets and a story about all the fish that got away.
I love to fish. And as a fisherman, I can tell you that there is nothing worse than the story of the one that got away. Every fisherman has those stories.
I don’t want to tell stories about the one that got away. I want to post pictures on Facebook of the one that I caught! Like this one! In case you’re wondering, that’s not a bad fish.
Of course, there are always guys in our church that try to show me up. Like Tim Sexton and John Bach, for example. Seriously, whenever we decide to have the first ever Connect Fish Fry, I’m calling these guys.
But this is what every fisherman lives for. We want to tell success stories. We want to post pictures and brag about the ones that we caught. We don’t want to tell the story of the one that got away.
And that’s the same thing that I desperately want for our church. As a church, I don’t want us to have stories about the ones that got away. I don’t want to tell the story of the person who never met Jesus. The family that was never healed. The addict that never found hope. The marriage that was never saved.
I don’t want to tell stories about the person who went through life with no purpose. The person who never found hope in their brokenness. The person who never found community but instead lived in loneliness. The person who remained disconnected from their Creator. The person who thought they had to work their way to heaven instead of hearing that Jesus has already done it all through His death and resurrection.
I don’t want to tell a single one of those stories. I want to tell success stories.
I want to tell about kids who met Jesus. Teenagers who found a place to belong. Marriages that were restored. People who were brought back from the brink of financial ruin. Addictions that were broken. Men and women who found hope after a divorce. Lonely people who found community. Sexually broken people who found restoration and wholeness in Christ. Legalistic religious people who discovered grace. And people who questioned God’s very existence who discovered a Savior that loves them more than they ever thought possible. Those are the stories that I want to tell!
But if we don’t partner together, we won’t have those stories to tell. If we don’t partner together, the only thing we’ll have are stories of what-if and “what might have been.”
If Peter and his partners didn’t join together, they would have never been able to haul in this miraculous catch. The nets would have broken, the fish would have got away, and all they would have left is “what might have been.”
But instead, they joined forces. They worked together, because they were partners. And their partnership allowed them to haul in the catch of a lifetime.
If a church doesn’t partner together, that church will never receive the blessings that Jesus has in store for them. And we are absolutely determined that this will NEVER happen to us at Connect.
We absolutely believe that Jesus has greater plans for our church than we do. And we are going to partner together so that we can haul those blessings in.
And if you think this is just pastor-speak, if you think this is just hyperbole that sounds good in a sermon, if you think this is just all talk…you need to be here for the rest of this series. Throughout this series, we are going to lay out some brand new stuff that is going to take Connect to the next level. It’s stuff that we’ve never said before. It’s stuff that we’ve never done before. By the time this series is over, we will be fundamentally changed as a church. It’s a change that is going to take us to a whole new level.
But the only reason any of this can happen is because we are partners. This isn’t something that I can do on my own. This isn’t something that the staff or the leadership can do. The mission of the church is carried out through partnership. We’re all in this together. We’re all partners.
In a lot of churches, one of the most important things is membership. Are you a member of this church? If you change churches, you go through a “membership transfer.” Membership is a big deal in some churches.
And up until now, we did the membership thing here at Connect, too. A lot of you are members of our church. But by the end of this series, we’re going to change how we look at membership. In fact, we’re going to do away with the words “member” and “membership” entirely. At the end of this series, we’re not going to be talking about members ever again. Instead, we’re going to talk about partners. We’ll never talk about membership anymore. Instead, we’ll be laser-focused on partnership.
Here’s why. Here’s why we’re moving from membership to partnership.
Do you remember those old American Express commercials back in the 80s and the 90s? Anytime you saw a commercial for American Express on TV, it always ended with the same tagline. “Membership has its privileges.”
And that’s the way that a lot of people have come to view their “membership” in the church. It comes with privileges. There are perks and kickbacks and rewards. I’m a member, and I expect my privileges.
And that’s why we are moving from membership to partnership.
Members have rights. Partners have responsibilities.
When Peter was trying to haul in that catch of fish, he didn’t call members. He called his partners.
Because members would have said, “Oh, we’re having fish tonight? Great! I’d like mine pan-seared in olive oil, with cilantro, fennel, and just a hint of lime.” That’s membership.
But Peter didn’t call members. When he was trying to haul in this miraculous load of fish, he called his partners. And what did his partners do? They showed up and got to work! Because members have rights, but partners have responsibilities.
Listen to what the Apostle Paul wrote about the church in Ephesians 4. “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.
As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:15-16, NLT)
Paul tells us that the church is the Body of Christ. And just like our physical bodies, it only functions at full capacity when all the parts of the body are doing their thing. If your body has lungs that work great but a heart that is only so-so, you wouldn’t say that your body is healthy. Our bodies are healthy when ALL the parts are doing their work.
And the same thing is true in the Body of Christ. We are all part of that body, but if we’re not doing our part, the body itself is not healthy.
People who view church through the lens of membership, who are looking for privileges and perks and rights, don’t contribute to a healthy body.
People who view the church through the lens of partnership, who are looking for ways to serve and contribute and support, make the church body healthy.
And that’s what we want Connect to be. We want Connect to be a healthy church.
I used to pray for God to make us a huge church. Now, I pray for God to make us a healthy church. A healthy church is not a church that is focused on membership. A healthy church is a church that thrives on partnership. And that’s the church that we want to be.
But don’t get me wrong…even though my prayer for our church has shifted, that doesn’t mean that I don’t pray for our church to grow. Healthy things grow. And our church is going to grow. In fact, we’ll be talking more about this later in this series, but we are working and praying for God to position us for far more growth than we’ve ever seen in our history. We’ll be laying a lot of that out as this series unfolds.
But it starts here. It starts with viewing our church through the lens of partnership. It starts with the understanding that we’re all part of this body, and it takes every single one of us doing our part to make the body healthy. We’re not members who want to exercise our rights. We are partners who want to carry out our responsibilities.
For a lot of us, this isn’t new. You’ve viewed Connect through the partnership lens for a long time. You serve freely. You give generously. Your love for our church is evident. Your commitment to our mission is obvious.
And I want to echo the words of the Apostle Paul. Here’s what Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, and this is exactly how I feel about you.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:3-6, NIV)
I thank God for you. I really do. I can’t put into words how much I love our church, and I thank God for every single person who partners with us. Like Paul said, we are partners in the gospel. We are partners in this mission to reach people with the good news of Jesus.
And like Paul, I am confident of this. God began a good work in us, but He’s not done yet. You might think it sounds cliché, but it’s absolutely true. Our best days are still in front of us. The best is yet to come. God has started a good work in us, but He’s not even close to finished yet. He has bigger plans and bigger dreams for our church than we do. And we are going to follow Him, when it makes sense and when it doesn’t.
When God calls us to change, we will change. When He calls us to stand firm, we will stand firm. When He says adapt, we will adapt. When He says move, we will move. When He says go, we will go. Whatever the command is, we will obey because we want to see the work that God has started come to completion.
But it’s only going to happen if we kick membership to the curb and fully embrace the truth of partnership.
Over the course of this series, God is going to challenge all of us who call Connect our home. He is going to challenge us to be generous. He is going to challenge us to step up and serve. He is going to challenge us to dig deeper into His Word and be more faithful in prayer. He is going to challenge our idea of what it means to live in community. He is going to challenge our thoughts about what it means to share the gospel.
This series is a gauntlet. It really is. And not everyone likes to be challenged this hard. There are risks when we allow God to speak this clearly and directly into our lives.
But I also understand that we have generations of people in the church today that have been under-challenged. We have an entire generation of young people who are walking away from the church entirely, and a lot of them aren’t leaving because of they don’t believe in Jesus. A lot of them are leaving because they’ve never been challenged with the mission of Jesus. They’ve never seen following Jesus as an adventure. If this Jesus thing is just about attending a service for an hour a week, this generation is walking away because they think they can invest their lives in something bigger than that.
Some people may not like the challenges that are thrown down in this series, but I’ll tell you this: people are not going to walk away from our church because they were under-challenged.
And after all the challenges of this series, we’re all going to have a chance to sign on. We’re not just going to assume that you want to join Connect as a partner in our mission. That’s arrogant and presumptuous on our part, and we don’t roll that way.
The church is an army, but it’s a volunteer army. So after the challenges over the next couple of months are thrown down, you will have chance to say, “I’m in! I want to partner with a church that is on mission.
I want to partner with a church that is not content to just meet on Sundays and feel like they’ve done their duty.
I want to partner with a church that is committed to fostering a real, loving community of believers.
I want to partner with a church that allows people to bring their doubts, their questions, and even their unbelief with them. And instead of those people receiving judgment, they receive love.
I want to partner with a church that is not content with where they are, but they are mobilizing to take more ground for the Kingdom.”
That’s the kind of church that I want to partner with. And I hope you agree.
If you’re not sure about all this…maybe you don’t even know if you believe all this stuff…do me a favor and just keep coming. No obligations. No strings attached. Just keep coming. Because, whether you buy into this or not, by the end of this series, you’ll at least know where we stand. No smokescreens. No bait-and-switch. We’re going to tell you exactly where we stand and exactly where we’re going.
I am pumped up, church! I promised you that this series is going to be a gamer changer, and it absolutely is. And the next chapter for Connect is going to absolutely blow our minds. Because Jesus has bigger dreams for our church than we do. And if we partner together as we follow Him, all bets are off. Peter and his partners couldn’t believe what Jesus did with the miraculous catch of fish. And we won’t be able to wrap our minds around everything that Jesus is going to do in us and through us as we partner together.
Go back and look at what Paul said to the Philippian church one more time. He said, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now…” (Philippians 1:4-5, NIV)
We have a partnership in the gospel. That means that we are partners in sharing the good news of Jesus. But it also means that we are partners in receiving it.
There is no hierarchy. There are no super-Christians. We are partners in the gospel, meaning we’re all on equal footing. We are all sinners who desperately need a Savior. We need the good news that Jesus died for our sin. We need the good news that Jesus rose again to give us a brand new life.
I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I’m a pastor. And I need the good news of Jesus as much now as I ever have. And so do you.
I need the good news that Jesus did it all to pay for my sin. I need the good news that, even though I will never be good enough, Jesus was good enough for me. I need the good news that I don’t have to measure up, because Jesus measured up for me.
That’s the good news that I need. And that’s the good news that Jesus gives us. And we would love nothing more than to share that good news with you today.