Together: We Believe That Together is Better

Categories: Together

Welcome to Connect. My name is Mike Edmisten, and I’m so glad you joined us today on Super Bowl Sunday.

So, who do you have in the game tonight? How many of you have the Patriots winning tonight? These are the people who need our prayers…and maybe an air pump.

How many of you love Jesus and have the Seahawks winning tonight? Right on! I really like Russell Wilson. The guy loves Jesus, and that’s awesome. Plus, and I can’t emphasize this enough, the Patriots are EVIL. So go Seahawks!

Alright. Enough of that. Time for us to get down to business. We are kicking off a brand new series today called Together. There are some “big doin’s” here at Connect right now. We are leading up to the launch of our brand new Connect Groups. And this series is going to take us there.

It couldn’t be more important, so let’s pray as we get things going today.

Your best is not the best you can do. We’re inundated with that phrase all the time. “Do your best!”

We even say it to our own kids. For example, if your kid is struggling with math, because math is of the devil…it is. It really is. Did you know that every math problem in the world has the same answer? 666.

Anyway, if your kid is struggling with a subject at school, what do you say to them? “Just do your best.” You say it. I say it. And it’s good, because it sets the expectation. The expectation is not for you child to never struggle. The expectation is not perfection. The expectation is just for them to do the best they can with the abilities they have.

That works when your kid is having trouble with math, but what if I told you that when it comes to our lives, our best is not the best we can do?

Here’s the truth. God’s “better” is always better than my “best.”

If I’m just living my life the best I can, then I am missing out on something much better. God’s “better” is always better than my “best.”

When I see a situation where God says, “This is better,” that should stop me in my tracks. If I think I’m doing my best, but then I hear God say, “No, this is better,” that should be enough for me. Because God created me. And God loves me so much that He gave up His own Son for me. And He wants what is best for me. And His “better” is always better than my best.

And this is one of those times. Today, we are going to see what God said is “better.”

We’re going to be in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes for this series. It’s a book that was written by Solomon near the end of his life. And in Ecclesiastes 4, we see that Solomon discovered God’s “better.”

Starting in verse 9, Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one, 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.

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)

We’re going to be working our way through these verses over the next 4 weeks, and today we’re going to start right at the beginning.

Solomon said, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, NIV)

That word “better” just jumped out at me this week. “Two are BETTER than one.”

That is so simple. It is so straightforward. But it’s something that a lot of us don’t embrace in our lives. We’re busy doing our best, on our own.

I’m doing the best I can at my job, on my own. I’m doing the best I can as a husband or wife, on my own. I’m doing the best I can as a parent, on my own. I’m doing the best I can as a student, on my own. I’m doing the best I can as a Christian, on my own.

But here’s the truth…God said that, “Together is better.”

God’s “better” is always better than my best. And when I’m trying to do my best on my own, God just shakes His head and says, “I’ve got something better in mind for you. Together is better. And remember, my ‘better’ will always be better than your ‘best.’”

In fact, that truth stretches 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. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18, NIV) And God created Eve.

Again, it’s a simple story, but don’t miss the truth here. God is, “It is NOT GOOD for the man to be alone.” Even when Adam was at his absolute best, God could do better. God said that together is better.

Have you seen what KFC is up to now? Check this out. This is the Double Down Dog. It is a hot dog, covered in cheese. But instead of a hot dog bun made out of bread, the bun is made out of fried chicken.

Every so often, there is just an invention of pure genius. The cotton gin was genius. The light bulb was genius. The assembly line was genius. In more recent times, the smart phone is genius. Every so often, there is an invention that is just pure genius.

And this might rank right up there with them. This IS genius! Now, for full disclosure, I really don’t eat at KFC anymore. I’m eating a lot healthier than I used to…but I would go get that! The only problem is that it’s only available in the Philippines, which is probably good for me since it contains 700 calories and almost 50 grams of fat!

But seriously, I would still try it, because this just looks awesome. Some genius at KFC said, “Wait a minute. You’ve got a hot dog, and you’ve got fried chicken. Separately, they’re good. But they would be so much better together!”

And I’m actually thinking about getting a passport and taking a trip just to get my hands on one. Because they would have to be better together.

But here’s the deal…whatever you think of the Double Down Dog, and I know some of you are groaning at the very idea…whatever you think of the Double Down Dog, there is something that we should all double down on…God’s “better” is always better than my “best.”

We all need to double down on that truth, because that’s exactly what the early church did. In the book of Acts, we see how this whole church thing got its start. And in Acts, we see the purest form of church that has ever existed, because people didn’t have 2,000 years to mess it up yet.

And here’s one inescapable truth when you read the book of Acts. They understood that together is better.

Here’s what Luke tells us in Acts 2. This is right after the church had begun. Luke wrote, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47, NIV)

Anybody notice a theme here? It’s absolutely impossible to miss the fact that when the church began, they understood that together is better.

Go back and look at what Luke tells us. He wrote, “All the believers were together…” (Acts 2:44a, NIV)

There is a popular myth today that you can believe in Jesus, but you don’t need the church. The church is outdated. The church is out of touch. The church is broken. The church is legalistic. The church is hypocritical. And these arguments go on and on and on.

Here’s the problem, though. The Bible never even mentions a churchless Christian. Not once. Not one single, solitary time.

Is the church messed up? Absolutely. Has the church made mistakes? More than you could ever count. Is the church full of hypocrites? Well, they let me in, so yeah. None of us ever follow Jesus perfectly. We’re all hypocritical, way more often than we want to admit. So yes…the church is full of hypocrites, and there’s always room for one more! So if it’s your first time with us today, welcome! You’ll fit right in!

All these arguments that people make against the church just don’t stack up against Scripture. Yes, the church is imperfect, and hypocritical, and broken. But you know what it is, along with being imperfect and hypocritical and broken? It’s essential.

The Bible never talks about a churchless Christian. In fact, the very first Christians knew the truth that together is better. They knew they needed each other.

And that hasn’t changed. You still need the church. I still need the church.

And when you keep reading in Acts 2, you see why.

Luke wrote, “…they continued to meet together…” (Acts 2:46a, NIV)

Corporate worship matters. Gathering together as the church each Sunday matters. Something happens when the church gathers for worship that can’t be fully explained. There is something that happens when the church gathers for worship that doesn’t happen anywhere else.

That’s why, here at Connect, we put so much emphasis on each service that we have. That’s why we work hours and hours and hours planning every detail. That’s why we put so much of our resources into our Sunday experiences. Because we believe that what happens here is way more important than what happens anywhere else, including that football game in Arizona tonight.

Something happens when the church gathers that doesn’t happen anywhere else, because it’s where Jesus shows up. In Matthew 18, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20, KJV)

Jesus is present whenever we gather in His Name. That’s what makes the church so special and unique. That’s why the church is essential. Because the church is where Jesus shows up.

But did you notice that Jesus used that word again? “For where two or three are gathered TOGETHER in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Jesus didn’t say, “For when some guy decides that the church is full of hypocrites so he isn’t going anymore, there I am with him.”

Or, “For when some lady decides that she likes me but she really doesn’t need the church, there I am with her.”

Or, “For when some teenager decides that church starts too early and they want to stay in bed, there I am with them.”

Now, maybe somebody drug you here today. Maybe you came to church just to get them off your back, and now you think I’m yelling at you. I’m not. Believe me, I’m not. I just want you to hear the truth that Jesus gave us as clearly as possible. And Jesus said point blank that He is present when His church gathers together. And He really never gave us the option for going it alone. There are times when we might think that is best, but God’s “better” is always better than our “best.”

That truth gets proven every single week. You ever have to drag yourself to church? Some Sunday rolls around, and you’re just not feeling it. You’re tired. It’s just been a week. And you’re just not feeling it, but you come anyway. It felt like it might be best to skip out, but you come anyway. And then Jesus shows up at church and everything changes. And you walk out thinking, “Man, I am so glad that I came!” You know why that happens? Because God’s “better” is always better than your best. And God said that his church being together is better.

But that togetherness has to go beyond Sundays. Go back to Acts 2. Luke said that the first believers “were together” and they “continued to meet together.”

But he also reminds us that, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:46b, NIV)

The early church knew that together is better. They gathered corporately, but they also met in each others’ homes because the Sunday gathering is not enough.

This series is all about “together.” But “together” doesn’t mean we sit in the same room for an hour on Sundays. That’s crucial, but it’s also not enough.

Let’s be honest…the way we do church, it’s very easy to just come in and have seat. The lights go down and the band kicks up. And then the pastor talks for a half hour or so. And then you go home until next week. You might have a few casual conversations on your way out, or you might just hit the door.

That’s really easy to do. But it’s not God’s “better.” God’s “better” is always better than our “best.” God’s “better” is deeper than just gathering for an hour on Sundays.

The early church knew that, because they met together in each others’ homes.

And that’s why we’re launching a brand new system of Connect Groups. Because God said that together is better, and together doesn’t just mean on Sundays.

Our Connect Groups will be small groups that will meet in different homes throughout the week. These are groups that will meet throughout the year to hang out, to grow together, to support each other, to serve together, etc. Because we understand the simple truth that together is better. The early church believed that, and we still believe that more than 2,000 years later.

At the end of this series, you’re going to have a chance to sign up for a new Connect Group. We will have a searchable database based on things like day of the week, location, is the group child friendly, etc.?

We’re going to be sharing a lot more of the details about how to get signed up over the next few weeks. But I want to call something out today…there are going to be a ton of reasons that will make you consider NOT joining a group.

“I’m too busy.” “I don’t need one more thing on my schedule.” “I’m not sure this will be worth my time.” And on and on and on.

I understand being busy. Trust me. And the truth is, I don’t need one more thing on my calendar, either. But I also understand that this isn’t just “one more thing.” This is community. This is togetherness. This is God’s “better.” And if I don’t have room on my calendar for God’s “better,” then my calendar is the problem.

These groups will be flexible in their meeting times. A group might decide to meet every other week instead of every week. They might decide to take a break during a summer month or around the holidays. There is flexibility that is built into this new system that gives each group the freedom to set their own schedule, because we don’t want your group to be a burden. We want it to be a joy.

Look at what Luke wrote in Acts 2 again. “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts…” (Acts 2:46b, NIV)

That doesn’t sound like a burden. That sounds like a joy. They ate together with “glad” hearts. They were glad to be together. Together is better, and they were experiencing it.

And there was joy because there was authenticity. They “ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

There was a sincerity, an authenticity in their gatherings. And authentic community is what we’re after.

I can’t remember who said it, but I remembering hearing someone say, “The church is the last place in the world where you can be real.” Maybe you’ve experienced that. I have. I’ve seen churches where it was all about the show. It was a masquerade. Just put on your religious mask and act like everything is awesome and you have it all together. Don’t bring your brokenness. Don’t bring your pain. And DEFINITELY don’t bring your sin. We’re not comfortable with that. That kind of honestly doesn’t belong in the church.

When, in reality, that’s EXACLTLY where it belongs. If you can’t be real and honest and authentic at church, then you can’t do it anywhere. We are all sinners saved by grace. Our only hope is that Jesus Christ died on a cross, for our sin. And He rose again to give us a new life. There is no way we could pay our own sin debt. We are saved completely, totally, and only by grace. And that leaves no room for judgment, because we’re all in the same boat. We’re all in this together.

Our vision is for our church to be a safe place to be authentic. And our groups will just ramp that vision up even more. That’s what I need. That’s what you need. And if you think you don’t, you’re fooling yourself. You need to be plugged into authentic community.

You know why? Because God said that it is better. And God’s “better” is always better than my “best.”

When we live in community together, it’s better for you. It’s better for me. It’s better for our church. And it’s better for our mission.

Look at what Luke wrote one more time. “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:44-47, NIV)

They were together. They met together publicly. They hung out together in their homes. And you might think that this would mean that they would become a closed community that just existed for themselves. But actually, the exact opposite proved true.

After telling us how much they shared in authentic community together, Luke tells us, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Together doesn’t mean exclusive. Together doesn’t mean that we create a little holy huddle. Together doesn’t mean, “Us four and no more.” Just the opposite. Together accomplishes the mission.

People are hungry for authentic community, especially in our culture today. So many people have had enough of the surface level community that is everywhere. They’ve had enough of Facebook being the definition of “friends.” They want something deeper. They want something more meaningful. They want something real.

And that means that the church has a choice. The church can choose to be McDonalds or Starbucks.

Have you seen this sign hanging in McDonalds? If you can’t see it all, it says, “Please – No Loitering. Time Limit: 30 Minutes while consuming food. The manager must enforce this rule. Your cooperation is appreciated.”

What does that tell you? What kind of atmosphere does that conjure up in your mind? How does that make you feel compared to, say, this?

This is from Starbucks. Notice a difference from the McDonalds picture? Essentially, McDonalds is saying, “get out” while Starbucks is saying, “hang out.”

There was an article about Starbucks in Psychology Today. In that article, it said, “At Starbucks, nothing is accidental. Everything the customer interacts with, from the obsessively monitored store environment down to the white paper cups, is the product of deliberation and psychological research. The coffeehouse as we know it is a calculated creation…”

It went on to say, “Starbucks filled America’s need for a public gathering spot–…a ‘third place’ with home and work being place one and two. This became Starbucks’ community rallying cry: It wasn’t a coffee company, but a place for bringing people together through the social glue of coffee.”

Starbucks understands community. They understand together. But can I point out something here? Ultimately, their goal is to just sell more coffee. Community and togetherness are just a means to that end. Selling coffee is the ultimate goal.

Here’s my question…why is that a corporation, who just wants to sell coffee, seems to understand community more than the church does? Does that seem backwards to you, because it sure seems backwards to me?

Community is God’s idea. Together is God’s “better.” Which means that the church should be known for our authentic community more than any corporation that has ever existed.

But here’s the deal…when the focus in a church is all about the Sunday gathering, the church becomes McDonalds. Come in. Sit down. Eat. And get out. We’ll see you next week.

But when the church embrace the truth that together is better, it takes more of a Starbucks approach. Yes, the Sunday gathering is essential, and it always will be. But so is hanging out. So is talking and laughing and crying and growing together. It’s got to be about more than Sunday. We’ve got to move from a McDonalds to a Starbucks mindset.

As Ed Stetzer put it, we’ve got to move from sitting in rows to sitting in circles. That’s where real community happens. That’s where together happens. That’s where we experience God’s “better,” which is always better than our “best.”

And that is what people are hungry for. When someone visits our church, what happens on this stage might bring them back next week. But it won’t bring them back six months from now. It won’t make them want to plug in. Community is where that happens.

That’s why the whole idea of “together” is really all about the mission. It’s all about creating a real, authentic community where people can ask hard questions. Wrestle with real doubt. Deal with real pain. And come to know a real Savior, who died for them. Who rose for them. Who is with them. And Who loves them more than they could ever understand.

Just like everything else in our church, “together” is all about Jesus.

Author: Mike Edmisten

Senior Pastor