What’s going on Connect? This is the second message of our Series, Together. My name is Brian Morrissey. I am the Worship and Teaching Pastor here at Connect and this morning we’re going to have some fun as we explore God’s idea for authentic community in our Church.
I have a confession to make. I’m going to get real transparent here on stage this morning – I used to read comic books. I know, I know. Let the “nerd” chants fly. It’s okay, I can take them.
I did, I used to read comic books. I collected them and still have two full boxes of double-polybagged with cardboard comics in my basement. I’m sure my wife would love to donate them to someone who was willing to take them, but I digress… My favorite superhero was and probably will always be Batman.
There was something awe inspiring about a vigilante hero who used stealth, surprise and smarts to overthrow larger than life villains who were bent on conquering the world. And there’s not a whole lot about Batman that I didn’t like growing up except for one thing – Robin.
If you know anything about Batman, you know that sometimes he is seen with this shrimpy little sidekick in green tights who fights crime by his side. And let me tell you, nothing bothered me more about Batman growing up than Robin. And I wasn’t alone either. There was a phone number set up in the early 1990’s that fans used to call DC Comics and they would tell them that they wanted DC to kill of the character. Batman was the Dark knight and everything about him was awesome because he was this isolated figure who should’ve fought crime by himself. He was much more brooding and dangerous when he was by himself. He didn’t have to get involved with feelings because He was all about the pursuit of justice and he certainly didn’t need some little sidekick slowing him down.
But, Robin has stuck around. And I’ve always wondered why. I never liked the Robin character – doesn’t matter if the comics wrote a boy or a girl (yes, there have been girl Robins) into the role.
And I think I’ve finally figured out why Robin is there. Why the character has endured for so long. It’s because having Robin there gives Batman community. It exposes the human side of him – the emotional feeling side that leaves him vulnerable. Robin brings balance to Batman. The character makes Batman stronger because two are better than one.
When the Joker catches Batman and puts him in an inescapable death trap, Robin is there to save the day. Batman is truly better together with Robin.
In life, some things are just better together. Think about it:
Campfires and music,
Ice cream and toppings.
Bumper cars and friends you want to hit hard!
Ren and Stimpy! If you don’t know what that last one is, it’s okay, you’re probably better off for it but you’re missing out on some Happy Happy Joy Joy.
We as a church are better together. We are stronger together. That’s why our vision is for everyone at Connect to be plugged in to authentic community. That community happens best in small connected groups, outside of the Sunday morning setting. In this series, we are building up to the launch of our brand new Connect Groups, because we understand the simple truth that we’re much better, much healthier, and much stronger together!
And this morning, we’re going to dive into how we can be better together when we’re there for each other.
In the 90’s (because it was that awesome of a decade) the great philosophers, the Rembrandts, penned these lyrics. Maybe you know them and you’re singing them in your head while I read them –
“So no one told you life was gonna be this way, Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D O A, It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear, When it hasn’t been your day, your week, Your month or even your year but I’ll be there for you, (When the rain starts to pour), I’ll be there for you, (Like I’ve been there before), I’ll be there for you, (‘Cause you’re there for me too)”
That’s what we’re going to explore this morning. So let me pray for us and we’ll dive right in.
I love a great story. A great story can make you feel for the characters through everything they experience. Very few movies translate characters as well as the books do, and even fewer actors translate characters in a way to invoke emotion out of the audience, but in the year 2000, one of my favorite actors, Tom Hanks, did just that when he portrayed the character of Chuck Noland in the movie Cast Away.
If you haven’t seen the film, the story is about a Fed-Ex manager who hops on a delivery flight after kissing his fiancée goodbye and when the plane crash lands in the ocean, Chuck is the only survivor and is forced to survive on a deserted island, alone and isolated. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but the entire movie revolves around the need for community and the dangers of isolation and depression.
On the island, Chuck finds a few packages that wash ashore after the plane crash and one of them contains a small volleyball that Chuck “paints” a face on and begins to talk to. He names it Wilson and the movie portrays the volleyball as essential because Chuck talks to the volleyball the entire time he is on the island and he takes it with him when he builds a raft and tries to escape the island.
Chuck couldn’t handle isolation because he wasn’t designed to. He had to have someone, something to talk to because God has given each of us a need, a desire to be in community. Wilson was the only community Chuck had and it helped him to survive and not give up.
You and I are designed for community, not isolation. We’re designed for intimacy, not loneliness. In the beginning, when God created the earth, the book of Genesis goes through the account of creation. On the first six days, God creates everything and Genesis tells us six different times that God “saw it was good.” Then God creates Adam, the first man and Genesis tells us that God saw “it was very good.” Then we keep reading and we get to Genesis 2:18 and you read these words –
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” Genesis 2:18a, NIV
The very first thing that God says is “not good” is the fact that the man was alone. He was isolated. He was by himself. God looked at Adam and saw a need that had to be filled. And stop to think about that for a minute.
Adam was in paradise. A place God had specifically created to cater to all of his needs. God himself was there with Adam and yet, Adam still lacked something. He lacked community. God knew that in isolation, by himself, Adam would not be good. He would be lacking. He would be incomplete.
And it’s the same with you and I, we need community. In isolation you can do nothing, in insulated community you can do anything.
In this series, we’re reading a passage from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament which is a book that King Solomon penned near the end of his long life after going through life and learning many lessons. Of being in community with other people, Solomon had this to say in Ecclesiastes 4 – “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 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. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
Two years ago, my wife Cara and I endured our second miscarriage and throughout that experience, I remember people coming up to me and saying “I’ll be there for you. If you need anything, I’m there. I remember thinking at the time that saying “I’ll be there” was just something people said because they didn’t know what else to say to show they cared. But that wasn’t the case. People surrounded us in love and in prayer. They cried with us. They talked with us. We had the support and love and insulation we needed to begin the healing process from that tragedy.
And this morning, I want us to see that “being there” for each other, insulating each other through authentic community is vital to our health – physically, emotionally, spiritually. We need to do more than just say, “I’ll be there for you.” We need to show it.
Too many people today live in isolation. We go through life thinking that we’re better off on our own, or we don’t want to get involved in other’s lives out of fear or out of pride. And I want to make sure we draw a clear distinction right off the bat this morning when it comes to isolation – Isolation is different from solitude.
People need to be alone at times. We need to be alone to think, to reflect, or to pray. Jesus often went off by himself to pray. Scripture tells us that in several instances, but isolating yourself from community, from other people is completely contrary to Scripture.
Our enemy uses isolation as one of his greatest weapons to bring us down and destroy us. The apostle Peter tells us – Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1st Peter 5:8, NIV
Think about the African plains. When a pride of lions attacks an animal to bring it down, they attack in a group against an isolated animal. The pride uses strategy to first isolate the animal and then they pick it off by wearing it down and moving in for the kill.
The devil uses the same tactics against us. And there are three lies he tells us about isolation that we’re going to explore this morning.
The first is this: Being isolated makes me safe.
Some people prefer isolation thinking they cannot trust anyone. These are people who have been wronged in the past, or abused. If this is you, you prefer isolation because people, especially certain people remind you of the pain of your past.
For a lot of people, their greatest enemy isn’t another person, or a struggle with addiction, or an impossible situation, it’s the pain of their past. The pain of our past can fix our gaze behind us to what has been and who we were. It can cripple us into thinking that we don’t need anyone else because they’re only going to hurt us more. They’re only going to let us down.
You begin to think that you can’t trust anyone but yourself, not even God. Your gaze has turned backwards to your past because you’re stuck. Maybe a bad relationship has given you a cold heart. Maybe the damage of abuse and neglect continues to plague you day after day. Maybe the decisions you’ve made and the path you walked cause you serious regret. Maybe you focus on things you “should have” done and you’re haunted by those you shouldn’t have. Maybe your heart is weighed down with loss, pain and unending questions of “why.”
If that’s you, you have bought into the lie that being isolated makes you a safer person. Your gaze is focused on your past. The good news is that Jesus gave us a solution to that. The devil tempted Jesus alone, isolated in the desert before He began His ministry and so Jesus knows what this feels like. When He was tempted to focus on his isolation, Jesus brought Scripture back against the devil and you and I can do the same thing.
When you find yourself caught in the lie that being isolated makes you a safer person, then you need to fight back with Hebrews 12:2.
We conquer this lie by “keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:2, NLT
Instead of focusing on your past and feeling like you can’t trust anyone, focus your eyes on Jesus who knows what you’re going through and has something better he wants for you – community with others.
The second lie the enemy uses to makes us feel isolated is this: Being isolated makes me stronger.
Some people actually prefer isolation because think they’re better than others. These people have a superiority complex. If this is you, you feel like “the only voice I need to hear is my own voice.” You lose interest in having any community with others because you feel like you’re above them. And if the pendulum has swung the opposite direction, you can end up denying that you have an isolation issue. You’ll say to yourself, I don’t have an issue, I don’t need help.
Can I tell you something if that’s you, and this is as loving and direct as I can make this. If that’s you, you’re being incredibly selfish and narcissistic.
You and I are not that important individually. If I went out and got plowed by a bus today, the world is going to keep spinning. If you moved tomorrow, life will continue on in your absence. Thinking we don’t need others in our lives actually does more harm than good to our lives.
For isolated people, Isolation seems easier to them, but just like unchecked sin in our lives, the effects are far more damaging. Ignoring a problem never makes it go away, it only makes the problem worse. If you’re not living in transparent community with others, you will never see the problems in your life until it’s too late.
I hate doctors. If you’re a doctor, I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal. I just don’t like someone checking me over with cold instruments and rubber gloves. Sorry if I got too personal for some of you. What is it Jim Gaffigan says? “That preacher made me uncomfortable.”
That’s exactly how I feel when I go into the doctor’s office. But if I don’t go, if I ignore health issues in my life, then I can eventually end up dead because I didn’t get help from someone else for the issues I had in my life. My denial of my problems, my isolated attitude does more harm than good and I end up with a serious health issue or worse because I didn’t seek the help of others in community.
We can do the same thing in the church. Did you ever think of church as a hospital? It is. It’s a spiritual hospital. You come here to seek treatment and counsel for the spiritual issues and questions you’re facing in life. And that comes best through community in insulation, not in isolation.
Acts 2 tells us 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
The early church started off with an amazing community where everyone had their needs met. No one thought they were better than anyone else because they embraced the idea of community. We need to combat the lie of isolation making us stronger by remembering that we have to give up everything to find what we truly need.
The third lie of isolation our enemy uses is that being isolated means no one cares about me.
Some people prefer isolation because they feel unlovable. If that’s you, you feel like no one understands you, maybe even no one likes you. These are people who like a flashlight whose batteries need to be changed – their love is growing dim.
This is the most dangerous lie of isolation because this lie leads to depression. In fact, isolation is actually a symptom of clinical depression.
See if this describes you – You feel terrible about yourself. You feel worthless, horrible, ugly and miserable. You think “why on earth would anyone ever want to see me or know me or be around me when I’m in this state.” You sit there scrolling through the contacts on your phone, feeling desperate and wondering if there is anyone you could call. You end up calling nobody because you don’t want to be a horrible burden to anyone, drag them down, and you wouldn’t want to wish yourself on your worst enemy in that state. You don’t think that there is anyone who would be able to cope with you when you’re like that. You already feel so bad about yourself and you know if you call someone to lean on them, they will not know what to say or how to cope with you and you will just feel even worse for having burdened them.
So the end result is that you hate yourself. And you buy the lie that no one else could possibly like you either. And if someone does like you, you hate them and think they are stupid for liking you, because you hate yourself. So you push them away. OR you know that if you call someone, they might just trivialize it by telling you to cheer up or something equally stupid and superficial, which will lead to you feeling even more like nobody understands and leave you feeling even worse and more isolated.
Did I hit too close to the mark? Let me tell you something important. Jesus loves you and He will never leave you. Let me say that again because somebody in this room needs to combat this lie of isolation with that truth again today – Jesus loves you and He will never leave you.
Deuteronomy 31:8 says this – “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV
Some of you need to go home and write that on your wall. Because you need to be reminded that you are not alone. You don’t have to be isolated. We are here for you and we love you. If you don’t believe that, if you feel like you’re too far down this lie, come and find me after we’re done today so we can talk with you further and help you get through this.
We are not called to live in isolation. Go back to what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 4 – “9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 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. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, NIV
Here at Connect, we want to combat all of these lies of isolation by building an authentic biblical community through small connected groups that helps fallen people up, that keep everyone spiritually warm, that creates a safe, environment for you to open up and be transparent with other people and that’s why we’re launching our brand new Connect groups – to combat the lies isolation brings and build a culture of insulation where we are truly there for each other.
When something is insulated, it is protected. It is covered. It is defended. It is supported. It is safe. That’s what authentic community brings – insulation. In isolation, you can do nothing. In insulation, you can do anything.
So for the rest of our time this morning, I want to paint a picture for you of exactly what insulation through our brand new Connect Groups will bring and why that’s so exciting. We’re going to explore five truths about insulation that you can bank on when you join one of our Connect Groups at the end of this month.
Our Connect Groups will be small connected groups that will meet on their own timetable and schedule. In fact, one of the very first things you will do as a group will be sitting down together and hammering out a schedule that works for every member of the group.
Hebrews 10 gives us a glimpse at what insulation can bring when a community works together – “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:22-25, NIV
I want us to go back through that passage and break down how the insulation in our Connect Groups will work.
As part of the built in insulation of the group, the first thing you will notice is that insulation brings courage. Go back to our passage – “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.” Hebrews 10:22, NIV.
Your Connect group is not just going to be about fellowship, you’re going to talk about life. You will have people in your group who will say just the right thing at just the right time to give you the courage to pursue dreams, to confront your fears and to live with less anxiety. A life free from fear is a life focused completely on Jesus that can accomplish anything.
The apostle Paul had this insulation through community and writes about it in his letter to the Philippian church. He says – “I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through [Jesus] who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:10-13, NIV
Insulation brings the courage to stand up and know that you are not alone. Others in your Connect group will challenge and encourage you as well as lift you up in prayer. Remember, Batman is better with Robin. You are better together with your Connect Group because they have your back!
Secondly, as you get involved in your new Connect group, you will notice that insulation brings you hope. Hebrews 10 tells us, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23, NIV
Hope is something that is rare in life today. In a painful, uncertain world the understanding and supportive nature of good, honest community can provide the hope necessary to press on and take chances – even in the midst of pain.
Like I said earlier, when Cara and I went through our second miscarriage, we were blessed to have a community through family and friends who were there for insulation so that we could grieve and heal. They helped us to find hope. Your Connect Group will serve to remind you of hope. Life is never as bleak as it looks.
Peter wrote these words of encouragement to the early community that was the church – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3-4, ESV
We have a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus that one day, He will come back to gather his community, his bride, the church to be with Him forever.
The third thing you will have as a benefit of insulation through your Connect group is this: Insulation brings love. We just read, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love…”, Hebrews 10:24a, NIV
Life in isolation is lonely; it’s lacking in social events, intimate conversation and deep relationships. Your Connect Group will insulate you with options for a night out, for friends to call in a crisis, for someone to share funny stories with. It’s a living loving community where you can be yourself.
In some way shape or form, we’ve all been conditioned to act a certain way in different situations of life. We’ve been told that we can’t be ourselves. If you can’t be yourself in the church, where can you be yourself? Your Connect Group will have people that feel that exact same way and will be made up of an insulated community where you have the freedom and love to be yourself and connect with others who need those same things.
In Acts 2, we see the early church doing just that. “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 2:46b-47a, NIV
There will be more than just talk in your Connect Groups, there will be fellowship, the shared life. Maybe your group takes the night off from talking and plays board games together. Maybe you all go out with your families together for a picnic or a hike. These are all options you will have in these Connect Groups because that’s another benefit of insulation through love.
Fourthly, Insulation brings challenge. In Hebrews 10, we see that we should “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24, NIV You and I both know that no one is perfect except Jesus. The loving people in our lives know that better than anyone and can be a significant part of our individual growth and change.
Our Connect Groups will challenge you to change. Insulation can protect you from outside interference, but sometimes that means you are wrapped up so tightly in it that you have to be stretched. You will need to listen carefully when people offer constructive feedback about your communication styles, decisions and relationships, but it doesn’t mean that anyone in your group is better than you, it simply means that they are keeping you accountable because they have your best interest at heart. They love you.
Your group understands what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV
They are going to challenge you to change in a safe and insulated way from the old you which is dead to become the new you which is where Jesus wants you to be. The last truth about insulation you’ll find in our Connect Groups is that insulation brings encouragement. Hebrews 10 one last time – “Let us…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” Hebrews 10:24a, 25a, NIV
The long and short of it is that community is fun. The shared memories, laughter and times spent with a close circle of friends provide memories that truly last for a lifetime. If you were to think of your fondest memories, they probably involve people that you are very close to. People you trust, people you’re already living in community with.
These Connect groups bring an insulation of encouragement with them. You will be able to laugh and have fun with people who are living life alongside you. There will be moments where your group will do crazy things that will be memories you will cherish for a lifetime. Your Connect Group will provide encouragement for you so that you can look forward to every single time your group gathers together.
Insulation brings courage, hope, love, challenge, and encouragement. The result of all of this insulation is protected growth. If our Connect Groups follow these patterns laid out for us in Scripture, we see the end result of growth.
Look at Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47, NIV
When you and I live in authentic insulated community, we see growth. We see changed lives. We see God’s blessing of other people who are saved because they can live and grow and thrive in an insulated authentic community. Solomon knew this in Ecclesiastes when he said, “pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up,” and “how can one keep warm alone?” Ecclesiastes 4:10b & 11b, NIV
We need to be there for each other because that’s what Jesus wants for us. When Jesus was pressed as to the greatest two commandments in Scripture, this was His response: He said, “The most important is…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31, ESV
When you and I are there for each other, we’re loving our neighbor as ourselves and that’s why we’re better together. Let me pray for us.