Gospel-Centered Community

  |   Sep 11, 2011

For the last four weeks, we’ve been saying, “This is what God is doing. God is about His glory. God’s about the praise of His glorious grace, and that’s a good thing for us.” And so the place God has chosen to display His glory is within a covenant community of people. So that started in Israel and has moved to the church. Every tribe, tongue, nation, ethnicity and every socioeconomic status come together in this covenant body declaring the praises of God and making much of Jesus Christ. The church makes much of Jesus by making disciples who observe all that He commanded. So that’s important because the observance of what He commanded leads us into deeper joy and therefore glorifies God most fully in our enjoyment of our God. Which is why obedience is so important. Because our joy is at stake and the reflection of God’s glory is most pure in our enjoyment of God Himself in obedience to His commands. So we asked how the church makes disciples. We said that our mission, vision and everything we do here at the Village, every aspect of life here folds into this statement: The mission and vision of the Village Church is to bring glory to God by making disciples through gospel-centered worship, gospel-centered community, gospel-centered service and gospel-centered multiplication. We were redundant with that on purpose, because gospel-centrality is what fuels all of those. So you can worship and it not be gospel-centered. It’s going to happen all over the country today in living rooms. Football season has started and we will worship. Some of us will be lamenting in sackcloth and ashes, others of us with an immensity of joy, but worship will take place. You can have community that’s not defined by the gospel.

In fact, if you are into sociology at all, we live in a pretty interesting time to study human relationships. Once again, connectivity is easier now than it has ever been. You can make connections to people more readily and more quickly than you have every been able to make relationships before. It doesn’t require a lot of depth, it can be quick and you can let people know the most useless, worthless bits of information about your life if you desire. You can take a picture of the sampler that your ordered at Applebee’s and then tweet it to all your friends so they can be jealous of your potato skins. So here’s what sociologists are finding. Here’s what the study of human relationships is revealing. Although we are more connected than we have ever been with more people than we have ever been, despite the fact that it is easier to find people with shared common interest than it has ever been, we feel more alone and more unknown than at any time that it has been measured in human history. So something has gone awry with how we define community and how we define and function in relationships. Now at the simplest level, the problem with our relationships, the reason why so few of them are satisfying and long-lasting is because they are built on commonalities that change, and as those commonalities change, so does the relationship. Probably the easiest place to see this is as you transition out of one life stage into the next. When Lauren and I first got married, we had married friends and we had single friends. We would get a call at 9:00 at night with an invitation to come over or go out. And our answer was almost always, “Yes, we’re in.” So we would go out and play, get in at 2:00, sleep until 11:00 and then start the day. That’s where we were in life at the time we got married. We were very young. And then we had Audrey, and all of that began to change. We would get angry if you called at 9:00, because you might have woken her. Then when people did call to invite us to things, the answer was always, “No, but why don’t you come over for dinner and leave at 8:00?” Because people without kids don’t quite understand how it works. They’ll say, “Just get a sitter.” “Well a sitter is not going to get here at 6:00 in the morning when Audrey wakes up. So I can go out with you till 2:00, but four hours later I’m going to have a baby screaming one room over. So again, come over for dinner, but please leave by 8:00.” So what ended up happening with those relationships, as we started having children, our availability in regards to how they did life seriously waned. And although to this day, we’re friends with those people, our lives still don’t mingle very well. Because the commonality that we had at one point was the freedom of life that changed. Now I’m not saying that having kids equals slavery. If you have kids, you know that

that’s a delight in and of itself, but life changes. So our relationships changed as the commonality changed. People rally around hobbies, but life has a way of taking your hobby from you. So I’ve known people whose whole relationship is built around the fact that they can run together. So they go out and run, and while they run, they talk about life and family. But as you get older, stuff starts breaking. You tear you ACL and you weren’t even doing anything. You were taking a shower. You’re turning to dust like you were made from dust. It’s just a matter of time. So now since you don’t have that shared experience, connectivity becomes difficult because you had this natural place where you connected.

Even in the church, some of us try to build relationships on certain commonalities that sometimes aren’t there. There are people with testimonies I cannot relate to. They love the same God I love, they have been transformed by the Lord, but our relationship can’t be built upon some shared experience of life before Christ. Because I have very good friends who were born in church, have never known life outside of the church and have never known life without pursuing the Lord. And then I’ve got friends who were just saved straight out of thug life. I didn’t wake up in the back of an El Camino with a new tattoo. That’s not my story. I never blacked out after a coke binge. I don’t have that story. I don’t even know how to relate to that story. I can celebrate God’s grace in it, but that’s not my story. And that would be true for most of us. We’re all over the map here. Some of us got saved from religion, some of us got saved from outright rebellion in more deviant ways, not that the religious deviance isn’t wicked. But we’ve been saved from different backgrounds. So the basis for our relationship is a shared commonality, but it’s not what you might think.

So let me set up out of 2 Corinthians 5 what the basis of our relationship is and why it’s so important. If there ever was a more dysfunctional church in the history of Christendom than the church at Corinth, I’m not aware of it. They get nothing right. They butcher spiritual gifts, they butcher the role of man and woman and they butcher grace. They literally celebrate a man who is sleeping with his father’s wife. They celebrate that and go, “Oh, look how gracious and good

God is that this can happen and that’s cool.” They are the definition of dysfunctional and yet Paul never disowns them, continues to consider himself their father, loves them, rebukes them, encourages them, edifies them and yells at them quite passionately. Yet through it all, he is compelled by, driven by compassionate love for this dysfunctional group of people. And we’re going to read why starting in verse 14. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” So the basis for our relationship with one another as the covenant community of Christ comes down to this. You and I have this in common – all of us have sinned, all of us have rebelled against God, every one in this room is guilty, no one is completely innocent and all of us are in need of

a righteousness that goes beyond our own and have found that righteousness in Jesus Christ. That’s what we have in common. So whether you grew up in church and have never even cussed outside of one you made up one day or you cuss like a sailor, whether you’ve never been high or you were high last night, whether you have never missed a Sunday morning or this is your first time since your conversion, what we have in common is this – all of us have fallen short of the glory of God. All of us, in all our acts of righteousness, found that righteousness to be lacking, and Christ has filled in the gap with His righteousness. With His life, with His death and with His resurrection, He has purchased us anew. He has reconciled us to Himself in Christ. So the commonality we share is something that never changes. We are sinners in need of grace, and that grace has been extended to us in Jesus Christ. That’s bedrock. That’s the basis.

And I then informs how our relationships operate. So flip over to Romans 12, and let’s walk through how these relationships should operate. How does our relationship flesh itself out with the gospel as the central component, as the gospel is our foundation? Let’s look. “Let love be genuine.” Let it be without hypocrisy. So here’s one of the problems that a church can fall into if it’s not careful. It’s not hard to learn Christianese. It’s not hard to learn how Christians are supposed to talk, what we’re supposed to do, what we’re supposed to say, when we’re supposed to raise our hands and how we’re supposed to behave and then begin to pretend and play the part. You don’t have to have any real affection for the Lord; you just simply play the part. You pretend you’re all right when you’re not, you pretend that you’re near to God

even though you’re not and you create an external image that is not an internal reality. That’s called hypocrisy, and it’s so unnecessary. If the basis of our relationship is that all have fallen short of the glory of God, if that is the foundation upon which our relationship is founded, then why should it surprise anyone that I’m lacking? It shouldn’t surprise anyone that is struggle with the flesh. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are times I wrestle with sin. The whole nature of our relationship with one another is built on this fact – I have rebelled against the God of the universe, and it’s only by His grace alone am I found favorable in His sight. So why would you ever need to pretend that you’re more than you are when this whole thing is built upon the premise that this isn’t about you but it’s about His righteousness? So you get

set free from the slavery of having to make yourself pettier than you are by the gospel. That’s why Jen’s sweet story is so awesome. She just got in front of nine thousand people and said, “I got arrested for getting drunk. I had issues of alcoholism. I grew up in church, and I rebelled against that.” Where else does that happen? It doesn’t happen at work. “How was your weekend?” “I don’t know. I blacked out and woke up with blood all over me. I don’t know. I might have killed somebody. We’ll find out. I watched the news and didn’t see anything.” That doesn’t happen at work. Where does that happen? Why would a sweet young woman share that with you about her life? She doesn’t know you. How does she know you’re not going to spread that around? I’ll tell you why. She doesn’t care if you spread it around. Because what was her shame is now God’s glory. “This is who I was, but Christ has loved me and has rescued me. He has redeemed me. I began to understand that now, not when I’m all better, He loves me.” And it was that realization that began to lead to transformation in her life. Notice that she didn’t clean herself up an then get better, but it was in the middle of that shame that Jesus revealed His affection for her there. He didn’t go, “Get this stuff straightened out, and then we can talk.” That’s not how Jesus acts. All your junk was future junk when He died on the cross. You haven’t surprised Him. So for those of you who might resonate with Jen’s testimony (link), who might sit in here and feel unwanted, unlovable or unworthy, you’re believing a lie. The cross of Christ is evidence that God was well aware of your shortcomings, failures and how wicked you would be and yet still has extended to you grace and mercy for those who would submit themselves to it. Let love be genuine.

Now I want to save us from a future fight. Gospel-centered community creates environments that are safe for people to be honest about where they are, but those environments aren’t warm and welcoming to ongoing, unrepentant sin. When you talk about the gospel like the Bible talks about the gospel, it’s unbelievably powerful, but there are those whose hearts have been hardened to the reality of that gospel who long to take advantage of grace. This is why the apostle Paul says in at least two different locations, “Shall we sin all the more so that grace may abound?” Paul sees idea of, “If God

is going to love me and forgive me regardless, then why not do whatever I want to do so that grace is made manifest in His loving me despite how wicked I am?” and says, “May it never be.” It’s much more harsh than that in the Greek. Let me translate it to you as raw as I can. If you believe that way, you are not saved. You are not regenerate, you have not been born again and you are trying to play a game with God that you cannot win, much like when my five-year-old son wants to wrestle me.

So that leads us to the next line. “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil.” So not only does gospel-centered community create safe environments for us to struggle well, but it also hates and makes war against sin. Now there is a personal responsibility you have to abhor the sin that you can see, but here’s the community aspect of it. Every one in this room has blind spots. There isn’t anyone in this room who doesn’t have a blind spot, who doesn’t have some area of their life where there’s this remnant of the flesh, where there’s this area that you’re not fully surrendering to God, where you’re not fully trusting God. And I’m not expecting you to know what it is right now, because it’s a blind spot. By definition, you don’t know what it is. And since it’s true that we all have it, how important is it to have brothers and sisters around us who are willing to engage us and say, “Hey man, I think this is an issue”? The most hypocritical, weak, sad form of love there is is the type of love that sees a loved one in danger and simply hopes it works out for them. It is not judgmental, ruthless or wicked of me to engage my children when they’re doing things that are dangerous for them. I don’t watch my kids

play in the street in our neighborhood and just hope it works out for their best. “I know this is dangerous, but look how happy they are. I know it’s probably going to end badly, but maybe not.”

Doesn’t that make me a horrible parent if that’s how I play it? That does make me a wicked parent to look out front, see my kid in the street and go, “Man, I hope that works out well for him.” No, what makes me a loving parent is that I go outside and go, “Come here. Don’t get into the street. Do you see the squirrel? Yeah, that gutted, flat thing on the ground, do you want that to be you?” Hey, if I have to pay for counseling later, that’s still a win if they’re a live. So in the end, I’m going to engage them over this. And if they go back into the street, I’m right back out there, and this time we’re not just talking. “You discipline your children like that?” Yeah, absolutely. Not ever with joy, but we discipline our kids like that, because what’s ultimately important to me and how my love works itself out is a ferocious commitment to their safety as much as I can control it, knowing full well that I can’t control everything. In the same way, you would be wise men and women to invite other men and women to look out for those blind spots and to engage you over them. You need to invite it, so that when it happens, you can be reminded that you invited it. Otherwise, you’ll be hard- pressed to hear it. I think in the last fifteen years there have been ten instances where people I have asked to keep watch and guard over my life have sat down with me and pointed out some things. To this day, I have never received it well. There is nothing in me (and I’m asking the Lord to change this) that is grateful for the mercy of God in pointing my weaknesses out to others. But that’s what it is, isn’t it? That God would so love me that He would show Josh Patterson an inconsistency in my life, that He would so love me that He would reveal to Brian Miller this little hint of hypocrisy here that needs to be right before it becomes a monumental error, to have people love you enough to engage you over the misstep is important, and it’s important for you to invite it in. Because I don’t receive that stuff well from people I don’t know. I hardly receive it well from people I do know and have invited in. Abhor what is evil.

But that’s not all that the covenant community does. That’s not all that gospel-centered community does. Because what’s the next line? “. . .hold fast to what is good.” So gospel-centered community isn’t just us running around with whistles in our mouths ready to call fouls. How miserable would that be? Who would want to be a part of that? “You know what I like? I just like everyone to be watching me, and every time I blow it, I want them to just blow the whistle and point.” That would be a miserable interaction with one another. So we don’t only abhor what is evil, but we encourage one another, we push one another to hold fast to that which is good. Let me give you just a couple of verses here. I love Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I love the premeditation in this verse. “Let me consider, let me think of, let me dwell on how I might encourage those I interact with into love and good deeds.” Which means the command of God on my life is, as I come into this office each morning this week, as I get here on the weekends, I am to think on how I might encourage those I interact with throughout the week, how I might stir them up, how I might push them towards love and good deeds. Proverbs 10:11 says, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” I want to be a man who speaks life into the people who serve here, the people whom I walk with. I want to point out things that they do well. I want to invite them into things. I want to encourage them to be brave and bold in things that maybe they are timid about. I want to engage them, encourage them and walk with them faithfully in their lives. Because gospel-centered community not only abhors what is evil, but it pushes towards and encourages holding fast to that which is good.

Let’s keep reading in Romans 12. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” This is an interesting text because the Bible just commanded you to feel something. It’s not just “do,” but it’s “feel.” You should have a brotherly affection for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Now this is a bit problematic if we’re honest. Are there people who love Jesus who get on your nerves? So what do we do with that? How do we love one another with a brotherly affection and then honor one another? Well the affection piece is where we need to do work. Because if you have affection for people, you do honor them. Show me a husband who honors his wife, and I’ll show you a man who

has affection for her. Show me a woman who has affection for her husband, and I’ll show you a woman who respects her husband. I believe that affection for men and women is stirred up not by your will, your might or what you understand to be right or wrong; I think affection for the brothers and sisters in Christ is stirred up in a realization of God’s affection for us in Jesus Christ. Since that’s the foundation upon which everything is built in our relationships, my understanding of God’s loving of me despite me enables me to love others despite others. And then once affection sets in, outdoing one another in honor actually becomes kind of a fun game. Last night at the Flower Mound campus, there were well over 2,000 people into this room. Most of them grew up in the Bible Belt, grew up going to church on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the grave and honestly would rather not be there on Saturday night. Do you know why they’re there on Saturday night? Because the gospel has done a work in their hearts and they have known for close to nine years that

we have turned away from our Sunday morning services. So they have gone to do that to make room for you. You’re in here today and didn’t get turned away at the door this morning (and there were those who did get turned away) because thousands of people have decided to do not what’s ideal to them, not what’s best for them, not what’s easiest for them, but rather what would create space for you to be able to engage and worship the Lord today in this place. Some of you rode our little shuttle buses that we refuse to paint. We like the little airplane on the side. You riding those buses isn’t ideal. What’s ideal is that there is a spot up front with your name on it and somebody grabs your kids for you and checks them in. So in Dallas and in Denton, some of you parked ten miles away and walked. Some of you walked over from campus. This is a way you serve the body. An affection for the Lord has led to an affection for the saints has yielded outdoing one another in honor. “How can I be about you? How can I consider you as better than me? How can I take the farthest parking spot? How can I take the seat that’s blocked by the pole? How can I serve my brothers and sisters in this way?” It goes back to week one where we said that God being about God frees you from this being about you and then enables you and sets you free to make much of Jesus Christ by serving others.

And then let’s look at this next line. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” I love that last line. The energy and vitality that we have to love on, encourage, engage and walk with others bubbles up and is rooted in our relationship with Jesus Christ. You will never be able to extend the type of patience, love and grace to people until you have walked in those things in Jesus Christ. The cycle of being motivated only to watch that motivation fail you in regards to biblical community finally is broken in a realization that nearness to Jesus Christ makes you able to love and serve your brother well. Distance from knowing and walking with Jesus Christ actually robs you of the ability to extend grace and mercy and to walk with others intimately.

Let’s keep reading. Verse 12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Now two years ago, I would have broken this into three different sections, but I think these three ideas are so interwoven that, if you pull one of them out, it doesn’t work. If you make them stand alone, it doesn’t work. I am rejoicing in hope. So regardless of current situation, current reality, regardless of how great or how difficult, my rejoicing is in the hope I have of what God is going to do in the future. So this body that I have, that you have, it’s giving way, isn’t it? Some of you can say amen louder than others right now. If you’re in your 20’s, you don’t even know what I’m talking about. But in just a few years, you’ll be with us. You’ll still be able to do it, but it will just feel wrong. This body, no matter how well you take care of it, is going to grow tired, it’s going to grow weak and Ecclesiastes says that, if you live long enough, there will be a day when you wake up frustrated that you’re still alive. There will be a day that you long for death. Growing old is not for the faint of heart. So you have in this reality this rejoicing in hope. What’s my hope? I’ve got a new body coming. There is going to be a day on earth where there are no more memorials, no more remembrances of tragedies, no more cancer, no more sickness, no more sore throats, heartburn, terrorist attacks, anger or tears. Those things simply cease to be, and it’s in that that my hope is rejoicing. So now I’m patient in tribulation. Why? Because I’m not there yet. I’m patient because God is sovereign and mighty. He has let nothing befall my life that hasn’t passed through His hands. Which means if I’m suffering, what

I need in order to grab hold of Him, lay hold of Him and walk with Him in a way that is deep, intimate and rich is a bit of pain. And it would be cruel of Him to not give me pain and rob me of Him. So to wound me and allow that wound to get

me more of God is an unbelievable act of mercy. And for Him to refuse to wound me and let me simply run in happiness and health but not grant me knowledge of Him would be His wrath. So I always want to encourage you to be careful how you’re judging things. Because sometimes success, money, health and all of that stuff can be God’s wrath. That’s not always God’s blessing. Sometimes it’s God going, “Okay, you want all of that stuff instead of Me? Take it.” Be patient in tribulation. God is sovereign, my future is secure and He will be all I need for today. So I don’t feel like I can say say this enough to you. Just because you follow Jesus Christ doesn’t mean that you have Aladdin’s lamp. You can love Jesus, follow Jesus and pursue Him with your whole heart and still have things not go the way you want them to go. The Bible is filled with this, so I don’t know why it’s so surprising to people. We want this kind of condensed version of the Prosperity Gospel where we can somehow put God in our debt. As if He owes us because we did this, this and this “We go to church every Sunday. I even read my Bible a couple of times last week. We put our kids in VBS this summer. He owes me this.” But you can’t put God in your debt. He doesn’t owe you anything. You’ll never be able to legitimately shake your fist

at the heavens. This should not surprise you. John the Baptist was called by Jesus “the greatest born of women.” How did things end up for him? He got beheaded in prison because of a stripper’s request for his head. What about Moses? His ministry was forty years in the desert with grumbling, complaining people. And then God finally took him up the mountain, parted the clouds and said, “Behold, the Promised Land. But I’m going to kill you here, and Joshua is going to take them in.” These are things that nobody wants to point out to you, because it’s hard to build a large church when you point that stuff out. But I’d rather you be prepared for the sorrow of life and that you might learn to be patient in tribulation because God has this. And then when you’re patient in tribulation and rejoicing in hope, you are constant in prayer. If you’re not rejoicing in hope, then I don’t know how you can be patient in tribulation. Because patience means you’re waiting for something. So without rejoicing in hope, you can’t be patient in tribulation. And if you’re not patient in tribulation, what are you actually praying about? You see, these things are woven together. You can’t separate them out. So in the covenant community of faith, we walk with one another through these peaks and valleys, we encourage one another and we remind one another of God’s faithfulness. It’s why Hebrews 10 says to not neglect gathering. Why? So that you might encourage one another all the more as you see the Day approaching. What Day? This Day that we’re rejoicing in, hoping in and looking towards.

And then look how it ends. Verse 13, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” I can think of just a handful of times in my nine years here as pastor that we’ve had to contribute to a need that was a full-on, legitimate need like shelter, food. Someone was in dire straits and we’ve had to come along. Now, in regards to engaging in the community, we’ve done that a ton. Whether that be refugees down in Dallas or the Chin refugees here in Lewisville, we have very much shown hospitality to and met the needs of those who have not been blessed with the abundance that most of us have been blessed with. But on a whole, few of us have the type of needs that are life and death material needs. And yet verses like this take us to the material/physical when I want to encourage you this way. The bulk of our need today is not material/physical but rather spiritual. When I was growing up, the education system was not concerned with your self-esteem. So if you failed a test, you failed it. They didn’t go, “Oh, let’s give him another shot at it. . .except give him half the answers this time.” That’s how it worked. If you didn’t turn in a paper, it wasn’t, “You know what? Turn it in tomorrow, and we’ll just take ten points off.” It was a zero. No one was concerned about your selfesteem, and everyone could beat you. A teacher could do it, some random dude at the grocery store could whip you, and nobody was calling anybody. People would cheer them on. Sometimes they would hop in and try to get a lick in themselves. Now when I was in junior high, something shifted in the education system. I haven’t studied it enough

to know what happened, but all of a sudden there was this grave concern for the self-esteem of children. And they began to set different tracts for learning and there was the birth of the “Gifted and Talented Class.” The thought behind it was this. “These ignorant fools are holding down our best and brightest. So we should pull them out, let these fools color and teach these guys calculus.” It’s social evolution. We’ll work in the fast-food industry, and they’ll go on to run whatever needs to be run. And that’s what happened. Think about it. “They’re gifted and talented.” “What’s that make me?” “Not gifted and talented.” “What classes can I take?” “Science.” “What kind of science?” “It’s just called ‘science.’”

“What’s this ‘counting’ class?” “Well that’s math for you.” It was really, “Let’s dumb this down, and then if you’ve got a knack for it, let’s create a space for you to really grow.” And unfortunately some of that idea has seeped into the church and we have this idea that there are levels of Christianity, and when you hit varsity, you don’t mingle with people who aren’t there yet because they’re slower than you are, they’re not as gifted as you are, they don’t understand what you understand and they’re not as serious about pursuing the things of the Lord as you are. And you begin to create these levels, but here’s the problem. Levels in Christianity are only possible if they’re built on your righteousness. But since it’s not built on your righteousness but on Christ’s righteousness, we’re all in and some of are immature while others are more mature. There are no gifted and talented classes in the kingdom.

Let me show you why. Romans 15:1 says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” So you and I have a responsibility to engage those who are less mature than we are. How do we engage? According to this text, via hospitality. We invite them into our lives. We don’t make vague prayer requests to other mature people for immature people. We engage immature people because they are our brothers and sisters. They have been purchased by Christ just like we have, and we at one time were them. And somebody extended grace to us, somebody engaged us, somebody walked with us and somebody taught us. How quick we are to take the grace of God and make it about what we’ve done rather than what He has done. “Well Matt, I woke up and studied my Bible a lot.” Yeah, but who opened up the Bible and made it come to life to you? The Holy Spirit did. “Well Matt, I taught myself how to pray.” Not according to the Bible. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit taught you to pray. So you don’t get to touch that. It’s amazing to me how you begin to ascribe your own maturity at the expense of those who aren’t mature. You’re simply revealing your own maturity. Are you your brother’s keeper? Yeah, you are. How do we engage the immature? Hospitality. We open up our homes, we open up our lives and we even reveal and share our own weaknesses. We remember what it’s like to be wobbling as we walked. We didn’t always have strong legs, we didn’t always have strong hands and we weren’t always as confident as we are now. You don’t hem that up and celebrate it with other people who are as strong as you. You spread that out, you engage and walk with others who aren’t as strong as you.

Now, how do you do this at a place like the Village? We have three campuses, twelve services and nine thousand people in attendance on any given weekend. How do you do this? One of the knocks against mega-churches (of which we are) over the last two decades has been that they can’t make disciples well because one of the essential elements of discipleship is removed in a mega-church, and that’s being known. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus Christ if you are unknown. You cannot mature in your faith in isolation. Your faith is personal; it is not private. It was not designed to be private. We were designed to be interwoven, to need one another for maturity, to sharpen one another like iron sharpens iron, to encourage, to rebuke, to edify, to confront, to show hospitality to and to walk with each other. These are biblical commands, not suggestions. So how do you do gospel-centered community in a church the size of the Village? We have tried to, as aggressively as we can, make the Village smaller and smaller. We have planted churches and encouraged people who live closer to those plants to go to those churches. So whether that’s in Keller, Little Elm or Ft. Worth, we’ve planted those churches and said, “Hey, quit driving in if you can help it. Here are gospel-centered churches in your

area. Go there. Walk there.” We have planted two campuses, one in Denton and one in Dallas. We built a larger facility in Flower Mound. These are some of the ways we have tried to make it smaller. That has been inadequate. The Flower Mound campus has four services, and we’ll run close to five thousand this weekend. Denton and Dallas will run about two thousand a piece. It’s still impossible. So then we want to drive it even smaller. I think you’ll see in the future more church plants and more campuses. That’s going to come. That’s going to be in our future. We believe, through the last year of praying and seeking the Lord, that planting more churches and campuses will be in our future. So that’s going to be a component, but the big push and the big piece is group life here at the Village, taking it out of the five thousand (or two thousand) people domain and boiling it into 12-20 people domain and letting you do life together and walk together with one another.

Now there are two pieces here. One is on us and the other is on you. Here’s the piece that’s on us. As an elder here, I am tasked with identifying, training, holding accountable and releasing mature men and women who can facilitate, engage and grow community biblically. That’s our role. Your role is to make that a priority and engage. Lauren and I got married early. In fact, she was nineteen when we got married. What we started seeing is that girlfriends of hers would date guys for five, six or seven years and the guy would never ask the girl to marry him. Our advice was always the same to the girl. “Break up with that idiot. After seven years he doesn’t know? I got a degree and a half in seven years. I learned a whole field in that amount of time. And he doesn’t know if he wants to marry you?” That was always our advice. But here’s

the reason I say that. Unfortunately, where we are in the world, tons of us confuse going to church with belonging to a church. Those are not the same thing. Going to church is not a biblical idea; belonging to a covenant community is. What falls on you is to take serious the commands of God on your life to be a part of gospel-centered community and then engage. Because I’ve met you at Target, I’ve met you at the Shops, I’ve met you down in Dallas, I’ve seen you at the hospital and I always ask the same question. “What group are you in?” “Well I haven’t really gotten around to that yet.” “How long have you been coming to the Village?” “Seven years.” “What’s going on in your life that you’ve been attending for seven years and haven’t found a small group?” “You know, we’ve got kids and they play this and that.” Hey, yes and amen, let your kids play, but ultimately this needs to be something that has a priority in your life. Without it, you’re like an engaged person. You have all the problems of marriage and none of the benefits. So here’s how I want to encourage you. If you have been here for an extended period of time and still aren’t woven into the fabric of the church, if we’re not for you, I’m fine with that. We’re not for everyone. We do things a certain way. We do that because we’re compelled under the Word of God and in prayer to wire things a certain way. So maybe we’re not for you. Maybe there are things that you wish we had that we don’t have. Maybe there are things you’re looking for that we don’t put a priority on. There’s nothing wrong with that. We live in Dallas. There are great churches everywhere. But you need to figure out where you can belong and begin to belong. But what is ultimately unacceptable biblically is for you to come here week after week, drink in, suck up and have no intention of ever doing life. You are an enemy of what you’re seeking to accomplish. I’m guessing that you’re here because you want to mature in your faith. Your attendance on a service can only be a beginning and a boost during the week. Our faith plays out day to day, not just on weekend services. We’ll work diligently at our part. You’ll have to do yours. Discipleship is impossible where you are now known.

Let’s pray. “Father, thank You for these men and women. I pray that You would stir up our hearts to belonging, that You would stir up our hearts to know You, to follow You and to make much of You. I pray that our affection for you might lead to affection for one another. I ask You to do this because we have a tendency to isolate and to go just within ourselves and not reach out and engage others. So I pray that community here would deepen, thicken, become more rich and that You would enable us to encourage one another all the more as we see the Day approaching. It’s for Your beautiful name. Amen.”

Scripture Romans 15:1