Relationships Required

Bulletin CoverIn his book “Creating Community”, Andy Stanley makes the following observation: “Starbucks is using coffee to promote connection. That’s a good thing because the company knows we are a culture craving relationship.”

If you’re like most people today, you too are craving Authentic Relationships. That’s one of the primary emphases of an “R-Rated Church.” It’s all about being real and being relational. Creating a culture where authentic community takes place, and where people are given the opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with others is challenging, but worth the effort!

Thankfully, God’s Word sheds plenty of light on this subject. Check this out…

GOD NEVER INTENDED FOR YOU TO “DO LIFE” ALONE 

And the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” – Genesis 2:18 (NLT)

One of the great flaws of American culture today is the lack of genuine connection between people. In fact, we live in a day and age that has almost made it impossible for people to interact in meaningful ways. Consider, for a moment, the following:

    • People are working all hours of the day making it extremely difficult to integrate calendars with others,
    • We are taking our work home with us more and more, never finding time to “unplug” and “disconnect”,
    • There is an overwhelming number of TV stations these days to watch which is causing more people to stay home in the evenings, and
    • Facebook by-and-large has all but replaced public venues for conversation between friends.

Someone else has noted that at one time “the American front porch represented the ideal of community in America. For the front porch existed as a zone between the public and the private, an area that could be shared between the sanctity of the home and the community outside. It was an area where interaction with the community could take place.” (Bill Willits).

Unfortunately, what has become all-too-common in the 21st century is worn-out people retreating from the busyness and intensity of work life, going home, putting the garage door down, closing the blinds, in order to escape from the rat race of life…completely exhausted.

Stanley also writes, “It would appear that our goal is to avoid people—and what they potentially want from us—at all cost! And cost us it does, because the avoidance approach comes with a price tag.  What is that price tag?  A life spent in isolation!”

 GOD CREATED US WITH A DESIRE FOR CONNECTION

“…I will make a companion who will help him” Genesis 2:18b (NLT)

We were never meant to live in a state of functional isolation. We have been created as relational beings, hard-wired for deep, authentic connections with other people .

In his book “Everybody’s Normal…” John Ortberg writes, “I have never known anyone… who was isolated, lonely, unconnected, had no deep relationships—yet had a meaningful and joy-filled life.”

The fact is, God has wired each one of us to fit into the “bigger picture” of the Body of Christ—to be one with other believers, living a life of significance, enjoyment, and true fulfillment. We were created for deep biblical community, which brings me to my last point…

SPIRITUAL GROWTH HAPPENS BEST IN COMMUNITY

“Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted 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).

Did you notice that? The Apostle Paul is equating this isolated, me-centered, self-absorbed attitude with how the ungodly act.

Look. Here’s a truth you can bank on: You will never grow more spiritually than when you are joined together with a group of believers experiencing spiritual life together—in community. Why? That’s the way God has ordered it!

When we live connected with others in spiritual community we tend to have a better perspective on life, we tend to enjoy the benefits of experiencing intimacy with others, we actually learn to enjoy serving and ministering to others, and we have an overall healthier lifestyle. Who doesn’t crave that?

What a great opportunity for the church to actually BE the Church that Jesus intended!

Let’s be R-Rated!

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Keepin’ it Real!

Bulletin CoverAccording to research in a book by Thom Rainer (www.thomrainer.com) here are the top 10 reasons young Americans quit church:

10. I was only going to church to please others.

9. I want to spend more time with my friends.

8. I disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.

7. I didn’t feel connected with the people in my church.

6. I became too busy.

5. I moved too far away.

4. My work responsibilities prevented me from attending.

3. I started college and stopped church.

2. Church members seemed too judgmental or hypocritical.

1. I simply wanted a break from church.

The #1 reason people quit church is tragic – “I wanted a break from church.” Why in the world would anyone want “a break from church?”  Let me rephrase that. Why in the world would anyone want a break from a church that functioned biblically and was healthy?  Have you ever heard of the philosophical term Cause-and-Effect? I believe perhaps #1 is the effect of #2.

Yet, in the early Church, true, passionate followers of Jesus were viewed a little differently.

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus – Acts 4:13

This tells us that the onlookers, some of whom were no doubt were non-believers, could observe the lives of the early disciples and know that they had been with Jesus. In a similar way, those to whom we minister and serve—whether they be our own family, our church, or unsaved people in the community—should be able to see in our lives genuine substance of our walk with the Lord. There should be enough evidence to convict us if we’re ever accused of being a follower of Jesus!

In today’s culture, if you really want to earn the trust and the right to be heard, you need be authentic and real. How can we begin the process of becoming more REAL?

RESPECT others opinions (doesn’t mean you have to agree with them)

  • “Show respect for everyone” – 1 Peter 2:17 (NLT)

EXPRESS genuine compassion (doesn’t matter how they got in the situation they’re in)

ALLOW mistakes (And admit that you make them too)

LIVE the Scriptures (Be the same at home, school, or at work that you purport to be on Sunday mornings at church)

Jesus had some pretty intense words for the religious leaders of His day when he said, “Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28, NLT).

Not exactly “winning friends and influencing people” type stuff here, but He certainly got His message across, loud and clear. What Jesus is looking for is authentic, passionate, real followers who seek to please Him and Him alone, and who won;t place stumbling blocks before those who are wanting to come to Him!

Check it out, God uses real people, with real problems, who struggle with real-everyday-life challenges, yet who also earnestly seek to serve Him with genuine faith and authenticity.

Isn’t time we stop playing religious games and start keepin’ it real?