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WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Connect - Small Groups pt 2

Senior Pastor Delbert Young

(video audio page)

What can you do? Connect - small groups pt 2

We began last week talking about what we'd like to see happen for the coming year. More specifically, we are talking about "What Can You Do?" to help our church accomplish what we are here to accomplish.

We talked about how "church" in America and around the planet has changed and is changing. Surveys show people have a greater interest in connecting with God and spiritual things than ever, but less interested in traditional religion than ever. We think this is a good thing and should be our finest hour. If there is anything we are not it's traditional. The goal becomes creating an environment to connect people who desire spiritual things with God - exactly what Jesus did.

There are three important reasons we need to talk about "What Can You Do?" (1) There are some things we need to do to have the church environment we enjoy and we and our children connect with God. (2) There are things we must do to have an environment you can invite friends and loved ones to come and connect with God. (3) Our influence goes far beyond what we do here Sunday via television and the internet helping who knows who to connect with God.

We began talking about the first thing you can do is CONNECT. When I say "connect," I primarily mean small group - Life Group. Why? There's a power of love connecting in small groups brings. I attempted to open this up using "circles are better than rows." The ESSENCE of the Christian experience is circling up connected, not sitting in rows looking at me. It's BETTER to be face to face with one another in a circle than in a row looking at me. When done correctly, your life will be more impacted in a circle connecting with believing people than sitting in a row listening only to me. You will help people with your vast experience and knowledge far more sitting in a circle connecting than sitting in a row listening to me. It's giving and receiving - CONNECTING. Face to face interaction is powerful.

We need both circles and rows. Jesus did both. Why? It's the most powerful way to maximize the connection with God. Church in the New Testament did both. The New Testament teaches both and we can't really do one well without doing the other. In fact, we're not really having church unless we do both. Church must be both for maximum power to connect with God. If you've ever done both, you know.

Groups are not an add-on to church. It's not we have to go to church and add going to small groups. Church is both. Church is meeting in circles and in rows. In the New Testament church everyone gathers together and connects in small groups house to house. Doing both is the true Christian experience and how the love Jesus spoke about is displayed. It's how he displayed his love and how the New Testament church displays love.

John 13:34-35 "A new command I give you: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, so you must LOVE ONE ANOTHER. BY THIS all men will know that you are my disciples, if you LOVE ONE ANOTHER."

What is loving someone as Jesus loved us? What does that mean? How do we do that? The way people know and you know you're connected with God is by how you love one another. Christianity at its core is about loving one another as Jesus loves us. It's impossible to "one another" one another only in rows looking at me. You know that's true.

I want to talk about this today and put legs on it.

Luke 17:1 Jesus said to his disciples: THINGS that cause people to STUMBLE are BOUND TO COME, but woe to anyone through whom they come. (TNIV)

Luke 17:1 ...IT IS IMPOSSIBLE BUT THAT OFFENCES WILL COME...

The picture Jesus is giving is something happening down the road of life we didn't see coming. Stumble (Today's NIV) and offences (KJV)is skandalon {skan'-dal-on} meaning something tripped over to something causing a fall into a deep trap. Jesus tells us it's impossible to go through life and things not trip us up. There are things out there capable of taking you out, taking your spouse out, taking your children out, taking your friends out. It's inevitable. They will pop up in our path. We can all attest to this. How many have had something trip you up in life? It's going to happen.

He said "things" as in many. Things in life blindside us. The list of things causing people to stumble is endless. Jesus said, "Woe to anyone through whom they come," so people cause us to stumble. Addictions cause people to stumble. Drugs, alcohol, affairs, anger, love of money, porn, etc. take people out in life, destroying lives, marriages, occupations, children's lives, and health. If you take only a minute, you will think of several people you know who stumbled into a trap - skandalon.

Things cause us to stumble in our relationship with Jesus and church. New friends and going off to college had a big affect on me. I had to deal with things and ideas I never dealt with before. While in college, I went from being the leader of our church's student ministry to nearly becoming an atheist.

Let's ask this: Do you think there are things out there that could be thrown in front of your children with the ability to trip them up and even cause them to stumble into a trap? Do you think there could be things that could stumble up your middle school child? How about your teenage children? Could things cause them to stumble away from God? If you're a parent, you said, "Absolutely!" and it frightens you. Our society is throwing things at your children you and I never faced. My point is it's the same for you mom and you dad. Here's the really frightening part. Jesus promised inevitably your children and you will stumble.

What happens to your children if they stumble? Are the correct people in their lives? I'm certain there are people in their lives, but are they the correct people? What happens to your marriage if you or your spouse stumbles? What happens to your family?

But, what if your child, your middle school student, your high school, your college child, your spouse, and you were connected with a circle of people who loved them/you and those people focused on loving them/you as Jesus does? What if they were connected with people who, when your child, or your spouse, or your friend stumbled refused to let them lay there captured? We have a tendency to think, "I'll deal with mine. I'll get them up." You're probably fooling yourself. When any of us stumble, the last people we listen to are family members. If you've ever raised a teenager, or ever been a teenager, you know how dumb parents, grandparents, siblings, and family are. They're old. Not with it. Don't understand.

Here are the phone calls and situations we hear: "My husband's acting weird. I'm afraid he's having an affair." Or, "He's working all the time and work comes before church and family. He won't listen to me." Or, "I'm afraid my wife is addicted to alcohol." Or, "She's taking too many prescription drugs. She won't listen to me." Or, "I'm afraid my child is around wrong people and experimenting with drugs and alcohol. He/she won't listen to me. All they do is lie around, get angry, yell, and fight with me." Are they stumbling? It's inevitable.

The truth is when we stumble, we don't want anyone messing and disagreeing with us. It's as if we say, "No, I'm fine laying here. I like it down here. Just leave me alone in my mess." The fact is when we stumble, what we need most is what we desire least. That's why family seems to help so little and seems nearly useless to help.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: IF ONE FALLS DOWN, HIS FRIEND CAN HELP HIM UP. BUT PITY THE MAN WHO FALLS AND HAS NO ONE TO HELP HIM UP! Also, if two lie down together, the 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 borken.

It doesn't say his family member can help him up. It's "his friend can help him up." It's the synergy principle. Two people working together can accomplish at least three times the amount one can accomplish. Two animals can pull four times what one can pull. We'll get back up with a friend, but pity the man who falls and has no one.

When we stumble, we won't listen to family. A husband's not going to listen to his wife when stumbling. A wife is not going to listen to her husband when stumbling. A child is not going to listen to parents when stumbling, but when stranded together with the correct friends in a circle, friends will help us up. But pity the man who...

Usually the people we get calls from are not part of a circle. They may be in a row, but not in a circle. When in a circle, people rally and help. They can do far more than I can do preaching. When not, pity the person - child, middle school student, high school student, college student, mom, dad, wife, or husband.

Pity the person who does not have people who say, "We are going to stand here and pull and pull until we get you up. We are not going to allow you to stay down there." Pity the person who does not have that. The best preparation any of us can make for the inevitability of stumbling is a circle. I can stumble out of a row. I can stumble out of my prayer time. I can stumble out of my deep relationship with God. I can stumble out of listening to my wife or children. But, it's nearly impossible to stumble out of a circle. I know because when I have stumbled there was always a circle of people around me who would not let me lay there. They loved me like Jesus. They called me. They came to see me. They kept pulling on me until they got me up.

Imagine some of you, not all but some, had your parents had a circle of people around them when things got so bad at home your parents decided to divorce. What if their circle said, "We're not going to let your marriage just fall apart?" We'll pay for the counseling. We'll take you to counseling. We'll do all we can. We're going to fight for your marriage and your family even if you don't have the energy to fight." But pity the person...

What if your 10th grader had an adult leader in their circle that they respected and thought cool when they rebelled and refused to listen to you, but would listen to that leader? He or she said the same things you say, but it was cool coming from them. Would it maybe keep them from making a horrible stumble? What if you'd of had one in the 10th grade? But pity the person...

What if your wife had a circle of women around her who told her "bad idea" when she wanted to go to a club on a "girl's night out"? Or go to Vegas on a "girl's trip." But pity the person...

This year, it is not only about rows. It's also about circles. It's about life to life, face to face, doing life together, opening God's word together, praying for each other together, stumbling through life together, helping marriages get back up together, praying prodigals restored together, refusing not to go away as long as you are down. Sitting in rows just can't do that.

Some of you have so much to offer and so much to give and so much love to love one another with. "What Can You Do?" Become part of a circle.

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