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Watch 2022 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Don't Be Gross

Andy Stanley - Don't Be Gross

Andy Stanley - Don't Be Gross

I'ma welcome all of our Atlanta area churches, and for those of you who're watching really from all over the country, all over the world, once again. And as you would imagine with a large church, we plan way ahead. And so, today's topic has been planned for quite some time. And in some ways it could not be more perfect with the things that are going on in the world today. And I hope that will become clear as we spend the next few minutes together. One of history's greatest mysteries perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in all of history is this one. How did, how did a first century cult birthed in the armpit of the Roman Empire? Because Judea was considered the armpit of the Roman Empire. If you were assigned to Judea, you had done something terribly wrong.

How was it that a first century cult birthed in the armpit of the Roman Empire whose leader, Jesus specifically, whose leader was rejected by his own people, and then crucified, how in the world is it that it survived and it thrived in the face of violent, organized state funded resistance? How did this happen? Or let me ask it a different way. How did it come about that a Nazarene sect, because this is what the church, this is what Christianity was referred to in the first century, by people who were wondering what is this and how do we make it go away? How did it come about that a Nazarene sect would eventually be embraced by the very empire that for 300 years sought to extinguish it? Or how is it for those of you who have visited Rome in your adult lifetime, how is it if you even notice that there's a cross commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus hanging over the emperor's entrance and the Roman Colosseum? How did this happen? This is a mystery that historians have pondered really for generations. And they all pretty much arrive at the same conclusion.

Years ago, I read Karen Armstrong's book, "Fields of Blood" and I just ran across this quote and I've pulled it out and I've used it several times, but here's what Karen Armstrong says about what we would consider history's greatest mystery. Here's what she wrote. She said, "Against all odds," and that is an understatement, we can't even begin to imagine. "Against all odds, by the third century, Christianity had become a force to be reckoned with". And then here's the giveaway statement. "We still do not really understand how this came about". Nobody can deny that it happened. I mean, here we are. But how in the world this happened is one of history's greatest mystery. And we don't know how it came about, unless we pay attention to and take seriously the eyewitness testimonies of the men and women who were there for these events and eventually documented them for the entire world, who actually saw them and documented.

Now, it's amazing that it happened. It's amazing really that sandwich between temple and empire, this little movement that began in Galilee with, again, a Galilee and day laborer, we know it was Jesus of Nazareth. It's amazing we've even heard his name. It's amazing anything about him survived, but it's undeniable that it did, but what's even more amazing is that Jesus of Nazareth actually predicted this, gathered with his guys way up in what we would consider Syria, way, way, way north of Jerusalem. They're on that hot Syrian sun and they're on their way to Caesarea, to the region of Caesarea of Philippi. And you remember this, maybe if you grew up in church and Jesus is saying, hey, what's the word on the street about me? A question that you should never ask and I should never ask, 'cause you don't really wanna know, right? But he's saying what's my reputation in the community? And they're saying, well, some people think you're reincarnated prophet and John the Baptist come back to life.

And then he says to them, remember this? He says, who do you guys think I am? You've been with me a little while. Who do you think I am? And Peter finally gets the right answer to a question. And he makes this extraordinary statement. He said, we believe that you're God's chosen one. We believe you're the one. We believe you're the one that we've been waiting on. We believe you're the Christ, the anointed one, God's anointed one. We believe you're God's final king. We believe it in some way, and don't ask us to define it, we believe that you're the son of God. And Jesus smiles, and then he makes this statement. They had no idea how epic this moment was. He says, you're right, Peter. And on that statement, on the basis of that statement that I'm the Christ, the son of the living God. And on that rock, I will build my, Greek term ekklesia, my movement, my assembly, my congregation, my gathering.

As I've told you before the term church should have never appeared in our English Bibles. It's not a translation of a Greek term. It's a German word that got superimposed. It means building or the place of God. But Jesus was talking about a gathering. He was talking about people. He was talking about a movement. And then he says this. And of course they're looking at each other, like with the 12 of us, are you kidding? I mean, we're scared to death half the time. We don't even really like each other. And he says, and the gates of Hades, and Hades isn't hell, Hades for them was just a place of the dead. It just represented death. And death will not overcome it. Guys, I'm gonna start something new, and my death won't stop it. And Peter, your death won't stop it. And John, your death won't stop it. And Matthew, your death won't stop it. But you got some writing to do. And James you're here, you guys, we're after our lives what we are about to begin together, this new movement. Nothing, nothing's gonna stop it, to which again, they must have looked at each other like, with us really?

And then I'm sure somebody wanted to raise their hand and say, Jesus, I don't know if you've been paying attention, but do you know what happens to people who start new movements? Do you know that Rome is not a fan of new movements? Do you know that the temple leaders are not fans of new movements? Do you know what happens to people who begin new movements? And he knew exactly what happened to people who started new movements, and it happened to him, and that's the mystery. And those same boys gathered with him that day who heard this extraordinary statement. They had no idea what an epic moment in time that was, that same group of men, boys really, would document why his death was not the death of the movement. And the reason his death wasn't the death of the movement is because Jesus did not do what every other dead person did. He did not stay dead.

And this is when the movement began. This is why I love this statement, "I will build my ekklesia". It's a future test thing. I'm about to do something new, and nothing, nothing, nothing is going to stop it. That's my favorite Bible prophecy. And I think part of the reason it's my favorite Bible prophecy is because, well, we are the fulfillment of that prophecy. Jesus predicted us. If you're a Christian, if you're a Jesus follower, if you're part of a church and part of the church, Jesus predicted it and Jesus predicted us. And in that endearing his lifetime ministry, he inaugurated what we talk about all the time, this upside down kingdom of God come to earth, where all the values were flipped upside down. It would be a kingdom of heart, and a kingdom of conscience. It would be a kingdom that began inside a person and then lived its way out in such a way that impacted the world, that people would see our good deeds and somehow look up and give glory and recognize our father in heaven. And he flipped all these self evident first century ancient scripts for the ancient world, just flipped them all upside down.

And then in the end, in the end, talk about upside down. He would lay down his life for his subjects instead of requiring that his subjects lay down their lives for him. Who ever heard of such a king? And then if that wasn't enough, if that wasn't enough, then Jesus would call upon his followers to lay down their lives for each other. And in doing so, he laid the foundation of our modern assumptions regarding equality, dignity, freedom, liberty, safety. The red, brown, black and white, men, women and children, they were all in fact precious in his sight. And then he laid down his life for his subjects, again, instead of requiring us to lay down our life for him. And then, in perhaps the most unprecedented move, and this is what I want us to talk about for a few minutes, in the most unprecedented move of all, he asked his followers to lay down their lives, not for him.

He asked his followers to lay down their lives for each other. And he said, this will be your mark. This will be your brand. This will be the distinctive. As I have loved you, you are to love one another, and you are to love one another in such a practical, visible, notable, noteworthy way that the world sits up and takes notice and says, what in the world is going on with those people? I want some of that. And he said, and then you are to love your neighbors. Not simply is the way you want your neighbors to love you. You're to love your neighbors the way that I have loved you. And sit down guys, you are to love your enemies because, Jesus would say, just because somebody declares you their enemy, you do not have to return the favor, just because somebody considers you their enemy, you do not have to consider them an enemy. And it was this new brand, this new covenant brand of love that began to change the world, is the citizens of the empire, the Roman Empire begin to internalize this, embrace this, be so moved by it. The world, the empire began to change.

And something that was unprecedented happened, something that we don't think could happen again happened, something that had never happened before happened. In the end, I want to quote Bart Ehrman, a famous New Testament scholar, but also an atheist in his book "Triumph of Christianity", at the very end of the book, I read so many of his books. At the very end of the book, here's what he says, "Christianity," this is so important. "Christianity not only took over an empire," Rome, "it radically altered, it radically altered the lives of those living in that empire". "It was a revolution". It wasn't just a movement. It wasn't a religious thing. "It was a revolution that affected government practices, legislation, art, literature, music, philosophy".

And then this is so amazing. What a great insight? He's so right. "And on an even more fundamental level, it transformed and changed the very understanding billions of people had about what it even means to be human". Because when Jesus unleashed his agenda on the world through those 12 men and the women that followed him and the men and women that would be a part of the first century church, when he unleashed that agenda, people began to believe for the first time outside of Judaism, that there is a God who created me, and I am made in the image of God and suddenly every single man, woman and child, regardless of what they had, didn't have, who they know, didn't know, regardless, every single man, woman and child had inborn dignity, not because of what they accomplished or where they lived, but because they were created by God. This is what he means when it changed the very idea of what it meant to be human, that he says this, "However one evaluates the merits of the case," however one views, you may be pro-Christian anti-Christian, pro-church, anti-church, it doesn't matter.

"However one evaluates the merits of the case, no one can deny". Here it is again, what every secular historian has arrived at in terms of conclusion, no one can deny Christianity. This thing launched, this movement launched by Jesus, that he predict his ekklesia, "Was the most monumental cultural transformation our world has ever seen". Now look up here. If you're at home, you're doing something else, look up here a second. Friends, if you're a Christian, if you're part of a church, any church, we are the stewards of that movement. We are the stewards of that movement. In other words, the responsibility for the generation, this generation of the church is in our hands. The faith of the next generation and this generation is in our hands. And we have a choice to make. We will either take from it and consume it and then leave it weaker, sidelined and ineffectual because we got what we wanted out of it. I'm going to heaven when I die, my children are going to heaven when they die, my grandchildren are going to heaven when they die.

And I like this preacher and that preacher, and I take this a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And I kind of form my own thing, but I don't have time to be engaged because this is, it's just consume, consume, consume. We can do that. It's easier than ever to do that. I totally understand that. We have made it easier than ever, not just us, but churches all over the world as we've tried to get the gospel out all over the world, but we have a choice to make. We can either consume and disengage, or we can engage with it, to ensure that the church continues to be the conscience of our nation, and continues to influence the conscience of the world.

I want you to think about something, what we just experienced this weekend as a culture and as the world is an extraordinary example of what I'm talking about. Why is it, why is it that most of the world is just a gas? Why is it that most of the world world has risen up in opposition to what's happening in Ukraine? Why is that? We say, well, people just shouldn't do those sort of things, says who? Well, a nation shouldn't invade another nation, says who? Well, it's not right to impose your will upon another people who didn't invite you in. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, who made that rule? Says who? Why is it intuitively you know that's wrong? Why is it intuitively people all over the world who aren't Christian, who have no interest in religion? Why is it intuitively, people just know that shouldn't happen?

I'm telling you, it is the leftover, it is the shadow. It is the reflection of the impact of the church on the world, is what Bart Ehrman said. It was a cultural revolution. There is a sense of ought and ought not that comes right from the teaching of Jesus. Once upon a time in this world, what's happening in Ukraine with just the way it is, sucks to be you, glad I don't live there, hope it works out. In the meantime, we're gonna build higher walls and if there's a way to exploit what's happening there for the sake of my family and the sake of my nation, we're gonna join in because that's just the way the world works. But why is it almost internationally? Except in the places where the church has yet to, are no longer takes root. Why is it? There is almost an international conscience that says that is wrong, I'm telling you, this is what every historian who studies it says.

Like it or not, believe it or not, this idea of human dignity, of rights, whether it's women's rights or, it all comes from the crazy upside down kingdom that Jesus launched and initiated in the world. And it would have been crushed between a temple who didn't agree with it and an empire that certainly didn't agree with it, except for one thing, and it wasn't the teaching of Jesus. It was the event. It was the resurrection of Jesus. Now, you know this, you're smart people, you read, you're paying attention. You know what all the experts are saying about the church? The experts are saying the church in America is dying, and that the pandemic just sped up the decline. So I have a question for you. I don't want you to answer it out loud. I just want you to think about it.

Do you know who determines whether or not this is true? Do you know who determines whether or not the church is gonna be here? A vibrant, strong, a church in the United States of America for your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren? Do you know who determines whether or not we become Europe? And if you're from Europe, that's not offensive to you because you know what the churches are like in Europe. We work with church leaders and church planners in Europe all the time. I'll tell you a little bit about some that are coming to see us in a couple months in just a couple of minutes.

And do you know what the church leaders in Europe would say to you? And would say to those of us who've just become consumers of content? They would say to you, don't let it happen on your watch. Don't let happen in the United States what happened in Europe and other places of the world. Don't fight for what you have, support what you have, show up for what you have. Don't let it happen there because they're fighting and working so hard to revitalize the churches all over Europe, the churches that laid the foundation for the very rights and the very dignity of every human being that they're now fighting for, but really don't understand why.

And if you were to ask the average person, why is what's happening in Ukraine wrong? They would just say, well, it's just wrong. Well, how do you know it's wrong? Well, everybody knows. No, not everybody knows. This came from a fountain head, the fountain head of the teaching and the life of Jesus as exported all over the world by the local church. I've told you this story before. It's worth telling again. Years and years ago, I mean, Beijing, I went to China and went to a bunch of cities, 'cause we're doing cool things over there with orphans back in the day and toured a factory. And there's an American that had a factory there, one of these giant cities we've never heard of that's only got 6 million people. Ah, it's at the village in China. There's just so many giant cities. And at the end he asked, there was Andrew, my son, and another guy and his son. Said, hey, you guys got any questions about, you know, we just finished this tour, this factory.

And there was a 20 something year old Chinese young lady who was pretty good with English and she had been shadowing us learning more about... She worked there, but she was learning to give these tours. And she said, I have question. And he was surprised because he was asking us for questions. She works there and she says, I have a question. And she turned to me, she said, pastor Stanley, why doesn't everyone in America go to church? Pastor Stanley, why doesn't everyone in America go to church? Well, her story is she gets on a bus on Sundays or actually on Tuesdays for two hours to go to a Bible study that was illegal in another village and then two hours back. And she said, sometimes I don't have the bus fare and sometimes I don't have the time.

And I've heard in America, there are churches everywhere. Why doesn't everyone in America go to church? I didn't have a good answer for that, except that we have forgotten. We've lost sight of, or perhaps we never knew the role of the church in our culture and the role of the church in the world and the impact the church has made historically on the world. So back to my question, do you know who decides whether there's gonna be a vibrant church for your children and grandchildren? Do you know who's gonna decide whether or not what happened in the United States is worth exporting to the rest of the world in terms of the influence of the church? Do you know who decides whether or not we become like the churches in Europe? We do. We decide that. You, don't kid ourself, it's not me. You are the church, you are our church, you are your church. And the question is, will we, not me, will we be the church? Will we fulfill our divine mandate? Will we be good stewards of this extraordinary thing that Jesus launched, laid down his life for and smiled and said, hey, when I'm gone, it's going on.

And you can participate or ignore it. But it is going on in every generation. There are a group of people who rise up and say, we're gonna keep it relevant, we're gonna keep it fresh, and we're gonna keep the main things the main thing. Will we fulfill our divine mandate? I say, yes, but it's not gonna happen without all of you. It's not gonna happen without all of you. Now, this is the part where I tend to shy away and try to just kind of be funny and kind of move through this. But this is too important. And there was part of me didn't even wanna do this because it's just so, uh, in your face, but I gotta get in your face, okay? Because as long as you give me the microphone, I get to be the leader. If you kick me out, I hope you don't 'cause I love working here, but with this job comes a responsibility. And part of my responsibility is just to tell you, and this is an embarrassing, this is exciting.

I hope it's exciting. You are part of the body of Christ. This is God's will for you. I don't know about God's will about for who you should marry if you're trying to get married or what your job be or where you should go to school or what you should eat or how often you should exercise. But I'm telling you, if you're a Jesus' follower or you consider yourself a Christian, it is God's will for you to engage in the body in such a way that the world continues to change, and the cultural revolution that Bart referred to in his book continues all over the world because there are places in this world where that revolution has not yet taken hold as we have been reminded of this weekend. So the apostle Paul, he's writing a letter to this crazy mixed up church in Corinth. They just had all kinda whacko stuff going on.

Read first and second Corinthians. There's actually a third letter to the church in Corinth that disappeared, I think they were so offended. They probably tore it up, said we're not doing any of that. I don't know what happened to that letter, but anyway, and here's what he says to them. And these people, they got all kind of stuff going on. He says, folks, you are the body. This was new language. You are the... And see, we've heard the body of Christ, now this is like a metaphor. Now he's saying, no, no, you are the body of Christ. You are supposed to be doing in your community what Jesus did when he was on the earth. You are the hands and feet of Jesus. And he was talking to this church collectively. He would say to us, he would say to all of our churches, each of you in your local expression, you are the body of Christ. And each one of you, here's the part where I gotta lean in. And each one of you is a part of it.

You're like, well, I don't feel like a part of it, and I don't really wanna be a part of it. And I used to be a part of it, but I don't wanna be a part of it. I just like to consume content and just... And Paul would say, no, no, no, no. That's not how it works. We said, Paul, what do you mean that's not how it works? And here's what he would say to us, because this is what he said to them. He said now, let me illustrate. Now if your foot, if the foot should say, well, if your foot should say anything, game over, right? If the foot should say, I'm not a hand, I don't belong to the body, would it for that reason stop being part of the body? It's like, no. I mean, if any of your body parts decide I'm not a part of the body anymore, the rest of the body's like, well, you are. Well, I don't wanna be. Well, it's too bad you just are your body.

And if the ear should say, I mean, they're laughing when they read this. And if the ear should say, because I'm not an eye, I wanna be an eye, I do not belong to the body. If I can't do what I wanna do, and if I can't do what I wanna do when I wanna do it, and if it's not convenient for me, I don't wanna play. Paul says, well, this is, we're not having a game. You can't take your stuff and go home. You're attached. You are part of the body of Christ. It would not for that reason stop being part of the body. Again, now you are collectively, we're the hands and feet of Jesus in each of our collective communities. He said, but it's not just the collection. Each of you is a part of it. And I don't know, and I had this illustration I was gonna give, but it was so gross.

Sandra said, nope, people will pass out and they won't follow the rest of the message. So I always trust her judgment. If you've ever seen a disconnected body part, okay, it is not pretty, it is gross. Here's what Paul is saying. He's saying don't be gross. Act like you're a part of the body because you are a part of the body. Don't be gross, be engaged. And for some of us, and I understand this, I'm not as critical as maybe I'm coming across today, for some of us, it's time to reengage. So, if you're grateful and if you're part of one of our churches, you're grateful, otherwise you wouldn't be part of one of our churches, but if you're grateful and not engaged for whatever reason, the pandemic, I mean, I understand this life happens. It's time to reengage. And I'll just say it one more time. I know for a fact, this is God's will for you. This is God's will for you.

And if you're watching online and the kids are gone, gosh, we've just made this whole thing so good online. I mean, every time I sit home and watch when I'm not preaching, and Sandra I look at each other, you know what we say? Please don't tell anybody I said this, okay? We say no wonder nobody comes to church. We just made it too easy and too good, right? I totally get that. But here's the thing. Here's the thing, here's the thing. You are in a season. I'm in that season. You're in a season where you're gonna have to be more intentional and you're in a season where you have more to give in terms of time and flexibility. And I would say, oh, we need you. We need you, and we do need you, but it's not about we need you. You need us because you're a member of the body of Christ. And what's at stake is way too big for us to just be content to become consumers, right? And I'm not gonna beg you.

In fact, I may not even bring it up again, but I am inviting you, all of us in the room, watching, listening, whenever and wherever you hear this, I'm inviting you, inviting you not to attend something. I'm inviting you to participate in something. And if not here, my goodness, somewhere, because you are a member of the body of Christ. So we gotta participate and act like one. And come on, this is the invitation of a lifetime. This is why I say over and over, short of what you do for your family, other than the investment you make in your family, there is no greater investment of your time in your life than the local church, because this is the epicenter of God's activity in the world and in the community. And to the degree that we participate, amazing things happen because whenever the body of Christ is active in a community, that community thrives, people thrive, people are better, kids are safer, marriages are more healthy.

I mean, on and on it goes, we know that, the church is the hope of the world, because Jesus said, and again, the audience that first heard this, they were like the boys hearing that epic statement about the church. When Jesus said the following, they looked at each other like, you're kidding. Jesus looked at his first century audience and said, you're the light of the world. They're like, what? I've never been more than 10 miles from home. I'm the light of the world? What do you mean I'm the light of the world? Jesus go, no, you are the light of the world. If you decide to believe in me and follow me, you become the light of the world, and where you flourish, people flourish.

Now, you know this I hope, we have a very simple mission for all of our churches. And if this is one of your first times to join us or to watch, this is important for you to know of us. Our simple mission is simply to inspire people to follow Jesus, that's it. Because our experience is following Jesus will make your life better, make you better at life. And when enough people follow Jesus in a community, the community gets better, right? And here's how we do it. This is the part we don't talk about much on the weekend because it's kind of long and a little bit clunky. But in terms of the whole thing, how do we inspire people to follow Jesus as the local church? By engaging them in the life and mission of a local church, because the church is the body of Christ, that we want students to be engaged in the life of the church, children to be engaged in the life of the church, adults to be engaged in the life of the church, and to embrace the mission of the church which is to inspire other people to follow Jesus.

And to do this, everybody who considers himself a part of any local body needs to engage with that local body. I wanna give you three ways to do this. Number one, have visual aids for this one. Number one, listen for come sit with me opportunities. Okay? This is one of the coolest things Sandra and I have done this for years. Ever since we came up with this, I came up with this visual aid, you may see these around. We made some for some folks. And if you want one, maybe we can get you one. We call it our three knots, you've ever heard us talk about the three knots? Maybe not, sorry. Yeah, three knots. The three knots are this, they're three reminders. Whenever you hear somebody say I'm not in church, you immediately say, well, come sit with me. Not, you should visit our church sometime. No, we don't do that. Or you know, whoever, no, no. We're not in church. We're really not church people. Oh, well, come sit with me, doesn't matter who's preaching. Doesn't matter what the subject is. You just automatically say, come sit with me.

Second knot, when somebody says things are not going well. Well, my marriage, my kids, or do you have any, you know, how do you do so well with your family, your kids, finances, job? Things are not going well. Oh, come sit with me. Wait, come sit with you? Yeah, to my church. You need to come sit with me. Well, things aren't good. I know our church is about all about people for whom things aren't going well. And I don't know who's preaching. I don't know what the topic is. Doesn't matter. Just come sit with me, when you hear somebody say not in church or not a person of faith, you just say come sit with me. Things aren't going well, come sit with me.

The third one, not prepared for, not prepared for. Just got married, huh, not prepared for that, how do you prepare for marriage, right? I thought we were. Just started a new job, not prepared. Just moved to the city, not prepared. Just had our first child, not prepared for, just became an empty nester, gosh, this just kind of messing up my world. Just not prepared for, ah, you just come sit with me, just come sit with me. Restaurants, shopping, neighborhood, everywhere. And here's the good news, bad news. Most people won't. So you get credit. You don't have to save them a seat on Sunday. But imagine thousands of people in our communities just come sit with me, just come sit with me, come sit with me. And of course for most cases they won't. But we hear these stories all the time in our baptism stories. It takes people four or five times to be invited.

And Sandra and I both have, we just every week, we share come sit with me opportunities. And very rarely, but every once in a while, Uber driver, lady from the mall. Okay. They say yes. And in every case, you know why they come sit with a stranger at church? 'Cause it's the preacher asking them, no, it's the preacher's wife asking them, no. Here's why, here's what we hear over and over. You just trust me. You know, I've heard about that church. This is my neighbor. You know what? Somebody else invited me. It may take five or six times. But imagine if we just engage in the mission of our church and here's the thing and I gotta move on, and this is some of your story, so you know I'm not making this up. You have no idea what hangs in the balance of that invitation, you have no idea. Even if you're number three and it takes number five to get 'em there, you have no idea. You have no idea what hangs in the balance of that invitation.

And the reason I know that is because some of you, your story of faith begins because somebody invited you. They took a chance. They took a risk. They didn't know what was gonna happen. They showed up with you or saved a seat for you at one of our churches. And they were scared to death. Andy, please don't say something stupid. I hope the music isn't too long, not too short, but just right. I hope they meet nice people. I hope they can find a parking spot. And suddenly, you know what you're doing when you invite somebody to church? You're evaluating your local church the way we evaluate it. And you're either proud or you send me an email and say, I brought a friend, it was the disaster, fix it. Those are the complaints we like because we are on a mission with our heavenly father. But here's the thing and I gotta move on. You can't invite if you aren't coming, you just can't.

Number two, I want you to continue to participate in small group. This is what makes a big church feel like a small church. This is where you feel accountable. This is where there's a sense of belonging and a sense of care. And every once in a while, because we've been doing groups for years and years and years, every once in a while, somebody's like, well, I was in a group and then a couple of couples didn't come and it kind of fell apart. And I'm like, so? Wait, wait. So it's like, yeah, we tried that. I'm like, wait, wait, you don't try it. If you had an 18 year old, 19 year old son or daughter who went off to college and then they found a local church in their community and you're like, oh my gosh, my college student's going to church and then three weeks later, well, I don't really like that church. Would you say, well, just give up on church? No, you would say, well honey, go find another church. You don't just give up on church, right?

Some of you had kind of a bump in your group experience. Hey, you don't give up on community. You don't give up on the one anothers. Come on, you're adults, you can do this. And we are gonna continue to make it easier and easier. And some of you, I get this. I'm a professional Christian. I know the Bible inside and out. I rarely sit in small group and go, I have never heard that in my whole life. That rarely happens to me. You know what? Here's the thing. If it's getting a little vanilla for you, a little dry for you, that doesn't mean it's time to leave. That means it's time for you to step up and lead. You lead, not leave. We're constantly looking for adults and couples and individuals who are willing to lead small groups. So this is your opportunity to get engaged. Lead one of our living room groups, our college groups at three of our campuses, or the young adult ministry that we have here looking for small group leaders, our inside out.

And then third, so we need you to volunteer somewhere. And the thing is I know you're busy. This isn't gonna come as a shock to most of you. This whole church, all of our churches, we're built with busy people, busy professional, get it done. Hey, I'll get it on my schedule. I'm busy. If we only worked and built with non-busy people, we wouldn't be sitting here in these fabulous buildings with all this technology. So I know you're busy. I get that. And somebody in a minute, somebody from your campus is gonna come and tell you about some next steps. So let me close with this. And I hope this isn't too weird. Almost took this out. I have a really good life, I do. I don't need anything. I don't want anything. I got two cars. I got a pickup truck and I got a convertible. So I am good to go. I'm not having a midlife crisis. Everything's good, my kids are doing good. They all live within 45 minutes. Our lives are so blessed.

But I'm telling you, my heart is so broken over the disunity in the church in America. And my heart is so broken over our loss of influence that we've been reduced to a voting block. We've been reduced to a constituency, that both parties are trying to whine and dine in the church and split us up so we'll support their candidate of choice. When we've been called to be the conscience of the nation, and there's always gonna be disagreement, but there doesn't have to be disunity. Disunity is always a choice. Disagreement can't be helped. Disunity is always a choice. I think we should be part of fixing that, and I'll tell you what else breaks my heart is this generation, this new term that's not really new. It's a new term, but it's not a new concept, of everybody deconstructing their faith, oh, I'm deconstructing my faith.

Do you know why your 20 something year olds, your be something year olds are deconstructing their faith? Because they were handed a faith that's easy to deconstruct. They were handed a, the Bible tells me so faith, but the Bible tells me so is not what launched the church. When Jesus stood in Caesarea, Philippi with his guys, he didn't say, just wait for it, just wait for it, wait for it. 300 years from now, there's gonna be a book, and then it begins. No, that's not how it happened. We have to anchor this generation and the next and anchor ourselves to the event that launched the movement that eventually brought us the Bible. We have to anchor our faith to the event. This is why for the last 15 years, I've come back to this over and over and over and over. It's not for my sake. It's not even for your sake. It's for the sake of this and the next generation, anchor their faith to the event, the resurrection that launched the movement that Jesus predicted, the church that eventually, eventually it was the icing on the cake.

When Rome finally capitulate to the Christians, the bishops were able to come out of the shadows with these documents that men and women had risked and given their lives for. And the first Bible was eventually assembled. But for 300 years without a Bible, for 300 years without regulated literature. They flipped the script on an empire. That is the power of the gospel. And that is the power of men and women being the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities and in the world. So as you can tell, I'm more passionate than ever because we have more potential than ever. In May, we're hosting this conference. We do every other year, we skipped a year because of the pandemic. Over 2000 leaders from around the country and around the world have already signed up, and they come and we do show and tell, and we talk about what we're doing here and what we're learning here.

So our influence continues to expand. So I'm more energized than ever, but I want you to be as well. And I want you to engage. So for those of you who've served consistently through the pandemic, for those of you who gave consistently allowed us to do all the things we're doing, I'm more grateful than I could ever tell you. In fact, I try to tell you every chance I get. To those of you who have grown a little bit content to just consume content, it's time to reengage, to find your place in the body, and to help us help you find your place in the body. So let's do this, right? Against all odds. This is what the secular historians tell us. This isn't Christian preacher talk. Against all odds, the church changed the world once. And there's still so much as we've been reminded this weekend. There's so much in the world that still needs to change, and by God's grace with your help. Maybe, perhaps, maybe God would use us to bring about some of those changes in our communities, in our nation, maybe in the world.

Historically speaking, just speaking of history, Jesus, the Jesus movement should have been buried right alongside its founder, but it wasn't. John, the gospel writer said it this way. He said, the darkness did not, did not overcome it. So let's make sure the darkness doesn't overcome it in our generation, in our communities, in our nation on our watch because the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is worth it. You won't regret it. And the faith of the next generation depends on it. So let's do this. And at this time, thank you. Yes, I hope you feel that way. So, this time, somebody from your local campus is gonna come up and tell you about some next steps. That would be me. Okay. So, hey, just between us, we need to lead the way. Our best opportunity and our greatest need is always our best opportunity and always our greatest need is to help the next generation win.

So here's what I want you to do. If those of you who are watching, I want you to get your phone out. If you're watching on your phone, I want you to borrow somebody's phone. And I want you, remember, you don't take a picture. You just point your camera. Anybody here in the room with me, just get your phone out. You just point your camera at the QR code. It's gonna give you a link. And by the end of today, I would love for you to go to the link. You don't have to do it now. Give us a little bit of information. And then we're gonna contact you maybe by the end of the day, but we're gonna contact you by the end of tomorrow. And we're gonna give you an opportunity. We're gonna invite you to an interest meeting. You don't have to sign up for anything. You don't have to pledge or promise anything. I just want all of you who aren't engaged to at least consider engaging with us in family ministry that makes sure the next generation wins.

We're gonna answer your questions. You're gonna meet some fabulous people. You're gonna understand why this church operates the way it does. It's not gonna take a lot of your time, but we want you to at least consider. We have needs, specifically Waumba Land and UpStreet. We need about 300 people. And not just when you think, well, I don't do children. It's okay. We need greeters, we need rockers. Some of you've always wanted to be a rocker. This you can be rockers. We need singers, that's a joke. We need storytellers, group leaders, and transit and inside out our middle school and our high school environments. We need small group leaders. We need greeters. We need production people. We need all kinds of people.

So would you at least consider engaging with us as we try to help the next gen win? And I would love for you to go here, give us some information today. Maybe before you leave the building or before you turn off whatever your devices that you're watching on today, just give us that information so that we can at least talk to you and see what we have for you. And in those conversations, you may discover there's something else you can do with us and engage with the church that you don't know about. Or you may hear about some things that we haven't promoted in a while. So please, please, please take advantage of that. And here's the thing, if I've seen a little harsh on you today. I know you love and are grateful for our church here. You wouldn't be here.

So let's be the church because seriously, the faith of the next generation, of this generation depends on it. So let's get this right. All right? All right. I'd love for you to stand if you would. I'd love to pray for us, and we're gonna sing one last song before we go.

Heavenly Father, thank you, thank you, thank you for the freedom we have. I pray that we never ever, ever take it for granted. I pray that you would give us the courage and the wisdom and know how to expand, not our reputation, not our church brand, but your name all over the world. And we pray all of that in the matchless name of Jesus, our resurrected savior, amen.

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