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Watch 2022 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Known For It

Andy Stanley - Known For It

Andy Stanley - Known For It

So first of all, I wanna talk about my eye. So I have the worst bloodshot eye in the world. I just wanna get that out of the way. And so some of you, if it grosses you out, if you'll just look up here, and not look at the side screens, it'll be a better morning for you. And the two questions I keep getting are, "Does it hurt, and are you becoming a Sith"? So, question number one, it does not hurt, question number two, I think we have to wait and see on the Sith thing, anyway.

So I appreciate your patience with that. I was just gonna call in sick, but Sandra's here, she would tell you, none of the staff will take my calls on Saturday. Nobody will answer, like, "Ah, not doing that, uhuh". So anyway, there was no one to call, so here. And I'm super excited about this message, I didn't wanna miss it anyway. So Sandra suggested a patch, I'm like, "Nope, we're just gonna be real". So here's something we all have in common. This is not a church thing, Christian thing, religious thing, this is just a human thing. Something we all have in common, we all want to be known for something.

Now, you may not have given much thought as to what this is, but if somebody were to say to you, "Hey, what do you wanna be known for"? Something would come to mind. Some adjectives would come to mind. Some adjectives would come to mind that you hope come to other people's mind when and if you come to mind. and I certainly have some adjectives, I have adjectives in terms of what I want my kids to think about me, or what I wanna be known for with my kids. Certainly in my marriage, with the people I work with, I have something I wanna be known for all of you. And these are the kinds of things that determine what we post on social media, or if we post at all on social media. Especially, it would seem, Instagram.

So here, let me just pose the question to you. And it would've be interesting to turn and talk about it, but I'd never get your attention again, but what do you want to be known for? Just think for a minute, what do you wanna be known for? And there's concentric circles, with my family, with my friend, what do you wanna be known for. I'll, for transparency 'cause I'm gonna ask you to be transparent. I'll tell you what I wanna be known for. I, and this is kind of comes from a place of insecurity. I wanna be known for being smart. And the reason that's important to me, I finally figured out years ago, is because I never did well in school. I struggle, struggle, struggled. Everybody else seemed to already know it before they got there. I felt like everybody's already had this class, but me, especially in college, I'm like, "How do you know"?

And then I went to graduate school, and it was even even worse. I barely got into graduate school. So I've just never felt smart, I always felt like I was behind. So I think there's the insecurities. I wanna be known for being smart 'cause I don't think I am, I've struggled. No sympathy sounds there, okay, anyway. Also, I wanna be known for being a really hard worker. I wanna be known for being a good leader. I wanna be known for being a great father, and a great husband. And as I get older, to just be honest, I want to be known for that I still got what it takes. As you get older, you wonder, do I still got what it takes? Bill, thank you, Bill. Okay, anyway, Bill thinks so.

So here and now, it's here, so I want you to think, what about you, what do you wanna be known for? And then there's this, okay. Then there's this, what do you do when you realize you aren't measuring up to you? What do you do when you realize, "Uhoh, this is what I wanna be known for, but I'm falling behind. Not in terms of what other people think, 'cause I'm not sure what they think, but I'm falling behind in terms of what I want other people to think". And I would tell you what I do when I feel like I'm not measuring up to me, but I don't need to tell you what I do because I do the same thing you do, I pretend. And sometimes I make excuses, and I try to manage my image. And the problem with managing our image is simply this, managing our image makes us imaginary. It does, I've got an image out there, but that's not really me, so I become imaginary me.

And we've all experienced this with other people, even if you don't think you're doing it yourself. You've met people, and initially you thought, "Wow". Then you got to know 'em and it was like, "Wow". It's like, "Wow, that first impression, as I got closer, that was not the real you, I got to know the real you". In fact, maybe you've gotten closer to some people you had a lot of respect for, and as you got closer, you lost respect. And it was almost like, "I kind of wish I'd never gotten to know them, because I liked the imaginary them far better than I liked the real them, right". And then what happens is with image management, when we're managing an image, it makes relationships challenging.

And to some extent, and maybe you're dealing with this and you just didn't have words for it. It can make some relationships impossible, right? Because I'm presenting imaginary Andy, and you're presenting imaginary you. And our two imaginary people, it's like they avatars trying to have a relationship. When the real us is kind of in the background, because we're afraid, a little bit afraid to be known. And then there's this, 'cause the bad news just keeps on coming, the moment that we start pretending we stop improving. It's so interesting, because now all my energy, and all my time, and all my concern is all about managing the image, managing the image, make sure everybody thinks I'm what I want people to think, but what I want to be known for.

And I don't give any time, and I don't give any effort, and I don't give any discipline to really working on me. 'Cause come on, if you've got an image to maintain, it's like a full time job, right? Because you're hiding stuff, and pretending, and pretending to your kids or maybe your spouse, or at work, and you just gotta keep. It's exhausting, and who's got time to get better or to be authentic when you're managing the image? So consequently, we stop improving, we stop growing. We get older, but we don't get any better. Now, again, for the sake of transparency, I'll just say this 'cause some of you thought it already, pastors are the worst. I mean, preachers, we really are the worst. And it's because we live with this pressure, we live with this pressure to have it all together all the time.

See, I don't know what your job is like, but see, when I leave on Sunday, on Monday, through Thursday and Friday when I'm out in the community, nobody thinks, "Oh, there's the pastor, but it's Thursday. So he doesn't have to act like the pastor, it's Thursday. As long as he's acting like the preacher on Sunday, and the pastor on Sunday, we're good. But it's Thursday, so he can do whatever". No, it's constant, it's 24/7. So the pressure to perform, and to pressure to keep the image up. For people who do what I do, or anything similar to what I do, it's intense because I've gotta maintain my moral authority or you won't take me seriously. And I have to maintain my moral authority 24/7, because that's what allows me to come in here and tell you how to live your life. Because you think, "Well, surely he's doing this stuff, right, I mean, he just keeps pouring it out, right"?

And one of the reasons it's so hard on people like me, 'cause we're being transparent, part of it is your fault, okay. Because you prefer that I keep the image up. I mean, this is where there's just the things you don't ever want to hear, right. You'd rather me pretend, right? I mean, you don't wanna hear me get up and say, "Hey, before we jump into our brand new series, 'The Secret of Self-Control', I just wanna pause and thank the elders for sending somebody to pick me up last night to make sure I got home safely". You don't want to hear that. That's why I don't call the elders. That might not make it into the cut. We may edit that, anyway. It's why you don't want me to get up on a Sunday morning, and say, "Hey, before we begin our brand new series, 'Making The Most of Your Marriage', I'm happy to announce Sandra said she's gonna give me one more shot, and one more chance". You don't wanna hear that. You wanna hear that, "Oh no, you got it all together, so you can tell us how to keep it all together".

So there's all this pressure. Now, that's just my world, but you have your own version of that. As a parent, in your marriage, at work, I mean, we just carry this. But the truth is, if we, again, this is where it's everybody. Again, this isn't a religious thing, this is human thing. We all have gaps, or I'll just say most of us have gaps, I don't know if we all do, but most of us have gaps between what and who we wanna be known for, and what and who we actually are. So we're all tempted, we're all tempted to pretend, and we're all tempted to cover, and we're all tempted to make excuses. And we're all tempted to hide. Sometimes we're tempted to lie, especially maybe, but especially maybe at church. By the way, you look great.

So well behaved, nobody's talking amongst themselves. I haven't heard any profanity all day long. Everybody looks sober, you're all dressed up. I mean, we all know how to act when acting gets something for us, that's why it's called acting, right. And we pretend because we're convinced that people really knew what we were really like, they may not really like us. But again, if people, think about it, if people don't know what you're really like, they don't really like you because they don't even know you. They like the image, and I get it. And now, no, let me tell you what I'm not advocating for. I'm not advocating for every single day, you just walk around pouring out your heart to everybody you meet, okay.

That's how to lose friends, and influence, and a job, okay. That's not what I'm advocating for. I'm just saying that we live with this constant tension, and there are social expectations, and we need to play to the social expectations so we can get along and get things done in the world, but there's this constant pressure. And if we are not careful, we never become our authentic self with anybody, and our relationships become superficial, and nobody can really know you because you're not presenting the real you to be known and they're not presenting the real them to be known. And it just becomes very, very shallow, very, very quick. And next thing you know, we're just kind of all the Instagram versions of ourselves.

And if this doesn't change, if there's not some intervention at some level, or we aren't intentional, and that's what we're gonna talk about. We are all predisposed to becoming, I don't know if this is a real word or not, but we are all predisposed to become, just pretendaholics. Because we just get addicted to manage the image, manage the image, keep the image up with everybody, everywhere. And the sort of the bottom line is simply this, until we embrace who and where we really actually are with someone, somewhere, we can't get to where we want and need to be. So while we all want to be known for something, what we really need is to be known by some some ones, plural, we all need relationships. All of us need relationships where we can drop the pretense, and drop the pretending, and drop the manufactured cool, and the manufactured confidence, and the manufactured wrinkle free image that I got it all together.

And we all need a place where we can just put all of that aside, and not fear criticism, and not fear being judged, and not fear being dismissed because we were honest about where we are, where we aren't, where we want to be, and the gap between where we want to be and where we actually are. And I can prove this to you. The proof that you need this, and that you actually ultimately want this, is because when you find this you like this, you are drawn to it, you're drawn to it, right? Whether it's healthy or not. Because it doesn't really matter if it's healthy or not when suddenly you feel like, "You know what, I am accepted for me, it is like a magnet".

I don't care how individualistic you are, and how rugged you are, when there's a group of people or an individual. And you just feel like no matter who you are and what you say, they are not gonna judge you or criticize you, you are drawn in. When you meet people with the same secrets, and you're like, "Me too". The same habits, or the same addictions, or the same family background, or the same dysfunction, or the same challenges with their kids or their marriage. There's just something about that commonality, it draws us in, again, whether it is healthy or not. And you know what we say when we run into people like that, we say, "Those people are for real, those people are for real".

And you know what, maybe they are for real, but there may be something else going on. Maybe those people are the first people with whom you were for real, and once you got real, you got known. And it feels good because that's part of being human. And that is, my friend, part of the image of God in you. It is appealing to the image of God in you, because your heavenly Father wants you to be known by Him and the people around you that He's put in your life. Because you don't make progress until you're known. You don't make progress until there's the opportunity to be authentic in terms of who you are, it feels good.

It's why people fall in love in rehab all the time. They go to rehab and they fall in love. It's why people fall in love with people at work, because they're suddenly shared a little bit of something personal at work, and they don't get judged. They share a little bit more, they don't get judged. They share a little bit more and they don't get judged. Next thing, you know what happens? When we're our authentic, and when we're transparent, our hearts are right behind. Anybody that says, just gonna draw me in, listening. "I understand, I'm not gonna judge you". I'm telling you, your heart is right behind those words. This is why AA, and NA, and CA, cocaine anonymous, are such powerful, powerful environments.

Years and years ago, in my twenties, late twenties. First time I ever walked into one of those environments. I gave a chip to a woman who was in CA, cocaine anonymous. Now, AA, NA, CA, hardcore, okay. And it was my first introduction, I'm like, "Wow". I was a little bit afraid, honestly. And I sat there, and by the end of the evening, and it was several hours, I thought, this is the most powerful thing I've ever experienced in my life. And a few years later, Sandra and I would experience a similar environment with that same woman after she got her chip and after she got cleaned up. She began dealing grace to people that she was authentic with. And they shared a common background and experience, and we'll never forget. We'll never forget walking out of that circle of women with their significant others, and just, we got in our car.

Sorry, I wasn't planning to even share this. But we got in our car, we sat down in the car, and we both just began to weep, we couldn't even talk. How powerful those moments were. And for those of you who've had the courage to step into AA, and NA, or any of those support groups, way to go, because you understand the power of transparency. You understand the power of authenticity. And you remember, you walked in, and you're guarded, you're guarded, you're guarded, "'Cause it's just me. It's only me, it's just me, it's only me. And I'm unique, and I have a unique story." and somebody shares their story, and next thing you know, there's commonality, but it's healthy because everybody's trying to get healthy, and everybody's trying to get healthier.

You know it's not unhealthy, it's not dangerous. It's like, "This authenticity is gonna allow me to pick up that rock I've never looked under before, and look for the first time, or the first time in a long time at all the mess, and nobody's gonna judge me, and we're gonna deal with it". And progress is made, right? The rocks get turned over, all that scary stuff is exposed. Now, some of you're thinking this, "Okay, whoa, whoa, whoa, that's too far. You're taking me too far, I don't have an addiction". Well, you do, we all do, we're addicted to image management. Okay, and some of that is healthy. Again, because society, there's some guardrails in terms of getting along, so I'm not just throwing the whole thing out. But we're all addicted to image management, which makes this to some extent, again, all pretendaholics.

Now, based on your church experience, and maybe based on your church experience hero in one of our church, I hope not. But based on your church experience, it may come as a shock that the church should have pretend free zones for everybody. That the church should have pretend free zones for everybody. This is not one of them, but every church should have pretend free zones for everybody. And here's why I say that, and this is amazing. In the first century, when the church first began, the very first pastor of the very first church in Jerusalem, not necessarily the safest place to have a church in the first century. In fact, the pastor of the first century church in Jerusalem was eventually dragged outside the walls of the city and stoned. His name was James, had a very famous brother, very famous mother, as Jesus was his brother.

So James, the first pastor of the first church in Jerusalem, here's what James says. "Therefore, confess your sins to each other". We're like, "Nope, not gonna do that, what else you got"? I'm not gonna do that. I'm not gonna confess my sins to somebody else. I confess my sins to God or a priest that I never see, except when I'm confessing my sins to the priest. And that's it, that's what I do. Because if I confess my sins, people are gonna know the truth about me, the real me. And they may not like me, they may reject me. James is like, "This is the church, this is what we do". This is maybe he had 20 people in his church, or maybe 50, or maybe a couple of little ones. He's like, "This is we confess our sins to each other". And he says, "And we're not gonna stop there, and pray for each other. That you may be healed, that you may be changed. There might be transformation. There may be some good that comes from this". To which we say, "Nope, it's too risky. Just gonna confess to God and keep pretending".

So let me ask you this question. When is the last time, and maybe you say there's never been a time. This is how I'll pose the question. When is the last time you were transparent with a small group of people about something that you have not been transparent about with maybe anybody else in your life? Something current, your failure you don't know how to deal with. A fear you can't get past, something going on at home, a family situation. When is the last time you said, "Okay, I'm gonna go for it, look, this is the thing", and they stopped and they prayed for you?

If you have never had that experience, I want you to have that experience soon. If you haven't had that experience in a long time, and you're carrying something, and you keep trying, and trying, and trying. You're gonna get better, it's gonna get better, you're trying. But no one has ever said, "You know what, I don't have a solution. I don't have an answer, I'm not a counselor. I'm not a professional, I'm not a theologian, but you know what, can I pray for you"? Those moments can be powerful, and sometimes those moments are transformational. James says, "This is what the church does". He goes on, he says, "The prayer". And then this is the brother of Jesus talking, all right.

So this isn't the Bible says, okay, there was no Bible when he wrote this. He's just writing a letter, it just happened to be survived the first century, because the first century church thought it was so valuable. Why did they think it was valuable? The brother of Jesus wrote that. If I got up and said, "Hey, we just found the document written by the brother of Jesus". You would say, "I'd love to read that". It's in your Bible, okay. Anyway, so James is just writing this document. And here's what he says, the prayer of a righteous person, a person in right relationship with God. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful, and it's effective, and we resist it. 'Cause I don't wanna be known, I don't want you to know, it's none of your business.

This is what your savior would say, it is their business, because your body, and when one part of your physical body is injured, the rest of the body doesn't go, "I hope that works out". All my body went into, "What do I do about this"? Because that's what bodies do. It is somebody's business, but it's never gonna be their business until you invite them in and make it their business. We talk all the time about aspiring people to follow Jesus. Okay, this isn't 201, this isn't the advanced class. This is fundamental to following Jesus. You cannot follow Jesus if you are not functioning within the context of a community of other Jesus followers. There are no, to throw big throwback, lone ranger Christians. He had Tonto, right, and the Batman's got Robin.

There are no Superman Christians, I don't need anybody. And if you're trying to do your life that way, whether you're a religious person or not, I would invite you to not. If you're a Christian, and somehow you got this idea, "I don't need organized religion, I can just do this on my own". No, just read your New Testament. Spiritual development, physical, spiritual, emotional health happens within the context of transparency with other people, not just you and God. It requires that you make yourself accessible to other Jesus followers. It has to do with discovering. A lot of it is to discover that you're not the only one. Sandra and I have been in so many groups. We've been in small groups since before we started the organization 26 years ago. And here's what happened in every group, every group.

My men's groups, this happens with, our couples groups. We get together, a lot of times we've got name tags on. We don't even know each other. And so we're gonna share stories, just so somebody tells their story, and it's got little bumps along the way. The second couple shares their story. It wasn't perfect life, but here's how we met. And then the third couple, or the fourth couple, they look at each other like, "Do we do this? Let's let's do this". And they are like, "Okay, I'm glad y'all all have these wrinkle free, perfect lives. Our lives are not perfect, our marriage is not perfect. Our kids are not perfect, our jobs are not perfect". And they tell their story, and there's tears. And when they're finished, the first couple says, "We need to go again. We left some stuff out".

And suddenly something happens, I don't wanna say it's magic 'cause I don't believe in magic, but something magical, powerful happens in those moments. Same with my last men's group, same thing. Third guy in, I mean, he was like, "Okay guys, no pretending". And then we all said, "We all need to go again", 'cause we weren't sure it was safe, right? Discovering you're not the only one. There's something powerful about discovering you're not the only one, and somebody praying for you. Then another first century pastor, we don't know his name. We know it's a he 'cause they didn't let the girls do much back in the first century. But thanks to Jesus, that has changed.

We don't know who wrote the sermon that we call Hebrews, it's a book in the New Testament, but here's what the author of Hebrews writes. You've heard I've taught on this so many times, if you've been around. "And let us consider", that means think about it. Think about it. "Let us consider how we may spur one another on". Urge, motivate, inspire, model. Let us figure out how to spur one another on towards love when it's hard to love. Toward good deeds when I don't wanna do good deeds. When I wanna return evil for evil. Let us figure out how to do this, and here's the phrase, "One another on". That transparency and accountability in the Christian life, it is an essential, it's not an add-on. And then listen to what the author says. This is so relevant for some of us right now. "And let us not".

How did he know, this was happening in the first century? And let us not give up meeting together? "Well, I don't need him, I don't need anybody". He's like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, you can't follow Jesus by yourself, did you know that"? "And let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing". In other words, community is essential. Community is the, we call it the ABC's. Accountability, belonging and care. Accountability, belonging, and care, ABC. Accountability that somebody knows what's going on, and they can ask me. Belonging, you know what, I feel safe here. If I'm not here, somebody's gonna miss me. Care, hey, when I need something, there's gonna be somebody that shows up for me. I want you to experience, I want your children to experience this. Your middle school and high school students, because this is essential.

And of course, the pandemic bumped a bunch of us out of the habit of meeting together. Which is a shame, because, this is important, if you haven't been paying attention, look up here. Content consumption is no substitute for community. In fact, let me just it say this way. Content consumption will not change your life or make you better. You'll get smarter, you'll learn some stuff. It's no substitute for community. And you know this, because we're constantly consuming content. And yesterday I was talking to somebody, I'm talking about this great book I'm reading. They say, "What's the name of it"? I'm like, "I don't know, I don't know".

It's just so many books, so many articles. It's like, read this, read this, read this, check this out. We just consume, consume content. If content consumption would change your life, and make your life better, and make your marriage perfect and better. I mean, we would all be amazing because we have access to all the content that is available on every topic in the world. And I am a content consumer, and I am a content creator, but I'm telling you, content consumption is no substitute for community. And when we try to substitute anything for community, we do not get the advantage of community, but we kid ourselves into thinking, "I'm doing all I can, I'm doing all I can, I'm trying". But read the New Testament. The New Testament is one another, one another, one another, one another, one another.

Here's something that content consumption can never do. And the author of Hebrews tells us, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another". One another daily, the one another factor is essential to progress. Pastor Paul, who planted a bunch of churches. Here's what he says, he has so much to say on this. Just look at one little snapshot, "Brothers and sisters", he says, "If someone is caught in a sin". You know what we do if somebody's caught in a sin? "Hey, do you hear so and so was caught in a sin. I know, let's pray for 'em, okay, I gotta go. Did you hear so and so was caught in a sin"? We love to talk about it, but if you're caught in a sin, you don't want anybody talking about it.

So what if you decide to do for others what you wish somebody would do for you when you're caught in a sin. When somebody's caught in a sin, you who live by the spirit, those of you who are submitted to the spirit of Jesus and doing your best to follow Jesus should restore that person gently. And then what he says next is gold. What he says next is a pivot point between the Old and New Testament. What he says next is life changing when we engage with it. He says, "This is an imperative". He says to these new Christians, these Gentile Christians, "Carry one another", or, "Carry each other's burdens". Get up under the burden with them, why? Because they need somebody to get up under the burden with them.

That's what Christians do, that's what Jesus followers do. The problem is I can't get up underneath your burden if you don't let me know you have a burden, and you can't get up under mine as long as I'm image managing, and just trying to have the imaginary version of Andy, right? He says, I want you to carry each other's burdens. The assumption is this is a community of Jesus followers who know what each other are going through, and know how to get up under the burden with one another. "Carry each other's burdens". But here is the showstopper statement, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way". When you do this, "You will fulfill the law of Christ".

The law of Christ we talk about, law of Christ is we're to love as we've been loved. That we are to love one another the way that God through Christ loved us. That is the law of Christ. Those are the New Testament, New Covenant marching orders. You are to love as God through Christ loved you. When you're not sure what to say or do, you do what love requires of you. When you're not sure what to say or do, you do what love requires of you. It's the one command that creates and defines the New Covenant ethic for all of us. And the apostle Paul says, this is amazing. That simply by being in each other's lives to the degree that we know what one another's burdens are, we've made ourself accessible, other people have made themselves accessible to us, and we get up under the burden within. He says, when you do that you fulfill, this is a prime example of what it looks like to fulfill the law, the one, single command of Jesus.

This is a big deal, this changes communities. Once upon a time, it changed the world. Burden bearing is a direct application of Jesus New Covenant command. This is why I say you can't follow Jesus in isolation, and you can't follow Jesus going solo. Because if you aren't under somebody else's burden, you aren't doing it right, and I'm not doing it right. And if you aren't in some capacity in some group of people, inviting people into the burden that you need help with, then you're not only missing out, but you're missing out on a key ingredient, an essential to being a Christian and living as a Christian.

Now, it's another way of saying the same thing, I realize. Here's the beauty of the gospel, and it's the part that's so easily overlooked. And if you're not a Christian because you had a bad church experience, it's probably because no one ever explained this to you, it's not your fault. In fact, if you resist Christianity, resist the church, and people like me, the reason is because you have a story. And if I heard your story, I'm sure I would say, "I got it, me too, I'd feel the same way". But imagine if what I'm about to say next was central throughout your experience with other Christians and in the church, because this is central, and it's something we have such a difficult time applying consistently. But when we do, and when a community of people get this right, and here it is, the beauty of the gospel is that God accepts us as we are.

I grew up in Southern Baptist church, we used to sing a hymn, "Just As I Am". Remember, "Just As I Am", some of you, "Just As I Am"? So at the end of the service, hey, if you want to put your faith in Christ, you just come just as you are, God loves you just as you are. Here's the catch, here's the beauty, here's the power, but God loves you too much to leave you that way. So what's come as you are, but come and change. Come as you are, God loves you, accepts you just the way you are. But the end, the result is transformation.

So this is the beauty of the gospel, and this is the dynamic of the local church when the local church provides opportunities to bring and reveal their authentic self and to say, "Here's my burden, I hope you don't judge me. Would you help get up underneath it with me"? And when that happens, God begins to transform us from the inside out. But that transformation always happens, always happens through community. This is why you have never heard a story of transformation that did not involve other people. You have never heard a story of somebody who, either here or anywhere else, that says, "Hey, I met you a few years ago, things were bad. What happened?" when people talk about stories of transformation at whatever level, whether it's relational, whatever. Stories of transformation always involve other people.

"Well, then I met this couple, then I met these people. Then these neighbors moved in". There's always other people. We call those providential relationships. It's like God just dropped somebody into your life, and they were part of the transformation process. In other words, nobody fixes themselves by themselves. You were not created to fix yourself by yourself. You were born into a community, God created community. And when community operates and functions the way it was designed to operate, it is powerful. So acceptance with an agenda, because that's the gospel. Acceptance, God loves you just the way they are. The agenda, He's gonna make you better, not leave you the way you are. Acceptance with an agenda should characterize the local church, because acceptance with an agenda characterizes our heavenly Father. But, and you know this, that's not gonna happen in here. Or it's not gonna happen in here, in Rose.

You know where you're looking forward. It's not gonna happen, it's not even supposed to happen in here. And that's why I need, and you need, and we all need a vacation. I'm just kidding, it's not what we need. Just wanna make sure you're paying attention. This is why we all need community. And this is why we need a circle. This is how we refer to it here, if you've been around. You need a small group, you need a group of people where those kind of conversations can happen. So 26 years ago, when we launched this church that became a whole bunch of churches. We committed to prioritizing circles over rows. Because life change happens face to face, not facing forward. Life change happens in circles, life change rarely happens in rows. Life can change can be initiated in a row.

When you hear something you never heard before, and you decide I'm gonna make a decision. I'm gonna incorporate that into my life. It can begin there, but the process always involves other people. I can give you stuff to think about, questions to answer, new insights. Here's what the scripture says. But in terms of the doing, the doing that actually makes a difference. That's a team sport, that's a community opportunity. Doing requires a trusted group of people that can encourage you, model for you, and teach you and inspire you to do. If you're married, you know this. If you're married, and you're having trouble, you've told her everything you know to tell her, right? 20 times, you've told him everything he needs to know 20 times. He doesn't listen, but you've told me. We've all told each other, and you're stuck.

What do you need? You don't need more faith, you probably need more people. You need more community, you need someone who says, "You know what, whoo, that's a rough one. I don't know the answer, I'm not a counselor. Can we pray for both of you"? You got kids, you're raising kids? Let me tell you, you know this, especially when they hit middle school and high school, you need a partner as a parent. The church, if the church is doing what the church ought to do, we should be your partner in parenting. Because we should be saying to your kids many of the things you're saying, but saying it in a way that they can hear from us that they can't hear from you.

I understand that, we got three kids in their twenties. You need a partner, and we have created environments. It's why we create these environments. And this is why if you have kids that are up street age, elementary age kids, I'm just telling you as a satisfied customer, raise your kids here. You need to have 'em here every week. We got stuff going on. Small deposits over time make all the difference. Let me just say this way, this is kind of critical. May not be true for you. If 10 years from now, you take all the things and put 'em together that you did instead of having your kids here on Sunday morning, put 'em all together, you know what you'll have, nothing. You'll have a bunch of random stuff. You'll have some good pictures, but I'm telling you, and let me say this too, this is a little bit harsh.

If you've had this thought, "Well, you know what? When my kids hit middle school, that's when there's gonna be some bumps in the road, I'll make sure I get 'em into church". It'll probably be too late, baby, yeah, it's too late. And it's not because there's something wrong with the church or wrong with you, but because community and relationship is the name of the game. And it is very difficult next to impossible to start a middle schooler or a high schooler in a community of friends when they've already got one foot on the break, as it relates to you as their parents, and the church in general.

And I'm not saying don't bring your middle school and high school students. I'm just saying, if you have an opportunity to get your kids in a circle early, it will pay dividends perhaps for the rest of their life. If I let you in on a secret, and please don't tell the children and students I told you this, we've been doing this so long. High school students, graduated from high school, go off to college. And they find they look for churches, like you did when you were in college. Eh, not so much, okay. They look for churches, okay, get this. And they don't just look for a church where they can go, "Yeah, we go to church". They go to these churches, and they're like, "How do I get in the small group? How do I lead a small group"?

I've been leading a small group since I was in middle school myself. They think, don't tell 'em I told you, they think being in a small group is normal. They think this is just what Christians do. I'm so thrilled, and not every child, not every student, okay. But we have seen the replication of this model over and over in the lives of students. And it is life changing, because they understand the power of community, and the power of relationships, where there's authenticity without being judged, and I can bring my true self. And I don't want you to miss that, I don't want your kids to miss that.

So from day one, we've prioritized, like I said, acceptance with a view to improvement. And do you know how we knew 26 years ago we needed to do this? Because we looked across the table at each other, like, "You need someone to help you with that burden. You have a burden. I don't even know if you have a burden". But we looked at each other, realized we need it, and we still need it, still need it. So here's the thing, if you use your imagination, and here's some of the pushback, we can't force or manufacture an authentic relationship. We can't force or manufacture transparency.

But lemme tell you what we're good at, we know how to set the table. And we wanna set the table for you and your children, and we want you to come to the table, and we want you to engage in group life. Not so it helps the church, it didn't help the church. In fact, it's very expensive. We've saved so much money, if I just let go of all the group staff. We just had big church and music, but you know what? From day one, we're shutting. Nope, it's not about Rose, it's about circles. We wanna invite you to the table, and you need to try this.

And again, for those of you married couples, or couples, and it's like, one's like, "Yeah, I wanna do this". And the other one's like, "No, no, no, no, no". Just do it, the worst thing that can happen is you can meet some fabulous people, have some cake, and you go home and hate it. I mean, there's no way to really lose with this. But you may meet your new best friend. You may meet another couple that has so much in common with you, but they're just a little bit further down the road, and they give you the insight that you've been missing all these years, who knows. The result, if you'll try this, the result is real people, real friends, real change. Culture says, come on, we know this, culture says, protect that image, protect that image. Jesus invites us to drop the image and allow Him to do the work on the actual me, and the actual you. And I hope in this season you will say yes to that invitation.
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