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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Deeper and Wider

Andy Stanley - Deeper and Wider

Andy Stanley - Deeper and Wider
TOPICS: Homecoming

So today we're wrapping up our series Homecoming, and it's just us and our online community. And it's been kind of fun these last couple of weeks to just really talk to the folks in the room and the people who consider North Point Community Church, their church, who gather really from all over the country and all over the world. And if you consider North Point your church, either physically or remotely, I'm so glad you're here today 'cause we're gonna talk a little bit about us. And, and if you don't consider North Point your church, in fact maybe you don't normally go to church, you're visiting family for the weekend and they said, Hey, if you're staying with us, you're going to church. You could not have picked a better time to be forced to come to church than today. Because today I'm gonna talk just a little bit about why we do what we do, how we do what we do, and why we started doing things the way that we currently do them.

And if you're of a different faith tradition or maybe no faith tradition, or you used to be a Christian or used to be a church person, part of why we do or a great deal of why we do the things the way we do them is really with you in mind. Maybe not specifically with you in mind, but people who are in your season of life and mind. So you we're gonna pull back the curtain a little bit. And if you have wondered, Hey, I think there's an agenda. You are correct, we do have an agenda and I'm gonna talk about it because it's, it's not a secret. In fact, I love our church and I'm so proud of the kind of the things we're doing.

And today, in the next few minutes, I'm gonna share something with you that you may not even know about your church that you've been doing for quite some time. We have a saying around here if you haven't heard it before. Basically we say that following Jesus has made our lives better and made us better at life. And that doesn't mean that we're better than anybody else. It just means that we feel like we are better off than we were before we started following Jesus. Because it's made our lives better. Not necessarily easier, but better. And it's definitely made us better at life. Following Jesus has made me a much better husband, a way better father than I would be otherwise. It makes us better employers and better employees, better citizens, better neighbors, that we just believe following Jesus has made our lives better and makes us better at life.

So no surprise, our mission for our church, if you didn't know it, is to inspire people to follow Jesus. Because we believe that when a person begins to follow Jesus, even if they're not convinced of everything we're convinced about Jesus, just beginning to follow the teaching of Jesus, even if you're not going to believe he's the Son of God, following Jesus will make your life better. Because you'll learn to forgive and you'll learn to get clean out your heart and you'll begin to see people the way that Jesus sees people. So that's, that is our agenda to inspire people to follow Jesus. But if that's the case, and this is when I talk to us insiders, that means that we have to be inspiring personally at home, at work, in the community, and certainly when we come together.

So last month, our church turned 28 years old. We didn't make it a big birthday, 20 eight's not a very exciting birthday, right? But we turned 28 years old and some of you around from the very beginning and our very first meeting when we were organizing this church, I said something that I've come back to over and over and over. I said, Hey, the last thing Atlanta needs is another church. But we're convinced that Atlanta needs a different kind of church or another kind of church. A church that is outward facing, a church that has unchurched people in mind, A church that understands that people don't always want answers. Sometimes they just want to be heard, that people have answers that can't, they're questions that can't be answered, that everybody is a mess at some point in their life.

And we want to be an outward facing church because we believe Jesus was an outward facing person and people who were nothing like him liked him. And we wanna be the kind of church that where people who are nothing necessarily like us or don't even normally like people like us, would have to find themselves kind of liking us and respecting us because we took on the tone and the posture and the approach of our savior. We wanted to create a church. And that this was a really high bar. I get that m and and we certainly fall short of it, but we set it as the bar. We wanted to create a church that unchurched people would actually love to attend or at least enjoy attending, or at least walk away going, you know what, I don't buy it. But they definitely do.

I may never believe what they believe, but there's no doubt in my mind that they sincerely believe what they say they believe we wanted to be that kind of church. But the challenge for being that kind of church, there are multiple challenges, but one of the challenges is, and regardless if, and if you attend a different church, this is true of your church as well. The gravitational pull of the local church is always toward the insiders. So I'm gonna use a little New Testament language that you may not be familiar with. The Apostle Paul talks about outsiders. So the opposite of an outsider's an insider.

So an insider is the, I got it all figured out, folks, you know, if you ever attended church and it looks like everybody has their life together. Their, their kids aren't even arguing. They're like, they got their shoes on the right foot. I mean, their life just seems to be wrinkle free. And you're like, yeah, one day someday I'd like to, you know, our family look more like that. Or, you know, some Christians and they just, they just seem to be such good people and they're such disciplined people and you're thinking, yeah, that's not me. So we wanted to create a church, not just for the people who have it seemingly all together. Don't be deceived. None of us really have it all together. We just, you know, we just put on a happy face because we like to keep our jobs and, you know, keep the neighbors liking us, right?

But we wanted to be a church that wasn't just for the people that had everything together. We wanted, we wanted to create a church for the people who had questions and who have doubts and who would say, Hey, you know what, this isn't a criticism of myself, but my life's a bit of a mess. Is it okay for messy people, people with loose ends, people with strange families, you know, difficult family backgrounds. Don't even ask me about how my, how blended my family is. It's more blended than you wanna know. We wanted to create an outward facing church for people, all kinds of people to come and really discover what it means to follow Jesus with all their questions and with all their doubts without feeling judged and without feeling pressure to have their life all together.

And if you are one of those people who came to our church or who began watching online, and because we have done our best to be an outward facing church, and I'll talk specifically about what I'm, what I mean by that in a minute. And your life has been transformed or you met Jesus here, or it kind of came together for you here, you're so grateful that we have resisted the gravitational pull of our church just becoming all about the insiders. Or if you brought a friend here, or you've introduced your, or your kids were introduced to, you know, real faith here through one of our kids programs or through inside out, or maybe you have a college student who's involved with the living room.

We have several college ministries around the city. If you're somebody who has seen someone's life transform through the ministry of this church, you're so grateful that we have done our best to resist the gravitational pull of just being all about Christians and just being all about insiders. And if you have a friend or a family member who's resisting faith and they, maybe they've even attended a couple times and you've talked to men to listening to a couple of sermons, but they're, they're still wrestling with or resisting faith, you are still, you're so glad that we're committed to being a church.

That's gonna resist the gravitational pull of just being all about Christians and just being all about insiders. But at the same time, this is a constant pull on our church. And the older a church gets, the more it tends to gravitate toward everybody turning their back to culture. And it just being about our four and no more. And you don't want this to be that kind of church. And I don't want this to be that kind of church and the people responsible for ensuring that it's not is us. It's not just me. It's certainly not just the staff, it's all of us. So I thought we would talk about it for a few minutes.

Now, we have been from the very beginning, and this is kind of funny to me, you may not think this is that funny, but from the very beginning we have been criticized for trying to be that kind of church in the old days, like 28 years ago, 25 years ago. The criticism seems so irrelevant now, the criticisms were like, I wrote some down, it doesn't look like a church. Well now nobody builds churches that looks like look like churches, right? The preacher Dr doesn't dress like a preacher. You know, we got that criticism. The music isn't reverent and I'm still not sure the music's reverent, but we, you know, and they do secular music.

Again, all the things that so many churches do now, we were kind of a, a leader and some people would say in polluting the church, others would say, making it more relevant. Just depends on your perspective, right? But in those early days, the criticisms were so strange. And the the, and I literally, I would, before we had a building, we, we used another church that let us rent their church on Sunday nights. And I would get up, it was much smaller auditorium. And I would get up and I would look in the back and I would literally see pastors from other churches standing along the back wall like this. Like we just, we heard about this. We wanna see if it's as bad as we heard that it really is.

You know, they don't do an invitation because, you know, a lot of us came from Baptist churches. We did an altar call every week. But my two favorite criticisms just for fun, okay? The two favorite criticisms and, and these two continue to be criticisms. In fact, you may criticize us for this even though you attend here. One is, I love this. It's so big, they must be doing something wrong. I heard this so many times. In other words, they're just drawing a crowd. It can't be real. Because if it was, if they were really teaching the gospel, if they were true to the Bible, it wouldn't be so big. And I'm like, have you read the gospels and the book and the book of Mark, the word crowd appears in every single chapter, but one, because everywhere Jesus went, he drew a crowd.

And the people who were suspicious about the kind of crowd that he drew were the religious leaders who like it can't be real. You know, look at the crowd and Jesus like real. I'm like God in a body it does not get any more real than this. And when God in a body shows up and God is love, people are drawn, even if they're not sure they believe it, even they're not sure they'll ever be quote that good. So one of the criticisms is it must be, they must have watered down the gospel to get a crowd that big. Because there's this, this assumption about Christianity that's completely false. That Christianity is about this core of persecuted people that are just hunkering down and waiting for Jesus to come.

The problem is Jesus said to the little tiny group of people, you are to go out into the world and you are to multiply yourself and you are to make more people just like you. And you're to live your life in such a way that people are drawn to you personally and that you manifest the character of your savior. And if you do, you will multiply and make more disciples. So the point could be made that the opposite of this is true. But whenever I make that point, I get criticized for criticizing small churches. And I don't have anything against small churches. In fact, several of our campuses that we've created, churches we created are much smaller than this.

So it's not really about size, it's about being on mission and whether or not you're gonna be an outward facing, multiplying church. And so we've worked hard to resist the gravitational pull. The other criticism that, that we get, and you may have heard this and you may have made it, is they're not deep. I hear this still, I read this. People don't say it to me, to my face. Of course they're not deep. In other words, if you want deep teaching, you need to go somewhere else.

So I want to talk about this for just two minutes as well. Okay? Let me define deep for you. Because apparently people don't know what deep means. Deep means that you can't touch bottom. That's what deep means, right? There's the shallow end of the pool and there's the deep end of the pool. And in the deep end you gotta work hard or you drown. Okay? So just to clarify, there's no, I'll just read this from my notes. There's no such thing as deep teaching or deeper teaching. That's, that's a Christian myth. There's confusing teaching that masquerades deep teaching. It's like that was deep. What, what do you think he was saying? I didn't understand it. It was, I didn't understand it and I don't know what to do with it. It was so deep.

Wasn't that good? Yeah. What are you gonna, I don't even, I have no idea what he's talking about, what she's talking about. But it, it must have been deep because I didn't understand it and I, oh well I shouldn't say that. So yeah, so just to clarify, there's no such thing as deep teaching. There is only deep application. This is what you find in the gospels. This is what you find the apostle Paul talking about. There's only deep application doing and applying. That's why we talk about it all the time here. Doing and applying is what makes the difference. Doing and applying is what makes the difference is why Jesus said, anyone who hears these words of mind and writes them in a notebook, no.

Anyone who hears these words of mind and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his life on a rock, a foundation that would not shift regardless of the storms. Doing is what makes the difference. Not learning, not teaching, not note taking, not, you know, just taking in more and more and more Christian information. I grew up in those kinds of churches and I'm just telling you, doing, you know, unapplied truth is like unapplied paint. You can buy all the paint to paint your house, keep it in the garage, your house doesn't change. Applying the paint is what paint is for. Applying the teaching of Jesus is what makes a person deep. And ultimately what changes the community and ultimately what changes life.

Jesus, when he talked about love and demonstrated love, his love was extraordinarily costly. The apostle Paul said, there's all these cool things going on. They're speaking in tongues and there's gifts of the spirit. There's faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. And John, who stared into the eyes of love when he spent three and a half years with Jesus, he concluded, God is love. So the deepest thing on planet earth is love. The deepest expression of the deepest thing on planet earth is an expression of love. And sacrificial love is as deep as you will ever, ever, ever go. It's simple. It's not confusing, but it's not difficult.

So there is no such thing as deep teaching. But there are deep Christians and you've met these people and they amaze you. Many of you are these people and you are amazing. It's the thing I love most about our church. When I hear stories of people doing extraordinary things, making extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of other people with their generosity, with their time, with their patience, with their love, with their, you know, sitting in circles with kids and instead coming in on Sunday afternoons and going on global ex trips, people who adopt children, people who foster children. Sandra and I were active foster parents for over 10 years.

And I'm telling you, we met some of the deepest people you'll ever meet that attend this church. When we would get together with other foster families and hear their stories, we would just walk up and hug them and say thank you, thank you, thank you. You are changing children's lives. You're changing the trajectory of their life. It doesn't get any deeper than that. I don't care that you can't recite all the books from the Old Testament. Big deal. You are deep, deep, deep because you have gone out into the deep end where you can't touch bottom. And if God doesn't come through, you're going to drown. That's what a deep Christian is. I wrote it in my notes. It's the ones who weighed out into the deep water of sacrificial application where they won't survive without God's help.

So when people say, well it's just not deep, I just want to say, but I don't, 'cause I don't wanna be defensive, I don't wanna say no, it's not that it's not deep, it's that it's so clear. It's so clear and it's so compelling and it's so convicting. You'd rather hear a bunch of words than actually walk in the spirit and follow God's leading in your life because you're gonna lead you to do some things you're not comfortable with. Go on a trip again. Get involved with some difficult children. Go serve at one of the intersect partners that we try to get you to serve in all the time. Double your giving.

Now here's, let me show you how this work, how deep works. If I got up here and preached a sermon and says, you need to double your giving, double your giving, double your, your giving, you know what you do, you would back up toward the shallow end. No, no, I'm good, I'm good. You know, I give a percentage. See when, any time, any time somebody challenges me or challenges you to do something that stretches your faith, that's, that's an invitation into the deep end. And every once in a while in your life, if you're gonna walk with God every once in a while, not every day, not every month, nobody can survive that. But every once in a while, the Holy Spirit in you as a Christian is gonna urge you to do something sacrificial and unusual. And your resistance. And my resistance in those moments is make or break as to how deep we are really gonna be. And you cannot substitute that kind of obedience and that kind of followship with more information and deeper information.

God's gonna ask you to do something that stretches you. He's gonna call you to do something that stretches your faith. That's deep. It's not about teaching, it's not about information, it's about application. This is not deep. This is just Greek. And it's not even real Greek. It's fake Greek. But you wouldn't know 'cause you don't know Greek. So I can say anything I want to, I just took Greek letters and turned English letters and turned 'em into Greek letters. It says this isn't deep, that's all that says. It's not deep. Okay? A gifts of the spirit. Gifts of the spirit that is not deep God gifted you. Not so you could play in the shallow end and not.

So I can play in the shallow end with my cool gift, whatever gift God gave me, God gifted local individuals and and members of his body to wade out into the deep end and do the things that cause them to have to trust God, to pray like crazy, to trust God like never before. And those are the kinds of people who are attracted to our churches. That's you. That's so many of you. That's why your stories are phenomenal. That's why we ask so many of you when you get baptized to share your story so we can hear the explanation and hear the story. Not of what you learn, but of what you've done in response to the call of God and what God has done in you.

So we want our church to be deep and we want our church to be wide. We want it to be, when I say deep, we wanna be theologically grounded. We want to be grounded and anchored to the resurrection of Jesus. The anchor of our faith is not the whole Bible. The anchor of our faith is an event, something that happened in history that causes us to believe that Jesus is who Jesus claims to be and that we can take his teaching seriously. And then from Jesus, we have the Apostle Paul who applies it. We have the Old Testament. That's the story leading up to it. So we want to be anchored to Jesus, the teaching of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus.

And then we wanna actually do what Jesus caused us to do. And that allows us to be deep and wide. And we wanna be as wide as the whole world. We wanna be this wide. We it's, it's the Christmas story. We wanna be as wide as what the angel said when they announced to the shepherds that God is doing something in the world right now. It is good news of great joy for all the church people. No, it is good news of great joy for all people. It's why Jesus sent his disciples into all the world, every generation, every culture, every person, every mess, every mess up, every single kind of sin imaginable. This is good news of great joy for all people. So we wanna be deep in terms of what we're anchored to in our personal application. And we want to message that's as wide as the whole world.

Now if we keep doing this and I say let's keep doing this, we're going to continue to get criticism here and there. And that doesn't really bother me. And it doesn't bother you because fortunately you don't hear much of it. My concern isn't the critics, my concern is that we accidentally and unintentionally give into the gravitational pull of becoming a church that fo is focused on insiders rather than outsiders. Because that's always the gravitational pull of the church. Here's something that, that you don't know about in terms of your, this wide part and It has nothing to do with the sermon, but I just wanna brag on you for about just a minute. 19 years ago we launched a church network, a network of churches or a network that churches could actually participate in.

And we call it the irresistible church network because again, we wanna set a high bar, we wanna try to be as irresistible corporately as Jesus was individually. So we call the irresistible church network, ICN for sure. Currently there are about 90. There are actually exactly 97 churches that are part of this network in the us. But the big news is this, that over the last few years we have launched networks in different parts of the world and they are growing like crazy. And it's because of what you've done.

So currently we have a church network in the United Kingdom, Latin America, Australia. And we just launched a new network in South Africa. And what happens is these churches and these networks, they run your game plan, they follow our model. They, in fact, they call their environments the same things we do. Wambaland and transit and up street. They preach our sermons, they just contextualize it for their particular culture. So we coach and then they do ministry. They, they, the way they need to do ministry, they even have their own conferences. Every other year we do a conference here called the Drive Conference and church leaders from all over the country come in.

We have about 2,500 I think last year. Last time two years ago, had 3000 people that showed up. And most of them are from the US plus some of our international partners. Well these, the first three networks, they have already started doing their own version of the drive conference. They call it the irresistible conference in their culture and in, you know, within their local context. So last month, it's not today's November year, last month I went down to Monterey, Mexico to participate in the Latin American Conference. They call it that, the irresistible conference. And I went on a Sunday and I, because of the time difference, I was able to get there early enough on Sunday to go to church to Vita een. We, I think we had their logo. Vita Een is the, is the, the local church in, in Monterey, their downtown Monterey.

I think they have 12 parking spots. I think that's all I could see. 12 or 15. They have to borrow parking from all over 'cause they're right downtown. They lease this amazing building that they've outfitted. And so here I just, I brought some pictures. This is a picture of the Sunday service where I was the, you'll see that all these pictures look exactly like the kinds of stuff we're doing. They actually do be rich. So I snagged this picture. They do a be rich campaign down there where they do exactly what we do. They just raise pesos rather than dollars, but they take dollars as well that they give to their local communities. And why do they do that? They do that because you do that.

So I was there for the service on Sunday and if I had gone down there just for church and flown back, it would've been worth it. And the whole time I walked around that building and saw those incredible environments, I thought of you and I thought, I wish everybody at North Point Community Church and everybody who supports us online could walk these halls and see what these fabulous people are doing in their culture. And what happened is when they discovered our model, it freed them to let go of some traditionalism that was holding them back and allowed them to become an outward facing church. So the next day, that was a Sunday. On Monday they launched the irresistible conference. You can go back next.

So here's the conferences. This is their lobby where all these church leaders, 500 church leaders from that part of Latin America came, or from South America came flooding in to be a part of this. The church in Brazil that's running our model, I wish I could tell you their whole story. They're doing their own conference in June for that part of, of the, you know, south America and Latin America. That church, this amazing church leader. He was actually at this conference, we had dinner one night. He took an older church, grew it pretty big, you know, some hundreds of people discovered our model, embraced our model, shrank it because a lot of people didn't like it.

And now they have thousands of people at this church. It's absolutely amazing. And in his Portuguese translated through one of my Spanish speaking friends to English. He just, we both just wept as he told the story. Thanking me. Thanking us for simply doing what we do day in and day out and continues to impact the world. Oh yeah, here's their couple of, here's a picture of their parking teams look familiar, right? Here's a picture of the Brazilian parking team. I had them send me some pictures too, right? Looks pretty familiar. This is a picture of the, during the conference of all these church, actually this is a picture from Brazil, from the Brazil conference last time they did it.

And then here's a picture of, I think this is transit. No, this is, I think this might be their inside out. I think the next one's a transit picture. Here's transit. You can see transit up on the wall. They do transit up, street Womble lamb. Here's another inside out picture with some of their teenagers. For those of you who lead UpStreet, here's their UpStreet up UpStreet pictures sitting around on just like, just like we do. Just like you do. And why do they do it? Because they saw at work here, they were able to contextualize it. And this is beginning to happen all over the world just because of you. You are their inspiration, not me. You are their inspiration when they come and walk the halls and see what you're doing. And they can hear sermons anytime, anywhere. Nobody cares about sermons when they see this model and they contextualize it because they're great leaders. You're their inspiration, your presence.

Here's what I wanted to say to you today. Your presence is felt all over the world, every single weekend. That's why it's incumbent upon us to continue to be an outward facing church that reflects the values, the tone and the posture and the teaching of Jesus. Now why in the world from the beginning and why in the world are we so passionate about continuing to be an outward facing church? We took our cue from something that happened in Acts chapter 15. It was called the Jerusalem Council. And what happened is the church had their first problem because the church was primarily made up of judeans or Jewish people, sons and daughters of Abraham. And because Jesus obviously was Judean or he was a Galilean, meanwhile, Paul had gone to Antioch and some friends with him and they suddenly, all these Gentiles, these non-Jewish people are putting their faith in Jesus.

So now there's a problem, it's like one group said, Hey, these folks need to become Jewish before they become Christian. Another group says no, they can just bypass Judaism and go straight to becoming a follower of Jesus. So there's a conflict in the church. They have this big kind of debate. Peter's there, Paul's there. James, the brother of Jesus is there. The Pharisees who become Jesus followers are there. And the reason Pharisees became followers of Jesus is not because of what Jesus taught. Remember they follow him around all through the gospels, you know, and debating him. The reason some Pharisees became Jesus followers is because they were in the crowd when he was crucified. And then they saw him three days later and they're like, I think we gotta switch sides. This guy's back.

So anyway, so you find Pharisees, Peter, James, Jonathan, they're debating. And at the end of, you know, both sides weigh in one group's like no, they gotta be, men have to be circumcised. They have to keep Torah, they have to sacrifice. They gotta keep the Sabbath. Peter and the apostle Paul's like, Hey, we're seeing so many Gentiles turn to faith in Jesus without Torah. We don't think they have to be Jewish first. James, the brother of Jesus stands up at the end of this meeting and here's what he says. And this verse is painted on the walls in our offices at all of our campuses. Somewhere. He said this, it is my judgment, therefore that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. In other words, he said, James, the brother of Jesus said, we need to remove every single unnecessary obstacle for anyone who is interested in taking a step toward God through Christ.

Let's remove the obstacles and becoming Jewish First, being circumcised first, having to learn the Torah first. Keeping the Sabbath laws, dietary laws first is an unnecessary obstacle. And fortunately for all of us who are gentiles, he made that decision. And the church, the, the Texan axis, the church exploded hundreds and hundreds of, of men and women. And Antioch, 300 something miles away turned to faith in Jesus. And it was an Antioch that they were first called Christians, partisans of Jesus, followers of this brand New king.

So this is what we do. We try to remove every unnecessary obstacle in terms of how we live our lives and what we do corporately and how we do church and how we talk about Jesus and how we present the gospel. Because again, what the angel said is true, it's good news of great joy for all people. That everybody means everybody. Everybody is invited, everybody is welcome and everybody can be included in the kingdom that Jesus came to establish on planet earth. So in the few minutes I have remaining, what I wanna do is I want to give you three questions to consider. And then if I have time, I wanna read you one short passage of scripture.

Three questions to consider. We actually, internally, we call this the irres resist list, that we think if we can answer these three questions the right way, that we will continue to be an irresistible church or as irresistible as possible. And this is content that we teach all the time to all of our partner churches when they're starting a church. In fact, I talked about some of this when I was in Monterey. And as I thought about this last part of this series as it's kind of just us, I thought, wow, I've never talked about this with our congregation. I should share this with them. So here are the three questions. They're very simple. You don't need to write 'em down. But if we can get this right, or I should say, if we can continue to get this right, we will continue to be an outward facing congregation that's in sync with the, with what God wants in the world.

Here are the three questions. What do people see? What do people hear? What do people experience? What do people see when they see us in at home and hear, what do people hear when they hear us talk and when they are in our building? And what do they experience when they experience us? I want to tease each of these out for just a couple of minutes and then I'll let you go. What do people see? This is so practical. Do our facilities, this is the big deal. Do our facilities look like we're expecting guests and their children? This is not a trick question. When is your house the cleanest when you're expecting children? No guests, right? Your husband, your wife. No, no. Your guest. Right?

And so the the question for you and for me is at North Point Community Church, who picks up trash? I do. We all do. This is our house. The way this building looks is so important because we are expecting guests. This is what, what what we're doing is serious. When I visit a church and it's junky, I, you know what I think you're not expecting anybody new 'cause all that. You don't even see that junk. You don't see those awful bullets and boards. You don't see that terrible signage. You don't see it 'cause you're just expecting the family. We don't have that kind of church. We are expecting the guest an organization and neatness communicates. We take this seriously.

Years ago, my assistant who we've been working together over 25 years, we would walk outta the building together with a police officer. He would just, they wanna make sure I get to my car safe. I, anyway, I appreciate it and I'm not discounting that, but it's just kind of a routine. And we, I parked in the back, back then. And so we would leave and the conversation was about, Hey, which service do you want to send to the other campuses? 'cause there's, we do the nine 11 and all along the way we're going through where middle school and UpStreet was and there's like candy wrappers everywhere. So as we're talking, I'm picking up. I just cannot pick up the trash. I did this so often.

It's so funny as the three of us are walking before long without ever asking all three of us, including the police officers picking up wrappers off the floor, 'cause it's like, this is our house. You know, the what, what, what it looks like and feels like is a really, really, really big deal because we're expecting guests and what we're doing is important under what do they, what do people see? Do, do people see themselves? This is so important when somebody shows up at this church, they need to, for guest services and in the hallways and where we're checking in children at Transit Middle School, up street in BLE Lam. People need to see themselves. If they're older, they need to see older people. If they're younger, they need to see younger people. If they have kids, they need to see people with kids. If they're of a different nationality, it's so great.

When we have international people standing at the doors, we, everybody that's, that's, that's a part of this community. Every kind of person that's a part of this community, when they show up, they need to see somebody that looks a little bit like them because that says, Hey, you're welcome here. This church is for you. This is why we need more of you to volunteer with Check-in with children and more of you to volunteer in our guest services. Guest services isn't about pointing and handing people stuff and answering questions. I mean, people go places they've never been before all the time and figure it out. The reason we have guest services is we want people to feel welcome and we want people to see selves. That's why it's so important. And again, that's true across the board with all of our volunteer.

That's number one. Number two, what do they hear? What do people hear? First of all, do we have a good reputation in the community? This is huge. Do you know who determines, for the most part, if we have a good reputation in the community, you and your community? Because if you're, if you're a jerk in your community, in your neighborhood, and then they see that little sticker on the back of your windshield and somebody's like, what is that? And you're like, I don't know what that is. One of my kids' programs stuck it on there. I don't know what that little end with the orange thing is. Oh my goodness. Did I just say what I think I said? You might. Anyway. Yeah.

So this is huge. This is huge for me. What kind of neighbors are we? Right? Do we have a good reputation in the community? One of our organizational imperatives that we talk about internally all the time is endear the community. Endear the community, endear the community. And here's what we mean by that. We want people to know we're here in terms of, we want people to know this church is in the community. We want people to be happy that we're in the community and we want people to be better off.

We want the community to be better off because North Point Community Church is in their community. So how we live our lives and how we relate to other people is huge. Because if I am a jerk and then somebody, and you invite somebody to come to church here and they're like, Andy Stanley, he's your pastor. Yeah, yeah. I ran into him the other day. Rudest guy I've ever met. They're not coming, right? So don't mess up my opportunity to invite my friends and I'll try not to mess up your opportunity to invite your friends, right? What do people, I mean how, you know, how do people hear about us and what's our reputation in the community? This is why we do backpack drives, food drives, bicycle drives. It's why we do be rich.

And real quick, I gotta tell you one more thing about Be Rich. When we celebrated Be Rich a few weeks ago, you hopefully you were here for the big celebration. The, the big number, the, the amount of money that you gave was $8,023,460, $8 million you gave in just you know, a few weeks, which is amazing. Well, some of you kept giving and some of our other churches hadn't put their money in yet. We have passed nine and a half million dollars that our churches have given to local communities and to our, some of our global partners, nine and a half million dollars. This is gonna be the biggest be Rich we've ever had.

If your first time here, what is Be Rich, be rich is we collect money and then we give it to local nonprofits that are doing a fabulous job, not just faith-based, anybody who's knocking it outta the park with women and children and job opportunities and education and foster care and adoption. Anything that makes the world a better place, we give a hundred percent of that money away over nine and a half million dollars. That is amazing. That is such goodwill in the community. What do they hear? Is our communication clear and engaging in the hallways at connections and our circles? It's why we need more of you to be small group leaders because you're good facilitators and you've been sitting in a small group for a long time. It's time to step out and lead in terms of what do they hear? Is our content helpful?

We know it's true, but we wanna say helpful things with handles. So the list is what do they see, what do they hear, what do they experience in terms of what do they experience? And I kind of touched on this, what's, what's it like for people to experience you? What's it like as Jeff Henderson asked years ago, it's such a great question. What's it like to be on the other side of you? You are a part of the reputation of our church and so am I everywhere I go, not just here in the building, could it be said of you, Hey, I don't necessarily believe like him, but I wish I was more like him. I don't really believe everything she believes, but she's the kindest, most generous person I've ever met. I hope my son's marry somebody like her. She's amazing. I mean, is that the kind of reputation you have in the community?

I don't see the world the way they do, but they're some of the finest, kindest, most generous people I've ever known. What's it like to experience us, not just you and me in the community, but when they walk through the doors of our church, are they perplexed by what we believe but amazed at how well we treat each other and how well we treat them? Do you and I show up with a what can I do to help mindset on Sunday? Or do we show up with a hope? Nobody got my seat mindset on Sunday. Easy for me to say. Nobody sits in my seat. I realize that and I love the fact, I love the fact that the front row is generally always the same people. I'm so happy somebody wants to sit on the front row.

So don't get me wrong, you know, but when you show up on Sunday, even if you're not an official volunteer, if this is your church, you're a volunteer, you are creating the atmosphere and you're creating the win and you're creating the experience for people who are showing up for the first time. If you walk through the atrium and you're headed in here and you see somebody walk in and stop and look for signs, that's somebody who's here for the first time and I wanna empower you to walk up to them and say, hIs this your first time? How can I help you? And either introduce them to a guest services person or if you know the answer to the question, you just answer the question, you are hereby empowered because what people experience is what we create for them to experience.

So under what do do they experience? Are we believable, approachable? Do we reflect the tone and posture and approach of Jesus? So here's, here's the list, this is it. What do they see? What do they hear? What do they experience? We determine that. And this is so important. These questions are mission critical to what God has called us to do as a local church. We determine the answers to these questions and the answers to these questions may determine whether or not somebody comes back to church. Not just this church, any church. Because in a church this size, every Sunday there is somebody that's gonna give it one more shot. Every church this size, every Sunday there's somebody bringing somebody and they are praying like crazy that I'm on my game, that the music's good and it's not too long and it's not too loud, but it's just right. They're praying like crazy that their friends' children love those environments. They're, they're praying that we get it right for them.

So this isn't an add-on. This is more than just be nice people. It's absolutely mission critical to the degree that we keep these questions front and center to that degree, it shows that we care about the people that Jesus cares about, the people who are far from God, who have questions doubt, church hurt messes they can't seem to navigate to that degree, we will be on mission. And as a bonus, if we keep these three questions front and center, this will ensure that we stay healthy. Outward facing churches are healthy churches. The churches that split and have problems and argue and fight over the dumbest stuff 100% of the time they become inward facing churches. They become like a family that can't get along. The local church was designed to be like this, not like this.

So when we get those three, these three questions, right? Personally and corporately, we have almost guaranteed our health as a local church. And you wanna raise your family in a healthy local church. I'll conclude real quick by reading this passage that I love and I'll try not to comment on it. This is the apostle Paul talking about why he's so compelled to do what he does and then I'll pray. He says this, though I am free and belong to no one. I have made myself a slave to everyone. And what does he mean by slave? You know what he means? He says this, I'm willing to give up some of my rights for the sake of reaching other people. I'm willing to give up some things I have coming to me that I legitimately have coming to me in order to make sure other people understand the gospel. And that's what he says. To win as many people as possible.

I'm willing to forego some of my rights for the sake of other people. He goes on to the Jews. I became like a Jew to win a Jew. To which we say, wait, you are Jewish. He's like, no, I'm talking about those Jews in Jerusalem. You know, they're kind of buttoned up all around the temple. When I go to Jerusalem, I know how to fit in because I want to influence them to those under the law. I became like one under the law, although myself, I'm not under the law. But the reason I kind of fit in was to win those under the law to those not having the law. I became like one, not having the law, though I am not free from God's law, but I'm under Christ's law.

And what is Christ's law? Christ's law was this, you are to love as I have loved you. The apostle Paul says, I'm not under Torah anymore. I'm under something far more demanding than Torah. I am to love other people the way that God through Christ has loved me. I'm under Christ's law so as to win those not having the law. Verse 22 to the weak, I became weak to win the weak. I've become all things to all people. So that, and this next phrase, I hope is a phrase that always describes us. I become all things to all people so that by all possible means that's the church I raise my kids in. That's the kind of church I want you to raise your kids and your grandkids in. And how we answer those three questions and how seriously we take them will determine if we continue to be that kind of church. I do all this, I by all possible means that I might save some and I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I might share in its blessings.

28 years ago, we decided that we're gonna be a by all possible means, church. And I say let's keep going because it's good news of great joy for all people. Everybody means everybody. So let's be deep, which means we are waiting out into the deep and doing things that we can't do without God's help. Let's keep doing that and let's be wide. Let's continue to be as wide as the world, as wide as the heart of our Savior who came for the entire world. And if we do, here's Jesus promise to our local church. It's part of what we call the great commission where he told 'em to go make disciples. And here's what he said. We get this wrong most. I think when people preach this, they don't preach it right? In my opinion, Jesus said, if you are a disciple making body, if you are a multiplying outward facing group of people, here's my promise to you. Surely I am with you. Not everybody, not the way he talked about it.

Matthew 28, if you're on mission with me and in sync with me, I am with you always to the very end of the age, to the very end of the age until I return to physically establish my kingdom in a new heaven and a new earth. If you love this church, it's because the group that came before you we're committed to answering those three questions correctly. If we're gonna be the church that the next generation continues to love and benefit from, then this generation, us, those of us in the room, those of you who watch, we've gotta be equally as committed. So let's continue to be the by all possible means, church. And if you are not a Christian, now you know what we're up to and we don't want a thing from you, but we certainly want something for you. Let's pray together.

Heavenly Father, thank you for this group. Thank you for the group that came before them. Thank you for the group that had the vision to even buy this piece of property. There was so much property. What were we gonna do with 80 acres? Father, thank you for the generous people. Thank you for the men and women whose funerals I have performed who I'm not sure we would be here without their extraordinary commitment. Thank you Father, for the children that are in these hallways, in these small, these classrooms, for our middle schoolers, our high schoolers, the future leaders of the church, and please help us to get it right and please help us to stay on mission and give us wisdom to know what to do with what we just heard and the courage and the faith to do it. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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