Chris Hodges - Authentic, Honest, Life-Changing Relationships
Who's glad to be in church today, anybody? Oh, good to see you. Big hello, everyone, welcome to Church of the Highlands. Big hello to those that are watching at one of our locations around the state. I always like to take just a moment, look into the camera, and say a big hello to the men and women in the Alabama Department of Corrections. We love you guys so very much. You're not a project to us, you are our church family. About 50% of you are still worshiping at home, keeping safe, God bless you today. Be sure to download the children's content and have children's church after you have big church, and so God bless you guys today.
I want to give our special shout out and a big round of applause to one campus who today, after five years of being portable, setting up, taking down, setting up, taking down, setting up for more than 250 Sundays, they just did it over and over, they are having their first Sunday in a fully paid for with cash building in the great city of Gadsden, Alabama. Come on, everybody, say a big hello to Gadsden. Yeah, it's an exciting day, and I've been getting texts and pictures from the team that are there. And the buildings are full, parking lots are full, people are checking it out, so God bless you guys.
Today, we're so glad that you're along for the ride today. By the way, before we move any further, let me just say thank you. I mean this genuinely from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your incredible generosity. That's what makes it possible for us to just do these projects with cash. We are a church that is completely debt-free by the grace of God, amen everybody. And our model is that we start churches portably for a number of years and grow them, and then build a building with cash. And so, now our trustees are moving their attention to three different campuses where we already own property. And then at the speed of our generosity, we'll build buildings in Woodlawn and in McCalla and in Alabaster, and so we're very excited about that.
Yeah, designs are already to go, yeah. If you want to clap, come on, you want to clap, go ahead and give God praise for that, all right. So anyway, thank you for your generosity. I do want to make this one note, though. We get cards, letters, texts, and emails every week from people who are watching our services because many people are still at home, they're watching their services online. And I just want to say to you I'm so glad that you're watching online, but I want to encourage you to support your local church.
So our church takes care of us here, you give to your local church. They need you more than ever right now, so I just want to encourage you guys in that. We are celebrating this week our anniversary. You already saw this in the video news segment, and I won't repeat the things you've already seen, although a bunch of people just watch the message every week, don't do that. Watch, if you do anything, just do the worship part, it's way better than this, right? I personally believe. But just be sure you know that this week we're celebrating 20 years as a church. February 4, 2001 was our actual launch date, and so we have two celebrations, that are completely different, and we're inviting you to both.
On Wednesday, first Wednesday of February 3, kind of more of a homey feel, a lot of old pictures. And I may or may not be getting behind the piano and leading a song. I don't know, I just heard that, we'll see. And so, but we're going to have a little fun. I've got a lot of friends coming in, our overseers are coming in to celebrate with us, so it's going to be a very, very special day. And then on Sunday, February 7, then we have really a grand expression of thanks to God for what he's done over 20 years. We have a gift for you, so don't miss that. And between the two on Thursday night, Friday night, you dream teamers already know this, we're going to have our dream team party.
So, it's going to be a fun week of celebration and I can't hardly wait. I'm really truly beside myself, excited about it. We're in part number five in the conclusion of a series that we've called "My Church" based off of this verse in Matthew chapter 16, where Jesus said, "I will build," say it out loud, "I will build my church". I like how personal he makes this, my church. I'm building it, "And the gates of hell will not overcome the church". And I believe that. I know a lot of people see a lot of hell going on around you in a variety of different ways, but I'm telling you what, I'm telling you, God is setting up the church to be light in the middle of the darkness. Can I hear a good amen, everybody?
But you have to build it right. We have to have solid, healthy churches. And 20 years ago when we started, we had loads of conversation about what that should look like. And we decided 20 years later, we would remind ourselves lest we forget. And so, every week, there's been a different installment of a distinctive or a value that we built on 20 years ago that I just don't want us to forget. We talked about that we need to keep our passion, just like come on, we need to worship God like we all got saved last night. I mean, be a passionate church. We want to be a powerful church. We can't rest on man's ability. We believe in the Holy Spirit.
We believe in the power of God. We believe that God is vibrantly working through the church today, just like he was in the book of Acts, amen everybody? We talked about we're a tree of life, church. You have to watch that message to fully understand that concept, but it truly is a foundational teaching of our church. And then last week, Dino preached, y'all, when he talked about the Word of God, the power of the Word of God. Today, I want to give you the final installment, it's one I've been teaching a lot over the 20 years. It's taken the most work to get where I believe God wanted us.
In fact, to this day, we help a lot of churches. We are actually actively coaching and resourcing more than 15,000 churches that are using the models and the tools that we use that we just give away to these churches. And of all the things we teach, what I'm getting ready to tell you about is the hardest one to get into them. In fact, 20 years ago, most churches had very little success in this very all-important area that we need more than just church on Sunday. That it's critical that we get in vibrant, authentic, honest, life-changing small group relationships. And honestly, people's human nature is, "I don't know, I don't know about that. That seems a little vulnerable, feels a little awkward. Don't know about that, I'll just sit in the pile".
Listen to me, you need more than the pile, you need more than this on a Sunday. I'm going to make the case. And honestly, I just want to see... can I just say it like I feel it, everybody? Just I don't know if y'all noticed this, but we've raised our level of preaching around here. I think desperate times require anointed preaching, and I just want to say it like I feel it today, all right? I just want, this is not an option, this is not an option. I want you to lean in today. Let me just make the biblical case that this is not an option, this is not an add-on. We need to go to church, and go to groups, and go to that conference. You know, you can read your Bible. No, no, no, no, this is critical, it's vibrant. It's critical for your life.
We call it the backbone of our church. You ready for this? It's the backbone of your own life. You'll collapse without meaningful relationship. In the very first year of church, we were in the basement of my house for two years as an office. 'Cause we couldn't afford a little office building. I'm just kind of, I can be frugal to a fault. And it was working, so I wasn't in a rush. And so I just officed out of my house, the people that were helping us build the church, and I would have appointments outside. And we didn't have an office, so we didn't have a phone. The church's phone number that's the same one to this day, 980-5577, the same number was the cell phone on my hip. Do y'all remember the clips right there? Remember the cell phone?
I was proud, walked around. There it is, baby, you know? And then remember back in those days it was kind of flippy. It'd feel like Star Trek 'cause it, you know, beam me up, Scotty. I don't know, I just liked it. And so, there it was, and I'd go along, and the phone, it would ring, it would vibrate. I was waiting for it to ring, by the way. I just please somebody call, be interested in this thing. And it rang and I, "Hello. Church of the Highlands, can I help you"? And they said, "Well, can I speak to the pastor"? Like, "There ain't nobody else on staff, speaking. Right, he's here, here it is". And she said, "Do you guys offer counseling"? And I said, "Of course we do, we counsel".
Well, I was speaking, I was it. You know, "Yeah, sure. We do counseling". And I said, "Have you been visiting our church"? She goes, "No, I go to another church". And I said, "Well, why aren't... I mean, I'm happy to help you, but why aren't you going there"? And she goes, "They can't know what I'm going through". And I thought, "Okay, I'm counseling right now. That's your problem, you know, that's your problem". 'Cause she had learned to do what a lot of people do, and that is just kind of put on, play church, got to put it all on. "How you doing"? "Praise the Lord. Amen, doing fine". You ain't fine. You're like that couple who fight, they were fighting in the kitchen. And the phone rings, "Hello. Oh yeah, oh yeah, doing great. It's good to... okay, I'll talk to you later".
Some of y'all, that's what your Sundays look like. You're fighting. Some of you men, your arm's tired from slapping all the kids in the back, and then you tell everybody, "Now, y'all smile when we get in there". "How you doing"? "Well, amen, praise the Lord, praise God". You know, and you get home and it's still a mess. Are y'all with me, everybody? We've learned to kind of put on. Okay, I'm going to challenge that today. We need some authentic relationships. We need some real. We need to get real, why? Because there's a person, a man, and he's alone. In fact, I want to go so far to say this, I think loneliness, depression, and anxiety are the number one health crisis in the world.
COVID-19 is very serious, take it seriously. In my opinion, it's not the greatest crisis, health crisis. We got ourselves isolated, self-preservation, alone, insulated from others, and there's no end to our toil. We're soul sick. And that's why depression is on the rise, medication, depression's on the rise. They said in 2020, one out of four people under the age 30 considered suicide. One out of ten of the rest of us, and that's the CDC number. Well, that's a lot. In fact, I read one report that in the month of October of 2020 alone in Japan, more people committed suicide than died of COVID-19 in the entire year. What's going on? Soul sick. And it comes from loneliness. It says... so, what do they do? Well, they try to get content with their wealth.
In other words, maybe my job will give me happiness. Maybe my career will make me happy. Maybe if I just show up at church and be in a few kind of environments. No, no, no, he says, "For whom am I toiling? And why am I depriving myself of real enjoyment, real fulfillment"? And then he gives the answer in the next verse. "Two are better". Two are better. Like you need to have somebody in your life, like real meaningful relationships, why? Because they have a good return for their labor, meaning that two do more than the work of two, they do the work of ten. There's a multiplied effect when you join a team. And if either of them falls down, and news bulletin, you will.
Stop acting like it doesn't happen, you're going to fall down. One can help the other up, but... every time I've read this, I keep thinking of Mr. T, "Pity the fool". No, that's not what it says. "Pity anyone who falls and there's no one there to help them up". And a lot of us had that happen to us in 2020. Some of you are there today. You look up, but you're really down, and there's no one there to help you up. Man, I really need you to lean in and consider what I'm saying to you today. "If two lie down together, they'll keep warm, but how can you keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered".
And by the way, one is overpowered. I don't care how strong you are, if you're by yourself, you're lunch. Y'all seen the Discovery Channel thing where, you know, they got the herd of animals and as long as they're all together. And sure enough, one of those little baby calves are going to see a little piece of grass over there, nibble, nibble, nibble. You know, and they go over there and the hyenas are in the bushes going, "That's what we were waiting for". And I won't tell the rest of it in church, but y'all know what happens, right everybody? And that's some of us, but two can defend ourselves. "A cord of three strands is not quickly broken". And I'm trying to encourage you to let you understand we are a church of groups, that's what we are.
We knew that the phenomenal, anointed, inspiring, nothing like it preaching of Chris Hodges was not going to be enough. I knew you'd laugh, right? Right, sure. No, it's not enough. We need some people who really know what's going on inside of us and I'm begging you to consider that relationships could be the answer, real, vibrant, and I'm going to show you what they should probably look like. I grew up in the... I was born in '63, so the TV I was watching was in the '70s and '80s. I actually don't watch a lot of, you know, sitcoms. In fact, I don't watch any of them right now, just none of them interests me.
Now, I'm not saying that for any other reason, just that I don't. But in the '70s and '80s, I used to watch that show called "Cheers". Anybody remember "Cheers"? Yeah, and it was a group of people who got together every day in a bar. And the theme song, I just think it resonates with how I feel about this topic today 'cause the theme song that started the show goes like this, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got". Amen to that. "Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot". Amen to that. "Wouldn't you like to get away"? Of course we would. "Sometimes, you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came. You want to be where you can see our troubles are actually all the same. You want to go where everybody knows your name".
And that's a bar, but it should be the church. I mean, I'm glad for them, but that should be us. And so, since the beginning, if you want to know one of our distinctives and it's taking a boatload of work, it's to convince people, "These are good for you". Now, in the first six or seven years, we had to grow people and warm them up to the idea. In fact, when we started church 20 years ago, any church that had groups or Sunday school classes considered 40% of the Sunday attendance as successful, like that's the highest you'll ever get. And I wasn't satisfied with that. I am happy to report that over the last 12 or 13 years, we've actually had more people attending our groups than come on a Sunday.
We have 107% of our congregation in groups. More people go to groups than listen to me preach. Hurts my feelings, but I really am glad about it, right? And they've been meeting in homes, and parks, at office buildings, in restaurants. And many of them are studying different types of curriculum around parenting. That's what Tammy and I did for a number of years. Some are just getting together for fellowship. Tammy's led a group for all these 20 years and all they do is share prayer requests. I still can't understand how that takes an hour and a half, but those ladies. Anyway, that just takes a while. Just they talk about it, and they share and cry and pray for each other, it's a powerful thing.
We did parenting small groups, we've done financial groups where you can get out of debt. We've led groups over marriage. There's all types of groups, prayer groups. In fact, this past year, I assigned my team 'cause we couldn't find good curriculum to write curriculum around racial reconciliation, that they can even have discussions. It's called "Who's Your Neighbor"? and where people can get together and have conversation, and learn, and understand each other's different journeys that take place. And I'm so excited about that being released. One of my favorite types of groups, and if you can't decide what kind of group to get in, are called freedom groups. Anybody been in a freedom group? Yeah. And they never raise their hand, they, "Whoo," why? 'Cause they're free, that's why.
And honestly, honestly, that's the only group curriculum that I ask all of you at some point in your Highlands journey to go through freedom groups. It's powerful, where it just basically peels the layer over everything that's happened to you over the past however long you've been alive and gets down to the core of who you are so you can serve God with real freedom. And we have these groups in semesters, we have a winter spring semester that's 13 weeks, then we take a break. We have a short summer semester, it's about six weeks, then we take a break. And then we have a fall semester, that's 13 weeks, that's our model. And we encourage you, and next week starts all this.
And so, if you go online today, there are already 3200 groups on that site and it's growing. We'll have more by next Sunday when they officially launch, but many of the leaders have already posted their groups on our website, and it says search engine. So, you can pick like, "I need Tuesday with just guys". And I'm talking to the guys, none of you girls, like, "I'm a girl, just guys". No, don't do that. That would be weird. And but just I want to study this topic, and it'll reduce the number down to a few, and they call the leader and kind of interview them, check it out. And I always tell people shop. Don't settle on just one shop. And you get connected, and you'll discover what we've been talking about for 20 years.
And I just want to say it again that real life change won't happen on Sunday. Really what Sundays do for you is they give you an opportunity to worship together, which I think is powerful. And honestly, preaching should just stir you to action, but it can't do the action itself. Did you hear that? Sundays are a catalyst. It should crank up your desire for life change, but it can't change your life. 'Cause life change doesn't happen in just moments, it happens through a process of our lives being developed. Real life change happens in the context of relationships.
And by the way, I can prove this is true. Name the last ten sermons I preached. You can't, I can't, and I preached them. But name me ten people who have impacted your life, good or bad, and you can rattle those off right now. Why? 'Cause your life's not shaped by information, it's shaped by relationships. So, everybody read this verse out loud, and notice I didn't say asoft, I said aloud, okay? Romans chapter 12, come on, everybody together, "Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others". Turn to your neighbor and say, "You need me".
Come on, tell them, tell them, tell them. That's the most intimacy husbands and wives have had in three months, good job. And I think this dude got a date, good job. All right, way to go. Well, none of us, listen, we need each other. We got to stop playing this, "I'm just out for number one. I got to watch out for me. I got to make this about me now. I got to just, you know, I got to, it's about me". No it's not, no it's not. In fact, I want to show you, I've been teaching this for 20 years, I'm just going to teach it again with some fresh meat on it. What's called the Johari window, it's a quadrant your life is in, and you have all four of these in this quadrant. The first quadrant of your life is called the arena. The arena is defined by it's what you know about you and it's what I know about you.
So, if we got to talking, immediately I know some things about you. I know what you look like, kind of know your personality a little bit, but I don't know you. It's just the public you. Unfortunately, most people's religious experiences are just in the area of arena, which is why there's never real growth. So, we just put on. It's been going on for centuries, by the way. Even in Jesus's day, Jesus confronted arena-only religion. These are harsh words, but I just want to preach it like I'm feeling it today. But Jesus said in Matthew 23, "These religious folks, everything they do is just for people to see".
So they carry a Bible, you know, they raise their hands maybe, they amen or smile, they put on something nice to wear, but that's not what's really going on in the inside. They make their phylacteries, and I know that's a big word, the phylactery was a leather box that they would strap to their heads that had Scriptures from the Torah in it. And so in other words, they had the Scriptures on the outside, which is fine. I'm not knocking that, but God says, "No, no, no, I want to write them on your heart. I don't want you to have them here, I want you to have them here on the inside of you". But they just make big phylacteries like, "Hey, I'm a religious person". "And the tassels on their garments long". He says, "But woe to you, you've missed it, you teachers of the law, Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like..."
And what a picture. I bet if you were honest with yourself, some of you actually feel like this, white washed tombs. I'm smiling, but I'm not smiling. I look happy, people think I'm actually, people next to me right now think I'm happy and I'm not. I'm dead. I look beautiful on the outside. But on the inside, man, there's death. I'm not well. In fact, there's even some unclean areas of my life as well. And that's why we have to get, even though we are a large church, praise God for that. We're large, by the way, because souls matter. We're going to keep getting bigger until we have presented the gospel to everybody we possibly can. That's not an option. Let me say it this way, we're big because the world matters, but we're also small because you matter.
So, we have created the smaller environment so all of us can have someone that we know and we're close to. Had somebody say, "This church is too big". I said, "No it's not". I said, "You can go to a church of 120 where there are no relationships and it won't feel any better than this one". Said, "It's the culture of the church, not the size of the church that makes the difference". And I'm here to declare that we are a church of relationships. Can I hear a good amen, everybody? I want to encourage you in groups. Here's the second quadrant in the Johari window that you have, I have, and it's called the mask. And I'm not talking about the one you're actually wearing right now. It's defined this way, it's the part of my life, watch this, that I know, but you don't know. It's your secrets.
And by the way, you have secrets, and I do too, by the way. There are things about me you don't know and I ain't telling you. Now, I am in trouble, though, if I'm not telling anybody. So, I don't have a problem with you having secrets. What I have a problem with and what the Bible has a problem with is you being the only one with them. 'Cause you have an area of your life that someone needs to know so you can be safer, someone who can hold you accountable, someone who can help you through it. 'Cause we've been saying this for 20 years and it's as true today as it's ever been, probably more so after 2020, that we'll always stay as sick as our secrets. Like you wonder, "Why doesn't God help me with this problem? I keep getting depressed, or I keep clicking on the wrong thing, or I'm addicted to this and nobody knows".
Well, your answer, your answer is in the fact that you need to let someone other than God know. That's why the Apostle Paul said, "We refuse to..." If you ever wanted a verse, everybody, there it is, all right? No, just kidding. I don't know why that's funny to me and it wasn't funny to you, that's hilarious. Anyway, no, it's not talking about the physical ones, it's a metaphor. We refuse to wear masks and play games. Rather, we keep everything we do and say in the open, why? Because when you're honest, that's the first step of freedom. Just saying, "Hey, guess what"? I'm telling you, you're probably actually even more than halfway to your freedom, just when you let someone know. No, the real question is, then why don't we? 'Cause you kind of inherently know that's true, right? So, why don't we?
Well, for some very good reasons. One is you've done it before with the wrong person. And they went out and told everything, or they disappointed you or let you down. Watch this, lean in. A bunch of you don't have the relationships you need because you had the wrong relationship earlier. And you've allowed the stain and the pain of that experience keep you from what you need now. It'd be like boiling water poured on your leg, and so you decide, "I'm done with water". No, you let the abuse of something keep you from something that actually keeps you alive. And I'm encouraging you, I know it hurt and I know it hurts you, and it created a scar.
But listen to me, you still need relationships. And not only past experiences, just all out fear. I had this fear when I first kind of got involved in small groups and went to somebody's house that I did not know, I'm driving over thinking, "There going to be a group of people in a circle, and there's going to be a chair in the middle, and they're going to put me in it, right? And everybody's going to lay their hands on me and cast the devil out of me". I don't know what they were going to do. I was like, "Man, I don't think so". But that's not what happens. People get so concerned, so fearful because they're, "Man, I can't let anybody know".
And honestly, if I can be honest with you, I have some issues. I hope that doesn't disappoint you, I have some things. There's days I get discouraged, there's things that... but I have friends who know that. I've just learned that there are people who need to know what I'm going through. And so, honestly, I'm very honest about where I am, what I'm struggling with. I have people that I talk to. But my fear is sometimes they're going to be disappointed in me, and that's not what happens. CS Lewis said it best, he said, "Friendship is born at the time when one person says to another, 'What, you too? I thought I was the only one.'"
And some of you have talked yourselves out of this, you thought, "I'm the only one". No, you're not. You're going to find out we are all in the same place. Just some of us got in this hospital a little ahead of you, but we all needed the healing that only comes from God, amen everybody? Amen. I love this, you know this verse, it's probably the most famous verse in the Bible. It says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life". That's salvation. Please don't stop there. Please don't stop at the fact that, "Well, I'm a Christian. I'll get there, I'll be in heaven". That's not enough. "For God did not send his Son in the world to condemn you".
So, he knows that even after salvation, we all still have issues. One translation says, "And he doesn't point an accusing finger at you, he came to help". Jesus didn't come to make you feel sorry, he came to set you free. Come on, say, amen to that. He came to save the world. "For whoever believes in him is not condemned". Now, watch the process, "And whoever does not believe already stands condemned". So, if you don't take the steps after salvation, you stay in that bad place because they have not believed in the name of the Son and the one and only God. He says, "But this is the verdict".
So, here's what you should do, in other words. Light has come into the world, but people say, "No, no, no, I'll keep it to myself. I don't want anybody to know, Because their deeds are evil. Whoever does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed". And God's saying, "Please don't go there". "But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God," and you can experience real freedom. So, what do we do, so what do we do? I love this verse, this is the theme verse for groups if there ever was one.
Is anybody enjoying this preaching today? I'm getting fired up. I'm so sorry... I just need, give me an amen once in a while just to keep me going, you know? All right, James chapter 5 says this, it says, "So confess your sins," look who to, not to God. "Confess your sins to each other, pray for each other so that you'll be healed". So, you confess to God to get forgiveness, but you've got to confess to God's people to experience real healing. Confess, what does that look like? That means not to everybody. I'm not saying next week, get in group, "Okay, everybody, here's my list. You're not going to believe it". No, I'm not talking about that.
In fact, for me, it usually takes about five or six weeks before I really feel comfortable in the group and realize, "Okay, these are some folks that I can..." Or maybe not even the group. Like there's one guy that I just, man, we've become buddies. "Bro, can we talk after small group out in the front yard. And God, I need some help, man". And I'm encouraging this type of dialogue, these types of relationships. And don't just leave it there, "Pray for each other". Pray for each other. I'm saying when you get in groups next week, exchange phone numbers, check in on one another, let's watch out for each other. I love this verse in Colossians. Sorry for all the verses, I just got fired up about this message. "Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He's always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in the will of God, mature and fully assured".
I'm telling you, you guys need some Epaphrases in your life. Just fun to say. Who are wrestling in prayer. And I train every small group leader, every single small group leader to pray for you by name every day and facilitate you exchanging names with each other so that we're getting prayer and we're fighting the good fight of faith with each other, amen. Here's the third quadrant, and that is not only do you have an arena everybody knows, and you have a mask, the part that only you know, I don't know if you even realize this or not, but you have a blind spot. And the blind spot is the part of you that we all see and you don't see yet. This is spinach in the teeth, so to speak, right? This is the hanger.
Friends don't let friends have a hanger. Come on, somebody. I mean, there's nothing worse than getting home from an event and Tammy said, "You know, you had this little hanger the whole night". "Like baby, you're supposed to tell... friends don't let friends keep a hanger right there", y'all know what I'm talking about? And the truth is all of us have this area of our life, everybody sees it. And the question is, this is a tough one because I don't really like people telling me what I need to fix unless I know they love me. So, a stranger comes up, "I think you need to change". Well, you know what? I don't care what you think. But if somebody that I've poured my life into, and them into me, and I trust them, and they say, "You don't know this, but you were harsh with that person right there". "I was"? "Yeah. Like the way you speak to your wife, dude, that's not right".
I'm saying my life's better if I have somebody in my life like that. Proverbs says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend. It's the enemies who kisses you and tells you everything's fine". No, I need some people who are honest with me from time to time. I need people who, when I'm looking this way, they're looking that way. They have my back. And that's why Hebrews says, "See to it," and I'm asking you, please church, listen to me, please see to it that if you see somebody who's not doing well, that you don't ignore it. Let's help each other make it through this season. "See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God, but encourage one another daily as long as it's called Today".
Notice that word is in parenthesis and capitalized 'cause it means it's sometimes, they're in such critical place, you can't even wait till tomorrow to do it. You need to deal with their today right now. It's that timely text, it's that just getting to them in the right time to encourage you. 'Cause y'all, we need each other to make it. Can I get a better amen out there? We really do. Here's the last one. So, you have this arena that you know, I know, everybody knows. That's not enough. You have a mask that only you know and I don't know. There's a blind spot that I don't know, but you know. But there's also this fourth quadrant called the potential. And it's defined this way, I don't know and you don't know either, but I still have potential. Like this it's the part that God knows. There's a part of your life that you haven't realized yet.
Let me say it this way, you have not yet to experience the best version of you. Now, if you're satisfied to stay there, help yourself, I'm not. But here's the problem, I don't know what it is. And a lot of times, you don't know what it is either. The question is, how do I find it? And you find it when we come together. Like you can't, the Bible calls us a body. And 1 Corinthians 12 says, "We are all a part of the body". But the part is not what matters, it's the connection of the part to another part. Like the hand really isn't that great of a hand if it doesn't know where the arm is. The hand can't have its potential.
Now, this is a gross illustration, just forgive me, okay? Just forgive me, this is gross. It just is, all right? But if you have a little child and you cut the hand off, you come back a year later, the rest of the child would have grown, but the hand would've shriveled up and gotten black and ugly. And some of us do that. We're trying to exist and reach our potential, disconnect. No, no, no, the rest of the body of Christ will grow, and you'll shrivel up and like, "What's wrong"? You forgot to get connected. And so, what do we do? We get in relationships that are more than just superficial. No, no, we sharpen each other. So, what I fully expect is for us to be in relationships where maybe there's even a little tension, maybe even a little heat. And you can run from the heat and the sparks, or you can realize, "This is making me better. I'm getting sharper, I'm getting sharper".
One more verse, Colossians says, "The whole body supported and held together," that's what I want, that's what I want for you, "by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow". So, what do I do? How do I grow? I want to give you two things as we close. These are two things. This is very deep. I mean, like I'm not even sure you'll be able to understand. I should've taken more time, this is really difficult. Get in a group. Is it that simple? Yes. Get on a team. I'm serious. I don't invite you on the dream team just 'cause we have jobs to do. I'm asking you to be on the dream team 'cause I think you need the team. I think you need the team dynamic.
You know what we learned over 20 years? I've been teaching it to thousands of churches. Everybody needs to be needed, everybody needs to be known. They always ask me, "Pastor Chris, I can preach. I get my whole church filled up, can't get them to stay". I'm going to say, "'Cause your preaching's not good enough, it's not what they need. Everybody needs to be needed, everybody needs to be known". Needed, known. You need to be needed. You need to be known. Get in a group, get in a group. Get on a team, get on a team. And watch your life really grow. So, I've just finished my latest book that comes out in May, I'm very excited about it. And honestly, I don't write books for any other reason, just to steward some things that God's given me. But two and a half years ago, I did a message on depression, and it became the most re-watched message in Highlands like times a lot.
And so, it took me two and a half years to write this book using the life of Elijah and how he was having this great spiritual victory in one chapter and ready to commit suicide the next. And he got in a cave by himself. By the way, the first thing he did was leave all of his friends. The Bible says he left this servant there. And in the last chapter of the book, I mean the last five chapters are the solutions that he did to get out of the cave. Can't wait to get this in the hands of people. And the last chapter, very last chapter is how he reconnected not just to his purpose, but with also with a friend named Elisha. And it was that relationship that changed everything.
And I tell a story that I want to share with you that's in the book, I never told this story before. But in my research, and I've done a boatload of research in this book, we have become the loneliest society in human history. So, about 100 years or more ago and then from the beginning of time, whenever you think that is, humans, the reason why we've succeeded on the earth is because they've always banded together. There are tribes everywhere you go. And in fact, it was only in Western civilization that we've kind of started to isolate. We have become the first people in human history to disband from our tribes. And it's been with this mantra, "You be you, man. Just do you".
I think people say that, they're like, "That's cool. Do you bro, do you man. Hey girl, do you". It doesn't work. So, we're on more depression and anxiety medication ever. And even psychiatrists and psychologists that aren't Christians are trying to figure it out. You know what they are discovering? They didn't discover, this has been in the Bible forever. They call it social prescribing. They've realized that the medication can only do so much, that the best cure for depression and anxiety is people.
So, I tell the story about this lady named Lisa, who was convinced through therapy just to get in a group. She literally vomited in the first time she showed up, her anxiety was so high. And all they did together was get to know each other and they planted a garden. Her whole life changed because she was needed and known. Well, guess what? That's still the solution and they didn't discover anything, God's been giving us this one for 3,000 years. Listen to me, don't do you, be us. Be we. Be part of a group and I'll promise you you're going to get his thing called life and you're going to thrive in Jesus's name. Amen, everybody? Amen, let's pray. Pastor Blake, come on up. Campus pastors, come to the stage.
Father, I pray for every person right now. God, I'm asking you to give the courage to take what is a difficult and awkward step to connect. And Father, I pray for those who are not connected to you, that this would be the moment where they decide to be in a real relationship with their heavenly Father.
Bow your heads and close your eyes. If you're here today, you say, "Chris, I don't have the most important relationship, I don't have the one with God". In fact, you would define it this way, he feels far. It feels like there's something between you and God. Well, guess what? There is. And Jesus came to destroy that barrier and to put you and God back together again. You are one heartfelt prayer away from that becoming a reality. And if I just described you, I don't care if you're a Christian, not a Christian, but you just know he's distant and I want him close again.
If that's you, I just described you, I'm not going to have you stand up, I'm not going to call you to the front. I want to pray for you right there, but I think you ought to take a step of faith. And if that's you, I want you to put your hand up as high as you can right now and say, "Count me in that prayer". Come on, lift it up high. If you want to be included in that prayer, yes, anybody else? Just lift it up high, count me in. Thank you, thank you. Anybody else? Thank you. God bless you today. Anybody else want to join them? We're looking around. Pastor Blake, lead them in this prayer.
Pastor Blake: So amazing. We're so proud of you, those of you that just raised your hand. If you didn't raise your hand, but you know that this is your moment right there where you are, I want you to just whisper these words, say:
Jesus, I want to be close to you. I need a real relationship. I believe that you gave your life for me, that you paid the price for my sin. You were buried and you rose again, and today, right now in this moment, I put my faith in you. Be my Lord, be my Savior, be my best friend, forgive me of my sin, and make me brand-new. I receive your purpose, your plan for my life. And I know that from this moment forward, I'm never going to be the same again. Thank you for changing me. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus's name I pray.