Craig Groeschel - Stop Going to Church
Hey welcome today to all of our Life Church locations. I'm in the mood to preach. Who's in the mood to help me have some church today? It is a great honor to have you joining me to worship our God. How many of you enjoyed At the Movies? Anybody enjoy At the Movies? Yeah, it's blow away amazing to see what God did through you. We saw in four weeks over 4,000 people say that they were surrendering their lives to Christ. That's because you prayed, because you invited. Next week we're gonna baptize many of those. I don't want to ever take that for granted, we're a part of something very, very, very special.
Next week, let me tell you what we're gonna do, we're starting a brand new message series. It is called Hope in the Dark. It is on my new book, more accurately it's on the book of Habakkuk in the Old Testament, one of the most honest, gritty books in the Bible you are ever gonna see. The subtitle of this book is believing God is good when life is not. These are available at Life.Churches only. It actually doesn't come out to the general public for a few weeks. You can pre-order it at other locations, but they are available at Life.Church. Amy and I are honored to donate all of the proceeds. So I'll just tell you right now without apology, buy 10 of them, buy 20, take out a loan, buy 30. No, really, don't take out a loan, but anyway this is for, and next week you might wanna think about who you know.
If their life is perfect, next week's message series isn't specifically for them. This is for people with spiritual questions, with prayers, they're asking God to do something, and they're not seeing it come to pass. Sometimes what we believe doesn't line up with what we see. This is for people with doubts, who are hurting. That's next week, Hope in the Dark. Today what I want to do is I just wanna tell you we're gonna be in Psalm 92. I wanna make you a promise. For some of you, if you will apply what you hear today, if you will apply what you hear today, some of you, years from now, you will look back to this moment, and say that was when God started something very, very special in my life. That is not an overstatement, that is the promise if you apply what we're gonna talk about today.
Let me open up the message. I'm gonna tell you a story. I met a guy, I'll call him Matt. We were at the lake a few weeks ago, at the marina. Matt, and his wife, and two sons came pulling up on their boat, they saw us, they were really excited. "Pastor Craig, we go to your church"! The wife's like, "we go to your church"! The boy's like, "we go to your church"! I was like, "I'm glad you go to our church"! And they came up, and we got a hug, and had this really cool, fun moment as they were getting off the boat, and like, "we go to your church! We go to your church"! And they just kind of kept say that over, and over, and over again. They just said it again, and again, and again. We, everybody say go to church. I need some help. Give me a little more help. I need somebody in Keller, Texas, what do we say? Say go to church. I go to church. It's kind of like I go to the movies, I go to a game, I go to a show. I go to church.
We're talking to Matt, and he's excited, and he goes to church. Then he took me aside a few minutes later, and he got real honest. He said, "would you mind praying for me"? I'm like, "absolutely, I'd love to pray for you. How can I pray for you"? Usually when somebody asks me that, they have one prayer request. He had a laundry list. He said, "well, honestly, would you pray for my marriage? We're kind of struggling, and while you're at it, would you pray for my oldest son? I'm afraid he's smoking something he shouldn't be smoking, and I probably shouldn't have bought that boat. I'm feeling financial pressure right now, and I don't like my job, and honestly my job's on the line, and I don't even really like my life. Would you pray for me"?
It's like okay, let me take these notes, and so I did pray for him, but I realized this is more of a conversation than a prayer, and so I said, "look, before we pray, let me just ask you a few questions. Okay, you go to church. Which Life Church do you go to"? He said, "well, you know, the one, I'm not really sure what to call it". I said, "all right, tell me your campus pastor's name". You know, I wanted to follow up, and he said, "um, I don't really know". So I'm thinking, okay. "Well are you in a Life Group"? He says, "well, no". I said, "do you serve"? He said, "no". "When is the last time that you went to church"? And he said, "well, probably Easter". And that's when my strategy of how to minister to him changed. I prayed for him, we talked for awhile, and I told him something that he probably wasn't expecting to hear. It's the very same thing that I'm gonna tell some of you today. I told him, "Matt, maybe you need to stop going to church". Because what I wanted him to see is the very same thing that some of you need to see.
God's highest calling for you as a follower of Christ was never to go to a church, not to go to a building. God's highest calling isn't to go to a destination, but to be conformed to the image of Christ, not to go to church, but to be planted in the church, to be the church, a light shining into a dark world. God's highest calling is never to go to a church, but to be planted in the house of God, sent out into the world. Maybe instead of going to church, it's time to instead be planted in the house of God. Where does that language come from? Psalm 92:12 says "the righteous will" do what? Say it aloud. "The righteous will flourish", say it again. "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon".
Let's talk about this for a minute. They're gonna grow like a palm tree, and like a cedar, and they're going to flourish. What does the word flourish mean? The word flourish isn't a word that we use a lot in every day language, at least I don't. If you come up to me, and say, "hey, Craig, how you doing"? I'm not going to say, "well, actually, to be honest with you, I'm flourishing". You know? I don't think any of you went up to a guy at the gym, just try it for fun, hey bro, man, you got some gains. Hey man, you are so flourishing. Okay, that's not what we typically say, and if you did, you might not have a workout partner when you're done, but you know, flourishing isn't a word that we often use, but it's really a great image of what happens when you're planted, and what does flourishing mean? It means thriving, it means growing, it means prospering, it means be a blessing, it means having spiritual growth, that you literally, when you're righteous, when you're planted, you are thriving, you are prospering, and then the psalmist compares it to two trees, like the cedar and the palm. The cedar tree, cedars were known for their durability, they were known for being pleasant to look at, and also pleasing to smell.
For example, when Solomon built his temple, he made the columns, the posts, the beams, and the roof out of cedar because his building was designed to last for centuries. Cedar is durable. If you have a cedar chest, it's attractive and it smells good. We're being compared to flourishing like a cedar that's durable, strong, and lasting, and like a palm. What was the palm branch of the palm tree was always symbolic of triumph and victory. We're flourishing, we're triumphant, and we are victorious. In the Corinthian Olympic games, whenever someone would win the games, they would be presented with the palm branch. Congratulations, you are the champion. It was the gold medal. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, it was known as the triumphal entry. Here comes the king, and so they waved palm branches at him. The righteous will flourish. How you doing? Bro, I'm flourishing, I'm growing, I am blessed, I am strong, I am stable, I'm pleasing to be around.
Both trees are evergreens all year long. There's life, there's strength, there's victory, there's fruit. How you doing? I'm flourishing, I'm blessed, I'm prosperous, I'm growing. "The righteous will", say it aloud, say it with me. "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon". Who will flourish? Scripture says those who are "planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God". Scripture doesn't say those who are going to church will flourish, those who are planted in the house of the Lord will flourish in the courts of God. I love the imagery. "They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green", that's encouraging to me as every year passes by. They're gonna proclaim, "the Lord is upright, He is my rock". Those who are planted in the house of the Lord, they're flourishing, they're blessed, they're prospering, they're connected, they're emotionally engaged, they're making a difference, they're fulfilled, they are flourishing.
Unfortunately many of you, if we were using that language, you wouldn't use the word flourishing. Instead of saying I'm spiritually flourishing, you might say well, honestly, I'm spiritually dry, right? Instead of saying I'm thriving emotionally, some would say I am emotionally withering. Instead of saying I'm connected relationally, some would say I'm relationally barren. Instead of saying I'm prospering financially with breathing room to be a blessing, so many would say financially I'm hurting, and restrained. Instead of saying I'm fulfilled spiritually, making a difference, full of joy, so many people say I'm still searching, reaching, longing for, hoping for that thing, that hit, that something, that buzz, that relationship, that job, that whatever it is that I don't have that would fulfill what I'm missing on the inside. I go to church, but I'm not flourishing. Those who are planted are those who flourish.
What do we need to recognize? We need to recognize that your life is a seed. Your life is a seed. What does that mean? That means a seed has tremendous potential. A seed has the potential to grow, to thrive, to multiply, to produce fruit, to be a blessing to others, but a seed that's not planted has the potential to lie dormant, unproductive, unfruitful, and dissatisfied. Your life is a seed. Let me give you a couple principles about planting, and the seed. The first one is this, what do we know about a seed? A seed can only grow if it's planted. A seed can only grow if it's planted. Who flourishes? Those who are planted in the house of God. In fact, Jesus told a really powerful story, known as a parable, in Matthew's gospel, Matthew 13. He was talking about a farmer. He used the word sower, a word that his contemporaries would have understood.
He said a sower went out to sow, or to plant, some seed, and the sower threw seed out, and some of the seed fell on a path, on hard ground, and since that seed couldn't ever take root, birds came along and stole the seed. That seed never reached its potential. Some seeds fell in shallow soil, and so it spurted up, but because the roots never grew deep, whenever the sun beamed down, it withered up, and died immediately. Some started to grow, but then some other plants with thorns choked out the life of that little emerging plant, and Jesus said it was the worries, and the concerns of this life. Do you see the metaphor? Some people, they have potential, but they never go anywhere. Some start to grow, but then they fade away. Some start to thrive spiritually, but the worries, and concerns, and the bills, and the struggles of life choke out the spiritual growth, but then, Jesus said, a seed that falls on good soil, it multiplies, it multiplies 30 times, 60 times, 100 times. That one seed becomes a massive blessing because it was planted in good soil. Who is it that flourishes? Those who are planted in the house of the Lord. A seed can only grow if it's planted.
Second thing I hope to understand is this, that going to church isn't the same as being planted. Going to church isn't the same as being planted. There's a real difference, you can hear it even in the language. For example, some of you, if you go to church, and here's probably what you might have said this week. "Hey, are we gonna go to church today? I'm kind thinking, we're kind of busy, there's a lot going on, there's a game, we're kind of tired, and you know. Can we go out to that restaurant we kind of like? And you know, kids, I'm not sure what we're gonna do, or are we gonna go to church"? Listen, when you're planted, you'll say, "are we gonna go to church"? Because church isn't a destination to which you attend. The church is a posture, it's who you are.
We don't ask ourselves are we going to church? It's really not negotiable. In my family we never, ever say are we going to church, because we are the church, we are worshiping God. It's not a destination to which we attend, it is an identity inside of us, just like I never, ever say, "hey kids, you think we ought to eat today? You guys wanna eat? I mean, I don't know. Are we gonna eat, not gonna eat? You know, I'm trying to think about it. Do you guys wanna breath oxygen? Are you in the mood for oxygen today"? No. It's kinda like with Amy, "Hey, you wanna like kiss today"? "Nah, not in the mood. I don't like kiss today". We don't do that, we recognize even the Greek word translated as church has great meaning. There's the word ekklesia, ekklesia. What ekklesia means, it means really two things, it means both gathering, or assembly.
In other words, if you listen to a preacher's podcast, that's good, and I recommend you do that, but that's not the same as being planted in the house of the Lord. In the same way, I don't want to have relational connection with my children when they listen to a voice message that I send them. I want them assembled in my house, because I am the father, and I love my family gathered together. It's the assembly, it's the gathering, but the word ekklesia, ek means out, klesia comes from the word kaleo, which means called. It very literally means the called out ones. In other words, we gather together to be unified, we gather together to honor our God, we gather together to corporately hear the Word of God, we gather together to use our gifts, but as we are strengthened, it's not what happens inside the church, it's that we are the church, and we go into the world.
You guys are being really, really quiet. I think I'm actually preaching a little bit better than you are responding today. Don't mean to critique your response, but when we're planted, we're not spiritual consumers. The church does not exist for us. When we're followers of Christ, we realize that we are the church, and we exist for the world. There's a massive difference between going to a building, and being plugged into a calling, a movement, a mission. We're planted in the house of God. Let me give you two scenarios. This happens all the time. Let's take person A and person B. Which one are you? Person A goes to church, and the version of the story is kinda different like, oh my gosh, I came, I didn't expect that, and there was this song, and oh, this song spoke to me, or the message was just like it was just for me, or someone was so nice, they loved me, and I felt so guilty, but then I felt loved and accepted.
Some version, I felt empty on the inside, and I recognize I had a spiritual need, so I called out on Jesus, and my life is changed. Then what doesn't happen in person A is they don't ever really connect with other believers. They never really take on the mission of the church for themselves. They still go to church, but they kind of watch worship, there's no contribution, there's no real giving, there's no real serving, there's no real emotion behind it. We're still going to a church. Three years later what you'll see if almost every time, they'll be there for Easter, they'll be there for At the Movies, because there's free popcorn, and we like At the Movies, but the marriage may be suffering, the kid may be doing drugs, they shouldn't have bought the boat, they don't really like their job, and they don't really like their house.
In other words, they're not flourishing. Still may be saved, but not flourishing. Person B goes to church, some version or sort, message speaks to me, song, person, God answers a prayer, I need Jesus. Then instead of not connecting, person B develops some relationships, and someone else is praying for them, and they're praying for someone else, and they recognize that God has given them gifts, and instead of just going to church, they use their gifts in the church, and suddenly the church isn't a destination they attend, it's an identity they embrace. I am a part of the family of God. Then the roots grow deeper, and suddenly life's not perfect, it's not always great, but when the storms come, the tree can withstand the storms, because the roots are deep, and we stay connected to God.
There's a big difference between going to a building, and being planted in the house of God. What happens when you're planted? What happens when you're planted? Let me give you two things. Number one, when you're planted your roots grow deep. Your roots grow deep. Look at Jeremiah 17:8, says "they are like trees" that are what? Somebody help me out. "They are like trees that are planted along the riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water". When the roots grow deep, what happens? "Such trees are not bothered by heat, or worried by longs months of drought". I wonder how many of you right now, you have some heat in your life, there's some spiritual heat, there's some trials. I wonder how many of you, on the other hand, would say, I'm in a drought right now. There's not what I would I would like to see. When the roots grow deep, they're not bothered. I'm not bothered by the heat, I'm not bothered by the drought, because I'm connected to a source that is greater than any problem on the surface. The roots grow deep.
In fact, I did some research on roots, and I looked up redwood trees because I only work on Sunday, I have nothing to during the week but play golf and just look up stuff. Actually, I don't play golf. I did play golf one time, but that was when I was dating Amy because Amy's dad loved golf. I played it, it was the last time I played golf, and I did get the girl. Just telling you, I got the girl. Played golf, and I got the girl, and so I was researching on redwood trees. Here's what I found out, fascinating. These redwood trees are the tallest living things on planet Earth. They can literally grow to be 30 stories high, and they can be three stories wide. How in the world does a tree grow 30 stories high? I'll tell ya how, their roots grow deep. Their root system can go out 100 feet, to up to 150 feet down and parallel, and what happens is you've got this one 30 story high tree with roots going way, way, way, way, way, way, and then over there you've got another 30 story tree, with roots going way, and what happens is their roots actually intertwine, and beneath the ground, where nobody sees, there is a support system that sustains the strength and the growth above the ground.
This is what we need in the body of Christ, we need each other. Here's what I can promise you. I promise you this week you will face opposition. You will face a trial, you'll have a struggle, you'll have a set back, you will interact with a crazy person. If you don't interact with a crazy person, I'll lend you three of mine. They're everywhere, okay? You will face some sort of opposition, and if you face it alone, you are more vulnerable. I'm gonna tell you right now, I don't think the Devil minds at all if you just go to church. I don't think the Devil minds at all. The only one who wants you to think you shouldn't be planted is your spiritual enemy who wants you to be isolated, because when you're isolated, you are vulnerable. We need the family of God. I need you, you need me. I cannot tell you what our family has meant to us, praying for us. This has been a tough year, more tears, and we were strong, and blessed, and encouraged because our roots are being supported by your roots. We need one another. Your roots grow deep.
Second thing about that which is planted, the roots produce fruit. They grow deep and they produce fruit. Look again at Jeremiah 17:8, "with roots that reach deep in the water. Such trees are not bothered," we're not bother by the heat, or worried by long months of drought. "Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit". When you are planted, you produce fruit. What is fruit? The apostle Paul talked about this in the fifth chapter of the book of Galatians. He called it the fruits of the spirit. It's not our own natural fruits, it is a spiritual fruit that comes from God. In other words, when we are connected to the spiritual vine, God produces spiritual fruit that Paul said would be love, and joy, and peace, and patience, and kindness, and goodness, and gentleness, and faithfulness, and self control.
When you're planted, all these good things come up, even if you're in a very difficult time, even if you're in a very difficult season, love still comes out, joy still comes out in the middle of a trial. You can consider pure joy whenever you face trials and difficult times because you're planted, and God is doing something special in you, and then you recognize these fruits are not just for you, that your love blesses other people, and your joy is contagious, and your peace is attractive, and your faithfulness builds relationships, and suddenly you realize I am planted, and I am making a difference, and then you just do what I call a little bit of Christian cocaine. That's what I am right now, I am your dealer.
What I want you to do is just try a little bit, just try it, just pray for somebody, just give to somebody, just make a difference, just be a voice of encouragement, just come and serve somewhere, and have a sixth grade boy look up to you and say, "I don't have a dad at home, but you're like dad to me". Just welcome somebody who looks different, and says, "I was so afraid to come, but you loved me, and you made me feel welcome here," and then you get the hit, the buzz, the thrill, the high. Oh my gosh, God choose me. Then miss a week, and have someone in your group reach out to you and say, "where were you? I missed you. Is everything okay"? And you realize, oh my gosh, I'm getting some roots in this place. This isn't just a place where I go, I go to church, this is family. I am needed here. God needs me to do what He created in me to do, and I am known, and I am loved. I'm planted in the house of God. Then you recognize, I'm not just saved from my sins, I'm saved for the glory of God to make a difference in this world.
There is such a difference between going to church, not God's highest calling for you, and being planted in the house of the Lord. Who is it that flourishes? Only can a seed that's planted grow and flourish. So how do we do this? How do we go perhaps from where you are to where God wants you to be? From the beginning of the church, 22 plus years ago, from day number one, we've done something that we call the open door. Amy and I started this, and we did it for years every Sunday in the afternoon in our home, and we would just invite, just a small little church. Hey, if you would like to get planted, and find out more how you can use your gifts, come over to our house. We'll have some food, and we said the same thing then that we say now, we want to get to know you. We want to hear your spiritual story, because everybody starts at a little different place. We want to help you find your place to connect. We want you to feel welcome. We want this to be your home. We want you to know that you're making a difference, and if this isn't the right place for you, then we want to help you find another great church, and this is exactly what I want to say to you today.
Let's do it. It's time. It's time. If you're a follower of Christ, it's time. Do you really think you can find a way, through all the spiritual opposition, fight off the temptation of the Devil by going to church once a month or so? Come on. Do you really think that when you spend more on coffee than you give to the work of God or people in need that you're really gonna become a true disciple? Do you really think that when you spend more time on Instagram in a day than you spend serving others in a week that you're really going to be conformed to the image of Christ? It's time, and we mean this so much that I just wanna say to you, if it's not Life.Church, because this church is not for everybody. You all tell me that all the time, YouTube or whatever, okay, I understand that. It's not perfect, but you know, if you're looking for a perfect church, and you find one, here's a hint. Don't join it, because you'll screw it up. you're not gonna find a perfect one. Find one, and be planted. Be planted.
What I did is I asked all of our campus pastors to simply recommend great churches. If you tried to get plugged in here, like you've really tried, and you can't, you might say, well I grew up in Sunday school, I need Sunday school. We don't have Sunday school, we'll recommend one with Sunday school. I like longer worship, and more free flowing worship, or whatever, we'll recommend one with worship. I like one where the preacher's not so loud, who wears a robe, is much more boring. Those are everywhere, we'll help you find one. Just messing with you. What we're gonna do out in the lobby, there are churches that believe God's Word, empower people, and people are coming to Christ at those churches, and we want to recommend them to you.
If you can't plug in here, then please get planted at one of these other places, because God has so much for you. He wants you to flourish. How are you doing? Bro, I'm flourishing. I'm thriving. Life's not perfect, but my roots are deep, my faith is strong, my brothers and sisters are praying for me, I am needed, and I am loved. I'm a part of something. I don't go to a building, I am the church, I am God's ambassador in this world. I assemble, and then I go out strengthened, planted in the house of the Lord. You say, "well I tried. I went three weeks in a row, and nothing happened". Listen, it takes time for a tree to grow. It takes time. What does it take? Five things for a tree to flourish. It takes soil, it takes light, it takes water, it takes temperature, and it takes time. It takes soil, good soil, your heart. It takes light. The Word of God is a lamp unto your feet, a light to your path. It takes water. Jesus is the living water who washes and renews your soul. It take temperature. The fire of the Holy Spirit warms the seed planted in your heart, and it takes time.
When is the best time to plant a tree? The answer is 20 years ago. When is the best time for you to have been planted in the house of the Lord? 20 years ago. When is the next best time? The next best time is now. Now is the time because God wants you to flourish like the evergreen, stable, strong cedar, or the victorious, triumphant palm. Only those who are planted in the house of the Lord are those who truly can flourish in all God has for you. So Father, we pray in the name of your son Jesus that You would do what I cannot do, You would move hearts, God. Give us a desire, God, somewhere to be a part of Your big capital C Church making a difference in this world. Let's do this. Everybody's head down, nobody looking around. I'm not even asking you like if you want to be planted, I'm just asking you to be really honest right now. Those of you who would say yes, I am a follower of Christ, I am a Christian, I know that. I am a Christian, but I am not planted.
You say, well I'm not really sure if I am. If you're not sure, you're not, let me just clear it up for ya. You know when you are. You say I am a Christian, but I'm not planted, would you just lift up your hands right now. All of our churches, lift 'em up, be real honest, lift 'em up. God thank you for honesty, we can deal with that. I pray, God, that You would convict hearts and move us, God, give us the desire to be a part of Your global church, lifting up the name of Jesus that people could find freedom and healing. God, help us to see that your church, not Life.Church, Your Church, capital C Church, is incomplete without your family planted, using what You've given them to make a difference in this world, and I pray whether it's here, or some other great church in the community, God, that you would help you people be planted that they could flourish and glorify you in all that you do.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, there are those of you, you're gonna recognize, I asked a question, are you a follower of Christ? Some of you might say, you know what, I have to be honest, I am not. Listen to me, just like going to church isn't being planted, going to church isn't the same as being a follower of Christ. You can grow up in the church, you can even believe in God, and not be a follower of Christ. Who is Jesus? He is the sinless, perfect son of God, who is obedient even to death on the cross. He was known as the Lamb of God, the prefect sacrifice, the one who shed his blood as a sacrifice in our place. He died for our sins. Do you ever feel guilty for what you do wrong? God gave us a conscience, we recognize we've done something wrong. Jesus died in our place as the perfect sacrifice. Three days later, when the stone was rolled away, he was not there. He was the seed that was planted, and was raised from the dead. Why? So that anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name of Jesus would be saved. Not just saved from your sins, but saved for an eternal purpose to make a difference in this world, and all of our churches here, those of you, you recognize you need forgiveness. It's time, the time is now.
When is the best time to follow Christ? 20 years ago. When is the next best time? Right now. All of our churches, those who say yes, I need his grace, I turn from my sins, I turn toward him, I give him my life. That's your prayer. Lift your hands high now. All over the place, lift them up. Leave 'em up high. I want to just see right back over here, Ma'am over here, Sir right back over here. I just want to recognize you both, both of you guys here together. In this middle section, my goodness, and over here, man, bless you, Sir, bless you, Sir. Others out here, right back here, say yes. Way back here toward the back, surfing online, you click right below me. Somebody ought to worship right now. Somebody ought to thank God right now. We see people being born into the family of God. Others out here, you're leaning into it, just say yes right now. I surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Let's all pray together, all of our churches. Nobody prays alone.
Heavenly Father, I trust you with my whole life. Forgive me of all of my sins. Make me new, fill me with Your Spirit so that I can be planted in Your house, as Your church, in this world. Use me to show your love, to make a difference, and to make you know my life is not my own. Today I give it to you. Now my life is yours. In Jesus' name I pray. Will somebody worship really big right now. Thank God. We're not waiting on a move of God, we're right in the middle of one. Thank Him, worship Him.