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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - The Next Step

Craig Smith - The Next Step

Craig Smith - The Next Step
TOPICS: Obedience

You probably wonder why I’m dressed like this. Well, if you want to grab a Bible and mosey on over to Hebrews 10:24, I’ll show you. Here’s what you need to know about Hebrews. Book of Hebrews was written to a group of Christians who found that following Jesus put them at odds with the culture around them. So pretty applicable book for today. And what the Book Hebrews does is it gives a series of instructions, advice, and how to stay strong in following Jesus when following Jesus isn’t the easy thing to do. And Hebrews 10:24 gives us one of the most important pieces of advice that’s ever been given for people who want to follow Jesus for the long haul. And this is what he says, he says, “And let us consider how we may spur, consider how we may spur one another.” I apologize for the cheesiness of this. But we wanted to make it sticky. Because this is one of the most important commands given to people in terms of what it looks like to actually follow Jesus all the way, to follow Jesus for the long haul when it’s hard.

And it’s also one of the most often ignored commands, I think, we find in Scripture. He says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on,” and I actually really like that translation. I’m reading the New International Version. Some other translations go with slightly different words. A couple of them say, “Well, let’s consider how we may motivate each other. Or let’s consider how we may stir each other up.” And those are perfectly okay words, but I like spur because the reality, sort of the implication of spurring is that it’s not always super pleasant. And the word that’s being used here, the original Greek word that was used in that passage isn’t necessarily a pleasant word. In fact, if you want to flip back with me in Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 29:28, that particular word that’s being used there is only used four times in the entire Bible. And there’s a use of it in Deuteronomy 29:28, in the Greek translation, the Old Testament that I think gives us an insight into what kind of word this is. In furious anger and great wrath, the Lord uprooted them from the land and thrust them into another land as it is now. And in English, that word uprooted, it’s the same Greek word that’s being used here in Hebrews 10:24 to say, “Let’s spur each other on.”

Spur is a great translation because it’s not always pleasant. This isn’t a cheerleader word. Okay? This isn’t a you can do it, I believe in you kind of word. This is a lot more like so which part of your butt needs kicking to get your moving kind of word. That’s the kind of word it is. It’s not a cheerleader word. And the reality is that sometimes what we need is something that’s not entirely pleasant, but it’s entirely necessary, right? Okay, and what are we spurring each other on towards? He says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.”

Now, if you’ve been in Mission Hills for more than a week, you’ve probably heard us say this at least once. Here at Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people do two things, become like Jesus and join him on mission. We’re all about helping people take their next step of becoming like Jesus, join him on mission. And that’s what’s going on here. He says, “Spur each other towards love, take a step forward, move towards love,” which is the Jesus stuff. It’s the becoming like Jesus stuff. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must also love one another.” So when we love one other, we’re becoming like Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.” Jesus came because of love. Love and Jesus are kind of big-time overlapping terms and the Venn diagram of who Jesus is and what love is, they overlap almost perfectly.

And so the more that we grow in love, the more we’re actually becoming like Jesus. But he also says, “To spur each other towards good deeds.” That’s the living-on-mission stuff that we talk about here a lot. Good deeds are the good things that we do for other people to point them to the goodness of God. And of course, the greatest good that we can do for anybody is to introduce them to Jesus and the Gospel of Grace, that God loved them so much he sent his own Son Jesus, who was willing to come to die for us to pay the price of our sin and then to rise from the dead and give us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sin and to belong to God for eternity by putting our trust in what he’s done. That’s the greatest good we can do. This is all living on mission stuff. And this is the bottom line. Well, what the author of Hebrews says here is basically, listen, we need to be thinking, we need to be consciously thinking about how to kick each other in the butt to keep us moving forward in becoming like Jesus, and joining him on mission.

And the reason that we need to do this is because the reality is that making progress like that, moving forward like that, progress is not always pleasant, right? Actually, that’s not right. Progress is always pleasant. Making progress is not always pleasant. Right? We all love progress, right. I mean, we all like to lose weight. We all like to get better at our jobs or to make the varsity team or to move up at work. We all like deepening our marriages. We all like overcoming addictions. We all like making progress. But we don’t always like what it takes to make progress. The reality is that making progress is often unpleasant. And what we need is we need people around us who help us push past the pain that makes progress possible, right? That’s the reason why people hire personal coaches, fitness coaches, right. I’ve never hired one. And now you’re like, “You did that all by yourself?” Yeah. Yeah. It’s the reason why we join “Weight Watchers.” Okay? It’s the reason why we join “Alcoholics Anonymous.” We recognize that we need other people around us. God made us as social creatures. There’s strength and power that comes from putting people around us who help us push past the pain that makes progress possible.

And that’s what the author of Hebrews is telling us here. And he gives us this command. And he also gives us the context for which it’s supposed to happen, the context in which we’re able to spur each other on. He says, “And not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the Day approaching.” He says we always need to do this. But it’s all the more important as we see the Day approaching. And let’s just deal with that phrase, because it’s an interesting phrase, “the Day,” if you’re not quite sure what that means. Because it’s not a day, it’s the Day, right? Most translations put it with a capital D, tell you this is a really important day. But what day is he talking about? He’s talking about the Day that Jesus returns. He’s talking about the day that Jesus comes back. The Bible sometimes calls it Judgment Day. And there’s a lot of different things the Bible says about Judgment Day. But one of the most important things that comes up over and over and over again is this very clear idea that when Jesus returns, he wants to find us ready. When Jesus returns, he wants to find us ready to greet him. Okay? He doesn’t want to show back up and we’re like, “Oh, hey, did you send a calendar invite for this? Because I didn’t know.” It’s awkward, right?

When I was right out of college, I was probably, maybe a year out of college, I was serving in a church in Cincinnati. And the guy who discipled me through college, my Bible study leader called me and said, “Hey, my wife and I are gonna be there on this day. And we wonder if we could take you and Coletta to lunch?” And I was like, “Absolutely, that’d be awesome.” I was really excited to see him. Now, this is the day before we had phones that had calendars on them. And so I was like, “This is a big day. I’m gonna see him for the first time in a year. He was really influential in my life. There’s no way I’m gonna forget this. I don’t need to write this down.” I needed to write that down. I forgot. And then one day, I came back from going out to lunch and I came in and there was Dave and Shelly sitting on the tailgate of their car in the church parking lot. And I was like, “Oh, no.” Right. And I’m saying hello and I’m racking my brain trying to…like, how do I spin this? In the midst of my thinking, Dave looks at me and goes, “You forgot, didn’t you?” And I’m like, “Yeah.”

Let me tell you something. When somebody comes to see you, and they’re excited to see you, and you forgot they were coming, it’s awkward. It’s all kinds of awkward. We don’t want that when Jesus comes back. Jesus doesn’t want to find us going, “Oh, whoa, I wasn’t expect…” He wants us more like the kids at the window while they’re waiting for Grandma and Grandpa to come at Christmas time, right? Noses pressed to the window. “Oh, you’re here.”

So we’re told very clearly that when Jesus returns, he wants to find us ready. Okay, so what does that look like? What does it look like to be found ready? Well, one foundational thing that’s sort of underneath everything that we’re gonna talk about today is that being ready means having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus, that’s just foundational. Okay? It’s having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Not practicing a religion, not doing a bunch of spiritual things, but actually having a relationship with God that’s changing us from the inside out. It’s still astounding to me how many times when I talk to somebody and I ask the question, so are you a follower of Jesus? And how often I get the answer, “Well, I’ve gone to church my whole life.” That’s not what I asked. I’ve spent a lot of time at Chipotle, does not make me a burrito. It just doesn’t work like that.

There’s a moment where you have to commit, there’s a moment we have to say, “This is not about the things that I do. This is about who I know, this is about my willingness to put my trust in what Jesus did on the cross for me. It’s about my willingness to put my faith in the resurrection that brought new life to those who’ll trust him.” We have to have that as the foundation. Being ready means having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. By the way, if you are here today, and you’re like, “I don’t have that,” we’re gonna show you how to have that before the day is done today. Just hang on. But there’s a couple of other things. Maybe you have that relationship with God and you’re like, “Okay, does that mean that I’m ready?” Not necessarily. There are two other things that we need to have to be found ready when Jesus returns and one of them is loving others. That’s what Hebrews is talking about here. It says, “Spurring each other on towards love.” Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must also love one another.” When we’re loving others, we’re ready.

There’s a third one, and that is living on mission. We’re living a mission, what Hebrews here calls good deeds, that point people to the goodness of God. We’re called to be living on mission with Jesus, we’re called to be sharing the light of the Gospel with other people. We talk about it here at Mission Hills, to live on mission, really, it’s to honor God, and it’s to extend his influence into every area where you have influence. Every one of us has areas in life where we have influence, maybe it’s a little influence, maybe it’s a lot, but everywhere we have influence, we’re called to honor God and to extend God’s influence into that area. So in our marriages, check. In our families, check. At work, check. In your apartment complex, check. In school, check. On teams, check. In your neighborhood, check. In the world check. Anywhere that we have any kind of influence, we’re called to honor God and to extend his influence. That’s living on mission. And what we’re told is that when Jesus returns, he’s gonna find us ready if we have the relationship, and we’re loving others, and we’re living on mission.

I think one of the most interesting places where Jesus teaches about what it looks like to be found ready is in Matthew chapter 25. If you want to turn with me there, we’re gonna be in Matthew chapter 25, verse 1, for a moment here. What’s happening here is Jesus is talking about the day that he’s gonna return, and he says this, he says, “At that time, the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.” Now in the ancient world, in ancient Israel, especially, the role of the virgins was a little bit like the role of the bridal party, not exactly equivalent, but something like that. And one of their jobs was to meet the bridegroom as he was coming and then bring him back into the wedding feast. Okay?

Now, what we need to understand here is that the ten virgins represent the followers of Jesus, the people who say that they’re followers of Jesus trying to live on mission with him. And the bridegroom, of course, represents Jesus. And I think it’s very interesting. And I don’t think it’s coincidental that the ten virgins who represent the followers of Jesus have ten lamps, they each have a lamp. I think it’s fascinating because throughout the Bible, it’s made very clear that as the follower of Jesus, our major task is to shine the light of the Gospel into the darkness of the world. Living on mission, right? Jesus very famously said, “I am the light of the world.” But he also looked at his followers and said, “And you are the light of the world,” it’s not our light, it’s his light. But we’re called to hold it up high, to shine it into the darkness, and to drive back the darkness with the light of God’s love and the Gospel of Grace. So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that these ten virgins who represent the followers of Jesus all have a light.

And Jesus says this. He says, “Five of them were foolish. And five were wise.” Which I think we need to acknowledge does not give any of us real good odds. Right? I mean, it sort of leaves the impression that Jesus looks about half of us and goes, “That is so not what I was talking about.” I would much prefer this was like, there was one foolish and nine wise, that’d give me a much better option, right? But 50-50, I mean, that means you look at somebody next to you and go, “Which one of us is it?” I used to think that was really, like, overly negative. And then I began to see signs that there’s a lot of foolishness in the Christian world. And I actually mean that literally, I mean, I saw signs. We don’t have a lot of these in Colorado, but if your back east or down south, there’s a lot of churches that have a sign out front, and they put little sayings on the sign to try to get people to come in. And they’re horrifying. Like, I saw one that said, “Don’t let your worries crush you. Let the church help.”

I see where you’re going. I don’t think you quite made it. I think maybe my all-time favorite one is, “Do you know what hell is? Come hear our preacher.” Is that really something you wanted to have said? And sometimes they’re just…honestly they’re just sad. I saw one back in Ohio several years ago that said, “Don’t get burned, use sunblock,” but it was S-O-N. Really, we’ve reduced the Gospel of Grace to a bad pun. And I’m making kind of a light-hearted point. But the reality is, I think there’s a lot of foolishness in the church. There are a lot of different ways the Christians go, “Oh, this is what Christianity is all about.” And Jesus goes, “It’s not.”

So maybe honestly, 50% is generous. Five of them were foolish and five were wise, but you know what actually may be the most interesting part of that is that they occur in groups. You got a group of five who are foolish and a group of five who are wise. Because Jesus could have easily made the same point with one foolish example and one wise example. Right? But he didn’t, he did it with groups. And I think the reason for that is actually a principle that I see throughout the Bible, and it comes up over and over and over again, I call it the C three principle. The C three principle basically says, “Company creates character.” Company creates character. The company that we keep determines the kind of character that develops in us. This is the reason why the Bible says, “Walk with the wise and become wise. But the companion of fools suffers harm.”

If you hang out with wise people, guess what, you become a wise person. You hang out with fools, you end up doing foolish things which cause you harm. It’s the reason that Paul writing to the church in Corinth said, “Do not be misled, don’t make a mistake about this one. Bad company corrupts good character.” You might think you have great character, and you might have great character. But if you spend enough time hanging out with people of bad character, your character gets tarnished, it gets rusted and it gets holes in it and pretty soon, it just begins to fall apart. Bad company corrupts good character because company creates character.

So it’s interesting here. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the foolish and the wise are occurring in groups because what’s happening is they’re reinforcing certain kind of character traits. Now, here’s the interesting thing that I think we need to acknowledge, we cannot always control our company. Look we all have some company that we keep, and it’s not really up to us, maybe it’s family, maybe it’s at work, or it’s a school situation. We can’t always control the company we keep. And sometimes the company we keep is potentially corrupting our character. But what we can do is we can be intentional about balancing that with company that creates good character.

The problem is, we rarely do that. The problem is most of us are not very intentional about the company we keep. Most of us drift into the company we keep, and therefore, we drift into the character that creates. We’re not nearly careful enough about being deliberate about surrounding ourselves with people that are creating the right culture. And it’s so important. I’m really proud of my youngest daughter, we dropped her off at CU Boulder last week. Kind of a hard moment, honestly. And my oldest daughter told our youngest daughter and she said, “Hey, CU is the party school.” And my youngest was like, “No, it’s not. And even if it is, I’m in the engineering program. The engineers are not partiers.”

She called us midway through this past week, she’s like, “I was wrong about that. I mean, we’ve already sent three kids home with alcohol poisoning. Everybody’s talking about who they’re sleeping with,” and we’re like, okay, big parenting moment. Right. “So what are you doing with it?” She goes, “Well, I was walking through the quad and I saw the Navigators had a booth,” Navigators is a Christian organization, “so I let the engineering students get a little ahead of me. I ran over there to the Navigators, I was like, ‘When are you meeting?'” They said, “Well, we’re going on a night hike tomorrow. Be there.” Like, whoa, my kid didn’t even like youth group. She wasn’t really a youth group kind of kid. She’s kind of a loner, right? But she immediately recognized if I’m gonna keep the same kind of character that I want, I’m gonna have to be deliberate about the company that I’m keeping. Really proud of her. She’s doing honestly what many of us learn far too late in life. Company creates character.

Here’s an interesting question you probably should wrestle with a little bit, what character is being created by the company I’m keeping? Encourage you to ask yourself that. What character is being created by the company I’m keeping? Is it wise? Is it foolish? Is it helping spur you on to take your next steps of becoming like Jesus and join him on mission? Or is it actually getting you stuck where you are? The reality is I talk to people all the time who go like, “I just feel like I’m stuck in my Christian faith. I’m stuck in my Christian growth. I just don’t…maybe it feels a little bit lifeless and I’m not really making progress anymore.” And it’s amazing to me how often what it comes back to is ultimately the company that you’re keeping and whether or not you have people in your life who are spurring you on.

Jesus says, “The foolish ones. They took their lamps but they did not take any oil with them.” And you can see how that played out. Right? You know one was like, “Hey, are you taking any oil?” Nah, we’re not gonna need it. Okay good. Well, I feel better not taking any oil. They reinforced it, right? The wise ones, however, took oil in their jars along with their lamps and one of them said, “Hey, are you carrying a little bit more oil?” “Yeah, I definitely think we should. We don’t how long it’s gonna be.” “Okay, well, if you’re going to I’m going to. Are you taking? Okay.” See how it reinforces, right?

Now the bridegroom was a long time in coming. And they all became drowsy and they fell asleep. Which is a really interesting statement. For the last 2,000 years in every generation, somebody has said, “I think Jesus is coming back this month, this year, at the very least this generation.” And it says here even before Jesus left, he said, “You’re gonna be surprised by how long it’s gonna take.” But most importantly, the potential is there for all of you to fall asleep, to drift into a forgetfulness about this really big day that’s coming. They all fell asleep. The foolish and the wise, nobody is exempt from this danger. Nobody is exempt from the possibility of being found not ready. And at midnight a cry rang out. Here’s the bridegroom, come out to meet him, and then all the virgins woke up and they trim their lamps. And the foolish ones said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, our lamps are going out.” “No,” they replied, “there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, you go to those who are selling oil and buy some for yourselves.” But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. And the virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And then the door was shut.

I mean, the bottom line, what Jesus is saying here is, “Listen, unless we’re found ready, we’re not going to get to enjoy the party.” Unless we’re found ready, we won’t get to enjoy the party when he returns. So being ready matters. Then the question becomes okay, well, how do I do it? How do I stay ready? Well, here’s the good news. Being ready isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress. Being ready isn’t about getting perfect. It’s about making progress. It’s about moving forward and becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission. We know it’s not about perfection because when Jesus returns, they’re gonna be some people who said yes the day before. They haven’t made much progress when Jesus returns, but Jesus is still gonna find them ready because they’ve taken the all-important first step. They’re looking for their next step. It’s about progress, not perfection. Really, the bottom line is being ready is all about finding and taking our next step. It’s about finding and taking our next step of love, of good deeds, of becoming like Jesus of joining him on mission. It’s about finding our next step. And there’s always a next step. I don’t care how long you’ve been following Jesus, there’s a next step for you. Maybe you said yes to Jesus last weekend, fantastic. You’re probably fully aware of your next steps. Maybe you’ve been following Jesus for 70 years, and you’re going, “I feel like the road is running out.” Nope.

There’s always a next step. There’s always another step of obedience in moving forward and becoming like Jesus joining him on mission, loving and doing good deeds. And when we’re doing that, when we’re constantly taking the next step, we’re ready. That’s good news, right? Because it doesn’t mean that to be found ready, we have to hit some incredible spiritual level that seems unattainable. It just means that we constantly go, “I’m not done. I’m taking my next step.” That’s fantastic news. So then the question becomes, okay, so how do we do that? What’s the right context for making sure that we’re doing that? Let’s go back again to Hebrews 10. He says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” That’s the context for it.

Do you see the key ingredient to making sure we’re always taking our next step? It’s community. But not just any community, it’s what I would call missional community, a community that’s focused around helping us to stay on mission. The reality is that being ready depends on having a missional community. Being ready, always being able to take that next step, it depends on having missional community. And missional community if you’re not familiar with that term, it basically just means this, mission community is a small group of people who gather regularly to spur each other on to take their next step. That’s all it is. Small group of people who meet together regularly to spur each other on to take their next step.

And by the way, I use the word small group for a very important reason. This passage here, this verse here is often used in the church to tell people you need to come to worship services, you need to attend church. In fact, I can virtually guarantee you right now as we’re… I don’t know if we’re coming out of COVID or going into the next wave of COVID. I don’t know what’s going on with COVID. But I can guarantee you right now there are churches out there that are preaching this passage and they’re using it as kind of the hammer, the whip to go you need to come back to in-person attendance. And I actually think that’s a misapplication of this verse. I think in-person attendance is really important. There’s something powerful that happens when we gather together that doesn’t quite happen in the same way online. But this verse is not actually the way that we force people to get feeling guilty about not being in church.

And here’s the reason I say that. In the first century when the followers of Jesus first began to gather together, they didn’t gather together in large rooms. In fact, there were no church buildings in those days. And so really, every church met in a home. They were house churches, and the homes were pretty small, which means that almost every church probably maxed out at 15 to 20 people. Now, in that context, when he says, “Don’t give up gathering together or meeting together,” he is actually talking about going to church, but he’s talking about going to church with a pretty small group of followers of Jesus, who can know each other who are doing life together in a way that they understand who you are, and they understand who I am and so we can spur each other on, we can do that little uncomfortable thing that he says.

We can figure out which part of their butt needs kicking to keep a movement, and they can do the same thing to us. Because they knew each other. I mean, the reality is doing what we’re talking about here, it happens up close and over time. It happens in the context of relationships, and it takes time to develop those. In the first century, you could do that in a normal church setting. But the reality is that as Christianity began to grow and eventually as congregations grew larger and buildings were built where more and more people were able to gather for worship services and hear the teaching of the word, all really good stuff, by the way, but as those groups grew, it became impossible to do what’s being told here in that context.

The churches were too large to pull it off. And by the way, I would say that once a church goes over 20, the worship services can’t accomplish that anymore. So what is he talking about then? And the answer is he’s talking about small groups. He’s talking about creating within the church, the smaller groups where people come together on a regular basis to encourage each other to take their next step. Worship services are powerful. Worship services are important. But the real context for discipleship for becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission and constantly taking that step, it happens best up close and over time, and that requires smaller groups. That’s what we define missional community as a small group of people who gather together regularly to spur each other on to take that next step.

So let me just be really blunt with you. You need to be part of a small group. You need to be part of a small group. Attending a worship service isn’t enough to spur you on. Hopefully, you get some great content, hopefully, you have a powerful experience of worshiping God together that’s really significant. It is a part of the rhythm of the Christian life. But you need more than content, you also need a context where people are helping each other spurring each other on to figure out what do I do with that content? What is my next step of love or good deeds? What is my next step of becoming like Jesus on joining him on mission? You need to be part of a small group.

Mission Hills, we believe really strongly in groups. And we work hard to create easy on-ramps to make this kind of thing possible. We have all kinds of groups. We have serve teams. Serve teams are the people who accomplish the work of the church. We have kids teams, we have prayers teams, we have student teams, we have the Life Center Team, we have the Guest Service Team, we have a lot of different teams, and what they’re doing is they’re doing the work of the church, they’re doing the ministry of the church, but also they’re they’re building relationships with each other. They’re building relationships where they can do what this command tells us to do which is to spur each other on. And those are really powerful. I would argue that they’re really especially powerful for men. Because men when they hear groups and small groups, I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I was kind of like, so we’re gonna sit around in a circle and share our feelings. Yeah, no. Like, I get it. Okay. I don’t want to be offensive here. But just generally speaking, I think this is a fairly true stereotype. Women kind of like that thing. Women are good at coffee shops, right? Women are good with, how you doing? Men are like, get me out of there, right.

Men are not as good with coffee shops. Men are better with golf carts, right? Let’s sit side by side and move forward together. Right? That’s what serve teams are kind of like that. We’re doing things that need to be done. We’re doing good deeds. We’re loving on people. But we’re also beginning to build relationships with people, really powerful way to do that. So serve teams are one option. We’ve got Sunday schools. We’ve got classes that meet on Sundays to do some of this kind of thing. And they’re often studying the Bible together, but they’re also building those relationships. I love our Sunday schools. The problem with our Sunday schools in Mission Hills is many of our Sunday schools are larger than churches.

And so those groups often need to go a step deeper in finding another group, whether it’s a serve team, or maybe it’s a women’s group. Women’s groups, it’s a Bible study they’re doing together or maybe they orient around a special interest. We have a quilting group and they’re awesome. They meet together and they quilt, but they’re also using the things that they produce to love on people and to be on mission. It’s awesome. We got men’s groups who do the same thing. We have men’s groups that do Bible study that meet around special interest groups. We have a new classic car group that’s getting started. All kinds of different groups, they form around this idea of different interests, whether it’s a Bible study or some kind of another thing, but the real purpose of all of them is the same, which is to build relationships where we can spur each other on to love and good deeds, spur each other on to becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission.

We have student groups in our middle school and high school that do that. We have sports and rec groups where they do that around softball or basketball, those kinds of things. We’ve got hope groups. Hope groups come together around particular phases in life where people need support. So we have regeneration to help people get through addictions. We have Re-Engage which is about helping people strengthen their marriages, whether they’re in a difficult season, honestly, maybe you’re in a good season, but you want to go to a great season. We got Re-Engage. We have an adoption hope group. We got all kinds of hope groups. But again, they’re all about building relationships.

And then, of course, we have life groups. Life groups are built around sermon discussions. Our staff produces more questions even than I have for you. At the end of every message, I typically have questions designed to help you try to figure out what’s my next step to take. Well, we have a great team that produces even more of those and some guided discussion groups. And our life groups get together, and they talk about it. They’re like, “Let’s not just keep it as content, let’s figure out what it looks like to actually do something.” And they know each other so that they can actually begin to help each other figure out what it looks like for them to do that. And they do that for each other. And so they’re moving forward and taking those next steps. We’re making a little bit of a change with our life groups, by the way right now. And really, with all of our groups, we’re trying a couple of things.

Number one, we’re gonna start an experiment where every semester, we basically deform all the groups and then reform them. Now, if you find a group of people you really click with, you can sign up for the group with the same people. You can do that year after year, that’s fine. But by deforming and reforming every semester, it’s easier on-ramps for people who haven’t been part of a group yet. We’re all gonna do it together. And so that’s just what we’re gonna do as a church, we’re gonna get into those relationships. The other thing we’re doing, I’m really excited about this is that all of our groups, we’re moving towards having a mission that the group is a part of together. So maybe it’s as simple as well, hey, we’re a life group. We meet in this house, and we’re just down the street from an elementary school. So our mission, we’re gonna love the teachers in that elementary school in the name of Jesus this year, cool. We’re moving each group to have that missional connection. Again, it’s not just becoming like Jesus, but also joining him on mission because there are two sides of the same coin, right.

All of our groups are moving towards that direction. But here’s the bottom line with all of these groups. And I think sometimes in the church when we talk about groups and relationships that spur each other on, relationships that help us take the next steps, I think sometimes it feels maybe just a tiniest bit too much too spiritual. And so can I just be honest with you, you know what we’re really talking about here, we’re talking about making friends. You need friends. Christianity is not a solo sport. It’s something we do together. It’s something we do with each other. People need friends. I can tell you the number of people that I’ve seen visit other churches, and they say things like, “Well, yeah, I really liked that church that I was in. I really liked the preaching. I really liked the worship in that church, but I just never connected.” Or other people who go, “Yeah, I’m actually not crazy about the teaching or the worship at my church, but I’ve got my people there.”

And so we stay. You need friends, missional friends, friends who will do for each other what we’re told to do here, spur each other on towards love and good deeds. You need a small group. You need friends. We worked really hard to create a set of systems and processes where you can try those out where you can find those relationships, where you can find the relationships where you’re spurring each other on to take your next steps.

Here are a couple of questions for you to wrestle with. Number one. What relationships have I drifted into? As we’ve said, we often drift our way into relationships without being deliberate about it, without being intentional. What relationships have I drifted into and what kind of character are they creating? Or maybe honestly, your answer is, I don’t have any relationships. Anybody else felt isolated during COVID? Yeah. I don’t think we’ve ever been as isolated as we are. So maybe you can think of some relationships that are not super healthy, but you’re engaged in them because otherwise, it’s so lonely and you feel so isolated. Maybe it’s time to be deliberate about forming some other relationships that can help you move forward.

Which is my second question. Do I have a group that’s helping me take my next steps of becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission? Do I have one of those groups? I have several of those groups, to be honest with you. They form around different things. They have different rhythms of meeting, but I have at least three, maybe even qualify a fourth one. Because I have to have that. I have to have it. We all do. Do you?

And if not, last question, what step will I take to find one? It’s Group Link Week. Group Link, I got that right. It’s Group Link Week here at Mission Hills. And so if you’re at the Littleton campus, or if you’re at the Español campus, you can actually stop in the lobby outside and there are all those groups that are out there. And I encourage you to go and spend a little bit of time looking around there and trying to figure out what’s my next step and kind of taking a step of faith to find my people, to find a group. If you’re online, you can use the group’s finder,, and you can sort through all the different options in a lot of different ways to find that group of people who will spur you on to taking your next steps.

By the way, if you’re online, one of the things we’re looking to do is we realized that our church has grown and there are a lot of people who consider Mission Hills home, and they’re nowhere near any of our physical locations. And if that’s you, we want to help you connect, you need that groups too. And so we’re looking to build online groups. And if you want to know more information about those, we encourage you to email our groups team at [email protected] By the way, also, you might be going, “I could host a group, I could host a life group. God has given me space.” And maybe there’s something stirring in your heart that says, “Maybe I could be the kernel around which some of that forms.” Our groups team would love to talk to you about hosting a group. Hosting groups is a good way to begin being part of such a group. But what’s your next step? Encourage you to take it today. Would you pray with me?

God, thank you that you took the initiative to come for us. You didn’t leave us alone in our sin. You loved us enough to come and rescue us. And thank you, Lord, that the Christian life is not built around all of our own efforts and activities. It’s supposed to be done in community. And so Lord, we thank you for this command, even though it’s a little bit uncomfortable for many of us and taking that step of faith to get engaged with a group of people who’ll help us, who will spur us to take that next step. It’s a little uncomfortable. We acknowledge with your Spirit that that’s an important thing to do. And so we ask that you give us the courage to lean into it to take a step of finding that group. Lord, I know there are people listening right now that their next step is really their first step. They don’t have that foundational thing we were talking about, they don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus.

And if that’s you if I can just speak to you for just a moment here, your next step is the first step. It’s to begin that relationship. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for your sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he offers each of us salvation, forgiveness of sin, adoption into the family of God, eternal life. All of that is offered to us by faith by putting our trust in what Jesus did for us. And if you’ve never put your faith in that, that’s the only step that matters for you today. And today is the day to take that step. Here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God right now. Say something like this to God. Say:

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for coming to rescue me. Thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead. I’m ready to accept forgiveness, belonging, and eternal life. Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you from here on out. Amen.

Are you Human?:*