Have you ever wondered why a growing amount of people are experiencing loneliness in our culture? Have you wondered why we can feel so disconnected even when we are surrounded by people and consumed with the busyness of work, family and church commitments?
The Bible talks a lot about healthy, intimate connections and relationships with other Christians, not only for support and encouragement, but as a vital ingredient for lasting change.
Our culture has encouraged us to be individuals and to face things on our own. It is important to take personal responsibility for our actions, but many Christians have taken the mindset of it’s just Jesus and me battling against my sin nature and trying to become more like Christ. When you make the decision to follow Christ, you are never alone again. God designed His system to have community as one of the main ingredients in personal change.
However, getting involved in community is messy, time-consuming and complicated. It seems easier to just work on ourselves privately with God. Change is something God intends his people to experience together. It’s a corporate goal. Each of our individual stories is part of a bigger picture that God is orchestrating. We each have an important role in that story.
I met with a friend today that has been facing some deep rooted issues. He has been making remarkable changes in his life over the past several months. One of the biggest reasons he has been changing so drastically is because he has fully embraced community. He had always been in groups before, but after this last situation he took his lumps and was open about his struggles with those close to him.
He also pursued accountability with some people he was close with. Having that community of people to surround him has helped him to make real “heart changes”. He turned to God and community as a way to start changing.
I know people that profess to be Christians and yet don’t go to Church or meet with other Christians in a small group. They make comments like as long as I have the Lord in my heart I don’t need that community. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:19-22 about us being fellow citizens and members of God’s household. He gives us a picture of a building or temple that has Christ as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets as the foundation. The rest of us make up the remaining building. We are being built together.
Paul continues in chapter three to pray for them as a family, to grow in understanding how much God loves them. As isolated individuals, we cannot reach the level of maturity God has designed for us. This fullness can only happen as we live in a healthy, right, community with one another.
Paul goes on in Chapter four about unity in the body of Christ. We are to be humble, gentle and patient with each other. We are to make every effort to stay in unity with each other. We are to work through conflict, communicate openly, confront lovingly and support each other when there is a need.
So what’s the bottom line? A Christian is not only a child of God, but a member of the family of God. We cannot grow to the fullness God has for us living independently of others. Personal transformation takes place in the context of healthy community.
If you are continuing to struggle with a certain sin or issue, maybe you need to bring more community or accountability into your life. When we get past the fear of what others might think about us and take a risk to be open and honest, real change can happen in your life. god can begin to use you in the bigger story He is writing.
I have been thinking about this idea lately. When you think about the Christian life and the life long process of change, what are the key ingredients for change and growth to happen? Once you make the commitment to make Jesus the leader of your life and the forgiver of your sins, how do you keep growing in the commitment?
Some might say doing devotions daily, Bible Study, going to church, reading good Christian books. Others would argue that being in a small group or serving at your church are keys. Others might say that taking communion, getting baptized, sharing your faith or going to confession might be keys. All of theses things are good, and helpful, but if these things could change us by themselves, Jesus would not have needed to come.
All of those activities are ways we recognize our need for Christ. It helps us realize we are dependant on Him. They are ways to connect with Christ, but they are not the keys to change and growth.
In 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, Paul is talking to the Corinthians and us about being married to Christ. He uses marriage as a metaphor to explain how our relationship with Christ should be. He speaks of Christ as the “husband” and the people as “pure virgins”. In verse 3 he talks about his concern that they/we will fall prey to “false lovers”.
If you think about your relationship with Jesus as being one of marriage, it can change your perspective. In marriage you are concerned with pleasing each other and caring for each other. You want to build a close intimate relatiosnhip, share your hopes and dreams together. A marriage will always struggle if there are other things that come before that relationship. If your job, money, friends, family, children or church become more important than your relationship with your spouse, that marriage will suffer.
It is the same way with Christ. If we put other things and relationships in front of our relationship with Christ it will suffer. We will not be very close to Him. In marriage, remaining faithful is a key to staying married. Paul was concerned that we would not remain faithful to Christ, but be distracted by these false lovers. Like any other marriage, the big issue is my commitment to fidelity. Will I remain faithful to Jesus alone, and not seek fulfillment elsewhere?
For Paul, the Christian life was more than having daily devotions, giving money or even serving in ministry. You can do all of those things without Christ at the center of your life. For Paul, the heartbeat of being a Christian was to remain faithful to Christ in a world where many would be lovers are after our attention.
When we fully understand this truth of being married to Christ, it will change the way we respond to life situations. It will change the way we look at our relationships, our jobs, our money and our time. Whether you are single or married, you need to understand that your relationship with Jesus Christ should be very personal and intimate, because we are married to Him.
Because we are married to Him we have all kinds of benefits. We have married into an incredible family, super rich, very powerful, full of love and respect. Everything we could ever need physically, emotionally or spiritually has been provided by Christ. Read Colossians 1:15-23 to see the person you are married to. What an amazing person.
The key to change and growth rest on my relatiosnhip with a person, Christ, who acts on my behalf. Having that perspective helps us grow and change.
Every month I read a magazine called Fast Company. I enjoy this magazine because it is full of creativity and relevant topics. They also do a great job of studying successful companies and emerging markets. This months issue has “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” in it. I found it interesting to see the companies they considered the most innovative. Team Obama made number 1, followed by Google, Hulu, Apple, Cisco Systems, Intel, Pure Digital Technologies, WuXi PharmaTech, Amazon and Ideo to round out the top ten. Facebook made it at number 15 (I just got on FaceBook myself).
I love innovation and finding better ways to do things. Our country is facing a time when innovation will be critical for our survival. Whole industries need to change the way they do things. The companies that are able to evolve will be the ones to thrive and connect with our culture.
As I was reading about some of these companies, the one that really got my attention was Amazon. The headline on their section said “What’s dangerous is not to evolve” One of the questions that Fast Company asked Amazon was “Is it harder to take risks now that Amazon is so big?” Here is the answer they gave: “It’s actually easier. You’re not betting the whole company. You’re doing new things, and if they don’t work, you can change direction. What’s dangerous is not to evolve.”
Wow, as I read that I immediately thought about the Church. As a church gets bigger, and is reaching more people, it becomes easier to take risks as well. It gives you the ability to try new things and take a risk without betting the whole church. I love the idea of the church evolving. To me that does not mean changing the message, but changing how we deliver that message and where we deliver that message.
The church should be the most innovative organization on earth. We should be at the forefront of using technology, and resources to reach the world. The church should be the most relevant, exciting thing going in every community. Amazon went on to say this “The details, technologies, and competitors will change. But the big things won’t.” Hey, it’s the same in the church. The big things won’t change like what we believe about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, Salvation, Eternity, the Bible and the Church. Our values won’t change, our vision won’t change, but how we do church will continue to evolve and change.
It is amazing what you can learn from other businesses and organizations. I would love to see a church listed in that top 50 some time. If your church or business is not evolving intentionally, it will slowly decline and eventually you will be forced to evolve or close the doors.
NewPointe Community Church has been on the innovative, evolving track over the past several years. This weekend we are talking about Making Room! We need to get innovative on how to make more room for the people that want to attend church. What a great problem to have. I can’t wait to face the challenges of the future in innovative, creative ways.
This afternoon I spent a few hours helping a single mom move. Three other guys from my small groups at NewPointe helped. It took four pickups and a trailer. We took most of the stuff to a storage unit. We had to be very creative in packing the unit from ground to roof. We got it all in there some how.
We have helped numerous people move over the past few years. I think it is around 8-10 families. This outreach ministry allows us to show people that we care and is an opportunity to encourage someone that is going through a very stressful time. Moving is always a stressful thing and we try to help relieve some of that stress. We also try to pray with the person and invite them to church, if they are not already attending one.
Serving together as a small group helps to build community and friendships. The guys that I call to help are always glad to pitch in when they can. We have had some really interesting and funny experiences as a result.
I want to encourage you to look for opportunities to help people in need. There are a lot of people struggling right now. Even if you are struggling yourself, you can still find ways of helping and serving other people.
The local church should be leading the way in encouraging and helping people. At NewPointe Community Church we encourage everyone that attends to make a difference by serving, not only at the your church, but in your community and around the world. Freely giving your time to help others is a tangible way of showing the world we are Christ followers. They get to see Jesus with skin on.
Most people that I talk to would say they are above average as a driver, above average on sense of humor and above average on listening. I must say that I would say that about myself as well.
The fact is that most of people are not good listeners. I won’t get into the driving and sense of humor thing.
As a leader, listening is a vital characteristic for success. Unfortunately many leader’s are terrible listeners. They are often thinking about what to say next themselves, or how to respond back. I see this often in marriage relationships and in parenting as well. By the way, if you are married or a parent, you are definitely a leader. Spouses and parents that do a poor job of listening usually leads to conflict and damage to the relationships.
If you want to improve your leadership at home and at work, focus on improving your listening skills this week. Here are some conclusions about good listening:
Try to be a focused listener the next time you are in a meeting or talking with someone you love.
If you can do that on a consistent basis, you will see drastic improvements in your relationships and in your leadership.
My wife Vikki and I lead a couples group on Sunday nights. Our current group has been together for almost a year. We just started a new study called Love & Respect. It is based on the best selling book by Dr. Emmerson Eggrichs. We have been having some great discussion about marriage and this idea of men loving their wives and women respecting their husbands found in Ephesians 5:33. It is very helpful to hear how other couples are working on their marriages and that we don’t all have it together. Every couple has hard times, conflicts and difficulties. In a small group we can talk about some of those things and we can have fun together. Building relationships and friendships has been very rewarding for Vikki and I. We have gotten to know quite a few people over the past 10 years through small groups.
We eat together, party together, serve together, laugh together, pray together, celebrate together, study together, encourage each other and care for each other when we can. Life change really can happen in small groups. I would encourage you to get into a small group if you are not in one. That is were life change happens best.
Here are some pictures of us hanging out after group. We have to make room for the furry friends as well.
This week I spent time with two engaged couples. They are both getting married in May, and I am mentoring them. I will meet with them 5-7 times over the next couple of months. We (NewPointe Community Church) use an online inventory called FOCCUS. They take the online inventory, and then we print out a report and go over the results with them. There are many categories like, lifestyle expectations, friends and interests, extended family, personal issues, sexuality, problem solving, communication, marriage covenant, and more.
I also will give them exercises to take home and work on. The first one is to fill out their family tree and interview some family to find out about grandparents, aunts and uncles etc.
I love to hear their stories of how they met and how they are working on their relationship. These two couples are working and preparing for a lifetime together. The work they put in now will payoff big time down the road. Having the hard conversations before marriage is always better. Making sure you have discussed and agreed on many of these areas is vital to a healthy marriage.
The skills they are learning now will help them work through the difficulties ahead. It is time well spent.
I recently listened to John Maxwell’s latest book called Leadership Gold. I was traveling, so I was able to listen to the entire book within a couple of days. John Maxwell has been a mentor of mine, even though I have not met him in person. I have read nearly all his books and I also subscribe to his monthly CD club called Maximum Impact. I have learn a lot about leadership and relationships from his teaching. John has such a great ability to communicate in a way that I can apply things to my life. He keeps it simple, direct and uses illustrations to make his point.
I have used much of his material in teaching others about leadership as well. In this latest book, he shares the things he has learned in his life. He said that he waited to write this until he turned 60. I could share a lot of things from the book, but one thing that has stuck with me over the past week is this:
Each of our lives is like a suitcase. We all have the same size suitcase, but the outside looks different. We all get a chance to pack our own suitcases. Some people can get more in their suitcases than others. The reason for that is they know what to pack and how to pack it.
What are you packing in your suitcase? Is it the right stuff? What are you having a hard time getting into your suitcase? What do you need to dump from your suitcase?