Morning. My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are pressing pause on the Book of Luke today
Every once in a while, we do a message at our church called “The State of Renovation”
And we talk about something important or challenging our church is facing
And in the year 2020, there are all sorts of challenges, right?
But I believe that this virus has caused, in particular, two unique challenges to our church.
And I want to talk about them today.
I’ll spend a little bit of time on the first, and a decent amount more on the second.
CONCERN FOR HEARTS GROWING COLD
My first concern is for the many hearts of our people that are growing spiritually cold over the last 5 months
We have a decent-sized group of our people who’ve stopped coming to church
Now let me clarify…please don’t miss this.
It’s important to me that you don’t misunderstand me here.
I am NOT talking about anyone who is vulnerable in health.
I am not even talking about those who haven’t gathered with us because they are afraid or concerned about the virus
I am only talking about our people who are NOT afraid of the virus or even concerned about it, but they have just stopped coming to church…and they’ve stopped watching online.
And that, in our church, like thousands of other churches in America right now, is a significant-sized group.
We know from calling our people and from survey information that the vast majority of our people (well over 80% are comfortable with meeting in person)
And yet if you compare our summer attendance with last year’s summer attendance, it’s only 55% of what’ last summer’s was.
Churches all around America are reporting the same thing.
Attenders have told them, “Yeah, it’s not the virus. We go to restaurants, we gather with friends…it’s just, we haven’t gone to church in so long, we’ve just, kind of fallen out of the habit.”
We called over 100 of our House Groups people we hadn’t seen at church this summer, and while many said, “No, I’m vulnerable, or I don’t feel comfortable (and we said, great, totally get it)
But we also talked to person after person said, “Yeah, no, it’s not the virus, it’s just, well, we’ve been busy with different stuff now”
The Polling Group, Barna, recently reported that not only have Americans gotten out of the habit of attending church, even Bible reading is down 50% in over the past few months.
Because when you take a coal out of the fire, and place it by itself, it cools off.
When you take a member of the body, and break it off to exist by itself, it can’t survive.
And I’m worried, my heart is breaking, about those who are slowly fading away from God.
As we say often, you’re always moving one way or the other.
There is no neutral.
You’re either getting closer to God or fading away from him.
My heart breaks for the many people in our church that are experiencing a slow fade away from God.
But, the irony is the people I’m talking about…aren’t listening to this message.
They’re not here. They’re not watching online either.
But here’s the deal: You know them.
Together, we know most of them.
I want you to think, who is it that you haven’t seen?
Will you call them? Text them? See how they’re doing?
They might say, “Oh, we’re just not comfortable because of the virus and everything”
Say, “Oh, that’s cool”
But maybe you’ll find that their answer is different. And that they’re drifting, or out of the habit.
Tell them that you love them and miss them, and encourage them to keep seeking the Lord.
CONCERN FOR HEARTS GROWING INWARD
That’s the first concern that’s really been on the heart of our pastors and leaders.
If I were to label it, I’d call it “Concern for hearts growing cold”
Here is the second: It’s a “concern for hearts growing inward”
What I mean by this is hearts that are focused on themselves, over and above other things.
Which is not the way of Christ.
This really became clear to the leaders of our Church as we polled all of our House Group members a few weeks ago.
If you’re new around here, House Groups are our groups of 30+ people that get together on a weekly basis…and 80% of our adults are in one.
Now, obviously we can’t have 30 people meeting in a Living Room this fall, so we surveyed people to see what they would be willing to attend
And over and over again, our people, in heartbreaking fashion, said, “Unless you do it this way, I won’t be there.”
“Unless all 30 of us meet without masks, I won’t be there”
“Unless we can meet in person, I won’t join House Groups this Fall”
“Unless you do ZOOM in this particular way (like, don’t ask me to ZOOM into a group that’s meeting), I’m out.”
And over and over again we read these comments.
And it wasn’t from a small minority either.
And I must tell you, for our leaders, tears were shed and sleep was lost.
We are grieved over the spiritual condition of our church.
As a people, we’ve become so wrapped up in the thinking of the culture, that we are drifting from the Word of God.
And it’s easy to drift when we saturate ourselves with the opinions and talking points of the day’s current events…rather than the Word of God.
Let’s look to the Word of God…our true guide.
Open up your Bibles.
(Outdoor services – Weekly Verses)
Get out the app if possible…there are verses I want you to see.
(Philippians 2:1-4) – NIV
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Okay, look at the first verse.
Paul asks 4 rhetorical questions in a row.
He says, “What have you received from God?”
I want you to think about this, personally.
What have you received from God?
Have you been encouraged by Him?
Comforted by His Love? Have you?
Do you have the Spirit?
Have you felt his tenderness and compassion in your life??
He’s saying, “If you have…then you must, you must do the 2 following things:”
You must 1) be unified…AND 2) you must value others above yourself.
And I’m not sure that we are doing either right now.
Are you familiar with the Apostle Paul’s famous chapter on what love is, 1 Corinthians 13?
Even if you’re new to faith, you might have heard it at a wedding.
Love is Patient, Love is Kind, it does not envy, it does not boast.
Do you know what the next line is?
I love it in the ESV translation.
It says, “Love does not insist on its own way”
And why is that?
Because Christian relationships, Christian friendships, are called to imitate Christ’s love.
They are to be defined by SACRIFICE.
They’re not self-serving, because Jesus wasn’t self-serving.
And I believe that as we roll out our House Groups model this Fall, we will be tested.
The measure of our Christian love will be tested.
Can we live out what Paul is asking of us in Philippians?
Can we stay together in unity?
Can we value others as more important than ourselves?
Because we believe God called us to STAY UNIFIED and also VALUE OTHERS AS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OURSELVES…here’s what we believe God is calling us to do this Fall:
I’ll give you the high-level flyover, and over the next few days we’ll be rolling out more details and answering Frequently Asked Questions…both through our website and email
If you have questions now, you can also stay after to ask me, or Pastor Josh, or Rachel Cheney as well.
This Fall, we’ll be doing a House Group model that will repeat in a 3-week pattern
In Week 1: The entire House Group (30+ people) will meet together on ZOOM.
This helps the whole group stay together.
Some of our House Groups have been together for 5-10 years now…we don’t want to start going our separate ways.
ZOOM also is a great option for those who don’t feel comfortable (or aren’t able) to gather in person yet…which is about 17% of our church.
In Week 2: Women’s Small Groups will meet in person at a group member’s house.
These are groups of about 5-7 people.
And each small group will meet at a different house.
Masks will be required
And those who have health or virus concerns can, and are encouraged to, ZOOM into the small group with no judgement!
In Week 3: The Men’s Small Groups will meet
Men & Women aren’t meeting on the same week because we know that finding childcare will be difficult for many this Fall
And then, the whole pattern repeats again: Zoom, Women’s, Men’s
We believe that this model accomplishes most of our goals:
It allow us to keep our House Groups together…
We get to begin to meet in person again…which again, 83% of our church wants to do
And you’re still able to be a part of it if you want to (or need to) ZOOM (both with the large group together) and the in-person small groups.
And yet, I suspect for many, maybe even for most, it’s not exactly what you wanted.
And that brings us back to the WORD
Let me read verses 3 & 4 again:
(Philippians 2:3-4) – NIV
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Can you SEE the interests of others?
For so many of us over the last 5 months, we’ve saturated our minds with social media, blogs, endless news media reports, to the point that we’re only reading now what we want to read.
And it’s to the point that we don’t understand our own Christian brothers and sisters…and we’re certainly not valuing them above ourselves.
For example, when I said that we were going to require masks at our in-person small groups, some of you went, “Ugh, that’s crazy, I’m not going. I don’t like wearing masks.”
I wish you could have read the comments in our survey.
The ones that said things like, “I miss my house group so much. I want to pray and study with them again. I’m even willing to come in person, but I’m a bit nervous. I think I would be too afraid to come if people didn’t wear masks”
Let me ask you: Is your opinion on masks more important than your brother or sister growing in Christ?
I sure hope your answer is no.
Look around right now…Look.
Some of the people you see…want to meet with you, to pray with you…but they don’t feel comfortable unless you wear a mask.
Can you value their interests above your own?
Or, I know for many, even the mention of the word ZOOM sends chills down your spine.
We know that many of you don’t like it.
But for some of our brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s their only option.
They’re 70 years old.
They’re caring for someone who’s incredibly vulnerable.
I plead with you from God’s Word: Value their interests as above your own
For those of you who are so frustrated by the fact that people actually want to meet in person…
I wish you could read their comments…where they PLEADED with us to let them actually gather in the room with people so they be together.
Can you see their heart? Their desire.
If you can’t come, can you ZOOM in…even if it’s awkward, or not perfect?
Can you sacrifice for your friend in Christ?
I love Romans 15 on this topic:
(Romans 15:1-2) – NIV
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. 2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
If you’re looking at the other side and saying, “They’re weak…”
God is saying, “Okay, then sacrifice for them. You’re not in it to please yourself”
Think about the teaching of the New Testament
Over and over again we are called to be servants to one another…
To wash one another’s feet
We’re exhorted by Jesus that those who continually put themselves (and their way) first, will become last…but the last will be first.
(Romans 12:10) – NIV
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
But how can we say that we’re doing any of that if we say, “Unless it’s done the way I like it, I won’t be there.”
Friends, that is not of Christ, it’s not of his heart.
John 13 says the world will know us by our sacrifice and our love for one another…but right now, we look just like the world.
And it grieves my heart.
And I know that some of you want to say, “But I’m free to do as I wish, and so you can’t tell me what to do. I decide. It’s my right, my freedom”
Yes, while I suppose you have free will and can do what you want, but to LOVE another is to sacrifice for another.
Paul hits at this exact thing in 1 Corinthians because people in Corinth were saying, “I’m free to do what I want!”
(1 Corinthians 10:23-24) – NIV
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.
Is that you my Christian friend?
Are you seeking the good of others?
Are you valuing others and their needs above your own??
Do you know why Paul started the way he did in our original chapter of Philippians 2?
When he said, “Have you been encouraged by God? Comforted by his love? Do you have the Spirit?”
Because, He’s saying, “If you know Jesus, and you know His love, then surely you must remember HOW you know his love in the first place”
Look at verse 5 in Philippians 2:
(Philippians 2:5-8) – NIV
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Jesus, our model, made himself nothing.
He gave up his rights, his freedom, to stay in heaven on his throne in comfort…
And He’s the Son of God…the most free being that has ever existed.
And yet He humbled himself, coming to earth as a baby in a manger…taking on the character of a servant.
He was so obedient to God…in his servant-attitude, that He even gave his life on the cross.
Think about this…Jesus considered YOUR Life to be so important, of so much value, that he laid down his life for yours.
That is our model, friends.
To lay down our lives, our desires, our preferences for others.
(John 15:13) – NIV
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Because that’s exactly what Jesus did for us.
I plead with you…sacrifice for your friends.
I know it won’t be perfect.
I know it’s not exactly what you want.
I know it will even be uncomfortable.
But it will still be good.
And we WILL grow together…and grow in God.
And God will move.
And we will do it for each other.
So we can STAY TOGETHER…in Unity.
While the world splinters apart…
May they see us, coming together, sacrificing for one another in love…and may they see Jesus Christ in us.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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