Welcome to week 2 of Reality 2.0. Last week, in case you missed it I shared what the overall VISION for this new version of Reality Church is. If you did miss it, I strongly encourage you to watch it online. But for today I’ll remind you of the short version:
Before we have a vision, we must have a FOUNDATION – which for us is God’s Word. In the graphic illustration of our vision and such, we show it as GROUNDED IN GOD’S WORD. Without it, we wouldn’t even have a destination or a road or anything else.
Our VISION is to see lives changed by the transforming power of Jesus Christ. It’s not about numbers. We’re talking real life change, life restoration that only Jesus can give – that’s what he’s done for me and that’s what he’s done for many of you – and He wants to use us to bring that living water, that abundant life that only Jesus can offer to others.
That is our destination on the road graphic. Today and next week I will be sharing with you our MISSION.
The VISION is WHAT we are trying to accomplish –
the MISSION is HOW we will do that.
You could also call it our method. There are two parts and they make up the two lanes on the road in our diagram.
And one thing I’ve already shared with you is that the key word in this mission is TOGETHER. Thus it will be central to both lanes of our mission.
What we will be doing comes straight out of the Acts 2 church – if you remember the series “Church: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” from a few weeks ago, you will remember that this was the GOOD. This was the first church. The ekklesia that Jesus would build upon the Petra – the unmovable rock – that is the foundation of our faith. Faith in Jesus Christ.
Before I read it to you, I have to be honest. When I first starting writing down everything you are going to hear in this series: the vision, the mission, the values – I didn’t reference the bible. It all came straight out of my head and heart and onto the page – about two days after Steve asked me to take over the church.
It was only when I started prepping for that Church series that I read through Acts 2 and to my surprise and delight – the mission I am about to share with you was right there. It gave me chills, because I believe that God did that on purpose. And there have been many other confirmations that this is the direction He wants us to go.
So, without further delay – let’s take another look at the Acts 2 passage that I’ve been talking about for weeks. You’re all going to have this memorized before I’m done – at least I hope so.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
From this passage, there are three distinct activities that the early church was engaged in – that we may not be able to exactly replicate – but we CAN emulate some of the basic principles they followed.
The first, we already talked about – They devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching. For them that was literally listening to them talk or others talk who had heard it straight from the Apostles’ mouth. For us that means staying devoted to the Bible – which the New Testament is comprised of the Apostles’ teaching. The authors of the NT were the apostles or their close associates and they wrote down what they said. So, we, like the Acts 2 church will stay grounded in God’s word – we will stay devoted to the Apostles’ teaching.
After that, there are two other attributes of this early church that we can adapt to our modern times that will perhaps result in the same thing it did for them – “and the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” And not only that, but I believe as we follow these two missions, that we will see lives changed – both ours and others we have yet to meet.
The first one is more obvious than the second.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching…and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Notice a repeated word in there? TOGETHER
It seems these early church people were obsessed with spending time with each other!
Even the word translated as “fellowship” in verse 42 – KOINONIA can also be translated as “TOGETHERNESS” It is often translated as “communion” and is similar to the word “KOIN” which is translated in verse 44 as “common” – it’s this idea of a group of people who all have something in common, which holds them together. It’s this idea like we’re all in the same boat – so we need to stick together and work together. The thing they had in common is the same thing we have in common – Jesus, a new life, a saved soul, sins forgiven.
Together, together, together – Seems to be telling us something – but what you don’t know from just reading this one English version is that it’s even deeper than that.
There are many kinds of “together.”
- We are all together in this room.
- My wife and I have been together for over ten years.
- Glue makes things stick together.
- Grandma went to the grocery store TO GET HER some lima beans.
So, you can see that just a casual reading of these verses could give five different people, five different understandings. This is why it is helpful when you are STUDYING (not just reading to finish) to look at several different English versions. It can give you a much clearer understanding, especially if it varies significantly between versions.
Verse 44 – All the believers were together and had everything in common.
This one does not vary much between translations, but the “together” here indicates a physical togetherness – in that they lived close or with each other or at least spent a lot of their time physically together – so much so that they pretty much shared everything they had with everyone else.
Verse 46 is a little trickier.
Looking at just the first half, a few versions of this read:
New International Version
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.
New American Standard Bible
Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple,
International Standard Version
United in purpose, they went to the Temple every day,
Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts,
WARNING: HERE COMES A TANGENT
Notice that the first “together” of the NIV is translated a little differently in each of these.
That is, again because the Greek that the NT was written in is not always easily translated into easy-to-read English. If you ever tried to read a strictly literal translation, it would be very hard to follow.
That is why the various types of translations end up being different and can only contain MOST of the original meaning.
Probably the only way to get the absolute fullest meaning would be to have lived in that time and place and spoken that language as your native language, and even then – as we know from being native English speakers – just because we’re saying the same words doesn’t mean we’re understanding each other. All I can say is thank God for the Holy Spirit who helps us even have a clue.
And finally, while I’m on this tangent –
why does it matter what the original words mean?
Why can’t we just read it and apply our own meaning? It would be a lot easier.
There are lots of reasons I could give, but the
- one that matters most is simply the fact that God doesn’t change.
- And we believe these are His words – in their original form.
- If God doesn’t change – why would the meaning of His words change?
If we start trying to change what His words mean – and His words are how we know Him – then we are actually trying to change Him.
And if you don’t think word meanings can change that much, just take a few from modern times;
- Gay used to mean happy.
- Straight used to describe a line or a road.
- Cool used to be a temperature.
- Bae used to mean sheep dung or the sound a sheep makes
- And don’t even get me started on the word “love” (That will be the topic of this Wednesday Night’s message)
So, can you see how after just a few generations, the language can be changed so completely that if you read a paper or book from 100 years ago, you wouldn’t even know what half of it really meant because you would be applying modern definitions to words that were intended to mean something else?
God says of himself that he doesn’t change. (Malachi 3:6)
He also says something quite powerful about his words:
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
In other words, God doesn’t mince words. He says what he means and means what he says and he means it exactly as he means it the first time – not as it will be read generations later when all the words he used now have different meanings. I believe there is a very insidious reason why certain words have been highjacked by culture to mean something different than when God spoke them so that we can all read the same Bible and come away with understandings that suit our own wants and desires than what is actually true. But maybe that’s just me. God spoke to the authors and they wrote it down in the context of their unique time, place, and culture – and if we just willy nilly try to put our modern definitions on their ancient words, then we can be seriously mislead.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t trust your english translations, but even when reading those – be sure to know what the ENGLISH words really mean.
The translators spend lots of time and effort trying to pick just the right words to use, and they use them according to their official definitions. Look them up in a dictionary to be sure – NOT the URBAN DICTIONARY. You’d be surprised at how many words you use on a regular basis have a different meaning in the dictionary than what you use it for.
So, that is why we care about the meaning of words. God’s word is power, but if we are not careful we can be powerfully wrong!
Ok, tangent done. Let’s get back to Acts 2.
We were talking about the word “TOGETHER” and how it is translated differently in verse 46 depending on the different English translation. Here is why:
The first Greek word translated in the NIV as “together” is HOMOTHUMADON which means “with one mind, unanimously, with one accord, with the same passion”
So, it wasn’t just that they were physically together – which much of the time they were – but they were of one mind, one purpose, one passion, one accord – they were united in spirit because of the Lord they served.
The second part of that verse in the NIV says they ate together, the other versions are a little more literal as the Greek indicates eating house to house. So, yes they were together in each other’s homes eating together. This is a personal togetherness. It’s more than just meeting at the big church, but it’s sharing meals in each other’s homes.
So, put this all together:
- They devoted themselves to fellowship – togetherness – KOINONIA – joined by having Jesus in common.
- They were united in purpose, of one accord, with the same passion.
- They spent time together both in the temple (corporate church gatherings) and in each other’s homes (personal relationships)
So, what does all this mean for us?
What they had and what I hope that we can have as a church is something that Chip Ingram calls AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY.
Unfortunately our English language does not have near the depth of meaning as the ancient Koine Greek, so I feel I need to explain this further.
Authentic Community is about doing life together with other believers for the purpose of growing closer to God.
It’s where you can totally be yourself with the people you are doing life with – warts and all.
It’s where you give someone else permission to speak into your life because you trust them and know they have your best interests at heart – and you do the same for them.
Authentic community is the absolute best way to go through life.
And in fact, that is what Mission #1 will be for us.
- We will first and foremost be a church that is Grounded in God’s word.
- Our VISION is to see lives changed by the transforming power of Jesus Christ.
- And one of our two missions – or how it is we will see lives changed – is by:
- DOING LIFE TOGETHER IN AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY.
I would have called it KOINONIA except that most people wouldn’t know what that means. But that is ultimately what it is. I envision us becoming a church that is united because we all share the same savior, the same forigiveness of sins, the same indwelling of the Holy Spirit – and we are all bone cells in the bone system of the body of Christ – and if you don’t know what I’m talking about there, take a look at week 3 of Church: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
But in short, I’m talking about the body of Christ. Last time we looked in 1st Corinthians, but Paul also talks about this in Romans 12. Let’s take a look:
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
While this can be applied to the universal church – as I did a few weeks ago, it can also be applied to an individual church. We are indeed many, but we form one body and we each belong to each other.
Church is not a place that you go.
Church is a body that you belong to.
But you will never get that sense if all you ever do is come for the talk and leave. You might as well stay home and just watch it online.
Now, the truth is that one of the great benefits of the Christian faith is getting to do life together with other believers. Why do you think the early Christians were so favored by the people around them. They had something you can’t find anywhere else. Sacrificial and unselfish love toward others in a genuine way.
They followed what Jesus taught:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
And remember that’s not the lovey dovey ewy gooey kind of love, but AGAPE love which is a choice to put others above yourself. I’ll be talking more about that this Wednesday.
And this is what I believe we are supposed to be as Reality Church. We are supposed to be a family, with each of us looking out for each other, spending time together, studying God’s word together.
This is where life change happens. You can read the Bible half the day and pray the other half and you will probably grow. The Bible can’t help but have an impact on you if you take it seriously – but if you do take it seriously you can’t get around the fact that the New Testament and particularly Jesus’s teachings revolves around us loving each other – and we can’t love each other if we are never WITH each other. Because love is not a feeling. It is an action. I can FEEL love for someone I am not with, but I cannot SHOW AGAPE love to someone I am never around.
I know that much of my personal story of life change I owe to the several years I spent doing life with Steve – and with a group of men from a men’s group and from a discipleship group I was a part of. You can grow on your own, but we were made to be together.
In Genesis, didn’t God say that it wasn’t good for the man to be alone – that’s why He made Eve?
And if you don’t think we were made for community – are we not created in the image of God? And is God not a community in Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? I know it’s confusing, but it’s clearly there in scripture.
And speaking of Scripture, here’s a short list of ways God tells us to interact with each other. It’s called the “one anothers”
I will only read a few (you can see the others in my notes)…
- Be devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10).
- Give preference to one another (Rom. 12:10).
- Be of the same mind toward one another (Rom. 12:16).
- Accept one another by withholding judgment (Rom. 14:1).
- Accept one another by showing deference (Rom. 14:1–5; 15:7).
- Esteem [highly regard] one another in love (Rom. 14:5; Phil. 2:3).
- Build up one another (Rom. 14:19; 1 Thes. 5:11).
- Counsel one another (Rom. 15:14).
- Serve one another by showing deference in matters of liberty (Gal. 5:13).
- Bear one another’s sin burdens (Gal. 6:2).
- Be gentle with one another (Eph. 4:2).
- Be kind to one another so as to preserve unity (Eph. 4:32).
- Speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:25; Col 3:9).
- Submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).
- Show compassion to one another (Col. 3:12).
- Bear with the inherent sinfulness of one another (Col. 3:13).
- Forgive one another (Col. 3:13).
- Use Spirit-filled, Word-saturated music to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).
- Comfort one another with the hope of Christ’s return (1 Thes. 4:18).
- Encourage one another (1 Thes. 5:11).
- Live in peace with one another (1 Thes. 5:13).
- Seek good for one another (1 Thes. 5:15).
- Encourage one another to forsake unbelief and hardness of heart (Heb. 3:13).
- Stimulate one another to spiritual growth (Heb. 10:24).
- Encourage one another by faithful participation in your local church (Heb. 10:25).
- Confess sins to one another (James 5:16).
- Pray for one another’s spiritual and physical healing (James 5:16).
- Be patient toward one another (1 Peter 4:8; Eph. 4:2).
- Be hospitable to one another without complaint (1 Peter 4:9).
- Serve one another (1 Peter 4:10; Gal. 5:13).
- Act in humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5).
- Show holy affection to one another (1 Peter 5:14).
- Participate in the holy walk with one another (1 John 1:7).
- Refuse to become resentful toward one another (1 John 3:11–12).
- Give sacrificially to meet one another’s needs (1 John 3:16–17).
- Fight fear together by growing in love (1 John 4:18).
- Walk in truth together (1 John 3:18; 2 John 1:5).
- LOVE ONE ANOTHER
It’s hard to do all these one-anothers when we are not around one another! These are not suggestions. They are imperatives. they are commands.
There is a reason why Jesus harped on this so much and why so much of the New Testament is about how we treat each other.
It’s because when we do life together with other believers, we are behaving the most like Christ!
He was constantly with his followers after infinitely being with the Father and Holy Spirit. It is not good for the man to be alone – but it IS good for us to be together, and grow together.
But don’t just take my word for it. The same people who were in the video interview last week were also asked what one thing has made the most impact on their personal growth. Check it out:
I promise I did not prompt them to say that. It’s simply true that doing life together is the best accelerant for spiritual growth and a changed life.
And that is exactly what DOING LIFE TOGETHER IN AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY is all about.
And that is what this church will be all about as long as God let’s me lead it.
Now before I close, I want to clarify a few things about “community”.
For all you introverts who are freaking out right now (though quietly and to yourself so as not to draw attention to yourself – I get it, I’m an introvert) –
Community is not always in big groups with everyone smiling and making small talk. Some of the best and most authentic community is one-on-one. In fact this is my dream for how we do this.
And the authenticity factor goes up as we get closer to the bottom of this graphic.
- Big Group (All Church) Get Togethers
- Small Common-Interest Get Togethers
- Life Groups (discussion based)
- Deep Bible Learning
- Mentoring & Discipleship
The goal is for everyone to get to the bottom of this at some point.
– to the point of having that Christ-Centered friend who you know you can call on at any hour of the night, and that you can share your ups and downs with. Someone you can trust and be truly open with. That is the best kind of doing life together – and my prayer, and my hope is that each one of us is able to come to that kind of relationship.
And the difference between this and just regular friends from work or school is that these relationships have purpose. It’s not simply hanging out – though it may feel that way sometimes, which is fine.
But we are doing life together with the aim of coming to a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – because this is how he does it. He changes us then he uses us to change others – and it’s not through telling each other what to do or what not to do – it’s through doing life together and opening our hearts to each other and to Him.
If you are an introvert – like me – this may take awhile, and you may just want to skip the first few stages and go right to Bible Learning because you don’t like small talk, but you want to learn.
And that’s ok – just DON’T DO NOTHING. Even if you feel like you are a loner – you were made to do life with other people – so do it at your own pace, but do it.
So that’s Mission #1.
Our foundation is in God’s Word.
Or vision is to see lives changed.
And part 1 of our mission is DOING LIFE TOGETHER IN AUTHENTIC COMMUNITY.
As I mentioned last week, we are officially starting many of the types of groups I mentioned in the FALL. Be thinking about how you can play a part.
- Maybe you can lead or host a discussion group.
- Maybe you can put together some kind of fun outing.
- Maybe you can teach a bible class.
- Maybe you can mentor someone – or maybe you want to be mentored.
The part the church staff and leaders will play is that we will facilitate all of these types of relationships as much as we can. We will do our part to make it easy for all of us to engage in whatever type of fellowship we want to.
Your part is to engage.
And as you do that, you may be surprised at how much you have in common with the other people sitting in this room – and you may even like each other. And as you continue to do this, one day you will wake up and realize that you are not the same as you were just a few months or years ago.
You will find that, without even trying – your life has been changed. You think differently, and you like it.
You don’t have the same fears and worries and anxieties that you used to. And you look forward to each day because you know there is a God who loves you and there are friends you want to be with and who want to be with you. This is the abundant life. And you can’t get it anywhere else.
Our vision is to see lives changed – and that includes yours and mine.
And one of the best ways to do that is by us doing life together in authentic community.
Which is why this will be one of our two primary missions from this day forward.
Romans 12 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.