Summary: This message was used to motivate people to sign up for small groups - it worked too! Largest sign-up ever (over 250 people)
Introduction: Should small groups be that hard? Should they be that scary? Today officially kicks off the sign-ups for our fall small group semester – and for the next month in every e-mail, in every message, in every gathering we have I will be talking about this great small group experience that is getting ready to kick off the first week of October. Let me tell you about what we are planning for this semester, because I am so excited about it, I can hardly stand it. It is a series that was originally developed by our friends at the Journey Church in NYC and one that we are adapting for us here at Believers and it is called The New Testament Challenge.
How many of you have read the entire New Testament from Matthew 1:1 to Revelation 22:21? Well, I’m praying and preparing for this series, where for 63 days our entire church will read the entire New Testament – our Sunday mornings will consist of developing the major themes of the New Testament and our Small groups will consist of discussing the daily readings that take us through the New Testament. The Bible says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV) And so I expect that your faith and the faith of this church will dramatically increase during this life-changing series. Perhaps you know some people who would benefit from being here for that series, well, in the next few weeks we will give you some tools that will make inviting your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers easy and fun – and if they come – their faith will also increase – maybe they will come to a saving faith in who Jesus is! It’s going to be really exciting! The small groups are going to be fun and they are going to be life-changing!
But, maybe you are a little worried about the small group part of this whole thing. Maybe you’re thinking that you don’t need a small group to fully participate in this series. Maybe you attended a small group once and it went something like one of those experiences that we saw in the drama. Or, maybe you’re thinking, I am not going to some group and spill my guts out and get vulnerable and share my feelings. You’re just nervous about this whole small group thing.
It wouldn’t surprise me that if you felt that way – we live in a culture where connecting with others has become increasingly unnatural and abnormal. It’s strange though when you think about it – and it certainly hasn’t always been this way – we have begun to progress towards this disconnectedness and isolationism.
Have you ever driven in the Deep South or even out in rural parts around here and you see all the chairs sitting out on the front porch? I used to always wonder why people would sit around on their front porches like that – it didn’t make any sense to me. Do you know why? There was no AC in the house – so on hot summer nights the coolest place that a person could be was out on the front porch of their house. The neighbors didn’t have AC either – it was too hot in their house too, so they would also come out on the front porch of their house – and the two families would connect – they would get to know each other.
That kind of thing just doesn’t happen anymore! In fact, most houses built today don’t even have porches where people can gather around the front of the house. Think about it, the architectural design of homes today reflects the culture of isolation that we’ve become. Homes have a front stoop – but no real porch – instead they have a back porch area. One of the latest crazes in home improvement is the outdoor living space in the back yard. They put in all of those pavers, and you have the grill, you can even have a refrigerator and running water out in the back yard. Now, there’s a big difference between the front porch and the back porch – you know what it is? Privacy! That’s something that we really value today. In fact, most houses have the back yard fenced in with what? A privacy fence! So, we can do all of this back yard stuff ALONE!
I was reading a book last week that touched on this trend towards isolating by Craig Groeschel and he mentioned another factor in isolating and it is the electric garage door opener. Think about it, now we pull into our driveways and we never have to get out of our car, we can just pull right into our garages and into the seclusion and sanctuary of our homes without ever having to talk to our neighbors! We cut ourselves off from community. In the book Craig said he mentioned to his kids that when he was young, people actually had to get out of their cars to open the garage door and his kids stared at him in disbelief! This culture of isolation is significant.