8/21/16 - Tweetables - We Meet

Speaker: Lead Pastor Justin Douglas

Location: Lower Dauphin Middle School

Scripture: Hebrews 10:24-25

Can you guys believe summer's almost over? {frustrated sigh} Ahhhhh! Like, great way to start a message, Justin. Do you want me to check out? Right? No. You know, we only have two messages left in our Tweetables series, and I know you guys are really going to miss that trailer, right? Some of you are like, get that trailer outta here, I hate that kind of music. Others of you are like, party! So, yeah, you know...

But we've only got two left, and some of you have kids going to school this week even, and then some of you it's next week, and so summer is almost over and our Tweetables series is almost over. If you've been here in and out through our Tweetables series, it's kind of been this summer series that we've done because we recognize with traveling and with all these other things that you might be doing...for example, you might go on vacation, you might have travel league with one of your kids and they play on Sunday, whatever...we thought, how do we do a series that's not really built off each other, because a lot of series it's one after the other and they build off of each other. So this is been kind of a one-off series. Each one is just a one-off message, and so it's a great time to come in, plug in during the summer, and we're getting ready to ramp up with the school year coming up, some new series on the horizon that are exciting.

The whole premise of the series has been, let's find some really small passages of the Bible - small like Twitter-small, like 140 characters or less - and let's look at those, examine those, and examine the depth of those. And so you've all gathered here today, which is an interesting thing. Think about that. You have oriented your Sunday, potentially one of your only two days off of the week, to come to a space, gather with other individuals, maybe sing together, maybe volunteer and serve, and listen to a message, maybe pray, maybe give. This is kind of interesting, isn't it, that we're all here right now? Something within us says yeah, this is helpful. Right? Or this is something I'm interested in. Why? Why would we gather together on a Sunday on our, you know, one of our two days off maybe to actually be here? You could be out on the golf course, you could be out...I'm not trying to give you all reasons, okay? But I'm just saying like it's interesting that we're all here right now. Right?

So we're going to talk about that today. Why do we meet? Why do we get together? Why do we do this thing called church? It's an interesting...you could almost say phenomenon in our age when time is so crunched that we would come here, lay down an hour of our time to be here together. So we're going to talk about that.

Today's Tweetable is Hebrews 10: 24-25. Here's how it goes:

Let me read it one more time. "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." So we're going to make three points off of this passage, this passage, this small, little tiny passage that maybe is the reason from all the way to the ancient world to now, we still meet together. This passage says don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.

So it seemed like in the early church, when this was written, some people were in the habit of saying, 'You know, meeting together isn't that big of a deal. We don't need to meet together. We can still follow Jesus without meeting together.' And while I believe certainly you can follow Jesus, I don't necessarily think it's ideal to follow Jesus without a community of believers around you. Okay?

And so some people in even today's world might say things like, 'You know, I love Jesus, but I hate going to church.' I would say, well, it's important that you're around people who are finding their faith in Jesus as well who are developing their faith in Jesus who can be an encouragement to you and you can be an encouragement to them.

So these next three points are really going to be things that I think we're all looking for. We all want these things, and the church - and The Bridge even - is primed to provide these. And so let's think about that as we go through this. What is our calling as we are considering ourselves maybe a bridge builder? That's kind of what we've titled ourselves. If you're here and you come here regularly, you are a bridge builder, and so if you're a bridge builder, I want you to listen to this and say, 'What is my calling? What...when I come to this space, what am I to do with my time here?'

And maybe you're here and you're not a bridge builder, but you're kind of exploring, examining 'Is this a community I really want to be a part of?' I would say do...put us to the test on these three things. Is this something that we really provide? Is this something we really do? Because if not, you should be looking for another community. I'm going to say it that bluntly. Okay, so here we go, first take-home Tweet.

We motivate one another toward love and good deeds. I'll never forget watching grown adults like banter and argue - in a good way - like tease each over pink yard flamingos. Okay? Let me tell you this story. This is a great story. Yes, I said flamingos if you were wondering where this is going.

My high school youth group, we used to do this fundraiser where we would have 50 plastic yard flamingos. You know what I'm talking about? The kind that stick in the ground and make your yard look magnificent. No, I'm just kidding. And so what would happen is, the youth group would go out and we would "flamingo" your yard. 'You just got "flamingoed' is what I think it would say. And kind of the way it would work was like you wanted to get flamingoed because then you could pay the youth group a fee (because this was a fundraiser), pay the youth group a fee, to then go flamingo someone else's yard. Does that make sense? Or you could just give them back to the students and kind of say, hey, thanks, that was cool, but I'm not going to pay the fee, then we would go find someone else's house to do it.

What would inevitably happen is we would start the flamingoing, and the students would never touch the flamingos again because then that person would pay our youth pastor at the time, and they would get their friends and go flamingo one of their friends' yards. And it was this back and forth, okay? And here's the deal, it was this fun, competitive, silly thing, but it was funny because this community of people would look forward to this random fundraiser every year. Okay? Like the ones...are we getting close to flamingo time? Are we there yet? Like they're so excited because they couldn't wait to flamingo their friend's yard, who like the homeowner's association was like, 'NO! No flamingos in the yard this year!' You know what I mean? And like we would be like, that's the yard we've got to hit first, guys. Two a.m., let's get out there! Throw some toiler paper in the trees while you're at it. {Justin laughing}

So we would have this great time, but the cool thing was - what it was actually doing is it was this community of people spurring each other on toward helping students get to camp. Students who couldn't afford to get to camp, this was a fundraiser that helped them get to camp, and I'm just sitting here thinking, man, what a cool opportunity of these people who are able to make fun out of this game, but also be able to then say, hey, I'm going to pay, and I'm going to pay again, and I'm going to pay again to go flamingo all these people's yards because I know that this money - and this is a fun thing - but I know this money's going to help so-and-so kid get to camp who wouldn't be able to go otherwise. And so it was cool to see even this competitive nature spur each other on toward doing good things. And so I think here in the community we're called to spur each other on, we're called to motivate one another toward doing good.

You know, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett started this, I guess, pledge. It's called The Giving Pledge. It's this group of people that...here's what it is: The Giving Pledge works to inspire very wealthy people in the world to give the majority of their net worth to philanthropy either during their lifetime or upon their death. So to be a part of this, I think you have to be a billionaire. That's the first thing, so I'm disqualified. Maybe you're out there and you're like, 'Oh, I might join that group.' I'm not.

So maybe this is a group you want to join, but if you want to join the group, here's the catch: you have to be willing to donate 50% of your income. Now some of you are like, of course, if you have that much money, you could donate 50% of it. The truth is, though, anybody in the world who usually gets to this point of wealth, there's always a reason to hold onto it. Right? There's always another thing once you get into a certain level of wealth, there's always the yacht you could buy or I don't even know what you could buy at that point. The football team, right?

So like there's always something else, but these people have to...if they want to join The Giving Pledge, they have to say, no, the something else is giving. Like I want to give away over half of my net worth. I think Bill Gates is at something like 90% of his net worth he's given away or he plans to give away. That's just crazy! Now it's important to note Bill Gates is, based on Forbes' list, the #1 richest man in the world, so talk about a leader giving away that much of his wealth as being the world's wealthiest person, and I think Warren Buffet was ranked third by Forbes.

But this pledge and this leadership of these two individuals to spur other people on toward love and good deeds could potentially end malaria in my lifetime. It could potentially provide HIV and AIDS education and treatment for the world. Clean water is a big issue in the world. It could potentially fix that issue. That's how much money we're talking about as these billionaires pledge to this giving pledge.

Waves and waves can happen when we spur each other on toward love and good works. And so the church - while we maybe can't do it on a financial scale of that proportion - we are called to think creatively, to be a space where we motivate one another toward good work. And so sometimes we need someone in our life who thinks a little different than us. Right? Not every billionaire's out there saying, hey, I think we should give away 50% of our wealth. Oh, that's a great idea. That's how I got here. Right? No, that's not necessarily the greatest idea. It took some creativity. It took someone thinking differently.

Here's my question: If you say, 'I can do life alone. I don't need other people. I don't need community,'  and you walk away, do you get that perspective? Do you hear that different voice saying, 'Hey, maybe there's another way. What do you think about this creative idea? So in the church, we're supposed to be this place where we hear new ideas, where we're even adventurous in our giving, where we make radical decisions to say, 'How does love and good deeds lead in my life?'

The reason community is so essential is because on our own, we are bound to become selfish. We are bound to become self-focused. When we enter into community, we see needs that we were not aware of. We see passion that other people have that maybe we don't have. We become connected to that, and we become passionate about that as well, even though we weren't even passionate about it before. And so as our passion grows, we are able to enter in with love and deeds and serve in that area. So this is the first take-home Tweet.

The second one, if that's not enough...

We are designed for community. Last week we opened up the message talking about Genesis and talking about light. Let's go back to the creation story. God creates. God creates all kinds of things, then He finally creates Adam, and He places Adam in this pretty sweet garden pad that he has. You know what I mean, right? He gets to name all the animals and do all that. I don't know how he came up with some of the names, but anyway...that was funny, guys! Hippopotamus, think about it, okay? Anyway, whatever, alright.

But God looks...and He looks at all this creation He makes and He's like, the sun and the moon? That's good. Then He's like, He's like, the oceans and the land, that's good. How many of you guys went to the beach this summer, right? Or have plans to go to the beach. It's good, right? The ocean? And so He's like, this is good. And then He looks at the plants, and He's like, this is good. If you're the type of person who likes to plant flowers and do that kind of thing, you know, that's fine. Adam was cursed to do that. You can do it for fun. But if that's your thing, God looks at it and says it's good. You know what I mean? And then He looks at the animals, and He's like, it's good. And then He looks at Adam, and here's what God says: It is not good. It is not good for the man to be alone. This ancient statement from Genesis rings true today. It is not good to be alone. So we know how the story goes. God creates Eve in the story. But we need social interaction. Adam was craving something that nothing in his surroundings, nothing in his environment, could provide for him. He needed social interaction.

A study in solitary confinement concluded that even 15 days in solitary confinement constitutes as torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment. Just 15 days in solitary confinement. The study found that after 15 days, there was irreversible harm psychologically done. In 15 days of solitary confinement. However, and this should be interesting to us, many prisons in the United States even will allow far past 15 days of solitary confinement. That's very interesting.

We are not designed to be alone. We are designed for community. The science of being alone - think about it - is all around us. We can see people who are lonely. We don't have to trust in a scientist who says hey, I did a study and just so you know, 15 days of solitary confinement, that's probably the limit. We can probably think of people in our lives who are lonely, and we can probably say, yeah, that's a tough way to live.

Loneliness is heavy. We can even look to the movies. Think about this. Castaway, right? How many of you guys remember Castaway? You remember Tom Hanks and he's delivering FedEx boxes and he ends up on an island. He's there all by himself. What does he need? He needs food, he needs water, he needs shelter, and that's all he needs. Right? That's all he needs, food, water, shelter. That's all he needs. He gets that. That's all he needs. What else did he need? He needed Wilson! Yes! He needed companionship. He needed community. He's even arguing with this volleyball. We never saw volleyballs the same after this, correct? Like, it's wild.

And so even there we recognize our need for community, our need for relationships. We see it on the silver screen, we see it in our own lives, we see it in our friends, we see it in the scriptures. You are designed for community. If you do not have community, it is unhealthy for you. And so this is a place where we come together, and we have community together. We have friendships, relationships, opportunities to learn from one another, opportunities to grow because one person may have more wisdom than another, and so we get to tap into that wisdom and say, oh, tell me about how you think I should handle this situation because I've never been up against this before. You have; tell me about it.

We get opportunities to grow from one another...opportunities that are only available when we have authentic relationships in community, and that's something we're striving to provide here at The Bridge. We have life groups and growth groups and here on Sunday mornings. So plug in, get connected, get community.

Our last take-home Tweet is this:

We thrive on encouragement. So we need community, we need relationships, we need that; but what makes us thrive - like be our best - is when we have encouraging relationships. William Arthur Ward said this: "Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will never forget you."

Encourage me, and I will never forget you. We can all probably think of the person in our life that spoke a word of encouragement to us, and it like clicked something in us, and it gave us the confidence we needed to take that next step that we were really unsure of. Maybe it was a teacher, maybe it was a coach, maybe a mentor, maybe a friend, a parent. I don't know who it was in your life, but here's the deal: The moment that person spoke that word of encouragement in your life and that thing clicked and you took that next step, you aren't going to forget that person. That what that person did for you was so incredibly powerful, but what that person did for you cost them nothing. Way more powerful than any monetary gift that that person could've given you was that word of encouragement. And so here in this space, the more encouraging we are to one another, the more we thrive as a community, and the more we thrive as individuals. Encouragement is necessary for us to thrive.

I remember my youth pastor {Justin chuckles} asked me to speak - I think it was the end of my freshman year, maybe my sophomore year - he asked me to come speak at a...yeah, the end of my freshman year...he asked me to come speak at his junior high camp. And this was a junior high camp where multiple churches came together, it was a weeklong camp, I've just finished my freshman year of college, okay, and I'm back for the summer. And as I'm considering this offer, I'm like, wow, I don't know...I don't know if I'm ready for like 200 middle-schoolers, and teaching in front of 200 middle-schoolers because like I've never really taught before. I've never stood on stage in front of people before, I've never given a message before. He's like, oh, you got this. Just, you know, we'll talk it over, we'll figure it out, it'll be great. I'm like, uhhhhh, alright, I'm in. You know, you encouraged me, so I took the step.

And then we prepped for it and we did it, and here's the deal. I know those CDs exist somewhere for what I did that week, and if I find them in my storage stuff, I want to burn them because I guarantee you it was terrible. Like it's real...like it was bad. I'm confident it was. Some people have like told me...I've had junior highers tell me, 'I remember when you spoke at camp!' But I'm like please don't remember, don't tell anyone, it never happened, I wasn't there, there's no photo evidence.

Like...but the thing is, like he gave me a chance. He encouraged me along the way. He encouraged me during the week because there was like five messages that I had to give, and even during these things where I'm growing each message, he's encouraging me, and even afterwards he's like, 'Man, you did so good. You've got...this is your gift, you just need to keep developing it, and you need to keep...' And now, like, I like realize I actually...I'm okay at this talking stuff. Like I'm okay at giving a message. Like I'm not where I was back then. I've developed this gift. But he saw something in me that very few people around me saw. And then he encouraged me even to the point of taking a risk to encourage me by the way.

This is the community. The community that encourages one another that sees in someone else something they maybe don't even see in themselves, even the people closest to them might not see in them and comes alongside and says I see this in you. It may not be developed yet, but I believe God is doing this in your life, and I want to help you and encourage you any way I can. What a beautiful thing we miss out on if we say, "I love Jesus, but I don't need the church. I love Jesus, but I don't need community.' No, we need community because this is what the church is called to.

Even science says this. There was this treadmill study done...which by the way, doesn't that sound terrifying? Can we just talk about that? This treadmill study done like where they have people come in and they run.  Like for me I'm like, if you told me like to sign up for a science like...like test thing, and I walked in and there was treadmills, I'd be like, 'I'm out.' You know? I'd be like I was hoping this'd be the one where I get to eat a Snickers bar and tell you how it tastes. That's what I was in for. I wanted that one.

So, no thanks to the treadmill one, but apparently they got a few people to sign up for this treadmill study and this is how the study works. They took three different groups of people and they all ran on the treadmill once, and they got their time for what they ran. Then they came in and they ran again, and they got their time. This was to give them a baseline, like where's this person's average time kind of at. And so it gave them a baseline.

Then they came back like a third time, and the third time, they took one of the groups off to the side, they let the other two run, and then they took that third group and put them on the treadmill. And what they did was, twice a minute, they would tell them something encouraging. Something like a personal trainer might do. Something like, hey, you got this, push harder. Does that make sense? Some word of encouragement they might give them. And the groups that didn't have the verbal encouragement were demolished by the group that had the encouragement. And they told them, run as best as you can, try to beat your time from last time. All three groups were told to run as fast as you can, try to beat last time's time, try to do what you can. The study found that verbal encouragement led to the runners giving maximum effort and the belief even that they could do it.

See, verbal encouragement in the church leads us to maximum effort and loving and good deeds. Maximum effort in serving others before ourselves. Maximum effort in laying down our lives for the betterment of someone else when we encourage one another, and even more so, a belief that changing the world is possible. Because it's so easy to become cynical, right? All you gotta do is turn on the news and watch like 10 minutes and you're like this world is a mess and nothing is...nothing's savable.

Well, the truth is when we encourage one another in this way, it does something in us that says good's possible. Maybe I can actually be a part of the good in this world. Maybe something I do can matter. It begins to give us purpose. It begins to tell us take the next step, keep running, don't give up, hey, let's...actually let's bump up the pace...because we were encouraged by someone else. And so this community is to be a community of encouragement.

Finally, there was a study done by a mega-church. They did this study where they sent out to their entire community these fliers where they wanted to know why don't you go to church. Like they...this is not just to their church community, this was to their whole community. They were like, hey, we want to know why you don't go to church. If you don't go to church, tell us why you don't go to church. And so they got back...here's what the top five reasons they got back were: church is boring, church is irrelevant, churches always ask for my money, I'm too busy, and I feel awkward at church. Those are the top five reasons. I think some of the reasons are probably pretty valid maybe in their experience.

But what if you flipped the question? What if you flipped the question and ask why do you go to church? Certainly you guys have a ton of reasons for why you're here today. I would say part of your upbringing, part of your tradition, I would say just your life has influenced your reason for being here today. But one might be, 'I leave motivated to love and do good for others.' Another might be, 'I'm part of a community, and I've learned that I need that.' Another one might be, 'I love encouraging others and being encouraged by others.' Like what if we left church every Sunday feeling motivated to do good in the world, connected to the community we were designed for, and feeling loved and encouraged? Think about that. This would make us primed to share the Good News, and that's why community is so essential. And so may we at The Bridge be that kind of community. Let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we thank You that You call us to community. Not just because You want us to gather but because You recognize we are designed for it. We are designed to be together. We go further faster with the encouragement of one another. We thrive on that. Lord, we thank You that You've designed us this way where we need one another. We can't be on an island alone. Being on an island alone will break us, so we pray for anyone in this room who's experiencing loneliness that You would provide for them a friendship, that you would provide for them in this season, Lord, even more so that they would recognize that no matter how lonely they are, that You are with them.

God, we thank You that You've given us this community. We pray that we would be the community you desire us to be, that we would be a place that motivates others toward love and good deeds, that we would be a place that sees a gift in someone and encourages that gift. Lord, show us those opportunities because we are all part of the community. This isn't about leaders who stand on a stage or volunteers who volunteer in a space, this is about each and every one of us seizing the opportunities to be creative in the way we love, to be creative in the way we motivate others to do good deeds and even do good deeds in our own life, and creative in the way we encourage one another. Lord, give us that creativity, and may we grow stronger as a community because of it. May we be more primed to offer hope and life to those searching for it.

God, we thank You that You provide for our every need, and the need of community is a great need within us. So may we never become cynical to where we give up on community, to where we give up on relationships. Lord, even if there's deep hurt that the church maybe has done to us, God I pray that you would be working and healing that so that we could reconnect in a meaningful and powerful way and live in the way You designed us to live. In the name of Jesus, amen.