Our House - Why We Call the B.I.C. (Brethren in Christ) Our Home (2/12/2017)

*We are not covering the core values in any particular order. We have actually created our own order so that we can pair two values that work together each Sunday. If you would like to learn more about the Core Values of the BIC, you can purchase the book Focusing Our Faith or visit http://bic-church.org/about/values

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Sometimes things are better together than on their own, and today we're starting a new series called Our House and why we call the B.I.C. our home. The B.I.C. is the Brethren in Christ, the denomination that we consider ourselves a part of, that is our home, if you will. So today we're going to start a series where we're going to cover two core values of the Brethren in Christ each week until we cover all ten, so this'll be a five-week series.

So a couple things quickly as we get into this...I think you're going to see a lot of overlap in our church's core values and the core values of the Brethren in Christ actually. If you know our values, you might be interested to see how many of them actually blend pretty well. Another thing is, this Our House series is in no way a condemnation of other people's houses, of other denominations, okay? So there are other denominations out there. Some very similar to us, some very different than us, okay? But this isn't about throwing stones, this is more about us understanding the foundation that makes the Brethren in Christ the Brethren in Christ but also makes The Bridge The Bridge. And so we're going to be getting into that throughout the series.

Now really quick, in college I remember doing a class where I had to study all the different denominations, and there's thousands. I didn't have to study thousands, but some of the main ones and even some of the fringe ones, and that class was really boring. Okay? And just so we know before we get started, this is not that class, okay? This is not just information to fill your brain so you know a little more. If not, I would just read you the minutes of our general conference this last year. That would be really fun for us if we were planning on taking a nap. That's what I did most of those sessions. Anyway...[congregation laughter] don't tell the bishop I said that!

But for us, what we're going to do actually is we're going to be talking about some of these core values that are actually very personal. For many of us, hopefully this will be a challenge for us personally but also for us communally. As we kind of study some of these, it'll remind us the type of community we strive to be while also reminding us the type of person that we strive to be. A lot of the quotes that I'm going to take out of here, I might say a quote here or there, it's coming from a book called Focusing Our Faith, where they go deeper into the ten core values.

So there are ten core values that the B.I.C. holds, and again we're going to cover these, and we're not covering them in any particular order since we had to connect two each Sunday. We kind of connected two that made sense to put together. Let's get started.

The first value that we're going to cover today is Belonging to the Community of Faith. Belonging to the Community of Faith. You are designed for community, whether you're aware of that or not. You are designed to be in community with other people. This goes all the way back to the Genesis account when God says, 'Let us make man in our image.' There's this image of God as community and that we are designed to live in community. And so...by the way, this is not a spiritual idea, this is a very scientific idea, a very philosophical idea. Even Aristotle said this, "Man is by nature a social animal," and that term 'social animal' has been carried on in all kinds of scientific talk, all kinds of psychology talk, and so there's a longing that all humanity kind of has to belong somewhere. There's a longing that all humanity has to kind of find a group to be accepted in. If you don't think you have this longing, for a moment close your eyes, and maybe some of you are in junior high so you can remember what it was like to walk in the cafeteria of junior high or high school and be like, 'What table am I gonna sit at? I want to belong to one of these groups. What do I have to do? Okay, I have to dye my hair pink. I can do that. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.'

No, but the truth is we do desire to belong, and you see this at a very early even level of adolescence but also even as a child and even as an adult. Belonging is very important. There 's a reason that it's not healthy to be isolated, that anyone will tell you to be isolated for long periods of time is not the way you're designed to be. We are designed for one another, we are designed for community.

Interestingly enough, God knows our needs, and God meets our needs. And so God, knowing He has created this being that desires community, as Christ leaves, we're handed the church...a community, a group of people that are supposed to meet and gather and love one another and create this belonging community. And so this provides for some of our deepest needs. This here, but far beyond what we do on Sunday morning, can provide for some of our deepest needs.

So under each of these values, we're going to talk about four kind of sub-points to kind of tease out that value a little bit. Here's our first one.

We value integrity in relationships and mutual accountability in an atmosphere of grace, love, and acceptance. Our desire is that we're growing together, that we are experiencing the grace, love, and acceptance of God while growing in relationship to one another and that there's accountability within our group, that we help each other, that we encourage each other, that we support each other, that we motivate each other and even that at times we're able to say the hard thing that might be needed to say to one another. That is what accountability looks like.

I have a mentor, his name is Jason, and he was my youth pastor when I was in high school, and ever since then he's been my mentor. We talk on the phone every once in awhile and I know when I call him sometimes I'll be like, 'Man, I'm dealing with this. It's so frustrating, I don't know what to do.' And he'll be like, 'Here's some ideas, here's some thoughts.' And then there's times when I'll call him, and I'll share 'I did this,' and he's like 'You shouldn't have done that.' And I'm like {exasperated sigh] 'Don't tell me that; it's already done!' And he's like, 'Well, you need to go undo it.' And then I'm like, 'No, I'm gonna do it my way.' No, I usually have to sit there and be like, oh, Jason said the hard thing I did not want to hear today. And because of my relationship with him and because I know that's coming from a place of love and care for me, I listen, and it's hard.

It's hard to be corrected, isn't it? If you're not a parent, you maybe don't know that as much as the depth that I know it. But when you correct a kid, they never like, 'Dad, you're right. I totally shouldn't have done that. Oh, man.' No, it's hard! It's hard! You wanna push back. You wanna be like, 'NO! Shut up!' Like you know? That's our natural response to accountability, but there's something beautiful that happens when we begin to have a depth of relationship that's built on love and grace that then becomes to extend out to where we can say the hard thing to one another in love, in grace, and it can actually begin to grow us deeper together. And so that's the type of community we desire to create here.

Next, we take very seriously the 'one another' scriptures. We take very seriously the 'one another' scriptures. There are many scriptures that say how we are to relate to one another. Let's read a few of them. This is just a few. It's gonna be like four slides, but it's a few, okay?

And this isn't even all the 'one anothers.' There are so many 'one another' passages. We desire to take these passages very seriously because God seems to communicate that He's very interested in our relationships with one another. There's so much the Bible says about how we're called to treat one another, and it seems that can even affect our relationship with God, that our relationship with God can actually shift and change based on how we love our neighbor. That's very interesting. And so we desire to create a community, to be in community, where we hold high the 'one another' passages. That this is the type of place we're called to be. A place where we love one another. A place where we take each of these passages very seriously.

Next, we are committed to the mess.

Here's what a quote from the book says: "As long as there are people in the church, there will always be problems in the church. Where people gather, problems must be expected." Yes! Community is not easy; community is messy. I remember the pastor who was talking to one of his good friends who hadn't had any interest in church and they'd had all kinds of conversations about church, and the topic of church came up again and he told the pastor, he said, "All Christians are just hypocrites, so why would I want to go to church?" And the pastor kind of paused, and they'd had a lot of conversations about this, and he just kind of paused and just stopped for a little bit, and then he said, "You're right. All Christians are hypocrites, and at our church, there's always room for one more." {congregation laughs]

That's kind of funny, and I would say maybe you want to have a relationship with someone before you throw that out there, but I would simply say, like, there's an element of truth to that, though, and the pastor admits, hey, I'm a hypocrite. Like, we're all hypocrites when we really pause and think about it. Like, we've all failed. None of us are perfect, and so we desire to be a place where we kind of embrace the mess. This is a mess. Life is a mess. There's brokenness that is part of each and every one of our stories. None of us are exempt from that. And maybe you did come from a really toxic community into The Bridge, and that was even a mess that was so hard for you, and we would first and foremost say, welcome. You've been burned by the church? We want to welcome you, but we do not want to hide behind some fa├žade that we're a perfect community.

We say we're the perfect place for imperfect people. {Justin laughs} That's what we say. Because the truth is we're not trying to sweep anything under the rug and pretend that we are perfect. We're very up front about not being perfect because we believe in showing that, hey, I'm messed up. That actually elevates the grace of God, it doesn't elevate my good character. It elevates the reality that God's grace is so vast and good that He would, in my brokenness, in my messiness, enter in and offer something that I totally and wholly don't deserve. That is the community we desire to create because we confront our messes in a true way, in a real way, in a raw way, and that's a far more healthy community because the cornerstone of that - instead of the sweeping it under the rug is the cornerstone of putting on a mask. For us, confronting the mess, being real with the mess, is being raw and open to the grace of God on display in each and every one of our stories. And this leads to our next sub-point.

Here's another quote: "An intimate church community is one that provides a safe place for people to be honest and vulnerable with each other." We want to create a space where we can be real, authentic, about who we are and what we're struggling with. So much of my church life was coming together in community as a young kid and sitting down in a group and everyone would share what are you struggling with, and no one was being real. I'd be like, I mean, even in high school I was like, dude, you smoked pot last night. Let's talk about that struggle. Like you know what I mean? Like no one wanted to talk about the real stuff. It was like 'Uhhhhh, uhhh, things are hard at school.' Like you know? Like it's like, no, there's more going on, man, let's talk about real, but there was also this certain kind of thing where it was like we can only share so much. And certainly I would encourage you to have a trust of this community before you would open up and be fully vulnerable. But at the same time, we desire to be a community where we can be vulnerable with one another.

And the church is not just, it's not a building at all. Like this is another thing to say. We are a community of people. That is the church. So many people come in here and rent the church, rent the building, and when they do that, they say is this used as a church? Is this a church? And we're like, uhhh, yeah, it's a church, we meet on Sundays, because we know what they're asking. But really, so much of our language, and even mine if I'm not conscious of it, is a building represents a church, but it's not. The people represent the church, so when we go out of these doors, we're an extension of the community of God. We're an extension of the church, and the church is a gathering of people doing their best to follow these "one another" passages and their commitment to others. You are the church. I am the church. We are the church. And we are designed to have this crazy belonging in acceptance community. Yet, it's difficult and it's messy. We have a road map, but the road map's bumpy. And so we gather together. The next thing we have outside of that mission is a mission to go. And that brings us to our next core value that we're covering today.

Witnessing to the world is our next Brethren in Christ core value that we're covering today. In Acts 1:8, it says this:

This passage here is important because this is Jesus right before ascension. It's the last thing He says to the disciples before He leaves them, and He tells them you will be my witnesses in these areas. And the area kind of starts like this, and then it gets wider and wider and wider. Let's actually look at a map real quick. 

This is interesting. You can't even make out Jerusalem on this map. And this is just a map of the region. But we'll put a circle around there so you can make it out. There's a purple circle right there. So that is Jerusalem. So you'll be My witnesses in Jerusalem.

The next thing that's said is that you'll be My witnesses in Judea.

Then the next thing that's said is Samaria. Interestingly enough, this passage is given in Acts 1:8, and at this time, He says you're going to be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and so He's pretty much telling them go be My witnesses in these areas. We're eight chapters later in Chapter 8 before they ever move and go into Samaria because if you didn't know this, Jesus has a predominantly Jewish audience, and they do not like Samaritans. So they would've heard Jerusalem, Judea, I'm okay with that. Samaria? No thank you. That's not really a region where I'm going to go tell people about Your love because THOSE people, okay?

Funny thing is, persecution breaks out in the church in Acts 8:1, and they're forced to go to Samaria as pretty much refugees in Samaria and witness there because God's like, 'Okay, you don't want to move? I'll move ya!' Like, you know? That's kind of what happens. And so they break out and sort of branch out in Samaria. And then the rest is just the ends of the earth. And at this point, it goes far beyond even this map what the known world was.

So there's this picture of starting local, more, more, more. And even as the SLT (Strategic Leadership Team) was talking through how do we strategically create missions partners? We want to start local and work our way out.  So local, regional, national, international. Kind of a focus built off of Acts 1:8. And the purpose of that is this: We are called to love our neighbor that's right next door. Sometimes the church is very interested in global missions, but they don't know the people in their own backyard. And that's disappointing when there's so much need right here, too. And so we start here. We start with the people we're already in relationship with and we share with them the love of Jesus. Next:

We must be active in the lives of others, active in our community where life is being lived. We have to enter those arenas with love, not shield ourselves in those arenas because potentially we'd get contaminated or something like that. This is the greatest witness, I believe, of the love of Jesus to the world, that we would be in relationship with others. Here's how John 13:35 puts it (this is Jesus speaking):

Love for others seems to be the indicator that you are a disciple of Jesus. That same love on display toward others can be transformative. Like, this love that Jesus had that we desire to model can transform someone's life just by seeing it. Just by witnessing it, it can transform their life, even if the love isn't even meant for them. It's you loving someone else and them seeing it. And you might think that's crazy, but let me tell you. I don't know, maybe you've watched videos before, and you've been like, oh, and you started been tearing up, I don't know if you've watched videos before and that's happened, but I was watching a video, actually I think it was yesterday,  where one of my friend's churches, they do a disabilities prom and they had this prom where all these people gathered, and then the amazing thing was they all gathered on the second floor of this hotel and it was this huge ballroom and they were doing all this stuff, and then what got me, like I was already tearing up a little bit, and then what hit me was they said, and on the first floor, all the parents and caretakers who put so much time into them, we have massages set up and dinner set up and all this stuff set up for them so that they get a night out and night away. And I'm just sitting here, I'm like bawling, like, man, that's amazing. I had nothing to do with it! I was just witnessing the love that someone else was showing to someone else, and it hit me.

When we see self-sacrificial servant-oriented love on display, we look at it, and there's something true there. There's something we can't deny. There's something that even hums within us that says I was designed to receive and give that type of love. So for us, we look at this and we say, hey, I need to be active in loving witness of Christ to all people. Next:

That Jesus modeled for us relational evangelism. And here's a quote from the book. Right from the book, by the way, the core values book of the B.I.C. "Many Christians have been so afraid of being contaminated by worldliness that they have avoided any social contact with unconverted persons. As a result, they have no natural bridge," I found that interesting, "for evangelism. What witnessing they do is usually artificial and forced rather than the spontaneous outgrowth of genuine friendship." Genuine friendship.

Jesus met with people and had real relationship with people, real friendship with people, and from those places began to talk about God. There wasn't like this immediacy, there was this desire to get to know them. It was, 'Zacchaeus, I'm coming to your house to have dinner tonight. Let's hang out.' Everyone in this story wants Jesus to come to their house, and Jesus chooses literally the last person anyone would have thought He would have dinner with, and He goes to his house and has dinner. In essence, He's saying, 'I wanna hang out. Let's talk.'

And it's from this place, this place of desiring to have a relationship. We can see this over and over again. Jesus just stops at a well in Samaria and sits down with a woman at a well and begins to have a conversation with her. 'Hey, can I have some water?' Jesus doesn't, 'Hey, have you heard of God? Do you want to check this box? Let's say this prayer.' Like that's not His way of approaching these people. He says, you're a person, you desire relationship, you desire friendship, and so I bring that to this place. And we all have friends who need the grace, hope, and love of Jesus. And just, by the way, if you don't have friends who need the grace, hope, and love of Jesus, you need new friends, okay?

We should all have friends who challenge us, who aren't followers of Jesus. I was taught at one point growing up that I shouldn't have any friends who don't follow Jesus. I can't believe that's even a teaching in the church. We should be befriending everyone, sharing the love of Jesus with all. And maybe in that loving, intentional relationship, they would see a glimpse of Christ. Maybe in our patience and as they see us being patient when everyone around them isn't, they would say something's different about that person. Something's different about Justin; he's more patient. That's not what they'd say about me {congregation laughs], but at the same time, we try, right? Like there's an intentionality in saying how do we enter into relationships that are meaningful? That are motivated even not in this person's conversion but are motivated in us trying to say I want to look more like Jesus.

I think looking like Jesus is the best way to live, and looking like Jesus means I love people and I enter into relationship with them. Not with some motives. Certainly I'd love for them to know Jesus, but my motive is that I would look more like Jesus each day. And this person may be hard to serve, hard to love, but that's why I'm entering into relationship with them, because I desire to serve them and love them. Next:

Here's a quote: "Perhaps the greatest investment we can make in evangelism is to take seriously the business of loving and accepting each other." To take seriously the business of loving and accepting each other. I'll never forget a sophomore came to our youth group, sat down in my office, and some of his friends had told me before he came that he might be coming, and we talked about this particular student and he sat in my office, and the first question out of his mouth was, "Did God make a mistake when He made me?" And I said, "Uh, let's talk about that." And the student them told me he was gay, and being gay in the area of Wisconsin that I came from was very, very difficult and being a sophomore at this particular high school that he went to was very difficult. Students would show up in their 4x4 trucks with their Confederate flags hanging off the back, which I found ironic because we lived about as far north as you could go [congregation laughs], but at the same time, you know, whatever. And so, like, it wasn't the environment for a sophomore to begin to, as they enter into understanding sexuality, to find themselves with these attractions that do NOT match the culture that they've been put in, and literally have this kid in my room, my office, weeping, saying I wish I could just be like every other dude at my school. And by the way, this was after his first suicide attempt.

And I'm sitting here, and I'm like, I have no filter for this. Like I have no way of handling this. And I just said, look, here's what I can commit to you: This space for two hours every Wednesday night will be your sanctuary as much as I can control it. We are going to create a space of acceptance and love for you and care for you and anything you need. We're not going to answer all the questions. We're just going to tell you our default position here is going to be love, and that's what we're going to do. And that's what we did. And we did that until he graduated. In his senior year, he graduated, and I just remember even his small group leader Jeff on stage giving him a big bear hug because our small group leaders would track with the student through their whole four years, so they'd start out as a freshman, and then a sophomore, and then a junior, then senior year each year, and so he got to know Andrew really well. And I remember in the parking lot afterwards Jeff said I think Andrew taught me more than I taught him over these last two years. I was just like, wow. That's amazing. That's amazing.

And then, Andrew graduated. And he came back from college, and he said I think I'm going to start coming to your church on Sunday mornings and, you know, the same commitment you told me about before, you know, is that going to be something that I can expect here? And I said no. I said I'm sorry. I wish we were there, I wish our church were there, but we're not. That's not going to be your experience on Sunday mornings. And that was really hard and painful for me. When I say we champion evangelism through loving community, there's a lot of pain in the world that the church has worked to alleviate. And then there's a lot of pain in the world that the church has amplified. And we want to be a place of refuge for those going through pain. We want to be a place that default - we love. If there's a choice where we're on the fence, we're not sure which way we should go, love. If we get to Heaven and God says, look, you were part of The Bridge, you're going to hell, okay? And He says you guys just defaulted to love way too much {congregation chuckles], that was your problem, that's something I think I'm okay with.

Other stories of pain where judgment is kind of given, and I'm not saying that that fixes everything, we live in a messy community. We talked about that earlier. This is part of us embracing the mess and saying, look, we can't answer some hard questions, there will always be hard questions, but the question is what do we do in that space? Do we love or do we just throw down judgment? So for us, we love because we also think loving is the best way we can witness to people who don't know Jesus. Lastly:

A multiplication mindset. Starting new churches is the most effective way to reach people outside of the kingdom is what the book says. So in focusing our faith, it says starting new churches. One of the things we've been convicted of and convinced of as the SLT {The Bridge's Strategic Leadership Team} is that we want to launch a new campus. We decided this back last year {2016}. Many of you guys are already aware of it. We're going to be launching a community in Midtown {Harrisburg} in September {2017}. The first week of September we'll be launching in Midtown. That's September 3rd, so you can even already start praying for that. And as we start thinking about that, as we think about adding a new campus, we're talking about taking this community that we celebrate and taking it somewhere else and saying there's maybe another community that needs this belonging by acceptance that we have experienced, that we champion. Maybe they need to experience the love of Christ in this way, and so today we're launching the recruiting of the Launch Team for that particular campus, and it'll go through the rest of February.

And here are some things about that Launch Team. We have a kiosk right here, and you can walk over here and grab one of these papers and fill it out if you're interested in being on the Launch Team. Being on the Launch Team, there will be a process here. There's an application process, and here's why: We can only take so many people on the Launch Team. We're trying to have a very balanced gift set. You'll be seen as leadership of that campus. Also, we know the commitment level is meeting regularly and going on a retreat even together and growing together as a Launch Team.

ANYONE, let me say this very clearly, can go Midtown, and that can be your new campus. To be on the Launch Team is actually a certain level of leadership and commitment. You're serving in a way that you can go over there and maybe become someone who can train others to serve in that way that you're serving or you have gifts that can be used there. And so there is a commitment level to signing up to going to that campus on the Launch Team. There are terms. Maybe you're sitting here like, Justin, I really want to do that but I just love Hummelstown. And I would say, yeah, that's awesome. Go for a year and come back. We have that option on there. And that year is to go, take the gifts you have, transfer them, and then head on back to Hummelstown. Or two years; we have one- or two-year terms or it's your new forever home. So, you can see the boxes you can check on there.

And we want to be very clear also: Many of you are staying, and that's exciting. And what we want to give to you is this challenge: On September 3rd, bring a friend. Bring a friend. That's your challenge. All of us are taking a step toward this community we're trying to create of belonging and acceptance. We have new people every Sunday. We're going to send people. There's going to be people who will leave from here and go to Midtown. We need to bring more people in. You have a role to play in that. We all have a role to play because we desire to have a multiplication mindset.

One thing I struggle with very much in the Christian church is that it becomes like a country club. 'It's about me. I want to be served a certain way. That's why I go to church.' Okay, the point of church is that we are serving others and that we are branching out, and so even some of you - this can happen - change is hard, and we've been through a lot of changes at church. And this change will be hard for us, too, because it's multiplying. But in that change, remember: the focus is not about me. The focus is about sharing the love, grace, and hope of Jesus to others. And in that place, in that place, it's a whole different model.

I share this sometimes when people ask me about church membership. We don't do church membership at The Bridge. If you're here and it's your first Sunday, welcome, you're a member. [congregation laughs] So, what we pretty much do at The Bridge is we say, look, members...like if I'm at the gym, and I'm running on the treadmill, which I wouldn't be doing [congregation laughs], but if I was...I would be walking, this would be my pace right here...no, so if I'm on the treadmill and I'm working out, and the treadmill breaks, what do I do? I go to the front desk, I say y'all got a broken treadmill. I actually don't do that. I just go to the next one and let the next dude deal with it. [laughter] But, if I was to deal with it, I would go the front desk and have them deal with it, right? So that is what a member does. Okay? What does an owner do? An owner fixes it. An owner owns the problem. An owner says how can I be of assistance to remedy this? We're trying to create a community of owners. Not people who are like, 'Oh, go fix that.' People are like, I want to be involved. And so we get involved in the multiplication process because it'll make you more pumped; you'll be so excited. I'm so excited because I've already been in Midtown, like strategically for the last 12 months, like just getting coffee there and getting to know people there, and I'm like, this community needs this, and this is going to be so awesome when we launch it.

And so even now, that friend that you have that you're like, there's no way they're coming to The Bridge, well, start loving them like Jesus. Start caring for them, and maybe September 3rd, they'd be ready. For each and every one of us, we need to have a multiplication mindset because this was the mindset of Jesus. Jesus never saw this message of grace being exclusive to His disciples. He said, you take this, and you take this to the ends of the earth because that's where we're called to go. Alright, let's pray.

Good and gracious God, we thank You for these two reasons we find a home in the B.I.C. and we look forward to covering the other eight. And God, even now we just thank You that You've been present in this community. It's not easy, it's messy, but we're so thankful that we're doing our best to lead by belonging by acceptance, for our default position to be loved. God, continue to wok on that in us where maybe our default position isn't that. God, continue to guide us in our day-to-day lives and interactions with friends and acquaintances. Show us the opportunities we have to serve and love and care that we're maybe even missing each and every day. God, bring us as a community a successful launch of Midtown, God, that You would just gather together and bring together the Launch Team that would be perfect for that community and that we would just have an amazing impact on all those people in Midtown and even outside of Midtown that need a community like ours. God, we're so thankful for what You've done at The Bridge, the type of community that has been able to be fostered here, and we pray that would continue, even through the multiplication, even through the changes. God, we know You're present here, that Your Spirit's here, and so continue to speak to us and guide us and give us the steps needed. God, we pray for us as individuals, whatever the next step is, as we hear and respond to these two values. God, make us aware of that, whether that's for our families, whether that's for us individually, guide us because we're a community here but we're also a community when we go home. We're also a community at our workplace. We're a community in our friendships. God, we take the church everywhere we go. We're created for community, and we see so many people who are as well, and so guide us and show us how we're supposed to respond in each and every relationship we have because we know that how we treat one another is connected to our relationship with You, and so guide us in those "one anothers." Amen.