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Why We Need Each Other

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40 Days of Community

Part 1

 

Why We Need Each Other

Transcript of Message by Rick Warren

October 2-3, 2004

Well good morning everybody.  Wow, you look great today.  If you’ll take out your outlines, today, we’re beginning a revolution.  And I don’t say that lightly.  It is going to be a revolution that will start here and will spread literally all across America and then hopefully around the world. 

And we’re going to start with a message today that really is pretty radical.  It’s pretty countercultural.  It’s the exact opposite of what you’ve been taught your entire life.  But God says, “If you will do what I tell you to do, you will never again have to deal with loneliness.  You’ll be able to overcome fatigue, fear, failure, and frustration.  Your life will be so much easier if you’ll just do it the way I planned for you to do it.”  The anecdote to all of those things is the concept of community.

Now we Americans, man we love our independence.  Our nation was founded on the Declaration of Independence.  And so we really love it.  You know, “I got to be me.”  “I did it my way.”  “I don’t need anybody to tell me what it’s all about.” 

And we think and we have been taught that happiness is the result of independence, and that if I’m financially independent, if I’m relationally independent, if I am independent in every way, then I will be the happiest.  And yet, we have never had more unhappy people, and suicide rate continues to go up.  Why?  Because that’s not the answer.  The truth is, happiness does not come from being independent, isolated, living your life with all the barriers up and all the masks and keeping people at an arm’s distance.  That’s not the way to be happy.  Happiness comes from interdependence, from interdependence, from community. 

Notice what the Bible says there on Romans chapter 12.  Let’s read it aloud together, “Since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other and each of us needs all the others.”  Turn to the person next to you and say, “You need me.”  Go ahead.  “You need me.”  All right.  Now also, I want you to say, “I need you.”  Go ahead.  “I need you.”  We just had over a hundred marriage proposals just then.  I’ll be doing a two for one special on weddings after the service.

We do need each other.  We just don’t realize how much we need each other because we are taught independence.  Now during ‘40 Days of Purpose’ that we did two years ago, the big idea was that God put you on this planet for five reasons and we talked about those five purposes that God put you on earth to fulfill.  That’s the big idea.

Let me give you a bigger idea.  You cannot fulfill any of those five purposes on your own.  You can’t do it by yourself.  It’s impossible.  God wired you and wired all of us in such a way that we can only fulfill his purposes for our lives in community, in his family, in relationship to each other.  We need each other.  That’s the big idea we’re going to look at for the next 40 days. 

And we’re going to begin the second in a trilogy of three 40-day journeys.  The first one was the ‘40 Days of Purpose.’  Now we’re going to look at ‘40 Days of Community.’  By the way, we now have somewhere around 25 to 30,000 churches in American.  One out of every nine churches has done ‘40 Days of Purpose.’  In fact, this week about 6,000 more churches are beginning ‘40 Days of Purpose’ and about 35 million Americans have read The Purpose Driven Life.

But we’re going on to the next step, and the second step is learning what it means to be in community.  And during the next 40 days, we’re going to look at relationships.  We’re going to look at why do relationships go bad?  And how do you turn a bad relationship into a good one?  And what does it mean to really love and be loved?  And what does it mean to really have intimacy with somebody?  To have soul-to-soul fellowship and what is the purpose of God’s church in all of this?

Now, today I’m going to give you a little introduction.  And we’re going to look at why we need each other.  The five reasons why you need a church family, and more than that, five reasons why you need to be in a small group with a few other friends who you get to know on a deeper level than just casual acquaintance. 

And the Bible gives us five reasons: 

Number one, I need others to WALK with me.  I need others to walk with me.  In other words, I need people to help me grow spiritually.  The Bible says in Colossians 2:6 and 2:7, “Just as you receive Christ Jesus the Lord,” read it with me, “So walk in him.” 

Now the Bible often calls your spiritual life, your walk.  It calls it “the Christian walk” or “the spiritual walk.”  Why?  Because life is not just a sit-down thing, it’s a journey.  You’re always growing.  You’re always moving, and your life is a journey.  There is a destination to get to.  And the Bible says that as you walk through life, God wants you to do certain things.

Now all through scripture, it tells us, particularly through the New Testament, we’re to walk in the light, we’re to walk in love, we’re to walk in obedience, we’re to walk in the Holy Spirit, we’re to walk as Jesus walked, we’re to walk in wisdom.  Many, many ways the Bible tells us how to live this kind of life.  But one of the important things is this:  God never intended for you to walk through life alone.  Never.  God never intended for you to walk through life alone.  Now let me make it really clear, this has nothing to do with whether you’re single or married.  We have thousands of single adults who are in this church, who are actively involved in community.  They’re not walking through life alone.  And we also have people in this church, who are married, and desperately lonely.  So marriage is not the anecdote.  Community is the anecdote.

Now some of you say, “Well what’s wrong with walking alone?  I like to walk alone.  I prefer to walk alone.  I get my own way when I walk alone.”  Well, that’s part of the problem… is you’re not learning cooperation.  You’re not learning relationships.  You’re not learning love.  God says, “I want you to walk through life with other people close in relationship with you,” and he says it for three reasons. You might just write this in the margin.

Number one:  It’s safer.  It’s safer when you walk with others through life.  There’s safety in numbers.  It’s a whole lot less risky.  Have you ever had to walk through a dark alley at night by yourself in an inner-city area or some other place, maybe even in the country?  It can be quite frightening to you.  It’s safer when you walk with others.

Second, it’s supportive.  It keeps you from giving up.  When other people are walking with you, they keep you going.  Have you ever done a marathon where you’re going through this marathon and as you’re going through it, all of a sudden you get a stitch in your side and you got this pain and you want to give up?  It usually happens to me about mile 20.  Isn’t that true?  About mile 20?  About 20 steps for me?  And you want to give up but if other people are walking or running with you, then you keep on going.  There’s an old Zambian proverb, ‘When you run alone, you run fast.  But when you run together, you run far.’  The life that you live is not a 50-yard dash, it is a marathon and you want to run far. 

Have you ever seen geese flying in V-formation?  The reason they do that is that they can fly farther in that formation because it creates an updraft and they don’t get as tired when they fly together.  And when we fly, when we walk, when we run through life together, we’re a whole lot less tired.  It’s safer.  It’s supportive.

And number three, it’s smarter.  You’ll learn a whole lot more when you go through life with other people close to you.  I’m not just talking about casual friends.  I’m talking about people who are in true fellowship with you.  The Bible says in Proverbs 26, “Only fools trust what they think alone is right.”  In other words if I’m the only one who thinks it, guess what?  I’m wrong. 

And so sometimes, if you’re just walking alone, you may be walking in the wrong direction, and nobody’s there to tell you, “Hey we’re off the track, we’re heading in the wrong direction.”  The Bible says in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.  And so it’s smart and it’s supportive and it’s safe.

One of the things as I said that you learn by going through life with a few close intimate friends is you learn things that you wouldn’t learn any other way, like cooperation and like how to get along.  You see, the number one goal in life is learning to love God.  The number two goal is learning to love other people.  Why?  Because God is love and God wants you to be like him.  So he says, “I want you to practice learning to love.”

Now when you walk with other people, have you noticed that people walk at different paces?  Have you ever tried to walk with your husband or wife around the lake or something, and it’s always slow up or speed down or something?  We have different styles of walking.  That makes me thing of a Monty Python skit I saw one time.  I don’t know why I through that in, I just thought I would.

But we all walk at a different pace and so when you walk with others, you have to learn cooperation.  Now look at this next verse, Genesis 2:18, read it with me, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  That’s the first thing God said after he created Adam.  Everything was perfect, but he said, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  God hates loneliness.  God hates loneliness.  You can bank on that for the rest of your life.

And so, he created two groups.  He gave you a physical family and a spiritual family.  The physical family that you grew up in, and the spiritual family that you live your life in, because your physical family doesn’t last.  They die off, and they move away and things like that.  So you need a spiritual family, and that is the church.  And actually, your spiritual family is going to last a whole lot longer than your physical one because it’s going to go on for ever and ever and eternity.  And God’s safety net is his family.  Notice Hebrews 10 says this, “Let us not give up the habit,” that means you do it all the time, “The habit of meeting together, instead let us encourage one another.”  I need people to encourage me in my daily walk.  And he says, “How do you do that?”  He says, “By meeting together.”

Now that verse there, he’s not talking about what we’re doing right now.  He’s talking about community.  Folks, this is not community.  This is a crowd.  And by the way, it’s a very big crowd.  And so, you don’t have community in coming here to worship.  Community is what happens when you’re with three other people or four or five or six or maybe eight, maybe at the most ten or so.  You get more than ten people in a group, somebody usually stops talking, and so you stop relating.  You see, you could be in a crowd, you could come to church every week for years and still be lonely because you never know anybody.

Recently, I was in Manhattan this last week, and I had to go buy a coat for a TV show I was going to be on.  And I walked out by myself, I was in a crowd of, I don’t know, maybe 100,000 people.  It was very crowded, but I felt pretty lonely.  And you can be lonely in a crowd, in fact, that’s one of the worst places to be. 

Now would you write this down:  Community is God’s answer to LONELINESS.  Community is God’s answer to loneliness.  We need a few people in our lives that we know really well, and they know us really well.  And we all need a place, we need a group, where we can practice relationships and really learn to love.  So let the revolution begin.

[music break]

Now that’s what we’re going to talk about for the next 40 days:  What the world needs now is love and we don’t often even know what love is all about.   We don’t know really how to relate to each other.  We don’t know how to build great, healthy, strong, lasting relationships. 

Now notice what the Bible says in First Corinthians 14, there on your outline, it’s talking about when you get together and it says this:  “When you gather, each one of you be prepared with something useful for all, sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.  Take your turn with no one person taking over.  That way… you all learn from each other.”

Now question, does that sound like something we do hear on Sunday morning?  No.  No, we don’t do this.  I don’t say, “Anybody got a poem?”  “What happened at work this week?”  “Can I pray for you?”  We don’t because this is too big.  This is not a community.  This is a crowd.  What I just read, there’s only one place that can happen:  In a small group.  Temple courts for worship, house to house for fellowship, and you need both to be a balanced believer.  You need both to be healthy spiritually.  He says it can only happen in a small group. 

Now what is the goal here?  When you walk through life, you need a small group of believers walking through life with you.  And that’s the goal, Ephesians 4, the next verse, “As each part does its work,” that’s all of us in the body of Christ, “It helps the other parts grow.  So Christ’s whole body,” that’s the church, “is healthy and growing and,” read it with me, “full of love.”  That’s what God wants.  He wants us all to grow, and he wants us all to be full of love.

And how do we do it?  We get in the situation where everybody can help each other on a personal basis.  Now that’s what ‘40 Days of Community’ is all about and during ‘40 Days of Community,’ I want everybody to get in a small group.  I’m talking about 100% of our church. 

Now I’m not asking you to do this the rest of your life.  I’m asking you to just do it for 40 days.  That’s six times.  Just get in a group and go six times.  Why?  Well, you’re going to get several benefits.

First, you’re going to watch what I taped this year.  I spent a lot of this year writing and preparing six messages on how to deepen relationships, and it’s called, ‘Better Together’ and we’ve got it on DVD and VHS.  And you’ll watch these.  They’re about 20 minutes long with three or four or five other people in a home and then you’ll just talk about it.  The only way you’re going to get this teaching is to be in a group.

The second thing that happens is while you’re in a group, everybody that’s in a group, we’re going to give you this new book, called “Better Together, What On Earth Are We Here For?”  And it is 40 daily readings on how to get better relationships, how to build better relationships.  Now, you can’t buy this book in any bookstore.  The only way you can get it is by being in a small group.  You’re not going to get it any other way because learning about community is worthless unless you’re in a community.  You’ve got to experience it.  And so, you’ll be reading through this every day. 

Then, there’s some other stuff we’re going to give you.  There’s a little key chain.  I don’t know what I did with it.  Here, this is like a magic box.  It says, ‘40 Days of Community’ and we’re going to give you a bunch of verses that you can hang on there that you can remember during the week that’ll help you work on building better relationships.  And there is a lot of other stuff too.

If you’re a host, we’re going to give you a box of all this material.  Tom, hold up that box back there.  There it is.  It looks like that.  And if you’re a host, I’m also going to throw in this book I wrote called, Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions.  The 12 questions I’m asked most often in counseling like, “Why is this happening to me?”  We’ll give that to those of you who are hosts.

Now so far in our church, 2,500 people have said, “I’ll open up my home during ‘40 days.’”  In fact if you said, “I’m going to open up my home,” will you stand up right now and stay standing for just a minute.  I want people to applaud you.  Okay, look at these hosts.  Yeah!  Yeah, this is unbelievable.  Stay standing for just a minute.  Okay thanks, you can be seated.

Now these people want you in their home.  So if you’re not in a group yet, Tom’s going to come in a minute and tell you how you can get in a group.  But let me just tell you something.  During this ‘40 Days of Purpose,’ the host will grow the most.  The host will grow the most.  Why?  Because God’s economy is that when we give out, he gives more to us.  And those who bless others are actually more blessed themselves.  The fact is you could be a host, everybody here.  If you’re a member of Saddleback, you could be a host.  All you have to do is go out and get one of those kits on the patio, sign up for it after the service. 

The Bible says this in First Peter 4:9, “Open your homes to each other,” read it with me, “without complaining.”  Yeah, okay, complaining.  Question:  What’s your complaint?  What excuse have you been using for not opening up your home?  “Well, it’s too dirty.”  Well, I’ll come help you clean it.  Just invite me over.  I’ll help you clean it.  I’m a very fast cleaner.  You say, “Well, it’s not big enough.”  Well, is it big enough to hold three people, maybe four?  That’s all you need for a group.  Just get some friends… get some people who owe you money.  Invite them over.  Use that leverage.  You say, “Well I don’t know if I want to do it… I don’t like my neighbors.”  Well, don’t invite them.  I’m not telling you you have to invite people you don’t like.  No, no, find people you like.  People you work with, you go to school with, people who are friends, relatives or neighbors or something like that.  Some of you say, “Well Rick, nobody would want to come.”  Are you kidding?  Oh really?  Do you realize that in every human being’s heart there is a longing for belonging?  Inside, everybody wants relationships.  Nobody wants to be lonely.  That’s why solitary confinement is the worst form of punishment.  We were made to belong.  And that’s why people join all sorts of stupid causes, just to belong to something.  And they’re looking for an opportunity to get to know other people.

Let me give you an example:  Two years ago when we did ‘40 Days of Purpose,’ we had 8,000 people in our church involved in a small group.  And I gave out a little card to everybody, an invitation card that said I want you to pass this out this week and invite somebody that you would never think would come to church, but would come to your house.  And just invite somebody to be a part of your small group.  And in one week here, we went from 8,000 people in small groups to 24,000 people in small groups in one week.  Don’t tell me people aren’t interested.  They are.  They’re interested.

Now right in front of you in the chair rack, pull that out and it says ‘Have you seen this sign?  40 Days of Community.’  This is the card I want you to give out this week.  ‘In the next 40 days, thousands of our friends will meet in 3,000 neighborhood home groups across Orange County.  We will be discussing community spirit and deepening friendships, a great way to get to know each other.  We’ll also watch and discuss a video series called “Better Together” by Rick Warren, author of the #1 best-selling book in the world for the past two years, The Purpose Driven Life.  I hope you’ll be my guest in this group.’  I want you to give this to somebody this week, and take them to a group with you.

Now I realize that many of you waited until the very last second, so Tom’s going to come and tell how you can get in a group or start a group.  Let’s all welcome Tom:

Pastor Tom:

[REPLACE THIS WITH EXPLANATION OF HOW TO SIGN UP FOR A GROUP AT YOUR CHURCH.]

Pastor Rick:

All right, that’s the first reason why we need each other because I need people to walk through life with me. 

Number two, I need people, I need others to not just walk with me but to WORK with me… to work with me.  Do you know that the Bible says God put you on earth to do some certain things?  And you need other people to help you do those certain things?  The Bible says in Ephesians 2:10, “God made us to do good works, which he planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.” 

Before you were even born, God decided what talents you were going to get, what natural abilities, what gifts, what background.  He decided what country you would be born in.  He decided all of these things because he has a certain thing that he wants you to do with your life, “your good works.”  And that is called your ministry.  Anytime you use the talents God has given you to help other people, that’s called ministry or service.  It’s helping other people.  But God doesn’t want you to do it by yourself or you’ll get worn out, he says you need other people to work with you. 

And remember, I’ve told you this many times that life on earth is practice for heaven, for eternity.  And in heaven, you’re going to do four things, and one of them is serve God.  When you’re in heaven, one of the things you’re going to do is serve God.  What do you want to do here?  God says, “I want you to practice serving while you’re on earth.”  When you get to heaven and you didn’t practice, well what kind of job are you going to get there?

Now see in heaven, nobody’s ever going to get tired doing their work because we will all share it together.  And everybody just has a little part, you don’t have a whole lot.  You’ve just got a little part to do in heaven and so, you’re never going to get tired.

Now on earth, you’re tired all the time.  In fact, you were tired probably coming to church this morning.  And the reason you’re tired is two things:  1) You try to do it all, and 2) You try to do it all by yourself.  God never meant for you to do that.  He meant for you to have other people in your life.  So you’re not trying to do it all, and you’re not trying to do it all yourself.  No wonder you’re exhausted all the time.  You’re not in community.  You don’t have other people helping you.

Now God tells us why we need others to work with us.  Look at the next verse, Ecclesiastes 4 says, “Two people are better than one because they get more done by working together.”  You know that’s true.  You always get more done by working with other people. 

You know, I just got back from a tour on the East Coast.  And I spoke in 11 cities in 12 days.  It was amazing.  It was up and down and up and down in airplanes, 11 cities in 12 days.  And I would’ve been overwhelmed by that, in fact, I would’ve just been depressed even thinking about it if I hadn’t taken a team with me.  You see, we flew out and we went first to Washington D.C. where we visited and had some meetings at the capital.  And then, I spoke twice at the Pentagon.  And after I spoke at the Pentagon, then we flew to Philadelphia and we were there.  Then after we went to Philadelphia, we flew to Westpoint, where I spoke to all of the cadets, 4,000 cadets.  And then we flew from there to New York City where I had about a half dozen different meetings, was on three TV shows and a bunch of other meetings I had to do.  And then from there, we went to Atlanta where I had five different meetings including two major speaking engagements.  And then from Atlanta, we went to Chattanooga where 170 churches have been doing ‘40 Days of Purpose’ together at one time.  The entire city had a city-wide ‘40 Days of Purpose,’ and they had over 50,000 people involved in it.  And they put up signs all over the city saying, ‘Got purpose?’  And then we went from there to Nashville where I spoke to 6,000 mothers of preschool at their convention and then… let’s see, I don’t remember where else we went.  Oh, we went to Annapolis and spoke at the Naval Academy, and then to Liberty University in their 10,000 seat auditorium, stopped by to see Billy Graham and came home.

Now, I would’ve been a basket case if I had tried to do that all by myself.  But I took Tom and I took Forrest and I took David and those three guys all were a part of the team.  And every time the plane hit the ground, we each knew our assignments.  Nobody’s good at everything.  We need each other.  And the key is you need people in your life who are strong at things you’re weak at.

And so, we did this together as a team.  When I got home, I wasn’t tired, I got up the next morning at 6 a.m. and went right back to work.  Why?  Because we had a team.  I wasn’t carrying the load myself.  You know, it was amazing, while we were at Westpoint, they showed us a system where they feed 4,000 people in 15 minutes and they do it three times a day.  Imagine feeding 4,000 people in 15 minutes.  I said, “How in the world did they do that?”  They give everybody a roll with butter. Everybody has a role to play.  Everybody has a position, and they do it all together. 

You know, God has called our church to model for tens of thousands of other churches.  And we are taking on some very big projects, some global giants.  Things like poverty and disease and illiteracy and AIDS, these are giant global problems.  And that would overwhelm us, but we’re not going to do it all by ourselves.  We’re going to involve thousands and tens of thousands and eventually millions of other churches in doing this.  You’ve heard me say before, “Snowflakes are frail but if enough of them stick together, they can stop traffic.”

Now I can’t do a whole lot on my own, and you can’t make a very big impact on the world on your own either.  But you know, you get enough snowflakes together, they can do something.  And in this church, we’ve got 82,000 snowflakes.  That’ll stop something.  Better yet, it’ll start something.

And God says, “I want to use you.”  You see, there’s this myth, the Mother Theresa myth, of the lone person going out there to save the world on their own.  That’s not what Mother Theresa did.  Mother Theresa had an army behind her of other sisters.  In fact, this past week in Washington D.C., Kay met Mother Theresa’s successor and had a meeting with her.  She had an army of other people helping in the streets of Calcutta.  You see, together each of us… together, can make a difference if we each just do a little part.  It’s not a big thing.  It’s just a little thing.

The reason why you’re so exhausted is you don’t have anybody helping you.  Would you write this down on your outline:  Community is God’s answer to FATIGUE.  Community is God’s answer to fatigue.  Have you ever seen on TV or maybe you saw the movie Witness where the Amish build a barn together in one day?  The whole community turns out.  Everybody does a little bit and the thing’s done like that.

During ‘40 Days of Community,’ we’re going to take on a big project as a church:  To feed every homeless person in Orange County, that’s 35,000 homeless.  Every day feed them three meals a day for 40 days.  Now that is an overwhelmingly huge project, but not really.  If everybody in our church got in a group and every group gave about two hours to this project, it’d be over in a week.  It’d be done in a snap.  It just isn’t that hard.

Galatians 6:10 says this, “Every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith,” that’s the church.  You see, God uses ordinary people.  I want you to hear Nick Papageorges’ story about his group, would you welcome him?

Nick:

Thank you Rick.  Good morning everyone.  I’m Nick Papageorges, and I think they might have my small group up here on the monitor.  There they are, that’s part of them.  Anyway, I’m your typical Saddleback plugged-in guy.  By that I mean that I know more than two people here and I try to participate and help as much as I can.

 

This past Sunday morning, my wife asked if I wanted to help with the food drive with her that she had signed up for.  I quickly said no.  I had a lot of work to catch up on, and I wanted to take those four hours to do it.  After confirming that they were shorthanded on that day, she told me that she was going to go out and rally our small group and some neighbors to help with that.  She came home after recruiting one of my friends and neighbors by telling him that I was going.  So you know how that went.  So that changed my plans and I told Tom that I wasn’t interested in going, but figured that we both would have fun together.

 

As we arrived and tried to figure out how this was going to work, we learned more about the web of relations involved in this event.  It seemed that another neighbor, Jen, had roped in Tom’s wife, Kim, to help her in the transportation.  As they were driving to different stores than us, but they were on the same shift, we thought ‘What a small world.’

 

As we started to hand out bags and flyers at the store we were at, we tried to come up with a quick one-liner that we could get people that would just tell them what we’re doing and make it easier for us.  Well, we didn’t come up with the magic line.  But what we did notice is about 90% of the people going into the store were taking bags, so that was very encouraging to us.

 

But where we saw God really working was the people coming out of the stores.  We saw young people coming out, handing us just one thing, and I thought, “There’s no way I would’ve bought anything.”  Then we had some guys running in just to buy a 12-pack of beer for a ball game they were watching.  They came back out with a full bag of groceries for us. 

 

It seems that the aisles with our hot tickets… the little punch list that we gave them, those were the crowded aisles in the store.  So what happened then is as we were talking to people, they got convicted.  Some people took the red bags just so that they wouldn’t have to talk to us anymore as they were going in.  A lot of those people, as they saw the other aisles filling up and people working in the store, they came out with full bags.  So we were starting to get excited.  This was easy. 

 

We’d been there about an hour, and we started to notice that one of the doors at the store, the carts were all gone.  So my neighbor Tom ran out into the parking lot to gather carts so that people could fill them up for us.  The employees of the store saw our service and our good attitudes, and they started to help us.  They gathered the carts and what they would do is, they would get the red flyers that were left in carts, un-crumple them and hand it to us so that we could redistribute them. 

 

We filled box after box.  Our kids were laughing and having a great time running up to new arrivals and trying to get them to help.  The four-hour shift was over in no time, far before our adrenaline ran out.  As we left and met other family members, we couldn’t help but tell them about our day.  You know, I can’t remember the work that I was going to do but the joy that day still lingers.

 

As we came home, we still had two boxes left in our truck.  We found out another small group member and neighbor was going to go sort food the next night, so we gave them to her.  It was amazing how God had placed many of our small group members and friends in different areas to help.  It made it all flow seamlessly.

 

Tom and I were the reluctant soldiers, but we really had a great time and saw how God worked through us.  I thank God for using my wife, my family, and my small group for letting me get involved in this food drive.  If you’re like me and feeling some reservation about this drive and physically helping, I strongly encourage you to sign up and help.  The fun and blessing you will receive is beyond words.  God’s work will always be done, but will you get your gift from him during this drive as you work with those in your small group.  Thank you very much.

 

Pastor Rick:

All right.  I need people to walk with me and I need people to work with me.  The third thing is:  In life, I need others to WATCH OUT for me.  I need people who will defend me, who will protect me, who will stand up for me when I need somebody to stand up for me, who will help me stay on track, who will warn me.  I need people to watch out for me. 

Philippians 2:4 says this, “Look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.”  Now that’s a countercultural statement because in America, everybody says, “It’s all about me.  It’s all about my needs, my interests, my hurts, and the rest of you, forget you because really it’s all about me.”  And yet the Bible says, “Look out for one another’s interests.”

Have you ever seen any of these ‘Neighborhood Watch’ signs in some areas?  That’s a sign of community.  It says we watch out for people here.  We take care of each other.  If you went on vacation this summer and you were gone for a week or a couple of weeks, you probably told your neighbor, “I’m going to be gone for a while.  Would you look out for my stuff?”  Because we all want our stuff looked out for.  So we ask our neighbor, “Would you mind just keeping an eye open and watch out for my stuff?” 

Well, let me ask you, do you have anybody looking out for your soul?  Because your soul is more important than your stuff.  Is there anybody who is helping you out in your spiritual journey?  Who’s watching out for you?  To make sure that you’re still growing?  To make sure that you’re not getting discouraged and depressed and feel like giving up?

You see, the fact is we all have blind spots.  There are things in our lives that we can’t see, that only other people can see.  You know, I grew this this summer [points to gotee] and then Kay goes, “If you’re going to have this beard, honey, you’ve got to get rid of the flat hair.”  So she gave me this new spiky thing.  There’s only one problem with it:  I can’t see the back of my head, and it stands up back there.  And so, I’m not making this up, both last night and this morning, as I’m walking out the door to go to church, she says, “Stop!”  I thought, “What did I do wrong?”  And she has to ‘squirt, squirt.’ [mimics Kay fixing the back of his hair] You know?  Because I can’t see it.  I mean if you have a taillight that goes out, you’re never going to know it.  Somebody’s got to tell you, “You’ve got a taillight out.”  Hopefully, somebody tells you when you’re unzipped.  Please if I’m ever unzipped, will you tell me?  Don’t let me go the whole sermon, okay?  Just stand and go, “Rick, zip up!”  Okay?  If you’ve got lettuce in your teeth or taco, friends don’t let friends have taco in their teeth.

So we need people who watch out for us, who love us, who go, “Hey you know, you’ve got a little booger right here.  Get rid of that thing.”  That’s why we need each other.  Get it?  Good.

I need others to watch out for me.  The Bible says this in Hebrews 13, “Keep being concerned about each other as the Lord’s followers should.”  Christians ought to take care of Christians.  People in the church ought to take care of other people in the church.  It says, “Keep being concerned about each other.”  Circle the word, ‘Keep.’  That means be vigilant.  You don’t just do it once.  You just keep on doing it.  You know in a war, everybody has to serve sentry duty at some point, where everybody else is asleep but then you stay awake to watch out. 

Since 9/11, we’ve had to be more vigilant as a country about terrorists.  But did you know that you have a greater enemy than terrorists?  Oh, you do, and his name is Satan.  And he hates your guys and he wants to defeat you, he wants to mess up your life, he wants to hurt you, harm you and make you totally ineffective.  He wants you to miss God’s will.  He wants you to waste your time.  And every morning before you wake up, he’s planning how to get you to waste your day, to get angry, to get impatient, to get lustful, to get worried, to get fearful and all these other things, to get depressed.  And he’s going to pull whatever works on you, on you.

Recently, I read the 9/11 reports.  It’s pretty fascinating reading, and I was reading the first preface there, listen to this section and tell me if it doesn’t apply to your spiritual battle with Satan every day because you have an enemy too.  Listen to this, “We learned about an enemy who is sophisticated, patient, disciplined and lethal,” well that applies to the devil to, “The enemy rallies broad support by political grievances but its hostility towards us and towards our values is limitless.  Its purpose is to rid the world of religious pluralism.  It makes no distinction between military and civilian targets; collateral damage is not in its lexicon.”  Satan doesn’t care who he hurts if he hurts you, hurts your friends, hurts your children, hurts your parents. 

You see, Satan’s real deal is he wants to hurt God.  But he can’t hurt God.  God can’t be hurt.  So what does he do?  He hurts God’s children.  If you couldn’t hurt me, what would you do?  You’d go after my wife or my kids.  And so, Satan can’t hurt God, so what does he do?  He tries to hurt God’s children.

They say, “We did not understand how grave this threat really was,” and most Christians don’t either.  “Now we didn’t adjust our policies and our plans and our practices to deter or defeat it,” and most Christians don’t either.  “The test before us is to sustain the unity of purpose.”  Man, I couldn’t have written this stuff any better.  “The test before us is to sustain the unity of purpose, and meet the challenges now confronting us.  We need to design a balanced strategy for the long haul to attack terrorists while at the same time, protecting ourselves against future attacks.”  Now did you get that?  They say not only do we need to protect ourselves from a future attack; we have got to go after them.

And when it comes to spiritual battle when you’re fighting the devil, it’s not just protecting yourself, but it’s also go after him.  Now, most of the time, we’re defeated because the devil, he doesn’t wear a red suit with a tail and pitchfork and come up and say, “Boo!”  How does the devil work in your life?  Habits, you can’t break.  Hurts, you can’t forgive and let go of.  Hang-ups you can’t change.  Problems, circumstances, relationships that mess up your life; it’s all indirect, and he’s always trying to mess you up that way. 

And most of the time, we’re defeated.  Why?  Because we try to fight it on our own, by ourselves.  And you’re never going to beat the devil on your own.  Never.  You need other people in your life who are watching out for you.  The Bible says this in Ecclesiastes 4, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back to back and conquer, and three are even better for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”  That’s why you need a small group.

You know last year, about a year ago at this time, I walked across a maximum security prison yard about the length of two football fields with a couple thousand convicted criminals.  And I did it without any guards, prison guards, without any weapon, without any body armor, and I walked across the yard unafraid.  You say, “Boy, you’re brave.”  No, I just had 30 Christian inmates hanging around me, and these guys were monsters.  They had arms the size of my thighs with tattoos that say, ‘Mom’ and ‘Jesus.’  And there were guys in front of me, and there were guys on either side of me, to my right and left.  And guys behind me who were walking me to the place I was going to speak.  And if anybody was going to get at me, they were going to have to go through those guys first.

Question:  Who’s watching your back right now, spiritually?  Who’s watching your back?  Is there anybody in your life who is so close that they are helping you and making sure you don’t fall into the typical traps that mess us up?  Anybody like that?  If you don’t have that person, I pity you because you’ve got a big bull’s eye on your back for the devil.

Here’s another question:  Who’s back are you watching out for?  You can’t expect anybody to watch out for you if you’re not watching out for anybody else?  You care enough about anybody else, you’ll say, “You know what?  I’m going to be with you through thick and thin.” 

Years ago when I was much thinner, I was a lifeguard.  I really was for three years, and everybody knows that you never swim in the ocean by yourself.  Never.  You take a buddy with you because you never know if you’re going to hit a riptide.  You don’t go through life by yourself.

A couple of months ago, did you read about this kid who was an experienced climber and decided he’d go climbing by himself?  He thought he could do it, and he slipped and he fell into a ravine and his arm got caught and he would’ve died there because there was nobody else to help him.  And the only way he got loose was to cut off his own arm to save his life. 

Even the pros need someone watching their back.  And you do too.  Would you write this down:  Community is God’s answer to DEFEAT.  Community is God’s answer to defeat.  The Bible says, this is Ecclesiastes 4:10, “If one person falls, another can reach out and help but people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble.”  Now this is one of the values of small groups.  It gives us support.  And I want you to hear Ed Blanford’s story, would you give him a warm welcome.

Ed:

My name is Ed Blanford and I’m a believer in recovery from sex addiction.  I would like to share with you the support and encouragement God brought into my life through my small group and ‘Celebrate Recovery,’ a men’s step study.  These are my brothers, who struggle with such hurts, hang-ups and compulsions as alcohol, drugs, overeating, codependence, anger, sex and adult-children of alcoholics. 

 

We have met each Monday night for the last year, working through the 12 steps and 8 principles on the road to recovery using the ‘Celebrate Recovery’ workbooks and ‘Life Recovery Bible’.  It has been the safest, most transparent, encouraging and supporting group I could have ever imagined.  This is a group of men who watch out for each other and help each other stay on track. 

 

I moved here from Detroit after I got a job with a large firm in Orange County, designing in the automotive industry.  Shortly after arriving in California, I married my best buddy, Amy, and began to attend church regularly.  We started coming to Saddleback Church in January 2001, where we both began to serve and recognize our SHAPE for ministry.  The Lord has blessed me in many ways but I began to see that I still had a lot of baggage and had not worked through the issues of my past.  I prided myself on being able to stop drinking just before being saved and it seemed that I had my sexual addiction under control.  Thank you very much. 

 

However, I rediscovered pornography.  My lust had returned with a vengeance and I needed help.  My wife was encouraged to attend ‘Celebrate Recovery’ during her SHAPE interview and I decided to go with her for support.  I had heard about ‘Celebrate Recovery’ during a sermon by Pastor Rick, but I didn’t think I needed it.  I was in control.  I am now so very glad I went.  It has changed everything my life.

 

I have now been in recovery from sexual addiction for over three years.  The turning point for me was working through the step-study format with my small group.  I would like to thank my step-brothers, who have supported me on my road to recovery:  Mark, Randy and I don’t know this guys’ name [laughter].

 

My job requires frequent travel to Detroit.  For a guy in recovery from sexual addiction, there’s nothing more frightening than spending the night alone in a lonely hotel room.  The temptations for isolation and pornography can be overwhelming.  I am so thankful for the connections I have made in our step study.  I cannot express how grateful I am for being able to pick up the phone, call Charlie or one of the guys on the phone list from the group and talk about what I was going through.  Having them understand and be there for me and know that I am truly connected… connected to the body of Christ through my step study.  We have found that we truly need each other.

 

We recently completed our step study, but these guys encouraged me to reach out and give back as a leader for the next step study, which will start soon.  There is no substitute for having others stand along beside you, watch your back and come to your defense. 

 

As God teaches me to lead with my weaknesses, I am continually blessed in my service to this program.  Although I have not arrived, I am seeing improvement in my life day by day as I trust the Lord and learn from the many godly men who serve in ‘Celebrate Recovery.’  Our group verse is Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” 

 

I encourage you to get into a ‘40 Days of Community’ small group where you too can have others watch out for you, help you stay on track and look out for each others interest.  We are all stronger together and support each other through the good times and the tough times.  Thank you for letting me share.

 

Pastor Rick:

I need people to walk with me through life and I need others to work with me and I need others to watch out for me.  Number four, I need others to WAIT AND WEEP with me, to wait and weep with me.  What am I talking about here?  I need people who are going to be there in the inevitable crises of life.  When I’m waiting for the bad news or when I’m weeping, when I got the bad news, I need people in my life.

Now as your pastor, I feel this one really deeply because I see it every day in our church.  There are many situations in life that nobody should ever have to go through alone.  Nobody should ever have to sit alone in a hospital, waiting during a life or death surgery.  No woman should have to wait alone while she’s waiting back for a lab test from a problem pregnancy.  No one should ever have to wait for the news from the battlefield alone.  No one should ever have to sit in the home, waiting for the coroner to identify the body of a loved one who just had a heart attack in your home.  They shouldn’t have to wait alone.  No one should ever have to stand at an open grave alone.  No man or woman should ever have to spend the first night alone when his wife dies or her husband dies.  And no man or woman should have to spend the night alone when the wife walks out, or the husband has walked out.  I could go on and on and on. 

We were not meant to face the crises of life alone.  Now the fact is some of these things are going to happen in your life.  They are going to happen, some of them will in that we’re all going to lose loved ones.  And only a fool would go through life unprepared for what they know is inevitably going to happen.  You need the support network in your life now because you don’t know when the crisis is going to come, when the earthquake’s going to happen… you need that support group, those three or four… you don’t need a lot, you don’t need a hundred but you do need five or six people in your life who are going to be there when you need them.  And the time to prepare is now.

Now God says that the safety net he planned for your life is a group of believers who are committed to you.  The Bible says this in First Peter, “You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other.”  Now when you get in the hospital, you don’t want the whole church to visit you.  In fact, that would not be a good idea.  But it would be nice to have five or six people visit you, and to say, “We’re praying for you.  We’re going to be here.” 

I’ll never forget a man who came to Saddleback for about seven years and he used to sit up in the bleachers.  And he only came and he left; came and he left; never got involved in anything; never joined a small group; never met anybody else.  I’m the only person in the church he knew.  And he came for about seven years and one day, he had a heart attack and they put him in the hospital.  While he was there, he got an infection and he was in for two weeks.  And I was out traveling on the road speaking, and I didn’t even know he was in the hospital.  And nobody visited him.  And when I got back, he came to church and he said, “I’m leaving the church.”  And I said, “Why?”  He said, “Because nobody visited me in the hospital,” and I said, “I’m sorry,” and he left.  And I thought, “It’s your fault.”  You don’t have anybody to blame but yourself.  He didn’t ever visit anybody in the hospital.  He didn’t ever care about anybody else.  He never even took the time to get to know anybody in his own spiritual family that he’s going to spend an eternity with.  He’s going to get to heaven and they’ll go, “You were at Saddleback?”  He didn’t know anybody.  And when the crisis came, there was nobody there for him.  It was his own fault.

I’ve told you many, many times, I could not make it without my own small group, the eight people in my group.  This last year alone we’ve been through practically every kind of personal and family crisis you could imagine and were there to wait for each other, and to weep with each other.

Here’s God’s plan, First Corinthians 12, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.”  You know, I just read recently about a guy who died at home in bed and nobody discovered him for two years.  I thought, “How tragic that he had no relationships in life who missed him.”  That the guy died… imagine the despair, nobody should ever have to die alone.

Would you write this down:  Community is God’s answer to DESPAIR.  Community is God’s answer to despair.  The Bible says, “Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep.”  You party when people have a celebration and you weep when they have a tough time. 

By the way, people often don’t know what to do with tears in a small group.  And they’ll be sitting in a small group and then somebody starts crying for one reason or another.  Let me give you a little tip:  Tears are always the tip that it’s time to stop and pray.  When tears come, it means it’s time to stop and pray for that person.  “Let’s just stop right now and pray for Mary.  She just got bad news from her sister.  Let’s pray for her right now,” and you stop and you pray.  “Let’s just stop and pray for Bob right now.  He just got laid off from a company he’s given 22 years of his life to and they gave him one week’s notice.”  That’s a shock.  “Let’s just stop and pray for Tom right now…”  Tears are time to pray. 

You don’t have to fix people’s problems.  When they’re going through a crisis, they don’t want advice anyway.  They just want somebody to be there.  You just sit there and be quiet with them.  You don’t have to say anything profound, usually we get in trouble when we start talking.  Just be there with them.  They don’t need a lot of advice.  Just be there with them.

The Bible says is First Thessalonians 5, “Encourage each other and strengthen one another.”  I want you to listen to Tom Atkins’ group story.  Would you welcome him.

Tom:

Good morning everyone, I’m Tom Atkins and more importantly, this is the early rising  part of our small group.  And our small group started during ‘40 Days of Purpose,’ two years ago.  At the beginning, most of us didn’t know each other.  Some of us had recently been married or remarried.  Some had been married for several years.  Some were single, and some came without their spouses.  The one thing we did share in common was a desire to know more about Jesus Christ and his plan for our lives. 

 

During the first year and a half, we grew to know each other and began sharing the burdens that we all felt in our lives.  We shared about the struggles of building Christ-centered marriages, health issues with our families and friends, loss of jobs, problems with our children, and just a variety of life stresses and challenges.  The group grew as we invited friends to share in the love and community that we were experiencing.

 

God had a plan and he knew that events would happen in our lives where we would truly need the community that we were sharing.  I would like to tell you about two of these events.  Mike and Carolyn had been coming to our group almost from the beginning.  Mike is one of those guys that asks the tough questions and challenges us to think about the different aspects of our faith, and what God’s word says to us.  As Mike says, “We can have some serious disagreements but we have learned to love and respect each other.”

 

We didn’t know it but Mike was about to get on a rollercoaster that would take he and Carolyn through some significant emotional ups and downs.  Mike developed a cough that wouldn’t go away, and after prodding from Carolyn, he finally went to the doctor and was told that he had a mass in the lower lobe of one lung.  We prayed for Mike before he went to each doctor’s appointment.  We were encouraged after the doctors did several procedures and said they didn’t find any cancer cells.  Mike finally decided to have the mass removed in the event that there were cancer cells in it, and now he’s going through chemotherapy and radiation. 

 

I’d like to read you some thoughts from Mike’s heart and Mike would like you to hear these words, “After my cancer diagnosis, all of these people that I had been praying for were now praying for me.  And most amazing for me was I could feel it in my heart.  I had never experienced a group of believers laying hands on me and praying for me.  Wow, what a feeling!  It was so warm and real.  I really can’t describe, but it was life-changing and is the ultimate example of what a small group does best.  If you want to grow as a Christian, you need to be in a small group.” 

 

Charlie had been in our group almost one year.  One day this spring, he came home and found that his wife had left him.  We all knew they were struggling with some issues but this was a very big surprise for Charlie and our group.  That started a series of events and emotional challenges for Charlie.  We prayed for him and encouraged him to focus on becoming the man that God wanted him to be. 

 

In the middle of this struggle, he called one day to say that he had just been fired from his job.  During the next meeting, Charlie opened his heart about his life’s struggles that help create these situations and we all prayed for him and encouraged him.  He has trusted God through the difficult times, worked hard to grow and continues to share openly with his small group family.

 

A couple of days ago, Charlie was offered a new job and also received acceptance into Biola University where he will complete his degree with a ministry emphasis.  As Charlie recently said, “I still don’t know where my life is going, but I do know this, I have a group of people that I love and meet with every week where I know that no matter what happens to me, they will be there for me.” 

 

In closing from every one of us in our small group from the people here and the ones you see on the screen, we’d like to say this one thing to you:  Please, please, if you’re not in a small group, join one today.  Don’t try to go through life alone.  You may be in an area of calm right now, but we never know when the next storm will hit.  We surely didn’t.  Our lives are far richer and our faith and trust in Jesus Christ has grown stronger through our small group family.  Thank you.

Pastor Rick:

There’s one other reason why you need other people in your life and it is:  I need others to WITNESS with me.  What does that mean?  Well, God has a plan for your life and he has a purpose and he has a mission.  And you have a life message that God wants you to say to the world and your life message, if you don’t share it, it won’t get shared.

Now that’s kind of scary sometimes, sharing your life message with the world.  That’s why you need other people in your life.  I need people to help me fulfill the mission that God put me on earth to fulfill.  Now there’s great power in a group witness.  When people come in here and they look around and they go, “Whoa, look at all these people!  Something must be going on here.” 

But how do we witness?  What’s the best way to witness to people who don’t know the love of Jesus Christ yet?  Well I’m going to tell you and it’ll surprise you.  It’s by loving other believers.  That’s what Jesus said.  Look at the Bible.  Jesus said in John 13, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  Notice he said, “Your love,” not for me, not for God, he said, “Your love for one another,” for other people in the family of God, is the proof that you’re in the family of God.  If you don’t love other believers, you have every reason to doubt ‘Am I in the family?’  Because he said, that’s the proof.  One of the ways you know that you’ve stepped across a line and you’re in God’s family is do you love the other people in it?  He says, “That’s how you know.” 

You see, the thing that proves to the world that we’re Christ’s followers is not our buildings, not our music, not our sermons, it’s our love for each other.  And during the next 40 days, we’re going to start a revolution of love right here that is going to reach out to the community around us.  Second Timothy 1:7 says this, “The Holy Spirit doesn’t want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong and to love them and enjoy being with them.”  That is like ‘Invite them into your house!’

Now how many of you have put up one of these things in your yard?  Can I see your hands?  Raise your hands.  Look at this.  I am so proud of you.  I mean these things are everywhere, 18,000 signs all over Orange County and have you figured out that these things are a great conversation starter?  I mean they really are. 

Mary Lynn told me the other day.  She said she invited a lady to Saddleback.  She said, “I want you to come to ‘40 Days of Community.’”  She said, “What’s that?”  She said, “Well we’re going to talk about how to build relationships and how to learn to really love and how to build community spirit.”  She goes, “Oh, now it makes sense.”  She said, “There’s this really nice man on our block, and he put up this sign, ‘40 Days of Community.’  I didn’t know what it was.  I thought maybe he got in trouble with the law, and I thought he did something wrong and the judge assigned him 40 days of community service.”  So if you don’t tell people what that sign is for, they may think you’re a drug dealer.  Just tell other people.

Now, you’ve heard me say… I love you guys, I love you… and you’ve heard me say this many times, I’ve asked you, “Is anybody going to be in heaven because of you?”  I’ve asked that many times.  “Is anybody going to be in heaven because of you?”  I want to guarantee you something.  If you will get in a small group just for six weeks and you’ll take that invitation card and you give that, the one that’s the chair in front of you, and you give that to somebody this week who is not a follower of Christ, who’s not in a church, and you bring them and they watch these videos.  I’ll help you be able to answer that question, “Yes, at the end of 40 Days, somebody is going to be in heaven because of me.”  You don’t have to be afraid about it.  We’re going to do it together.

Would you write this down:  God’s answer to fear is COMMUNITY.  God’s answer to fear is community.  The Bible says, “You’re working together and struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news,” that verse has the two goals of  ‘40 Days of Community’ in it.  “Working together side by side,” we want to deepen the community in our church, “to get others to believe the good news,” to reach out to the community around our church. 

I want you to listen to Bonnie Prietto’s story, the last one.  Would you welcome her?

Bonnie:

Good morning.  My name is Bonnie Prietto and this is part of my small group.  Our small group, who at the time was made up of six empty nesters, was looking for a place to serve.  We had discussed several different options and done some research but nothing had materialized, and our focus was local only and local is the key word.  Though I had been on an international mission trip in the past, my husband, Peter, was not a traveler and didn’t care to travel.  Since we’re both involved in a local ministry for abused children in the foster care system called ‘Royal Family Kids Camp,’ I just assumed we would move on and work with children in some way. 

 

Then one day, Kay Warren spoke at church and she introduced Sister Frieda from a field hospital in Catali and told her story.  I was touched and began to actually think about the enormity of the problems in Kenya and how maybe we could help, and that was God whispering in my ear, and I just brushed him away as I often do and I’m very consistent in that.

 

Some time later there was a notice in the bulletin that anyone interested in information on a mission trip to Kenya should come to a meeting.  And then it hit me, right in the middle of the worship service.  I knew that God had been talking to me and I was going to Kenya.  And I leaned over and whispered to Peter that I was going to Kenya and I pointed to the notice, and he just ignored me.  On the drive home, I told him again that I was going and he said, “You’re not going.  It’s not safe there.”  I had heard those words a couple of years previously when I had gone on a mission trip to Romania.  But as he fondly tells me, I’m incessant and so I was and I kept talking about it. 

 

The information meeting was scheduled on our regular small group night and that was kind of a problem, so I invited the small group to go to the meeting.  And I told them that I’d like to go to Kenya and that we could all help in the preparation for the trip.  But secretly I thought they could all help, but I was going. 

 

Peter was not happy.  Why couldn’t I just go some place safe?  Then, he grudgingly agreed to go if for no other reason than I was going to do whatever I wanted to do anyway and he may as well find out where I was going to be. 

 

The night before the meeting Earl called me and said, “Bonnie, I just want to be perfectly clear.  Virginia and I are going to this meeting because we love you and we want to support you, but we are not going to Kenya.”  And I was just thrilled that everybody was willing to give up small group so I could go.

 

The big evening arrived and we went and Steve Rutenbar gave some very compelling reasons to go.  He reassured us that we didn’t need any special qualifications and that we could in fact make a difference.  When God works, he works fast.  Because when the six of us left that night, the seeds had not only been planted, they were germinating.

 

In a very short time, God has spoken to all the others and we were all going.  If you don’t think God performs miracles in ordinary people, Peter became the most enthusiastic of the group.

 

So six not so very young people with no particular skills joined a group of 62 other regular people of all ages and we became an instant extended family and were surrounded by love for each other and the people we were going to meet. 

 

Pastor Rick recently emphasized the stewardship of influence in a message.  All 68 people on our team and all the other teams are influencing others.  We can’t fix the entire world all at once but if each one of us reaches out across cultures, makes one new friend, changes one life, just a little bit, then those who are uneducated won’t feel so isolated.  Those who are sick won’t feel so alone, and those who are hurt won’t feel so unloved.  That’s how change happens, one life at a time. 

 

As for the six of us, we became closer than ever with this bond that God had provided in the experience of our travel.  We’ve added a fourth couple now and we all will be serving for ‘40 Days of Community’ together and wherever else God calls us.  Thank you.

Pastor Rick:

We all need each other.  We all need each other.  We need other believers to walk with us, to work with us, to watch out for us.  We need other believers to wait for us and wait with us and weep with us, and we need them to witness with us.

I want you to say this with me:  I really really really need a group.  That is your declaration of interdependence.  It wasn’t that hard, was it?

Inside your program, there’s a little green card.  Would you pull this out?  And this card is different that most of them because I don’t want you to turn it in.  I want you to put it where you’ll see it every day for the next 40 days: on a mirror, in your car, on your desk, paste it to your computer, refrigerator, somewhere.  And it says this, ‘My commitment:  I will participate in a ‘40 Days of Community’ home group’ or you can start one.  ‘I will read a chapter a day from ‘Better Together.’  I will do my best to hear all seven of Rick’s messages and I will try to memorize a Bible verse each week.’  You can sign your name there.  And I want you to clear your calendar as much as possible for the next 40 days.  If you do, I guarantee you.  You’re going to look back on the next 40 days and say, “That was the turning point in my life.”  If you’ll do this, I guarantee you, you’ll look back and say, “That was the turning point in my life.”

Now this church is all about community.  Shoot, it’s our middle name:  Saddleback Community Church.  And God has chosen you, the people right here, you, and the people in all of our venues to be a model for millions of other people because tens of thousands of other churches are going to go through what we’re going through right now.  Actually about 700 we’re letting do the pilot with us, but tens of thousands of churches will eventually do this campaign.  And you are setting the model really for the rest of the world, for millions and millions of people.  And I have been praying for you, and we are going to make history.  And I’m praying for you in 100% participation.  I don’t want you sitting on the sideline.  God didn’t bring you to this area, to this church, at this time to watch it happen.  He brought you here to be a part of what’s going to happen.  He brought you to this church for this purpose.  Let’s bow our heads.

Father, it’s time for the church to be the church.  It’s time for the revolution of love and fellowship and community.  Please begin in our hearts today.  With all my heart, Lord, I believe that our church will start fulfilling God’s purposes in community and that in that, we’ll see a new reformation in the church and a new spiritual awakening in our nation and boy, do we need it. 

Now you pray.  Dear God, forgive me for the times I’ve felt I didn’t need other people in my life.  I want to be a part of what you’re doing on earth through your family, the church.  I want to experience real community.  I’m tired of superficial relationships.  I want to learn to love and be loved in a deeper way.  I open up my life to you, Jesus Christ.  I want to be a part of your family.  Thank you for bringing me here, for this place to belong and grow in fellowship.  And serve and share and worship.  I don’t want to be a passive follower anymore.  I want to get in on what you’re going to do.  So today, I commit to getting in a small group so I can learn about real community.  Please bless our church as we do 40 days together.  In your name, I pray.  Amen.

Let the revolution of love begin.

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