How does Venture Church continue Jesus’ mission? I bet you know it, right? We teach the multitudes. The Word of God is powerful. The second thing we do is we equip people in small groups. We ask every single person to find your place, where you get connected. And finally, then, we send you out to Silicon Valley companies, and the Pacific Rim, and jobsites, and stay-at-home moms, and work construction sites, and we’re going to teach the multitudes who God really is – the real God. There’s a lot of competition about who God is. We’re going to have every single small group go through a book called The Real God, on the attributes of God. And then we’re going to ask every single one of you to either find a place inside the church, or locally, or globally – to say, “Here am I, God. Send me.”
What did Jesus actually ask, literally require, of His disciples? The early followers were asked. He made requirements. Every relationship has a requirement. Right? Marriage relationship, you actually verbalize the requirements and say, “I am making a vow to you.”
Parent/child relationship, you have some requirements. In work, there are some requirements. Jesus gave His life, but He said, “To become a follower of Mine, this is what you need to do.”
There are three requirements. What I want you to hear is not, “This is Venture Church’s requirements, or this is what Chip thinks…” I want you to get these are God’s… these are from the lips of Jesus. And so we are going to read His first requirement is to love God. And I will read it slow because I would like you, actually, to not sort of listen to me. But let’s read this together and let it soak in.
Matthew 22:37 to 39. “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
I don’t want this to be, like, way out there, someday, someway about these requirements. The early disciples did this and they changed the world. It changed them and they loved people. What’s it look like in your life to love God with all your heart, soul, and especially your mind? How do you love God with your mind? We have a very clear doctrinal statement that comes from God’s Word and the history of the Church for 2,000 years about who God really is. Who is the Holy Spirit? How does a person have a relationship with God? How does He define relationships? Those things are not up for grabs. If we don’t love God, nothing else matters.
The second command – are you ready for this? He said, “I want you to love one another.” Not just emotionally but, “I want you to love one another.”
I want you to hear from Jesus’ lips. I want you to read it with me. Because, see, we as a church are saying: Do we really believe this to the point of acting on it?
This is what Jesus said the final night with His disciples. And He said that this would be the difference between why everything will happen or not. And Jesus said to them, are you ready? “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples if you love one another.”
Think on that. All of your relatives, all of your friends will know the validity of Jesus being who He said He is by their observation of how deeply we love one another.
So if I’m here and maybe I have been through something hard, whether it is a relationship or cancer or abuse or I was hooked on porn and now I’m not or my father abused me when I was a child and I am still dealing with issues – and I have come through that – what specifically can I do to walk with someone to help them go through that journey? Because God wants to heal. That’s what it means to love each other.
Are you at a point where you can say, You know what? I’ll never be perfect but I really want, to love God with my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength. And I’m not sure how but I am sure it’s going to be in a small group. That’s a good start.
But for some of you, it will be more specific in terms of: I am going to love other people. I am not going to live in my little bubble and my little world getting my stuff done. Love God; love one another.
Are you ready for the third one? It’s: love everyone. Jesus said, “I want you to love everyone in the world.” That sounds pretty overwhelming but if each of us get what that means, some amazing things happen.
At the end of every, single gospel: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, after all that He did, rose from the dead, walked for forty days, five hundred witnesses, He said, “This is your job assignment and mission. I want every, single ethnic group on the face of the planet to understand how much I love them and how to have a relationship.”
So I am going to have you read the very words of the Son of Man who died and rose again and said to the disciples then and says to us disciples today, “This is our job description.”
“Then Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you…”
If we were exegeting the passage, we would know there is one command and verb: “Make disciples.” I didn’t grow up in the Church and I didn’t ever open the Bible until I was eighteen. But even, I was probably a Christian six or seven or eight years and when I heard that it was like, Yeah, the Church is supposed to do that. But actually, it was given to individuals.
I don’t know if you have noticed, but the world has changed radically. It is evil. The only hope is the Church. But that means that every Christian has to love God and every Christian, we need to love one another in ways that are very sacrificial. And then we need to love everyone, regardless of their background, their identity, lifestyle; whether they are rich or poor.
Well, I want to get out of any sense at all of talking at anyone. And I want to give you a very, specific and clear message and opportunity for you to respond. For you to respond to a very clear message from Jesus to say, God spoke to me and I realigned my entire focus around loving God first, making a commitment, not to just recognize I’m in this “body,” but loving other Christians with my time and energy and talent; with my money, with my dreams. Literally laying down my life. And something happened where I knew I didn’t have it together but a light came on that I saw that this world will never change until the person in my seat begins to see those people who are far from God in a new way.
And so there are four concentric circles that identify, in any church that you would go to, they are here.
The curious, these are people that you just happen to be here. Maybe you came with a friend or maybe they end up here two or three times a year, maybe something hard has happened in their life and they are like all of us that, Man, if there is a God, I need Him now. My husband walked out on me, or, I lost my job. And they met one of you and they are just curious. And if you are curious, my challenge is: consider joining the crowd.
There will be no pressure, no one is going to tell you you ought or should do anything. But here is the challenge, what if there is a God? What if He is real? What if He rose from the dead? What if He loves you? What if there is hope? What if there is a heaven? What if there is real, tangible life that could straighten out everything, that would give you the grace to go through whatever you go through? You owe it to yourself to say, Every, single week, for six weeks, I am going to come and find out the one, true God. And at the end of six weeks, if you think He’s not the One, then don’t come back.
Secondly, there’s a group called the “crowd.” And that’s us – right? You’re here. For some people, when I say, “Hey, do you go to Venture?” “Yeah, I go to Venture!” And we get talking and, “Is it your church home?” “Yeah!” And if we get talking and some people come one every three weeks, once every eight weeks, every week. But there is this, “Yeah, I am a part of Venture. And I am here, generally, on at least a significant number of weekends.”
If someone said, “Well, are you in a group?” “Well, no, no, no, not really.” “Do you serve anywhere?” “Well, Christmas, I helped out.” But you’re in the crowd.
My challenge for you is to commit to join as a participating member. To say, You know what? I am going to check out what they believe, I am going to check out how you do that, I am actually going to weigh this and say I am going to be a part of this group to fulfill what God wants.
I want you to think of this soberly. But if you don’t know what we believe, if you don’t know where we are headed, don’t make any rash decisions. I want you to make a decision before God, responding to the words that you read where you would say, God is calling me to do this.
We are coming to a day where you need to belong and not go through life alone. And we are coming to a day, as a church, where we need to know for sure who is in? Who can we depend on? And can we depend on one another? And there is something about making a specific commitment that really, really matters.
The third group is a group called the “congregation.” And you have, at some point in time, gone through the membership process, been through a class, you know what we believe and you said, “I am in. I am in.”
For some, that was thirty years ago. For some, ten years ago. For some, a few months ago. And we are going to do something pretty radical that most churches don’t do. The world has changed. In fact, even legally, the scrutiny of churches of who is a member and how you operate and are you discriminating? We are going to ask every, single one of you who are already a member to re-up and recommit. Recommit, not to what you did or where we were but to where we are going, what our vision is, and where we are headed.
Now, I want to say something really, really delicate and I need you to lean back for just a minute. Because this, if you hear me wrong, you’ll hear God wrong. I want you to hear with as much gentleness as I can muster. Okay. This is who this next statement is not for. You are new. You are just trying to figure out what is going on here, you’re not ready to join, you don’t even know anything about us.
You are in crisis. You have got cancer, a loved one is here, you just came out of divorce, you have been abandoned by someone, you are in the time of healing. All you need is people to put their arm around you, expect nothing for probably twelve to eighteen months, and let us love you, okay?
But there are people and they have been around for eighteen to twenty-four months. They are not in crisis. They are not new. And just self-identify, hear my heart on this. This is a private thought that they would never share. But down deep it’s like, I like coming when it’s convenient. I am not going to, you know what? I am not doing one of those groups. Look, I come to church, I check the box, I am trying to be a good person. I am not going to do one of those groups. And volunteer? You know, my life is busy. Look, if down in your heart it’s like, I think the bar is too high. I don’t really want to be a disciple. I just want to come and I don’t want to get involved. I don’t really want to serve. That’s okay. But what you need to understand is God is developing an army of salt and light in the midst of catastrophic evil in the world. And we need to know who is going to align and say, “Yes. It will be a sacrifice of time and energy, of money, of commitment and labor and hardship and bearing one another’s burdens.” And if, for whatever reason, you think to yourself, That’s just not me. You would be a blessing to go someplace else and put a few dollars in the offering for them. And I say this reverently but you’re taking up a seat and a parking spot of a warrior or a warrioress who God is going to draw here.
And if you are new, just relax. If you’re in crisis, just relax. If you are one of those people with a sensitive conscious like, Was he really talking to me? Did the pastor really ask me to leave the church? Talk to a friend and realize God longs for all of us to come and align.
But you know something? We all make decisions where it’s like, This isn’t quite the right fit. I’m never going to really get on board. You know what? Maybe there’s a different church, a different style, something… that would help you grow better than we can.
And so we’re going through a sober, sober self-assessment. And I’m asking you – no knee jerk, no emotional commitment. If you are a part of the congregation, the second thing I would ask you to do is to facilitate a group. And I want to completely redefine “group,” okay? If you have this picture like, If I go down and get one of those books, then I have to open my home. I have to have eight or ten or twenty people. It’s going to be all these nights. I am really, really busy. And then after that we are going to have to provide snacks, then we are going to have to clean up the house. And I just can’t visualize myself doing that.
Now, for some people, that will be their group. But how about this? Is there anyone here, I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand because it might be way too convicting, that you feel like you probably ought to have some family devotions with your husband or your wife or with your kids?
And the fact is that you never sit down once a week around the table or in the living room and open God’s Word and learn anything together. You know what you could do? You could say, My group is going to be my family.
Or what if there is one other Christian at work, or two? And you thought to yourself, We have talked about studying something. You know what I am going to do? I am going to get one of these and I am going to go start a group at work. Me and him. Or her and her. Or last time we did this, we had students who were heading out to college. We had six, eight, ten people who went to all their colleges and they said, “Yeah, I’ll lead a group.” And they went and launched them in dorms.
The final thing I would say is to the core. You are, we are here because of you, okay? You come before God, you are doing life in community, you have prayed like crazy, you are generous with your time, you are generous with your money.
But some of you have felt like, I have done my deal. You used to volunteer. Now you come to a service, you go to a class, you come to a service, you do this. You used to volunteer. And it’s sort of like, You know, I retired from that. And you can retire at twenty-five or thirty or fifty or eighty.
I am going to ask you, to say: I have got to get back in the game. I have got to get back in the game. You know what? I have been with this group and I could lead a group. You know what? Heck, I used to teach kids. I know more than probably all the people in there but life and this and I have done my time. Here’s when you get “done” your time: when you cross the threshold of heaven. And until that time, we are all stewards of all the time God has given us. I would like you to bow your head now. These are God’s words, not mine.
So I would like you to just pray a simple prayer. Lord, what do You want me to do with this? Want me to start a group? Want me to volunteer? Want me to join this church?
Ask that honest question and then do whatever the prompting of the Spirit of God shows you.