Radio Broadcast

Absolutely Small - The Birthplace of Breakthrough, Part 1

Scripture: Acts

Good things come in small packages. Do you believe that? Whether it’s a wedding ring, or a smart phone, or a nice wristwatch, we all know that a small package can contain some pretty interesting stuff. Interestingly, Jesus was a big proponent of small. Chip unleashes the secret of how to get the most from those small things in life.

Message Notes more broadcasts from this series


I spent about an hour in a car with a good friend, and out of the blue, he turned to me, goes, “You know, this breakthrough stuff’s messing with me, man.  You hit me right between the eyes.”  I said, “Let’s get this clear.  I just talk.  If you get hit, it’s God.”  He said, “Okay, well, God hit me between the eyes.”  I said, “Well, what do you mean?”  And for the next hour, he began to very candidly and honestly talk about some issues in his life that he knows this is right, and this is wrong, and right now, this is wrong, and I know what I need to do.” 

And then, he had that look on his face, like I was . . . not many brain cells working.  “Now, do you understand, if I do what’s right, the implications?”  And he started going through relationships, finances, reputation.  And I just said, “Man, you believe God is real, or not?  Do you believe He can take care of you?  You think this is any different than when He said to the disciples, ‘Feed the 5,000, or feed the 4,000?’  You just gotta believe.”  He goes, “I know.  I got it.  I got it.”

And I had to believe that he’s probably not the only one.  And so, on Thursday, God said, “Well, Chip, I wanna give you a wonderful experience to remind you about, when things are pregnant, what happens.”  And so, on Thursday, my daughter had a eight-pound, seven-ounce baby boy.  Little Noah has entered the world.  And God makes everyone different, but my daughter’s sort of a petite little girl, and the women understand, over eight pounds – and almost nine pounds – is a not-petite little boy. 

And yesterday, I had a chance to put that little baby in my arms, and talk with my daughter.  And we’ve always been really close.  She said, “Dad, I just cannot tell you – I didn’t think you could hurt this bad doing anything.  This was the most painful, painful, painful, painful experience.  Halfway through, they gave me a lot of drugs.  It was still painful!” 

And then, she had this complete change in her facial expression.  And then, she said, “And I never believed I could love anything or anyone like this.”

Now, here’s what I want you to get: You’re on the verge of breakthrough.  Labor is painful.  Okay?  Labor of dealing with hard stuff is painful.  The labor of uncertainty and stepping out is painful. 

Here’s what I want you to know: Absolutely small is the birthplace of breakthrough.  You can have catalysts, you can be moved, you can step out, you can start, but the birthing of breakthrough happens in what I call “absolutely small.”  Look on your notes.  Size absolutely matters, only in reverse, to birth and sustain breakthrough.

A book I’ve been reading – great book.  It’s a little heady in the first part, but it will be an intellectual challenge, but super insightful.  It’s by Andy Crouch.  It’s called Culture Making.  He studied how cultures develop, and how things happen in cultures, and how they’re shaped.  He writes, “Every cultural good – whether a new word, a law, a recipe, a song, or a gadget – begins with a small group of people.  And not just a relatively small group of people, but a absolutely small group. 

No matter how many people it goes out to, or the mass effect, it always starts small.  And this means that no matter how complex or extensive the cultural system you may consider, the only way it will be changed is by an absolutely small group of people who innovate and create a new cultural good.”  In other words, rapid change, significant change – any change, of any kind, that is major – always starts with a very, very small group.

He goes on: “The optimal size of this small group, I suggest, is three.  Sometimes it’s four or five, or occasionally you can pull it off with two.  But three people can fit into a Mini Cooper, barely, with room for luggage.  Three people can talk on a conference call, and convene around a table in a meeting, or chat online without anyone getting bored or distracted or feeling superfluous.  Three people can sit in a booth in a restaurant and hatch an idea. 

But the surprising pattern that emerges, when you study the propagation of new dynamic, innovation, cultural goods, is that these three concentric circles are never very large.  They’re almost always absolutely small.  The optimal size, as I’ve studied, is three and twelve, and then, one twenty.  These circles are small enough so that people can know one another’s faces.  They can be intimately acquainted.  They know one another’s talents and limitations, and they know how much to trust and how to verify.”

And then, he goes on, and whether it’s the movie industry or the corporate world, or even gets around and realizes that, you know, Jesus had – of the twelve, He had three, and then, there were the twelve, and at Pentecost, there were one twenty.  And he goes through ideas, and whether it’s the starting of My Space, or Facebook, or Google, or CEO, CFO, CIO – he just goes through and says, “It always starts small.”

And I want you to know that, whether you’re on the verge of potentiality, and you’re thinking and praying and dreaming, and God’s put it on your heart, what you need is an authentic, smaller group of people to get on board with you, to dream that dream, to pray with you and take some risk, and say, “Let’s do this together.”  And if you’re on the other side, and you are pregnant, but conflicted, and you realize, This would mean I would need to move out, and I’m presently living with someone.  This would mean I’d have to get my finances in order.  This would mean I’d have to say, “I’m sorry,” and make restitution, and forgive someone that I hate their guts – this would mean – ohh.  And you’re just thinking, I just can’t do it.  I know I should; I know I want to – I can’t.  You need to be in a small group of safe, loving, caring people that say, “Regardless of the implications, whatever happens, we’ll be there with you.”

And what I wanna tell you is, that’s the pattern of Scripture.  Everyone here believes that God wants to change the city, right?  I mean, all through Scripture, isn’t that what He does?  I mean, have you ever kind of done a little look at this Bible and realized the names of these books?  When God wanted to change the world, He wrote a book to the Corinthians, in the city of [Corinth].  And the Ephesians in the city of [Ephesus].  And the Thessalonians in the city of . . .  And to the Romans in the city of . . .  What are those?  Those are the most influential cities in the world!  But it always started – what?  Jesus, a small group of people, the 12, the 120, and then, that got multiplied and birthed, here, there, and everywhere.

Well, did you ever wonder how Jesus reached a city, and how He taught His disciples to reach a city?  Well, if you didn’t, you should, and here’s your lucky day, ‘cause that’s what we’re gonna look at. And let’s look, very specifically, at how Jesus reached a city.  And today, He’s doing it in London, and Paris, and Hong Kong.

John chapter 4 – very, very interesting.  I think the goal, here, is so the disciples learn, later, when He leaves and gives them the mission, how to pull this off.  If you open your Bibles, John chapter 4 – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – it’s the Gospel.  The story opens as the Pharisees hear that Jesus is gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, and it’s actually not Jesus baptizing, but His disciples.  And so, He chooses to leave Judea, and He goes to Galilee.  He’s gonna go on the non-Jewish side of the lake.

And He says – verse 4 – “Now [we need] to go through Samaria.  So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground [that] Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  [And Joseph’s] well was there, and Jesus, [was] tired . . . from the journey, [and He] sat down by the well.  [And when] it was about the sixth hour” – or, it’s noon, and it’s very, very hot.  “When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give Me a drink?’”  Side bar – “([The] disciples [all] had [left to go get food in town].)”

And she’s shocked, ‘cause Samaritans are a half-breed.  The cultural division is absolute.  Jews hate Samaritans; Samaritans hate Jews – (A).  (B) Men don’t initiate conversations with women.  Women were sub-human in that day.  And so, she’s wondering, (1) You’re a Jew; I’m a woman.  It’s an odd time of day.  And the reason she’s out at this time of day is because there’s a little colorful past, and she’s rejected in her community, and so, when all the other women go out and draw water, she doesn’t wanna be there, ‘cause she’s not accepted.  So, she’s out here by herself.  “‘You... a Jew... ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews [don’t] associate with Samaritans. )”

Jesus responds: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks... for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.’  ‘Sir,’ the woman[replied], ‘You have nothing to draw with and the well is [very] deep.  Where [will] You get this living water?  Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us [this] well and drank from it himself, [and] also his sons and his flocks and [his herd]?’”  And Jesus said, “"Everyone who drinks this [physical] water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”  Now, here’s the woman’s response – I love this! – “Sir, give me this water so... I won't get thirsty and [I] have to keep coming [back] to draw water.”  “Boy, if You’ve got this, it sounds great!”

And so, He throws out a little test, like many of you are in right now, like my friend is in right now.  He says, “Oh, you want water?  You’re thirsty?  You want Me to meet your need?  You want to spring up in you eternal life?  Why don’t you go get your husband, and we’ll talk about it further.”

Her reply: “I have no husband....  Jesus said... ‘[You’re] right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, [you’ve] had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband.  What you have... said is quite true.’”  And contrary to how I think most of us would read this text, I think He was affirming her honesty and vulnerability, not condemning her, as we will see.

“’Sir,’ [she] said, ‘I can see that [You’re] a prophet.  Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim... the place... we... worship is in Jerusalem.’”  “So, I guess anybody that knows this, you’re reading my mail, there’s no way you could know this.  You must be a prophet.  I guess we’re gonna talk religion; let’s change the subject.  You say this mountain...  ” And Jesus says, “Sweetheart” – that’s sort of my reading into the text – “it’s way bigger than what mountain, or where.”

Jesus – verse 21 – says, “Believe Me, woman, [the] time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; [but] we [Jews] worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.  Yet” – new dispensation, new truth – “a time is coming and has now come when... true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship [Him] in spirit and in truth.”

You might, in your Bibles, circle – or highlight in your mobile device – seeks.  Literally, it’s pursues.  The Father is pursuing and seeking and running after people that don’t know Him, that they might turn and worship Him, not in some external form, but in Spirit and in truth.

“The woman said, ‘I know’” – okay?  We’re getting down to pay dirt.  “[Well,] I know that [the] Messiah’ ([the] Christ) ‘is coming.  [And] when He comes, [He’ll] explain everything....’”

Now, this next line is absolutely amazing, because the Pharisees can’t figure out who He is, the disciples have been foggy on who He is, and after He heals people, He says, “Don’t tell anyone,” because of all the mushrooming of crowds.  But here is an immoral woman, who’s a half-breed, who’s despised, who’s rejected, and she gets honest.  And here’s the truth she gets: “Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am He.  [I’m the Messiah.]’  Just then His disciples returned and were surprised [finding] Him talking [to] a woman.”  That is an understatement.

“But no one asked, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘Why are You talking with her?’  Then, leaving her water jar” – here’s her response: She leaves her jars there – “the woman went back [into] the town and said to the people, ‘Come, [and] see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could [He] be the Christ?’  [And] they came out of the town and [they] made their way toward Him.  Meanwhile” – the camera lens, as the people are starting, hubbub, they’re coming out of the town.  Camera lens goes back – it’s Jesus and the disciples.

“Meanwhile [the] disciples urged [Jesus to get something to eat].”  “By the way, that’s why we went to town.  It was a to-go order.  We got it; we brought it back.  You gotta be hungry.  Rabbi.”  “But He said... ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing [of].’  Then His disciples said to [one another], ‘Could someone have brought Him food?’”  Come on, guys, I mean, think about where this is at.  “‘My food,’ [Jesus said], ‘is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.’  Do you not say, '[There are] four months... and [yet] then [comes] the harvest'?”  “Do you think that the work of God, or when things are really gonna happen, and breakthrough, and things like you’ve never seen – you guys say it’s in the future – someday, some way, when God intervenes.  But I say to you, lift up your eyes.” 

And I imagine there are some people coming out of that town, led by an immoral woman, who was disrespected and despised, who thought she was unworthy.  See, the fields are white for harvest.

And then, notice His explanation: “Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he – [the] harvests... crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together... ‘One sows... another reaps’ [it’s] true.  I sent you to reap [where] you [haven’t] worked....  Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits [for] their labor.”

And in just a few moments, we’re gonna learn that they come, they believe, based on her testimony, and they’re Samaritans, and He’s a Jew, and they say, “Do You think You could stick around for another couple days?”  So, He does a two-day seminar, and then, they turn to the woman, and they say, “We have come and believed, based on your word and your testimony, but after two days of hearing His Word” – look in your texts.  What’s it say?  “Now we believe and know that You are the Savior of the world.”

Now, I wanna have you look at your notes, if you would, and I wanna show you something about how Jesus, very intentionally, reached a city.  And I’m gonna suggest that He didn’t just reach a city, but He’s wanting to teach His disciples about how to reach cities, and then, we’re gonna learn from the disciples how to reach a city.

Where did the breakthrough begin?  Answer: with Jesus.  Jesus cared.  Jesus had compassion on that city, and He had very specific compassion on that woman.

Whom did Jesus choose?  This is always a stumper for us religious people.  He chose an immoral, socially rejected woman, in a culturally despised town.  That’s just for all of us that think we’re not qualified.

Third, how did she make room for breakthrough?  She recognized that she had thirst.  A lot of us do a lot of stuff: A lot of us eat, sex addictions, shop, work – we have thirst for fulfillment and meaning.  She recognized she had thirst, and she was open to realize, maybe there’s a different way to quench your thirst.

Second, when confronted with the truth, she was just honest: “I don’t have it all together.  I have a checkered past.”  But she had the guts enough to say, “Yep, that’s me.”  And then, she made room.  When she heard about the truth, she left her jars – step of faith – and she said, “I’ve got to share this with someone else.”  It’s a pattern.

What courageous step did she take?  Can you imagine her reputation, and the fear of rejection of going to a whole town that thinks you’re the most immoral person in the whole town, and you say, “I believe that I may have just met the Messiah.  You should come and see.”

What do you think was going on in her heart when she was walking from where her jar and the well was, to the town?  No one’s ever gonna believe me.  No one’s ever gonna – I gotta tell ‘em.  No one’s ever gonna believe me.  I gotta tell ‘em.  I gotta tell ‘em.  Anybody here in the labor pains of potentiality, but your fear of being rejected is keeping you from launching?

What did Jesus want His disciples to learn about Himself?  His love and compassion is for all people, regardless of where they’ve been, what they look like, or what they’ve done, or what they’re presently doing.  He wanted them to understand that His personal satisfaction is rooted, not in what you can achieve, not in how you look, not in what you own.  “My food... is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to [accomplish] His work.”

I saw on 60 Minutes a brief little interview with a man in New York City, and his name is Tudor Jones, II – Paul Tudor Jones, II.  He’s a hedge fund guy.  I have no idea his spiritual background, other than he mentioned his mom wanted him to be a preacher.  He started 80 charter schools in New York City.  And in the interview, this one line captured me.  He turned to the interviewer, he says, “Well, you need to understand that the only real purpose and significance in life is making sacrifices to meet the needs of other people.  That’s what life’s all about.”

The rest of the world’s trying to make a lot less than 3.6 billion dollars, but someone with 3.6 million dollars understands there’s not enough steak, there are not enough jets, there are not enough houses, there are not enough vacations.  What life is about is sacrificially giving up time and energy and money to meet the needs of other people.  That’s where fulfillment is.  I think he got that from somewhere.  I wonder if we do.