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Doing Life in Community Weekly

From the series The B.I.O Lifestyle

Do you sense something is just not right in your walk with Jesus? You attend church regularly and are involved in a small group, but still feel lonely and disconnected. In this program, we will tell you what you are missing as we continue our series, The B.I.O Lifestyle. Listen in as Chip and our Executive Vice President, Andrew Accardy, break down what it means to find a godly community. Learn how an intentional, loving group of Christ followers can make an eternal difference in your life.

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Message Transcript

ANDREW:  Thanks, Dave. Chip, great to see you again.

CHIP: Andrew, great to be with you. And I'm so excited about this series where we're talking about BIO, but really the heart of our ministry is helping Christians live like Christians. And as we started down the path yesterday, we're talking about: What's the rhythm? What are the practices? So thanks for lining this out. Thanks for leading our time. And let's jump in together.

ANDREW: Yesterday, Chip, he introduced us to a set of practices called BIO, that is: before God, in community, and on mission. And we spoke yesterday about being before God. Could you just give us a quick recap?

CHIP: Yeah, it was developing the practice, where you meet with God daily. You actually schedule a time. And then you're in His Word, you learn to hear His voice, you talk from the heart. And then you take that into your day. You put into practice and you practice the presence of God, awareness throughout the day. And people who are Christians, who live like Christians, that is a part of how they live.

ANDREW: So if you missed it, this message on being before God, I really encourage you to grab that program on the Chip Ingram app or the podcast or, you know, stream it online. I really think it'd be helpful to you.

So today, we're going to talk about being in community. You know, this conversation is really for everyone, whether you feel like your life is in crisis, you feel like you're stuck spiritually, or you just really sense that you're growing in Christ, but you want more. Chip, let's just start off with what does it mean to be in community?

CHIP: Well, that word is thrown around a lot, and we're not just talking about casual friendships and having people that you hang out with. That's important. We're talking about biblical community. That's where the real you meets real needs for the right reason in the right way. That's from Romans chapter 12, verses 9 through 13.

Put another way, it's a relational focus where the goal of the relationship with a small group of people is to learn to love God and to love other people in a context that is safe, supportive, and provides the kind of accountability and encouragement that we all need. It's a place where you belong with other people and you say, “We're going to do life together.”

ANDREW: Yeah, of course it begs the next question: Why is that so important?

CHIP: Well, number one is because loneliness is a pretty big problem for all of us, you know.

ANDREW: It really is, yeah.

CHIP: And the second is you can read the Bible until you’re blue in the face, but you cannot obey the Scripture, you can't become who God wants you to become apart from relationships with other believers. Being a follower of Jesus is not a solo sport. We need other people to help us grow.

And here's the deal. They need us. And you know, it's interesting that even Jesus, think of this, you know, He said in His most trying moments, He goes, “I long to share this time with you.” His whole ministry was built on: We are going to do this together. And the preponderance of His time, He invested in a very small group of people where they got very close, very real, very honest, super vulnerable. And you could be all that you really are. And they got two things: a lot of acceptance and at times some reproof to help them be the men they longed to be in their heart.

ANDREW: Well, Chip, you're an extrovert. I'm an introvert. I mean, you go in a room of, like, twenty people, you go, “Wow, this is just fantastic.” I look in a room with twenty people, it's like I'm putting my head in a vice. I mean, you know, getting to the sense of community can be really hard sometimes, isn't it?

CHIP: It really can. And for some, as you say, it's harder than others. And there's a lot of people that walk into a church, they go regularly or they're watching online and they hear some music and they may even sing some songs and they hear someone perhaps teach God's word very accurately. And then they walk out and they get in their car and that's the Christian experience. Quick confession, because of the transition in my life from being a senior pastor, I've never really experienced that until the last five years.

ANDREW: Wow.

CHIP: And so it's been weird, I mean really weird. And I go to a really good church. I mean I love where I go and the pastor is awesome and he happens to be a friend but Theresa and I would go, then we would leave, and you know we're meeting with God, we're doing these things. And I turned to her and said, “Do you really feel a part of this church?” And she goes, “No, not really.” I said, “Me neither.” And so I actually made an appointment with the pastor. And I just said, “We need to feel belonging. How can we serve? How can we help? How do we get connected?”

And really what we were longing for was this authentic community with a group of people where I'm just not teaching somewhere or we have community as in friends, but we wanted to be a part of a group of people with a common heart and common mind where we were going to be a little bit more serious. I wanted someone to say, “Hey, Chip, how are you really doing?”

ANDREW: Yeah.

CHIP: How are you walking with God?

ANDREW: And you had to pursue that though. I mean, you had to take steps, right?

CHIP: Yeah. And what I realized was I could sense in my soul, in my spirit where I'm walking in, leaving, walking in, leaving. In fact, oh, this is so terrible is it's like it's a pretty large church. It's like I want to walk out quickly because I don't want to get stuck in the traffic. I'm becoming that person that when I was the pastor saying, “Come on people, stick around, get connected,” all the rest. So all to say, we hear you. We know how hard it can be.

ANDREW: You know a lot of churches and I think they want to help and their solution is we want to get people into small groups or Sunday school, which could be helpful programs but being in a small group or a Sunday school class is not the same as being a community,

CHIP: But what I would say is the small group or the Sunday school class is the right container. See, community can't happen with a thousand people very effectively or three hundred people or a big room of even a church of forty or fifty. There's a sense that you belong because you know them.

But authentic community has to be in a group that is smaller, but where the group has determined this isn't about: Let's discuss a little bit about the sermon and then talk about how life's going at work and some with our kids or just sort of social. Authentic community is the real me showing up. I'm going to be vulnerable and I'm going to be focused on and ask others to be focused on: help me become more like Jesus and I'll help you become more like Jesus.

And since I know you're going to fail, I'm going to accept you even in your failings and you're going to accept me. But then you're going to love me enough to not let me stay in that. So there's a level of focus and intensity and there's a goal to authentic community. It's: we're going to do life together to honor God.

ANDREW: Okay, so now we know what authentic community is and why it's important. So let's now get into some of the hard stuff.  A lot of people really want to be in community, but they can't find it. I mean, what do they do?

CHIP: Well, It's really tough. And as I shared, even as a pastor and an outgoing personality, it's been really hard for us. And if you've experienced rejection or there's a lot of people that have said, “Hey, Chip, you know that stuff about being vulnerable? I did that in a small group. And then I heard about it everywhere else.” I mean, they've been burned. They've been rejected. They've been betrayed. And it's like, “Hey, I'm not going down that path again.” And yet the fact of the matter is that, apart from those kind of relationships, we can't thrive.

Down deep, our deepest needs are: I need to belong, I need to feel secure, I need to be known, I desperately need to be loved. Well, how's that going to happen unless you have genuine, authentic relationships that are safe? And that takes time and energy and focus. And I know that's a bit scary, but, and I would say to people, just because you join a group or take a step, if it's not quite the right fit, you don't have to feel like you're going to stay there the rest of your life.

And it's not unspiritual to realize all these people, like, have an affinity around sports or technology or something else. And I like them and they're Christians, but I don't fit here. To be able to say, “I need to find a group where I do fit.” But I do think the first step is taking the risk and saying, “I'm going to put myself out there. And that takes time and energy and focus.

ANDREW: In addition to those who are kind of struggling to get into community. There are some people who, who seem to have an abundance of it. I mean, there, there's just a group of people that are involved in every program of the church. They're like the social butterflies. I can't relate to this at all, by the way. They know everybody and are involved with everything. They're in small groups, Sunday schools are actively involved. But we also know there’s a danger there.

CHIP: This is one of the big ones, Andrew. Unfortunately, I think a lot of small groups, I don't mean this critically, in the Church, they become a bit social. You know, we get together, we might share some things, maybe eat a few hamburgers. We have fun, but it's superficial. And then when they put their head on the pillow, they have some deep unresolved issues.

Authentic community requires that we go deep with one another. And superficial, a nice small group, isn't everything wonderful? You don't go there. And they live in hiding. And they live desperately alone in the deepest areas of their heart. And there's pain.

And the grace of God, and the love of God, and the truth of God, and the compassion and the patience of God, He wants to show up. But lightning bolts are not gonna come from heaven to meet those kind of needs. It's gonna come through the heart and the hands and the eyes and the tears and the hugs of fellow believers that have been invited into a level of relationships that we call authentic community that brings about hope and compassion and transformation. And that's what God longs for us. And what I can tell you, Andrew, is that, If Christians don't have that, they're stuck.

Part of what us spending this time with our family at Living on the Edge and explaining BIO and wanting them to experience it is-is ‘Am I willing to make the time to be with other people?’ Because between youth sports and work and a zillion things going on, what really happens is I really want it, but I'm not willing to put it in my calendar and my schedule. And we are the poorer for it.

ANDREW: You mentioned being vulnerable. So let me give it a shot now. One of the challenges I think I face is that it's just like Jonah. See, Jonah was running away because he knew of God's goodness. He knew that the Ninevites would repent, you know, if they were given the opportunity. I don't want to give them a chance to do that. And kind of in a strange sort of way I think me and probably some of our listeners out there are like, “I know that God's really good, but it's going to take a lot of time for me to minister to people if I really put myself out there.”

CHIP: Mm-hm.

ANDREW: And really what community, you talk about reaching some of the deepest needs? It forces you not to hang out just with your best friends.

CHIP: Yes.

ANDREW: It's about reaching other people who need the love of Jesus being shown through you. And I think the reconciliation that I had to come to was God will just give you the grace for the moment.

CHIP: Mm-hm.

ANDREW: You’ve just got to be obedient. You’ve got to see the need. You’ve got to move forward. That's a tough one. I mean, when you're shifting, from an inward focus to an outward focus with authentic community.

CHIP: I think of a man that has become a very, very, very close friend and he was involved in a ministry to youth. He, in a weak moment, had an affair, ended up leaving his wife and his family, turning his back on the Lord, eventually married this woman, had a couple kids, and found himself like ten years on that journey and then God spoke to him through Living on the Edge of all things. And I happened to walk into, he's a personal trainer, and I was rehabbing one of my many injuries, whether it was a knee replacement or a back.

ANDREW: Yeah, what body part were they working on now?

CHIP: Yeah. And, and so I sit down with this guy and, he looked at me and goes, he looked at my name, he goes, “You don't happen to be the Chip Ingram on Living on the Edge, do you?” And I said, “Well, yeah.” And then he got up and he shut the door of his office and he shared his whole story. And then we began to work out and talk and share and work out and talk and share. And he so helped me.

And then he was stuck like people you talked about. I mean, now he's in a relationship that's not working. He has kids that really are struggling and not doing so well. He's got repair to do with a former family, but he's now walking with God. And he just got stuck, stuck, stuck. And finally I said to him, “Other than me, who do you really talk to and who are you connected with?” And his eyes filled and were watery and no one.

And I said, “Do you know what's missing in your life?” Because I mean, he's in the Word now. He's praying now. He's practicing being God's man. He's repenting. And I said, “There's a group of men that meet at six in the morning. And I'm not available then, but if you go there and you build some relationships, some real ones, it'll get you through where you're at.”

And he went, and all I can do is fast forward. That was over ten years ago. I still meet with him because I'm still rehabbing yet another body part. This guy now is leading three or four groups. The things that have happened in his life are some of the most miraculous life transformation I've ever seen in any individual. And he just turns to me and he's now helping other people at deep, deep levels in authentic community. And he just, he always reminds me, he said, “Chip, that was a turning point, I got in a group, it took some time. We built the relationships. And then I remember when I got real real and I let people in on the most painful sides of my life and they loved me. And now I'm doing that for three or four other groups of men.”

ANDREW: That was really good, Chip. You know, sometimes. You have to make community to help people get into community.

CHIP: Amen.

ANDREW: A great place to start is, and it's not a program. Remember that. You're starting a community, but a great place to start is to form a small group. And we've made it really easy. There's actually training online. We'll actually teach you how to get started as a small group leader. You know, just get in the game. So maybe you're one of the people right now you're listening and you're kind of on the sidelines. You've been on the sidelines or you kind of left in the third quarter and you know, now it's the fourth quarter. Get back in the game.

CHIP: And I would say we not only have small groups, but one of the things about our curriculum, we do them video driven. So I actually lead the first part and get the conversation going and built into all of our curriculum is everything from how to set up your house to what to do and how to help other people get into the game with you. And so let us encourage you. Move from an intention, step out. You'll be so glad you did.

And I guess this turns us to kind of where we're at in this season of ministry as we are helping people come before God. So we teach millions of people here and around the world. And then our next phase is we want to help people get in community. So we're creating small group material, training small group leaders, training pastors. All of that requires energy, focus, staff, and finances.

Andrew, maybe you could tell us about why this month especially, is a critical time to get in the game and be on the team and support Living on the Edge.

ANDREW: Well, yeah, talking about a community, we just wanted just to make you aware that, you know, twice a year we do a special match and we're in the middle of one right now. And what that means is, is that some generous donors, just a few of them have come together and said, “We will match every dollar given in the month of June through July 9th.” And so this is just a great opportunity. If the ministry of Living on the Edge has made an impact in your life, you're really going to be doubling your giving this month.

CHIP: Amen.

ANDREW: And maybe you've kind of thought about it. Maybe you intended to do something. Maybe you've seen something from us and you're following us on social media. And you know, as Chip said, turn those good intentions into actions because when you do, you're helping us as a ministry, help more and more people get in community. It's just a really important time of year for us because a lot of the finances that enable us to do the ministry that we do comes in during this month.

CHIP: And the fact of the matter is, is the guy I talked about, he heard because there was a broadcast that people paid for. He got into groups that used our material that we created because people funded those things. And then there was all kinds of training that we've been able to develop.

So it's about life change. I mean, it is about Christians, right? Living like Christians. Not perfect. Being real, being authentic. And Andrew, thanks so much for taking the time away from all your responsibility and to take this time to share what it means to be in community.

And I just would encourage you before the days up, act, get in community and please pray about what God would have you do in supporting the ministry and then follow whatever He shows you to do. And here's what we've learned: If you obey whatever He shows you, we'll have all we need to do all God wants us to do.