Love Where You Live
Loving the 720,000
Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor
May 21/23, 2010
Have you ever felt like you were created for something bigger? You know, you are living your life, going through the mundane-ness of every day…wake up, brush your teeth, a quick shower, get dressed, a little Count Chocula to wake up the digestive system, and then go through the day. Don’t you have times where you’ve got to think there must be more to life than that, as you are eating the Chocula maybe, that there must be some bigger purpose to live for?
The truth is, you do have a bigger something to live for. As we just saw on the video, we are not just here. We’ve been sent here. We are here on mission. If you are a Christ-follower, you are a sent person, a person on mission. You aren’t just here. You are here with a mission.
Today is a big day for our church, because today we are going to focus on that something bigger, on our mission and vision given to us by Jesus 2000 years ago. Today we are going to talk about what that means to each one of us, and where we believe God is leading our church to go over these next few years. Today is such a big day that we want to chronicle it, so you’ll see to my left someone will do so in a very artistic way while I speak.
If you have your Bibles, turn to John 13, where Jesus is giving the something bigger to the disciples, passing on the mission. Jesus is spending time with his disciples, knowing that this would be the last time they spend together before he would be arrested and crucified. So, he is preparing them for all that is to come. They are eating the last meal that they will eat together before all that happens. In verse 33, he says,
Slide: ____________________ ) John 13: 33
My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
This is a big moment. He has already told them about his imminent arrest and death, and now it is here. He’s about to leave them, so whatever he says next is big, because they are his last words—like a movie, where someone is dying, and they look up and say, “Uh….” Or maybe they get more out, like, “Tell my wife I love her.” Or, “The treasure map is in my saddle bags.” You’ve got to listen to those last words.
Slide: ____________________ ) John 13: 34a
A new command I give you. Ok, this is getting good. He’s giving them their marching orders. He’s leaving them, but before he does, he is giving them a new command—something bigger to do. The way he says it was very dramatic too…a new command. You can almost hear the drum roll, because the Greek word he uses for “new” is not the normal word for new. It means novel, never-before-seen, a completely new, never before heard command. Jesus also changes the normal sentence order to make “new command” emphatic. This is big. The disciples lean in so that they can hear it, this whole new thing that world has never before seen. This is going to be great. Totally new, and here it comes:
Slide: ____________________ ) John 13: 34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
That command fell flat as a pancake. Very anti-climactic. Love one another? That’s it? That’s the new thing? I mean something like, “We’re going to the moon, and dropping pamphlets on top of planet earth.” That would have been new, never-before-seen. Even saying something like, “Wear only purple.” That would have been novel, but “Love one another.” Kind of a let-down, a little anti-climactic. And we know that by their response. Peter just ignores that statement, and says, “What do you mean you are going away where we can’t go? Where are you going?” And all the disciples camp out on that for a while, so they don’t key in on what Jesus was saying. Jesus has to bring it back up in chapter 15, this new command to love one another, and by this all will know that they are genuinely disciples of his.
This love everybody stuff sounds nice, but that’s not new. The Old Testament tells us to love our neighbor. Jesus often talked about loving others, just as we saw a couple of weeks ago in the Good Samaritan story. How is this command to love one another “new?”
They didn’t get it at the time, but what Jesus was saying was really new and really big. What was new was this new community of radical love, what we call church, this group of people who are committed to radical love to each other that spills out into the world. This wasn’t a sweet little statement. This was a radical and dangerous statement, giving them their marching orders.
They were to create a community of people who follow him by demonstrating radical love, crazy love, and by that love people would know that Christianity is real and that Jesus is alive.
And 2000 years ago, that is exactly what happened. After the resurrection of Jesus, this new community lives out the new command. They form this new community called church that exists to show radical love. And because they did, they turned their world upside down. The world had never seen this before, not this kind of radical love poured out. Because they did what Jesus commanded, in just decades, this little upstart religion based around a crucified founder, which should have whimpered away, went gangbusters and took over the known world.
That’s one of the biggest questions that bother historians who look back to the era of the early church. Christianity should have just died off. It was this obscure, persecuted little tiny group of people…but they turned the world upside down. Historians have long asked, “Why? How did this happen?”
And they all point to the same major contributing factor. This was a group of people committed to radical love. They won the world over with love.
We talk about come as you are, be transformed, and make a difference. That’s all about radical love, and that’s what the early church did. They created the first “come as you are” culture in a group of people. Ancient Roman culture was very class conscience. The wealthy ruling class never mixed with peasants. Roman and Jewish culture was very sexist; women weren’t considered equals. Judaism at the time in Israel was also very racist. Jews didn’t mix with Gentiles. Races didn’t mix. But in Christianity, they did. Christianity was the first group where distinctions of sex, race, class, or money just didn’t matter. In Christianity, it was “come as you are,” a community of radical love shown by radical acceptance. As a result, Christianity attracted many who were on the margins of culture—because they were equals in Christianity but nowhere else.
Christianity was also a place of radical love in the “Be Transformed” area too. The whole concept in Christianity, where we are all broken people, messed up people, who are in process toward wholeness, toward maturity…where we are honest about our struggles, and help each other in this journey. That didn’t exist before then. That was new. A place where you could be accepted in your brokenness but in community help each other on to genuine wholeness—that didn’t exist anywhere up to that point. Because of that, Christianity attracted many who knew their brokenness, and who wanted wholeness and healing.
The “make a difference” area also was a whole new idea on the planet. In Roman culture at the time, charity was not a virtue. Caring for the poor was not a value in that culture, so when Christianity came on the scene, this was different. Christians cared for the poor and the vulnerable and the sick. Rodney Stark, in his very well-respected history book called The Rise of Christianity demonstrates through historical documents that Roman culture of the day were totally shocked by Christians, the love that they had to the poor and the sick.
One such document comes from the Roman Caesar, Julian, writing to a pagan priest trying to help them understand why Christianity is growing and they are shrinking. He says,
Slide: ____________________ )
“I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence. The impious Galileans support not only their own poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.”
Julian, Roman Caesar
Opponents of Christianity were trying to figure out what to do. An ancient church leader, Tertullian claimed,
Slide: ____________________ )
“It is our care of the helpless, our practice of loving-kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents. ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another.’”
This was the radical love that Jesus passed on, and the early church spilled that love out in their community. No group before had ever even come close to that level of love displayed for the poor and the sick, and in that process, they won people over. People were won to Christ by the love of his followers, which is exactly what Jesus said would happen.
That was 2000 years ago, and those early believers took the ball Jesus gave them, this new command, to be a community of radical love, accepting people as they were, journeying together toward greater wholeness, and making a difference in their world by displaying love tangibly to the poor, and they ran with it. As a result, they turned their world upside down.
Now, 2000 years later, Jesus is handing the ball to us, which means you…which means me…which means this church. We will either drop that ball or run with it, either make no difference in our world, or turn our world upside down.
As a church, our vision is to take that ball and run with it, to turn our world upside down. Our vision is to be that community of radical love, that touches every single one of the 720,000 people that live in a 10 mile radius of our church and impacts parts of the globe that God puts on our hearts. We aren’t just here, we are here with that purpose.
Like the early church, our vision is to create a come as you are culture, a place where people can come and find radical acceptance, as they are…a diverse community of grace, where class, race, socio-economics, background, sex…that just doesn’t matter. We come as we are, and accept one another. (STORY?).
Like the early church, our vision is to create a transformational environment, where people can be transformed by the power of Christ. We don’t want to stay as we are. We are all broken, messed-up people, on this journey of transformation to greater wholeness, and our heart is to be honest about where we are and serious about taking next steps and helping each other take them. We are in this journey together.
Like the early church, we want this radical love to spill out all over our community and world, making a genuine difference with the love of Christ. We want to love where we live, pouring out God’s love where the needs are biggest all around us. We aren’t going to walk past need, but right into need.
That is our commitment and our heart, to progressively live into, to be a community of radical love in a way that is just not seen anywhere else. That’s the new command, our hope is to live that out. That’s what we are committed to around here, and I hope that you’ll join us.
As we do live into this vision, we realize that God is always leading us to take new steps. He never stays still. A few years ago, we believed God wanted us to replant our church in this community, which included relocating our church to this site at Legacy. That took huge faith and huge sacrifice, but in order to love where we live, to be that community of radical love, we knew we needed to take that leap—and we did.
But replant is not over. It’s just beginning. We are just getting started, and we believe God is leading us to take some next steps and today we want to share those.
A big part of our vision is creating a come as you are environment where we can build relationships with people who may not know Christ, invite them to an environment that is welcoming and authentic and relevant and challenging, where they have every opportunity to connect to God. That is happening, and many people are coming to Christ as they are. Many are beginning a relationship with Christ, and that is so cool. Just like the book of Acts, the Lord is adding to our number daily those who are being saved. That’s awesome. Yet, more are coming and we are out of room. That’s a great problem, but it is a problem. A welcoming environment is one in which there is a seat. That’s a minimum, and the good and bad news is that we are out of seats, we are at capacity. That’s a big problem, because we want to continue to love our community and invite and welcome people.
This Easter, we saw a video story of Hector and Diana Alvidres, how they were on a spiritual search. They were reading everything they could, searching everywhere they could. Then a neighbor who had also just been invited to Chase Oaks not too long before, invited them to come along. They came, and they found Christ here. Their search for God is over, and their journey with him as just begun. But key in that process is a very simple reality: they found a seat. That’s pretty basic. There was room for them. Being full is great, but it is also a great problem, as long as there are people to reach.
We don’t want to turn anyone away from a parking lot or a service because it feels like we have no room for them. So, we know we need to do something, because we are at capacity. We’ve moved lots of people to Friday night, which is cool, and there is still some room at 9:00, especially in Epoch. But adding to a building takes several years, to raise the money and build the building. We’ve been praying about when phase II should come for our Legacy campus, and the time has come.
This fall we will do another capital campaign to raise money to expand our Legacy campus, by adding 700-800 more seats, and along with that expand kidzone and parking to match. Our original plan was to build a 2500 seat worship auditorium, right behind me here in the Live! Worship room. The space Live meets in now is supposed to be lobby space. Yet, we’ve changed that plan, for a couple of reasons. One, it works better as a worship space than we thought, and two, due to new economic realities it just seems wise. So, instead, our hope is to break out this wall behind me and add on to this room enough space for 700-800 seats.
Additionally, we’ll expand and upgrade kidzone, to not only add square footage but also allow them to make their programming even better. And we’ll add parking, because we have to. Plano has been great about allowing the gravel parking, but that’s only with our promise to pave it. We need to make good on that.
That’s going to take some time though. As I said, we have to raise the money, design the building, and build it, so we won’t be in that new space for at least a couple of years. So between now and then we are going to be getting very creative to maximize our space we have, such as adding services and continuing to motivate people to come to Friday night.
If we love where we live, then we’ll make sure that we create a loving, welcoming environment for those we invite and that God is bringing. We aren’t going to send people away who are trying to connect to God.
Another big part of our vision is transformation, creating the opportunity for people to be transformed by the power of Christ. We are a come as you are church, but not a stay as you are church. We love each other toward greater maturity and wholeness. That will also be a big effort over these next few years, improving our approach to spiritual transformation and making it easier for people to engage life group and other environments where that growth can happen.
And a huge part of our vision is making a difference in this world, allowing God to love others through us, being his hands and feet to care for the poor, the prisoner, the outcast, the sick. A lot of our efforts locally are aimed at meeting the needs of th next generation, kids and youth. And we’ll continue to expand our reach. Just coming off Sharefest, it is really cool to see what God is doing. When we started Sharefest, our church staff had to do a tremendous amount of work making opportunities available and helping people do them. But this year, our staff had very little to do other than love people themselves at Sharefest, because our life groups are engaged throughout the year and they just naturally did their own thing. That’s cool, because it shows that this is just part of our lifestyle as a church now. This isn’t an activity but a way of life. It is amazing what is happening, but the wonderful truth is, we are just getting started.
As we look ahead at the next phase of replant, over these next couple of years, we want to continue to expand our reach and make a difference. One of the ways we will do that is starting new campuses and churches. To best reach the 720,000 in a ten mile radius of our church, we believe God is calling us to go local---not to just be a big regional church. Our sense is that God is leading us deeper into neighborhoods at the periphery of our reach, on the edges of the ten mile radius we are called to reach.
We’ve sensed God’s leading on this for some time and have been praying about the right time, and believe that time is now. Time for what? To add our next campus in a neighborhood at the periphery of our reach, where people can do life together, serve the community together, and more easily invite their friends and neighbors.
Our plan and hope is to begin a new campus in Fairview, starting January 2011. We’ll be asking 100-200 adults who live in that area and have a heart to love where they live, to commit for at least one year to starting that new campus. We’ll then be one church with two campuses.
What will that campus be like? It will be an expression of Chase Oaks, so it will be like this. We’ll simply be on two campuses instead of one. The worship service component will be a little unique in that the teaching will be fed on video, similar to the way it works at Epoch, but other than that just another campus. The campus will have kidzone, youth ministry, and a campus pastor. Jason Ganze, who spoke last week, will be the campus pastor out there, and we’ll have a staff committed to making Chase Oaks Fairview a really great experience.
People who commit to be there are really committing to build relationships and invite their friends, do life together with their neighbors, and serve their community together. That will be the basic commitment at all of our campuses. Our hope is to continue to add campuses around the radius of our reach, around that 10 mile radius, to better love where we live. If you are in Fairview, please be praying now about being a part of this campus launch.
Outside that 10 mile radius, our hope is to help plant churches. We believe that the most effective way within the ten mile radius to expand our reach is adding campuses and outside that reach by planting churches. You’ll hear more about that in the months ahead.
So, in the spirit of loving where we live, of expressing that radical love that Jesus gave to us, over these next couple of years, we’ll work and sacrifice to expand our Legacy campus, improve our transformation process, and add new campuses, the first on in Fairview. This fall we’ll do a capital campaign to raise money for the Legacy expansion and the new campus. For those who participated in the IMAGINE campaign that got us here, you know how much of a faith stretch that was, but how God did it. It took faith and sacrifice and everybody being involved, but God did it! And we grew our faith and focus, and I look forward to that same opportunity again.
Once again, why are we doing all this? Because 2000 years ago, Jesus, shortly before going to the cross, looked at his followers and said, “A new command I give to you: Love one another. By this all men will know that you are truly my disciples, if you love one another.” His vision was to create a new community of Christ-followers, committed to radical love, to crazy love, to point people to God. 2000 years ago, those early disciples took the ball and ran with it, and they turned their world upside down.
Now, Jesus is handing us that ball, and we get to choose what to do with it. We can drop it. Or we can run with it. Obviously, we want to run with it. We’ve talked about what we believe that means for our church right now, but how about you and me as individuals? God is calling you and me to love where we live, to demonstrate radical love to our friends, neighbors, co-workers, everyone around us.
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the Good Samaritan story, where someone rightly said that godliness shows itself by choosing to love one’s neighbor, to love where we live. The guy Jesus was talking to said, “We’ll, who is my neighbor?” And Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan, how several people walked right past the need in front of them, but the Samaritan saw the person in need and chose to do something.
Our neighbors are people that God has put right in our path. So, who has God put in your path, in your life? Who is your neighbor? In the seat backs are some cards, and what I want you to do is take a card and write down the answer to that question. For each of us, God has placed people in our lives that we can choose to love or ignore. Write the names of a few people that God has put in your life. Maybe it is someone at work or school, on a team or a club, in a neighborhood or in your family. Maybe it is someone you drive past or serve in one of our bridges. Loving them might mean building a relationship and inviting them here. Loving them might mean helping and encouraging them in the process of transformation. Loving them might mean serving their needs, coming alongside them with the practical love of Christ. Think of a few people God has put in your life, on your path. Write them down, and then consider how you can love your neighbor.
Over these next months, pray for them every day. Ask God how you can love them, and then do that. And imagine if we all do? We’ll have a little over 3000 adults here this weekend, imagine if we all reached out in love to three. That’s 9,000 people’s lives who might be changed forever. And then as they encounter Christ and begin to love where they live, you can see how quickly a community can be turned upside down.
God has called us to this something bigger, and it is up to us what we do with it. He’s given us his mission, the new command, and we get to choose what we do. I’m going to pray, and commit all these things to God, and then Ty and Sean are going to sing a song that will guide us as we all consider how to love where we live, what God is really calling each of us to do. And then we’ll all be able to stand and sing as a way of saying, “Ok! I’m in. Wherever God is leading our church and leading me, I’ll go!”