Message from Jon:
One week from today… can you stand it?
Kelly and I were in the grocery store this week and people in every aisle were talking to each other about the Super Bowl… strangers… coming together… over a football game. I love it. After the last two years we’ve had and all sorts of reasons for division, I love seeing people coming together.
My daughter, who typically doesn’t get all that excited for football, says to Kelly and me, “Can I get a Bengals jersey?”
I don’t know whether to be excited or heartbroken. I’m thrilled she’s showing an interest in football, but for a decade she never asked for a Browns' jersey!
Today, one of the questions we’re really digging into is “Who do you Follow?”
I know a lot of you follow a bunch of people on Instagram and Facebook and Twittter. So really, not a trick question, who do you follow?
If you are a follower of the Cincinnati Bengals, you are a part of “Who Dey Nation."
People who follow Taylor Swift are called “Swifties."
Followers of Star Trek are called “Trekkies."
Followers of Beyoncé are called “the Beehive."
If you were a follower of Hulk Hogan, you were called a “Hulkamaniac."
When I was performing in a show called RENT, we would have these fans that would follow the show all across the country and they were called “RENTheads."
Who do you follow and what would people call you?
For us, as Jesus followers, aside from being a part of Who Dey Nation or being a Swiftie or Hulkamaniac…before all of that... when it comes to our true identity, where our true allegiance lies, our hope for ALL people is that they would follow Jesus and that the world would know them as Christians.
In Greek, the literal translation of the word Christian would be something like ‘little anointed ones’… or ‘little christs’.
Would people call you a 'little christ?'
I’ve been called a lot of things, a little son of a something, but I don’t think it was a little son of a Christ.
In the Bible, in the book of John, Jesus says we will prove to the world that we are His followers by the way we love one another. Who do you follow and what are you proving to the world?
As a church, our team decided to start the year off with a series called INVITED.
A series that would remove as many assumptions as we could about who we are and who we follow, but also make a clear invitation to each of you to join us in relationship and community and invite each of you into our mission as we follow Jesus.
So… whether you’ve been hanging out with us for 5 mins or 50yrs, YOU’RE INVITED into this crazy group of misfits...
You're invited to join us in a Kingdom mission to change the world around us, to be on the front lines of Kingdom transformation… starting with each one of us.
This is what we’re all about.
The last five weeks we’ve been sharing WHO we are, WHAT we believe, WHY exist, and today… in roughly 35 mins… we’re gonna share a moment together where each of us will answer the question… “Are you in?”
Today is D-Day… decision day!
God has some incredible things in store for our future and we want you to be a part of it. We can’t wait to see what God is gonna do through you.
We want to equip and empower you to be the world-changer God created you to be.
If this is your first time hanging out with us, I’m so glad you’re with us.
If you’ve never been to a church service before, it’s not always like this. I’m so glad you’re with us, because today, is actually, all about you.
See a lot of ministries forget that. A lot of ministries start off on fire for Jesus and are hyper-focused on reaching new people and letting everyone know that the love and hope of Jesus are for everyone.
And then somewhere along the way, instead of being a group of people focused on serving the needs of the sick and dying and bringing HOPE to the lost, lonely, and broken… they start to look and feel more like a country club focused on serving themselves and bringing HOPE to the already found.
See, somewhere along the way, they lost their why and…When you lose your WAY, you lose your WHY.
So, if this is your first time with us, online or in the room and you’re not too sure about this Jesus guy or this whole church thing… welcome to our island of misfit toys, welcome to our mess, where none of us have it together and we’re all trying to keep our eyes on Jesus to become who he created us to be.
Today you get to hear what we’re all about. You get to see if this Jesus guy and his followers are actually for you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for reminding us of our WHY.
This is who we are: We exist to HELP people find HOPE and a HOME in Jesus.
Our core values as a church, that are at the foundation of our mission, are to:
Obey the Bible
This is what we’re all about.
This means that as we grow as followers of Jesus, all we do should be pointing back to God. How we use our testimonies, our time, talents, and treasures, they should ALL be used to bring Glory to God. To build HIS Kingdom and not our own.
Psalm 103:1-2 says, "Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me."
Glorifying God means we praise God with everything we have, right? Whether that’s a shout, a dance, a hand in the air, or a heart on fire, we give glory to God with praise and worship with a fierce devotion to our one and only King.
OBEY THE BIBLE
This means everything we do as a ministry is rooted in the foundation of God’s word. It is our guiding truth and compass for our lives.
Psalm 119:105 - "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path."
Obeying the Bible means we commit to becoming spiritually mature… growing as disciples, learning to be able to feed ourselves, and not need mommy and daddy church leader to give us a good word on Sunday that fits into our baby bottle. Obeying the Bible means we commit to learning how to feed ourselves, to become disciples who make other disciples.
This means that as we grow as disciples, we work to make our lives all about loving people the way Jesus loved people. We become so intentional to show love above all else. And that’s hard right?! It’s not always easy to show love. Man I get it… how can I show love to STEELERS fans… that’s messed up.
But Jesus said that the two most important commandments for a follower of Jesus are:
Matthew 22:37-40 - "A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment."
LOVE GOD. LOVE PEOPLE. We’re called to love ALL people. To remove all barriers to Jesus… To build bridges into families and communities to show people that Jesus is for them and He loves them NO MATTER WHAT. That we are to be known for who and how we love and not known for what we are against.
John 13:34-35 - “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
This means that if we are choosing to Follow Jesus… our life, our decisions, our actions should look like the decisions and actions of Jesus. If he is our leader then we are his followers. Little christs.
His WAYS become our WAYS.
We love the way Jesus loved. We serve where Jesus serves, in the messiness of life where there are Kingdom people doing Kingdom things. And we live in community with misfits the way Jesus lived in community with misfits.
When we follow Jesus, everything changes. Our lives are transformed.
When we follow Jesus… Things Can Change.
See, there’s a cost to following Jesus... for things to change, some things need to change.
In Luke 9, Jesus says… Luke 9:23-24, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it."
When we make the decision to follow Jesus, our preferences are nailed to the cross… our comforts… our conveniences… are sacrificed and nailed to the cross. OUR way is replaced with HIS way.
Our why becomes his WHY.
But you know what else is nailed to the cross? Death. Sin. Our mistakes. Guilt. Shame. Condemnation.
He took all of it, for all of us, so that we may have life. Abundant life. In this life and the next.
For the person sitting here today, that isn’t a follower of Jesus… they’re just checking things out… looking in on our community of faith… would they say that we: GLORIFY GOD, OBEY THE BIBLE, LOVE PEOPLE, and FOLLOW JESUS?
I think it’s Pastor Andy Stanley who says it this way, "If an alien came down to earth and visited our church… our community of faith… what would they say we are all about?"
RSVP TIME… YOU ARE INVITED
We’re inviting you into RELATIONSHIP.
You are INVITED into a relationship with a God who loves you, no matter what. Seriously, no matter what you did last summer or last night, God loves you. He is for you and there is nothing that can separate you from his love.
Through his Son, Jesus, we are inviting you into relationship and not religion. We are inviting you to learn how to recover your life, to leave the past in the past because you are not your past. You are not what you did and you are not what others did to you. You are a child of God, made in His image. You are the light of the world made to bring LIGHT to the darkness that is all around us. You are God’s masterpiece created new in Christ Jesus to do the amazing things that He has planned for you.
We are inviting you into relationship so that you know WHO and WHOSE you are!
We’re inviting you into COMMUNITY.
You are INVITED into a community of misfits that are committed to healing. Committed to loving the lost and helping people find HOPE. We’re committed to growing together as disciple makers as we share meals together, to worship and pray together, and to BE radically generous with all we have.
We’re inviting you into MISSION.
You are INVITED into God’s Kingdom Mission, the greatest mission the world has ever known.
Matthew 28:18-20 - "Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
We have been called to go and make not sit and soak.
You are invited to roll your sleeves and step into the messiness of life transformation. To learn how to train up the next generation of disciple makers and send them out to do the same. To be trained as kingdom warriors of love and light to take the gospel of HOPE to all people.
This is what Jesus has commissioned us to do in our backyards and around the world.
You are INVITED.
Whether you are 8 or 80, you’re invited. Because there’s work to do. Right in your sphere of influence, regardless of your age…
There’s a lost, hurting, and broken world all around you. Sitting next to you. Living next door to you. Sitting across from you at school and at work.
They are hurting. They have lost hope. They feel like they don’t have the answers… they don’t think things can change… and too many of them feel like they don’t matter.
And Jesus says every single one of them matters to Him. Every single one of them are worth dying for. That’s why he went to the cross… for all. For everyone.
You are invited to the frontlines of Kingdom transformation, to change the world around you.
Are you IN?
Message from David:
We are committed to these four GOLF (Glorify God, Obey God, Love People, Follow Jesus) things because they are the real thing; because Jesus was committed to these same things! At the end of the service today, we will be asking you to RSVP and commit to them and be on mission with us. For those who have been here a while, it is kinda like a wedding vow renewal. Some of us have only been dating Jesus at Whitewater, it’s time to put a ring on it! We are members of a family, and GOLF is the family guideline and value.
Today is a defining moment. We’d just like to know where you are, as some have left, some have just started, and some are trying to decide. We’d like you to identify yourself, so JT and I, the staff, and elders can know who our core is. Or who our core would like to be. It’s not saying you have arrived - remember it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish - Just ask the Bengals!
This kind of commitment ask is not something new. We’ve done this several times over my 19 years so we can know who’s all in. Obviously, we are hoping every one of you will commit and RSVP by saying yes.
There may be a few of you who have listened to this series and might be considering off-ramping and leaving the church. Please weigh and pray. We don’t want this, but there are indeed good reasons to leave a church (bad ones, too!). We had a guy leave the church because he showed up one afternoon to play golf with me without calling in advance, and I had meetings and I told him I couldn’t go! And people wonder why I am retiring!
That’s why you should pray and weigh and don’t just jump from church to church.
We do recognize that Whitewater is not the right fit for everyone. Our church here is not perfect – we’ve got issues, too! There are no perfect churches out there – and if you do find one, don’t join it cause you’ll mess it up! But if you do exit from here, it is important to leave well.
Ideally, people would stay with one church their entire life, but that’s not realistic. Church moves and transitions do occur. Churches change, leaders change, you change. But if you do leave, know we love you and the door is always open. Don’t let ego keep you from returning if things change.
I find most people usually leave a church over one of two issues: Misunderstanding or misalignment. A misunderstanding can be clarified. Unmet expectations cause conflict, so often more information, an apology, or a new perspective can often move a person from being upset to being at peace quickly.
Misalignment is another issue. If you are fundamentally at odds with the approach of a church, it’s an alignment issue. And because no local church is the entire body of Christ, healthy church leaders welcome you to find a church that better aligns with your understanding of church or your personality. We are building HIS kingdom here, not ours. My only competition is the devil! Lighthouses don’t compete!
Misaligned people seldom thrive, so finding a church that aligns with your bent will help you grow spiritually. Honestly – this is not the same church we were two years ago. This is not the same church it was when we opened here at 5771, 15 years ago. And two years from now, we won't be the same as we are right now. The expectations are greater and the strategy is different. But if you leave, affirm the good in the church (remember at one point you thought we were awesome!), but take the high road. You won’t regret it.
So, that’s who were are. We exist to help people find hope and a home in Jesus. We do that through GOLF. It's pretty simple really. This series has been about clarifying who we are, but also who we are not. We are not a country club where you pay dues and get country club benefits. We are not a fitness club where you pay fees and go for a while, but then go less and less as time goes on. We are not a member benefit society - we are the blood-bought church of Jesus Christ being deployed on a missional movement to win the lost and disciple the saved.
We’re unapologetically looking for those who want to dream. Who want to risk. Who are willing to storm the gates of hell. Folks who wanna do something big for God with their one and only life! People who are committed! That’s our legacy and DNA around here…
So say yes to this kingdom adventurer today, my friend – you won’t regret it!