In this final sermon in the Better Together series, John, Adam, and Todd help hash out how a genuine biblical community operates. In this segment, Adam Tarnow discusses how biblical community operates when we pursue each other relationally in "L.O.V.E." by having the Latest information, being on Offense, prioritizing community as Vital relationships, and Expecting to work at it.
How to Pursue Relationally
How Is Your Location: The Importance of the Health of Every Community Group
Devote Daily: Staying Connected to God
Why Regular Attenders Are Really Scoffers
The Path of Accountability
Diagnosing and Dealing with 3 Spiritual Cancers in your Community Group.
It was November 1999. I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, at that time, and I had an opportunity to go to my very first NASCAR race. I was immediately hooked. In the months that followed after I went to that first race, I made it to three more live races. I have since watched hundreds of races on television. I have played multiple seasons of Fantasy NASCAR, because that's a thing. I have also started to develop quite a little modest collection of some NASCAR memorabilia.
My favorite driver at the time when I showed up and started to follow NASCAR was a guy named Tony Stewart. He drove the #20, Home Depot. I have this little die-cast car that I keep in my office. I have these cars that are still in the package that I keep in my office, and the reason these are still in the package is because both of these have been signed by Tony. Tony has touched these.
I have this little Coke bottle. Tony won the NASCAR championship in 2002, and Coke ran a limited number of these commemorative bottles, so I have this 14-year-old bottle of Coca-Cola that I keep as well. So this is some of my memorabilia, but this is not my prized possession. My prized possession is right here. This is my prized possession of all my NASCAR fun. That is the front of a Coke machine. I did not steal it. I had a friend when I lived in Atlanta who worked for Coca-Cola. He knew I liked Tony Stewart, so he gave it to me as a gift.
Tony has been in my life for over 16 years. I counted it up. I've moved him nine times. Nine times I have made the decision to put this into a moving truck and take it to a new location. When I moved here to Dallas 14 years ago, I moved into a small apartment. I had a small bedroom. I was trying to fit everything in there. I immediately put Tony up on the wall and then was trying to figure out, "Where am I going to put my bed?"
The only spot I could come up with was to take that little twin bed and put it perpendicular right up here next to Tony. For 18 months, Tony was my headboard, because I'm an American…who was single at the time. You look at all of this stuff, and you may think… You may come to my house and see that in my garage or come into my office and see all this memorabilia. You may be tempted to ask me a question and go, "Hey, are you a NASCAR fan?"
Up until a few years ago or a little bit in the past, I would have told you, "Yeah, I'm a huge NASCAR fan," but my wife has recently reminded me of some facts. The fact of the matter is I haven't been to actually watch a race in over 16 years, I haven't watched a race on television in over 8 years, and I have no clue at all what's going on in the sport right now. I think I'm a fan, but the reality is I'm not.
I start with that today, because I think there's something very similar that's going on for a lot of us in our Community Groups. We think we're experiencing community, and others may agree that we're experiencing community because of certain things we're doing. We're in a Community Group. We meet with that group a couple of times a month. When we meet with that group, maybe we share some details about our lives.
Maybe we've even taken our 4B and done that assessment, and maybe we've shared those results with people in our Community Group, but the fact of the matter is we're really just in a group. We're not experiencing community. If we're just in a group and not experiencing community, we are missing out. We're missing out on God's best for us. We're missing out on something that can be an enormous benefit for us, something that can be a source of joy for us. We're missing out on what God wants for us, and we're missing out on what we here at Watermark want for us.
We don't want you to just be in a group. That's not what we're calling you to. We want you to be experiencing community. So here's what I want to do really quickly. I want to share with you guys four practical ways we can move from being in a group to actually experiencing community. It follows the acrostic LOVE. We're going to have a statement that goes with each of those, a little Scripture, and then we'll unpack. These are four practical ways that we can move from being in a group to being in community.
1._ Latest information._ The author of Hebrews instructs us in Hebrews 3:13 to "encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of us will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." What that means for us is that if we want to experience community, we're going to need to work really hard at making sure we stay connected on a regular basis with those who are in our Community Group, to make sure we're staying up to date on the latest information, that we know the headlines and the stories behind those headlines, and that we work at that and try as often as we possibly can to try to stay connected with one another.
If you're just in a group, then most likely you're just content connecting during your designated time slot where you meet. If you just meet twice a month, you're content only connecting and communicating two times a month. When you're not meeting, you're not catching up. You're not reaching out to each other. You're not pursuing one another at all. You are content with just connecting during that designated time slot.
If we want to experience community, that's not enough. We have to work hard at trying to connect with one another. This doesn't mean we have to add a bunch of meetings to our schedule. Oftentimes, the only thing we have to do is just a few extra phone calls a week, a couple of extra text messages a week, a couple of extra emails a week, or using technology where you can get an app like GroupMe or Faith Group or something like that, where you guys can try to stay connected. Healthy communities stay up to date on the latest information.
2._ Offense_. Paul in Galatians 6:10 encourages us to take initiative with doing good to others, especially those who are in the family of faith. Here's what this means for us. If we want to experience community, that means every single one of us in our Community Group feels that it is our responsibility to play offense. Every single one of us feels like it is our responsibility to take initiative in pursuing connecting with other people, in confession, in caring for one another.
If you're just in a group, you are content letting one or two people take all the initiative in that group. You're totally content just letting one person take all the initiative with confession or all the initiative in care. You're totally content just letting one or two people do all the work. But if we're going to be in healthy communities, if we're going to actually experience community, that's not enough. We all have to feel that and understand that burden and responsibility, that it is our job, individually, all of us, to take the initiative in connection, confession, and care.
3._ Vital relationships._ Paul also tells us in Romans 12 that we are to be devoted to one another in love and that we are to give one another preference. Here's what this means. If we want to experience community, that means we view the other relationships in our Community Group as vital relationships in our lives. Those are certainly not the only relationships we have in our lives. We have a lot of other relationships outside of our Community Group, but we think about those relationships with those people we're in community with differently.
They are vital, which means we give them priority, we view them as God's provision for us, and we give them preference. If you're just in a group, you look at those relationships and you think about them any way but vital. If you don't think about those relationships as vital, that probably means you're not giving them priority in your life, which means you rarely say no to anything so that you can continue to develop your relationship and deepen your relationship with those in your group.
You rarely say no to getting a little extra sleep a couple of times a month so you can get up and meet with those guys in the morning. You rarely say no to every once in a while giving up a Friday night at home, relaxing on the couch watching TV, so that you can go and deepen your relationship with those who are in your Community Group.
You rarely say no to having both Mom and Dad at home to wrangle the kids to bed one night so that maybe the wives can go and deepen their relationships with one another. If you're just in a group, you view those relationships as anything but vital. They're not our only relationships, but they certainly are our most vital relationships, and we view them that way.
4._ Expect to work_. When Paul was writing his first letter to the Thessalonian church, he was commending them for the way they were loving one another, and in that letter, in chapter 4, he told them to excel still more in the way that they love one another. He told them not to rest, not to just be okay with where they're at, not to feel like they're at a spot in that relationship where they can just coast.
What this means for us is that if we want to experience community, we need to remember and expect to continue to work at it. We need to reject the status quo. We need to reject just checking boxes. We need to understand that there will never come a time in these relationships where we merely hit the "Easy" button and just coast. If you're in a group, you're just looking to coast, but if you're looking to experience community, then you expect to work. You keep at it and keep at it and keep at it, and you reject that status quo. You reject coasting.
So here's what we do. That's it. Those are the four things. We stay up to date with the latest information. We work at that. We play offense and take initiative with one another. We view these relationships as vital, meaning we give them priority and preference and we view them as God's provision, and we continue to expect to work. We love one another.
There's a reason why Tony Stewart is not my headboard anymore. The reason isn't just because I'm married. There's a reason why Tony is not my headboard, and there's a reason why I am no longer a fan of NASCAR. That's because, quite honestly, I have other loves in my life right now. I have my wife and kids and my Community Group and my relationships in my neighborhood. I have relationships with my coworkers. I have relationships with families on sports teams that my kids play on.
There are a lot of other things I love right now in my life, so I say "no" to NASCAR so I can say "yes" to these other loves in my life. Don't miss this. If I ever want to go back to being a real fan, I know exactly what I need to do. If I want to go back to being a real fan, I need to love NASCAR. I need to stay up to date on the latest info, I need to play offense and take initiative, I need to view it as a vital relationship and prioritize it, and I need to keep working at it.
If I want to be a fan, then I need to love NASCAR. The exact same thing is true for us when it comes to our Community Groups. If you're just in a group, you know exactly what you need to do to get to be where you are experiencing community. You need to love those in your group. When we do that, our lives become richer. The world starts to take notice, because they've never really seen people love one another and give preference to one another like that.
They start to take notice, and we have opportunities to talk about this amazing Jesus, who has died for us, and the love he has shown to us and the love we can now show to other people. The world takes notice of that, and our God is glorified and his kingdom moves forward as we love one another. So let's resolve to love each other.