Real, Revealing, and Relevant
This past weekend at Journey we kicked off a new teaching series called Relationships That Define Us. There are some vital and strategic relationships that have an enormous influence on the quality and direction of our lives. We will be looking at some of those relationships in this series over the next several weeks.
We got off to a great start. We had a record-breaking crowd for the second weekend in a row. No, we didn’t have more people in attendance last week than we had on Easter weekend. But we did have the largest non-holiday crowd ever in our history–by over 250 people! We saw nearly 2,800 total in our worship gatherings last weekend. I was especially encouraged by the nearly 500 people who attended our Saturday worship gathering at the new starting time of 5PM! If we can trend in that direction on Saturday, it makes everything work better on the weekend.
Our two services on Sunday at the Apopka campus were near capacity and our Mount Dora campus saw one of the largest crowds gather for worship.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that we had a couple from the Robertson clan featured in one of the most popular cable TV shows of all time, Duck Dynasty. Al and Lisa Robertson spoke about their marriage in a real, revealing and relevant way.
Their transparency was shockingly refreshing to me. Growing up, I had instilled in me that “we don’t air our dirty laundry in public” and that I should be careful not to embarrass myself or our family. That tends to make you want to please people at all costs and never tell anyone but good things, even if they’re not true.
Thank God, He has been delivering me from that over the years and has allowed me to pastor a church that now says in big, bold, banners: Everybody’s Welcome–Nobody’s Perfect–Through Jesus, Anything’s Possible.
If you missed Al and Lisa’s story, I encourage you to spend about 31 minutes watching it by clicking this video.
If you were here and thought their story was a little too real and revealing for your comfort, let me help you understand why what they shared was so relevant:
-Statistics say that 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused or assaulted…and that’s the conservative stats. Some researchers place that number at 1 in 3 women. That means there’s a lot of women who identified with Lisa Robertson when she said she was molested by a family member for several years that started when she was 7 years old. That kind of abuse changes your self-perception and creates a pile of baggage that often takes years to unpack in a healthy way.
-Couple that fact with the reality that one of the most under-reported crimes committed against women is rape and sexual assault, and you can understand the crushing weight many women silently carry.
-More women in churches have had abortions than we care to talk about in church. But ignoring that reality doesn’t make the pain go away. Right across the street from our Apopka campus (not sponsored by us) is a large billboard that reads: “Every abortion has two victims. One Dead. One Hurt.” When Lisa described the darkness she experienced during and after her abortion, things got really, really quiet in the services I sat in. I could tell God’s Spirit was moving and drawing people in.
-The stats I read and the personal knowledge I have about marriages that are wrecked by an affair, even among church attenders, quite frankly is depressing. Very few experience the redemption and reconciliation that Al and Lisa did in their marriage. I praise God for their amazing-grace recovery. We need to hear more stories like that.
And that’s just a few of the issues the Robertson’s surfaced in their brief talk. It was real, revealing and relevant in every way.
And I would add hopeful. Several said to me afterward, “Wow, if God can keep their marriage together and help them, maybe He can help me!” One friend said to me, “I could say the same things they said because I’ve experienced them–every one of them.”
Reality check: people are messed up. People who attend churches can be as messed up as anybody, especially those who are living the life of a “double secret agent.” It’s time to get real and deal with the hurts, hang-ups and habits that we all struggle with. And it’s time to allow the Gospel to be the anchor to which we tether our hope. Author and Pastor Tim Keller profoundly puts it like this:
“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
Amen. Let’s quit acting shocked that there are actually people who struggle with various versions of sinful tendencies and capacities among us and start proclaiming and celebrating that Jesus is the greatest friend to sinners the world has ever known.
I’ve learned over the years that what church people often want is a neat, tidy, wrapped-with-a-bow-on-top story that ends, “and then they all lived happily ever after because they accepted Jesus.” I’ve come to believe that story is more legend than real life. I’m not even sure that story exists.
The story that I think does exist goes like this: “I really messed my life up and then Jesus reached down for me and pulled me out. And then I messed up again, and Jesus reached down again and pulled me out. And then I found some new ways to mess up that I hadn’t even thought of before, but Jesus reached down every time and kept pulling me out and calling me to follow Him. And finally I’m doing better. I’m not what I ought to be and I’m not near what I want to be, but thank God I’m not what I used to be!”
That’s a story that is real, revealing, and relevant…and that’s a story that I hope we hear many, many times at Journey.
Who’s your best friend? If you’re married and you said your spouse…good on ya! But I’m talking about that important and influential relationship outside your marriage. I call that relationship “your best buddy.”
My best buddy is standing to my left in this picture. His name is David Vaughan. Dave and I met when I was a freshman in Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio and he was a sophomore. We have been doing life together since. Dave will be with us this weekend at Journey and we are going to team-teach the message on friendship, which, outside our families, is the most significant relationship that can shape the direction and quality of our life. Dave is the Lead Pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in Ohio, Whitewater Crossing Christian Church. He has been married to his lovely wife, Donna, for nearly 36 years. They have two children and are Poppy and Nona to two grandchildren.
Invite your best friend to join you at one of our services this weekend at either our Apopka or Mount Dora campus. We will study several Proverbs about friendship, like this one: He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20
Be wise and show up this weekend at Journey!
P. S. This weekend is our Fifth Sunday weekend collection for our Food For Life Ministry. Items to bring can found here.
Worship Song Set for the Upcoming Weekend:
- Oh How I Need You – (All Sons & Daughters)
- Your Love Never Fails – (Jesus Culture)
- No Other Name – (Hillsong)
- Give Me Faith – (Elevation Worship)