Most of us really despise waiting. In today’s society we don’t have to wait for many things we want. I mean, who doesn’t love Amazon Prime and same day receiving when you can get it? Waiting stinks! I want it now!


If you’ve been a gardener or even just planted a flower bulb then you know what it’s like to wait. To wait for the fruit of the plant to show. How much more of a wait it is to enjoy the fruit of the garden. A good ripe tomato, the first of the growing season, oh yeah! But it takes about 90 days for that tomato to show itself. And some flowers? They take a year after planting the bulb. For the right fruit, we have to wait.


Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. The Christian Church recognizes this day as the day the apostles, (the twelve disciples), received the Holy Spirit. But it has Old Testament roots found in what is also known as, “The Feast of Weeks.”

The Feast of Weeks was to occur for the Israelites, the Jewish people, in the Old Testament, seven Sundays after the Passover. (If you don’t know what Passover is, read this article). The following day, if you’re good at math you know is the fiftieth day…Pentecost Sunday. The Israelites were to collect grain from their harvest and make various offerings to God of their “first fruits” to consecrate or dedicate the harvest to the Lord in thanksgiving to Him.

“You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord." - Leviticus 23:15–16 ESV

For the apostles, they too had to wait for Pentecost. But on this day, instead of making an offering to the Lord, they received the Holy Spirit from the Lord! It wasn’t about giving to Him as it was receiving from Him. But, they didn’t know it was going to happen this day. All they knew was:

He (Jesus) presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” - Acts 1:3–5 ESV

Again for the math nerds, Jesus taught them for 40 days after His Resurrection, and then He ascended into Heaven telling them He’d send them the Holy Spirit “days from now.” It just so happened, the “many days” ended up being, ten days…

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. - Acts 2:1-4 ESV


For ten days after Jesus ascended to Heaven, the disciples had no clue what to do other than wait. During that time all we know from Scripture is that they remained in the “Upper Room”, were altogether with the women, (including Mary), in one accord and were devoting themselves to prayer. They waited on the Holy Spirit in prayer. Other than selecting a replacement apostle, they prayed. They didn’t take it upon themselves to go out and begin preaching, trying to perform miracles of healing or anything. They waited.

How about you? Do you find that you tend to move in your own time and speed to get things done instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit’s guidance? I know I do often. I am impatient on one hand. On the other hand I fear “not doing anything” is lazy and disobedient to God. Yet the truth is, many times, we need to wait. I know there are many cases where if I’d waited before making a decision I would have saved myself some trouble. If I’d have prayed, and waited, I would have definitely been better off.


Whose fruit do you want to enjoy? Your own, from your own garden, or that of God and what He has planned for you? We all grow restless when waiting. I’m sure it was difficult for those first disciples to wait after they’d spent 3 years with the Master seeing all the works He’d done and then now He was gone from them. He said to wait. But…why? Because He was planning a huge harvest this Pentecost Sunday that they had no idea was coming.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. - Acts 2:41 ESV

Once the Spirit came upon Peter he was empowered and emboldened to get up and preach one of the most convicting sermons ever taught…to the very ones that had weeks before cried “Crucify Him” to Pontius Pilate. These were the people responsible for the death of Jesus on a Cross. Yet, Peter tells them face to face with the power of the Holy Spirit speaking through him…

this Jesus... you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. - Acts 2:23-24

Peter preached the Gospel of Jesus before the very ones that had Him crucified. I can imagine him pointing the finger and saying, “YOU DID THIS!” Bold! But in being so bold, the power of the Holy Spirit also brought about the salvation of some three thousand that day. The birth of the Christian Church had begun on the day of Pentecost.

It takes time for fruit to be produced. Our prayers are the seeds of future desired fruit.

Sometimes we’ll see fruit in an instant, but more commonly it means waiting. Waiting on the fruit of our prayers, our hopes, our dreams, our healing, the Lord’s will to come about. To that I encourage you, keep waiting, and in time you will receive the fruit the Lord has planned for you. Be at peace knowing that He has said…

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. - John 15:8

What Are You Waiting For?

You cannot produce fruit on your own. You need the Holy Spirit to produce fruit. So what are you waiting for?

the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. - John 15:4-5 ESV

Jesus is the vine spoken of in these verses. Without Him, you cannot bear fruit. This fruit is only produced by the work of the Holy Spirit within us. So, you have to know for yourself; have you repented from unbelief and sin, and do you trust that Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty you deserve for your unbelief and sinfulness? If you can say “yes,” then Scripture says you are saved. You are made new and have received the Holy Spirit. And the proof of the Holy Spirit, or the fruit, is found in this…

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

Thanks for reading! I did a 10 minute teaching on Pentecost if you’d like to learn a little more.

Connect with me and our church, Innovate Church if you enjoy my blogs!

A One Man Mission

Is it possible to be on mission alone?

This was the question we posed and wrestled with during our Tuesday night study session of “Find Your People.”

You may be a one person band trying to follow God as best you can. I’ve been there, and in some ways, am there now trying to lead our church community. As always we need to look to Christ for these answers. If we are to model, follow, how He lived then let’s do so.

Individual Purpose

Every one of us has an individual mission. Something tugs at your heart and you respond, “I want to make a difference in this area.” Your first steps will generally be alone, but I bet you’ll also be looking at the experience of others to learn. Maybe a first step is to join an organization that is already about that mission, or maybe you’ll begin by sending support to them.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Paul explains that we are each purposely created to do good works that God has prepared us to do beforehand. You have a God given purpose. You have work to do, even alone, no matter your situation. The great thing about this verse is that it says this purpose is prepared beforehand. Elsewhere we read about how God has gifted each one of us in specific ways, again proving He has prepared us for the work He has for us to accomplish. This includes you, no matter what your situation is in life. Homebound, in prison, mentally ill, no matter, you can still fulfill God’s purpose for your life, and you have a specific mission to be about.

BUT, you are not meant to be alone. In fact, in many Scriptures we see where we are told how great it is to have friends, others, teammates, to help us in our life journey. This includes having a team to be on mission with.

Jesus on Mission

Did Jesus have an individual mission?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-21

Here we read Jesus’s own mission. He had an individual mission He was about. And if we follow Him throughout the Gospels, we find this is exactly the mission He completed.

However, after Jesus’s baptism by John and His time being tempted by Satan in the desert, (tempted to shortcut the mission), Jesus began His mission by choosing teammates. That’s right, the Son of God, deity in the flesh, accomplished His mission by gathering others to help Him.


Jesus began His mission, His three years of mission activity, by choosing the least likely persons to help Him accomplish His goal of saving us from slavery to sin. He didn’t do it alone, He recruited a team. After some “grooming” of this team, we see where He sends them out, on mission, without Him with them, to prepare the “fields” for His work, (Luke 9:1-6).

Along the way, Jesus gains more followers. Some of these were more than just fans, they were true followers. He chose from them, seventy two to send out on mission again, (Luke 10:1-23). In this instance we see Him specify they are to go, “two by two.” He sent them in teams of two to announce His coming, “into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” They were the teams of ground tillers and seed planters for Him to come through later reaping the harvest. But He actually gives them instructions to, “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” In other words, more workers, more teammates, to help accomplish the mission He was given.

A Lone Ranger

Here’s the bottom line. We all have a mission, and we should all be about recruiting others to join us in this mission. Sure, it may start with a personal mission or calling, and you may be able to do some good work alone. But with a team, with others backing you on the same goal, you can do so much more. A football team isn’t a winning team with a quarterback alone. He needs blockers, defenders, receivers, even a coaching staff, to help him accomplish the goal of winning. Jesus, the Son of God, recruited a team of players to help Him accomplish His mission. If He needed a team, so do you and I.

What’s your plan? If you don’t know, maybe I can offer some tips:

  1. Let others know about your mission. What is your passion? What breaks your heart?
  2. Be intentionally on the look out for others that share your passion, desire to do something.
  3. Make friends, but more importantly, find teammates.
  4. Jump start by finding organizations that are about the mission you are called to and jump in.
  5. Pray, not last but first. As the Lord says, “Pray for laborers.”

Heed the command of the Lord for the seventy two, take others with you! Recruit someone else to go alone with you on your mission. It is not safe, nor good, to go it alone. You need others and they need you!

Who are You Hanging With?

Check out the teaching video on YouTube here.

Choosing the right friends is really important when we talk about friendship and community. We have those people in our lives that we don’t really want to hang out with. And we have our reasons, which usually may be they’re negative attributes, their divisive, selfish, or simply bad influences. 

We hopefully also have a few friends that have positive effects on us. They cheer us up, they bring joy, they are positive and caring, and probably are good influences on us.

So when we talk about being intentional in finding friendships and community, then we need to keep some things in mind. Because who we hang out with can effect us in good and bad ways. So for the ultimate wisdom, let’s turn to the Scriptures and see what wisdom we can find there.

The Bible is full of wise counsel when it comes to the friends we choose such as this opening verse for us:

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 13:20

We are who we hang out with. If you wanted to be the smartest kid in the classroom, then you should have been hanging out with the “nerds” right? Yet many of us, myself included, hung out with the fools. In our workplaces, if we want to move up the ladder, then we need to be sure we’re making friends with those that are workers as well. If we want to be wise, we’ll find wise people to befriend.

If we choose bad company…

Bad Company

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

This is one of those verses you may have heard as a “wise old saying.” Especially when you were young and hung out with that “wrong crowd.”

In my own life I got in a lot of trouble numerous times because of the people I was hanging out with. They were friends that lived life on the wild side, and it was a community I found myself in. 

Sometimes when we’re looking for a community to belong to, we’ll lower our standards. Hang out with people that might be a little more risky than we are, just so we have a place of belonging. Self confidence plays a role in this for sure. Because if we aren’t confident about who we are, then we might find ourselves trying to be something we aren’t because we simply want to fit in. And sadly, most of the time, we end up trying to fit in with the wrong crowd instead of the right ones.

Sometimes when we’re looking for a community to belong to, we’ll lower our standards. Hang out with people that might be a little more risky than we are, just so we have a place of belonging.

Angry People

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.

Proverbs 22:24-25

We don’t have to go far today to find angry people right? There are so many issues today that strike up anger in those given easily to it. And it so easy for us humans to give into it. It doesn’t take much of a spark to ignite the flame of angry passion within us. So we must be guarded from those that tend to allow anger to rule within them.

Do not go with a wrathful man. Don’t take a trip with one bent on revenge is what I’d say here. You might find yourself in a predicament you don’t want to be in! Hence the snare…the trap, the situation that you didn’t ask for.

Positive Friends

I’d bet that you, like me, would much rather be surrounded by friends that help build me up, speak life to me, and again, are a joy to be around.

Listen to these positive verses on having the right people around you. These verses define what kind of friends we should desire to have as we as what kind of friend we shall be.


Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Who doesn’t need encouragement? Who doesn’t need to be built up every now and then?

In this world it is so easy to find ourselves discouraged and beat down from all that is thrown at us in a typical day. How pleasant it is though to have someone around you that will be there to encourage you, to help pick you up. This is what a good community of friends should be for one another.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 1-:24-25

Another great reminder not only to be encouraging to one another, but to “stir one another to love and good works.” As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

Good friends help us keep the right things in focus. They’re not going to distract us from doing what is right. They understand purpose, and will be there to encourage us in finding and staying on our purpose as well.

I love this word from Paul in his letter to the Romans…

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Romans 1:11-12

This is understanding that we have gifts to give to one another for the encouragement of one another. Like I said last week, sometimes we need to remember that when we seek out others to befriend, we need to see it as us giving that person a gift. Taking the focus off of ourselves and seeking to serve the other person’s needs.

Give and Take

Community and friendships are always two way streets. They require give and take in the relationships. You have something to give someone else and at times you’ll be on the receiving end of someone else’s gifts to you.

Again, the Scriptures help guide us in being good community together.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17

First notice, this a word to us as believers. It is a charge given. We are to put on these characteristics Paul lays out here: Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness, and love.

Isn’t this the kind of community you want to belong to? It should be our goal to be this kind of community. Intentionally striving.

And then he reminds us, “we are called in one body.” We are in this together. We are to be encouragers just as well as we sometimes need encouragement. We need to be the burden bearers and sometimes need someone else to help bear our burdens.

We are in this together. We are to be encouragers just as well as we sometimes need encouragement. We need to be the burden bearers and sometimes need someone else to help bear our burdens.

He says that love binds all these together in perfect harmony. You need people that love you, and you need to be loving to those around you. When we love each other, we care for one another’s needs above our own. We’re willing to seek the best for one another.

We are to teach and admonish one another. I pray we learn to do this better every day.

You weren’t created to do life alone. You need others and others need you. You need the gift of friendship and community and others need you as their friend and their community.

Wise Words

But let us remember to be wise in who we befriend and are in community with, because it’s easy to be a fool in this life. It takes no effort, and there’s lots of other fools we can easily pick from.

It all takes wisdom and intentional action to find the right people to include in our lives. And I think we do a better job if we actively seek out those in need of friendship and community.

The Best Friend

In closing, I love this word I found from the book of Job.

Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house, 5 when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me,

Job 29:4-6

Has God’s intimate friendship blessed your house? Are you a friend of the Lord’s?

As we read last week, Jesus said to His disciples…

I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

To be a friend of God, you have to believe in the One He sent. And if you’re a friend of Jesus then you are a friend of God.

You? A Gift to God?

You’ve probably had times where you’ve questioned your value. Questioned if God could even love you. Maybe you’ve told yourself, “no one wants me or ever will.” Or maybe you have questioned God’s acceptance of you.

John 6:37-40

those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Did you catch what you are to Jesus? You are a gift given to Jesus by God the Father! Now, if God has gifted you to Christ, then what kind of gift are you? How much value has God placed upon you if you are a gift He is giving to Jesus?

Friend, you are loved! You are wanted! You belong to Christ if you claim Him as Savior and Lord. No good Father gives junk to His Son, and God our Father didn’t either. You are a gift to Christ!

Community: Will You Be My Friend?

This past Sunday I delivered part two of our Community series, again tackling the problem of loneliness. Today many of us have no “true” friends we can call on. Even in this day when we have hundreds and some have thousands of “friends” on social media, we still feel more lonely than ever.

We began by pondering these questions:

  • What’s the difference between a social media friend and an “in real life” friend?
  • Why do we tend to have so many social media friends and so few real life friends?
  • Can we make our social media friends just as close as our real life friends?

Robin Dunbar, an Oxford evolutionary psychologist says the average maximum number of “stable relationships people are cognitively able to maintain at once” is 150. So the range is around 100-250.

Of course these 150 relationships also have their own concentric levels of relationship. Just like in social media world, though we may have 1,000 friends, the likelihood is true that few of those are bestfriends, and even fewer what we would call, “close friends.”

Dunbar developed a circle map of our typical relationship levels to display this idea:

The image explained:

“The innermost layer of 1.5 is [the most intimate]; your romantic relationships. 

The next layer of five is your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships. 

The 15 layer includes the previous five, and your core social partners. They are our main social companions, so they provide the context for having fun times. We trust them enough to leave our children with them. 

50, is your big-weekend-barbecue people. 

The 150 layer is your weddings and funerals group who would come to your once-in-a-lifetime event.”

What really limits our friendship capacity? Time.

The truth is we have limited time, and some of us more than others. And it takes time to invest in relationships to make them meaningful. We have the responsibility of how we invest our time.

So how much time does it generally require for that acquaintance to become a best friend?

“It takes about 200 hours of investment in the space of a few months to move a stranger into being a good friend.”

Jesus and His Friends

So, if Jesus is our example then let’s look at His life from acquaintances to His closest friendships.

When Jesus first begins His ministry after being baptized by John the Baptist, He calls a few guys to “follow me.” 

These first followers are an unnamed disciple of John, Andrew, Andrew’s brother Simon Peter,  Philip, and Philip finds Nathaniel inviting Him to come along on the journey to follow the “One whom Moses spoke about.” 

So there are then 5 disciples, new acquaintances or new followers of Jesus. These 5 follow Him to the wedding at Cana of Galilee. No doubt Jesus made other acquaintances at the wedding. 

And when He leaves the text just says:

John 2:12

After the wedding he went to Capernaum for a few days with his mother, his brothers, and his disciples.

Only His original 5 followers, HIs mother, and His brothers, went with Him from the wedding.

Later on He chose two others, John and His brother, James, the sons of Zebedee. Then a little further Ha calls a few others, Matthew, another James, Thaddeus, Simon, and then Judas.

Still we are not yet told they are more than simply followers of Jesus. He doesn’t consider them disciples, until He prays about it.

Luke 6:12 tells us Jesus spent all night praying to God about who His disciples were to be. And the next day He called the 12 by name to be His disciples.


Along the way, though, Jesus had others begin to follow Him. Shortly before His time in prayer was when He and His followers were walking through the grain fields plucking heads of grain that outraged the Pharisees. Remember we figured out that Jesus either had Pharisees following Him at the time or “workers” for them, hence how they knew and then called Him out for allowing His followers to break this supposed Sabbath Law.

Luke 6:17 also speaks to Him having other followers at this time as it tells us after His choosing of His disciples…

When they came down from the mountain, the disciples stood with Jesus on a large, level area, surrounded by many of his followers and by the crowds.

Let this be a little wisdom for us, just because someone is following you, it doesn’t mean they should be your friend. 

Just because someone is following you, it doesn’t mean they should be your friend. 

So often, especially in social media world, we think we have to “friend” anyone that follows us or sends us a request. But would you do the same in real life?

The offer of friendship is an offer to do life together…especially when we look at these persons being close friends.

Have you prayed about finding/gaining friends? What if, again, we did this before accepting friend requests? Before inviting that “acquaintance” over?

Jesus’s Friends Circle

There’s honestly no great idea on how many folks followed Jesus at the various stages of His ministry. We get a number here and there of some events, such as the feeding of the five thousand, but we don’t know how His entire ministry fits into the Dunbar’s circles. 

But if I were to make a guess, I would put it something like this:

Acquaintances of course would be those fringe followers, 500 or so.

Friends might would then be 150 or so of those folks. They weren’t enemies and maybe He and they had some light conversation from time to time.

The next circle is the 50. What Dunbar would call “Good Friends.” This is the group you might have a barbecue with remember? 

The 72

Later in Jesus’s time, He sends out “72 disciples” to do ministry in the surrounding towns and places He had planned to visit.

Luke 10:1

The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.

For Jesus, these may have been good friends because there is no doubt He would only send those whom He could trust to do the works He needed them to do.

These would have not only been doing miraculous works, but in whose name they were doing them is what mattered. He sent them to the places He’d planned to go, in other words, they were going and making a name further for Him preparing the fields for harvest.

They were on Team Jesus!

Don’t you want others on your team? Friends that can help you get to where you desire to go in life? Friends that though you may not be the closest, they’ll speak a good word for you. They can be relied upon from time to time to lend you a hand. 

These are the ones I’d say we hope to have in community with us. A village of people that we can rely on and depend upon in times of need. They may not all be those you’d share every secret with, but they might be those you’d call to lend something to you. They may be close enough for you to know if they went missing, and you’d need to call and check up on from time to time, and know they’d do the same for you.

No Longer Servants

There is a time when our relationships change, it grows deeper, and usually that may be after an experience you have together. Jesus marks such a time with His 12 disciples…those that had no doubt been with Him the most time and experienced the most ministry alongside Him.

John 15:15

I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 

These are people He can trust with all His Words.

How does it feel to have someone whom you may not have been extremely tight with in your eyes, tell you, “hey, thanks for being a good friend.

I believe that is what we see here. Maybe the disciples had only seen their roles with Jesus as fellow workers, slaves, as they sought to learn from Him as their Master and Teacher. But then Jesus tells them, “You are not my slaves, or my pupils, but you are my friends.”

They may have already been in Jesus’s “best friend” zone, but they hadn’t considered such a thing most likely. But Jesus makes it clear here, and I can only imagine how it may have touched them to hear Him say this.

Make sure that those whom you think are good friends to you know it for themselves. Share how they affect your life positively. I think it’s extremely encouraging to be told how I’ve impacted a friend’s life for good.

The Inner Circle

Still there is one more level, other than family, that we need to look at when it comes to friendships. These are your closest friends. They are as close to blood family as it gets without them being related.

These are the ones Dunbar says are, “your shoulders-to-cry-on friendships. They are the ones who will drop everything to support us when our world falls apart.”

These are truly the friendships we dream of having. And I dare say these are the ones we lack the most when we feel we are “all alone” and have “no one that understands.”

We see these displayed in Jesus’s life as well. We call them His inner circle. These are Peter, James, and John.

They were with Him for the transfiguration

Mark 9:2-4

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.

They were the only ones invited with Him into the home of Jairus when Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead.

And they were the three that accompanied Him in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest and crucifixion, where He prayed for God to give another way.

These were His ride or die guys. They were there for the intimate miracles and for the worst of times for Jesus. 

We need a few relationships just like these. When we are hurting we need people we can call to come alongside us and just listen to our pain without judgment. Not people to fix our problems, but just love us through them. People that enjoy our good times and are there for our bad times, and us for them as well.

When we are hurting we need people we can call to come alongside us and just listen to our pain without judgment. Not people to fix our problems, but just love us through them.


As we have been talking about community these past few weeks I want to point out that we need friends in our community. We are not created to be alone. God has friendships out there that are just what we need. But, as we have been talking about and learning as well, we need to be intentional to find and make them.

Even in looking at Jesus’s life, we see He picked His own people, and then made selections of the acquaintances that followed Him. He even chose 3 of His best friends to be His closest friends. It is ok for you to do the same.

Remember, pray for friendships, pray about those you let speak into your life and for those that may need you to speak into their lives. Don’t accept just anyone, pray about them. Pray for community.

You Are Christ’s Friends

Jesus wants you as His friend. Too often we may look at our relationship with Jesus as a Master/slave relationship. But I believe Jesus wants more than that for us.

John 15:9-17

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Are you Christ’s friend? He says that if you are, you’ll do what He has commanded, and you will love one another. He has confided in us His Word and His love to share with the world. He chose us, we didn’t choose Him. 

And He has work for us to do with Him, He wants us to be His ride or die people. Are you?

Here’s a couple extra thoughts that didn’t make it into the message but I think are important reminders from Dunbar.

“Losing and gaining (friends) is largely a consequence of who you’re exposed to.”

“Don’t be fazed by loss of friends, because it’s an opportunity to go off and make new friends, which may turn out to be even better.”

Community: Living with One Another

Tuesday evening, April 3rd, we began a bible study video series called, “Find Your People” by Jennie Allen. The study is about making friends and community. Through it Jennie gives us biblical principles and tips on doing just this.

We began this series for a few reasons.

Loneliness is a major epidemic.

We were created by God for community.

Our heart with Innovate Church is to be a place of belonging, to create and be community together for those that feel they have no one, no community, no one that cares about them. The forgotten ones of the world.

So, along with this series, I wanted to look at what you may have heard as, “The One Another’s” of the Bible.

These are all the true relationship teachings of the Scriptures that help point us to being good friends, good family members, good community, and even good citizens of this world.

Being in community together, means doing these one another’s well.

Relationships with One Another

The word generally translated as “one another” is used 100 times in the New Testament.

47 of them are direct instructions to followers of Jesus.

Paul wrote 60% of them.

Relationships are hard for many of us. To be in a positive relationship with anyone means give and take. It means showing grace and love, and at times forgiving one another. If you can’t forgive someone then the relationship breaks down.

We must accept that we are all sinners and are going to hurt and be hurt, mostly unintentionally, and that we need to make sure we show each other grace and forgiveness when this happens.

If we want to find good relationships and great community:

WE have to be willing to make the first move! We go first!

That goes right along with Jesus’s command to do to others as we would have them do to us. You treat people how you want to be treated…it is an active command not reactive. 

So with that let us look at “the one anothers”…

The most well known is that we should love one another. In fact the command to love one another is found 16 times in the New Testament.

1 John 4:7,12 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

In Jesus’s commandment for us to love one another as He has loved us He says…

John 13:35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Jesus’s most well known trait was that He was loving. He was gentle and kind. As saved people we know He is forgiving.

Paul says..

Galatians 5:13 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

If the One we follow is known this way, then we who claim to follow Him should have the same reputation. 

Loving people is hard. Even in our nuclear families, you may have some who you have to choose to love right? When you throw together those family reunions, or maybe even the “church” gatherings, and introduce all kinds of different opinions and beliefs, how much harder is it to love each other then? 

As Jesus set the example of love, so are we to do as His followers.

The One Another’s

So let’s look at most of the One Another’s of the New Testament below beginning with what I call…

Relationship Builders

Love one another (John 13:34 – This command occurs at least 16 times)

 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 

Relationship Builders

Be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10) 

Love one another with brotherly affection. 

Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10)

Outdo one another in showing honor.

Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) 

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Build up one another (Romans 14:19; 1 Thessalonians 5:11) 

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Be likeminded towards one another (Romans 15:5) 

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Accept one another (Romans 15:7) 

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Admonish one another (Romans 15:14; Colossians 3:16) 

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Greet one another (Romans 16:16) 

Greet one another with a holy kiss

Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25) 

that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Serve one another (Galatians 5:13) 

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) 

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:2, 32; Colossians 3:13) 

Be patient with one another (Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13) 

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 

Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15, 25) 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32) 

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19) 

be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,

Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21) 

submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Clothe yourselves with humility towards one another (1 Peter 5:5) 

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Consider others better than yourselves (Philippians 2:3) 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Look to the interests of one another (Philippians 2:4) 

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18) 

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) 

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Exhort one another (Hebrews 3:13) 

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Stir up [provoke, stimulate] one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24) 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Show hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9) 

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Employ the gifts that God has given us for the benefit of one another (1 Peter 4:10) 

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Pray for one another (James 5:16) 

Confess your faults to one another (James 5:16)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 

Be at peace with one another. (Mark 9:50)

be at peace with one another.

Wash one another’s feet (John 13:14)

you also ought to wash one another’s feet

Relationship Killers

Do not lie to one another (Colossians 3:9) 

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices

Stop passing judgment on one another (Romans 14:13) 

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you’ll be destroyed by each other (Galatians 5:15) 

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other (Galatians 5:26) 

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Do not slander one another (James 4:11) 

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

Don’t grumble against each other (James 5:9) (John 6:43)

Do not grumble among yourselves.


We do all this because we are in a real sense “members of one another” (Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:25)

so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Listen to this from Jennie’s book. The idea here is living on purpose, making friends, making community on purpose.

“Why do we expect close friends to somehow appear in our busy lives? We think acquaintances should just magically produce our few best friends. Then our relational needs will be met. Back in the day, people found friends from their larger village of interconnected people. Think village life, small-town life, or agrarian life, or tribes.

People’s needs were met because of the way they lived: close. But because we see community as an accessory, not the essential fabric of life as our ancestors did by default, we are lonely. We are looking to plug a gaping hole. The hole is larger than a couple people could ever fill, and so we live constantly disappointed, and we further isolate ourselves. It’s time to break that cycle – on purpose.”

One of the best examples of community, with this village mentality Jennie mentions, is found in Acts 2. This describes the very beginning of the Church…the people not a building. A Community of believers living out the teachings of Jesus.

Acts 2:42-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

This is community. 

If you’re like me you read this and begin throwing up the “yeah buts.”

“Yeah, but…I’m not sharing my ________________.”

“Yeah, but…I’m not selling my ________________.”

And this idea that “day by day” they came together.

It’s all a bit extreme right? But isn’t that what it would be like to live in a village together? A small place, where everyone knows everyone, and makes sure no one is without.

This, in my opinion, is Christian love for one another. The love Christ calls us to have for one another. He gave His all for us, and says we should be willing to do the same. But you and I aren’t being called to go to the Cross as He did. But we, myself included, won’t even give up the time it take to pick up the phone and call someone to check on them.

Most of us live busy lives. And I know that when I come home from work, I’m ready to relax, not deal with people. And that’s completely understandable for us all. But let us pray that we don’t get so involved in our own lives that we forget to invite others into our lives, and or involve ourselves in our neighbor’s lives. Everyone needs to know someone loves them…and not just family members.

The Kingdom is here and now, but it takes us bringing it into practice everyday. Purposely living it out, in community, together…digitally and physically.

If this content sounds like something you need, or if you are seeking a community to join online, please look us up at Innovate Church. There we have all the links and information on how you can join in community with us.

Books mentioned above are affiliate links to Amazon.

Why a Digital Church

Why Is Innovate Church Digital Church?

There was a time, and still is occasionally, that I feel a little “less than” when folks ask me about our church. As pastors and church planters, we all want to tell others of what great success we’ve had. And if we have a building/meeting place, the bigger the better, as it makes things that much more impressive right? And don’t we have that attitude sometimes of wanting to impress others? Let’s be honest folks.

Well, in all honesty, we didn’t choose digital, digital chose us. When I first began to have a vision of a new church, once receiving my calling, I knew what I wanted. And I knew we’d never be a big church for sure. We were going to be different from the start. How different? Not digital only different. But as I was personally getting excited with Spring 2020 coming around, where I could get out and meet people in our local park just down the road, Covid came on us. The world shutdown in a matter of days when Covid began. And like most people, we thought, “oh, this’ll pass in a few weeks, and we’ll get back on plan.” Yeah right! We are now beyond two years of Covid. Thankfully, it is much better now, but we’re still seeing flair ups here and there and especially across the world.

At the beginning I truly resisted doing online video sermons. Even more so when every other church began doing them. “We do Church differently, right?” Yeah, that’s what I thought. “We innovate.” Ugh, how ignorant I can be at times. This whole journey has revealed in me some ignorance and arrogance from time to time for sure. I think it was Easter 2020 before I put any kind of video message out for the world to take in. Actually, it was the Psalm readings that I began with on April 5, 2020. That’s a video to watch and see just how nervous I was at the start.

For these past two years I’ve struggled to find my own voice and to find our flock. I say flock because it was just one of the Words I heard from the Lord during my calling out of our previous church responsibilities. I’ve been fumbling my way through the digital stuff, throwing up FB ads, sharing sermon videos everywhere I could, and very little has caught traction to make us grow. Along the way I have really wrestled with the whole church planting expectations and growth. But God has always, multiple times, reminded me, this is His Church and He will grow it how He wants it. So, I continue to walk in trust…minus those times I get down and start pointing my finger back at me.

I’ve come to the belief that we are to serve the forgotten, the lonely people, that cannot go to a “traditional” church…i.e. a building. This could be because of a physical or mental issue. It could even be because of a trauma lived through in the church. We all know someone that has been “church hurt,” right?

Of course, my wife is part of the impetus for us being online and not having people over with her anxiety issues, (agoraphobia too),…heightened due to Covid as well. Please understand, I don’t see this as a negative, I see it as God using her to guide us into where and what He wants us to be. And there have been a few other experiences to help me consider these forgotten folks of the Church.

You see, if you can’t make it to church on Sunday, in many churches, then you eventually get forgotten. It doesn’t matter the “why” you aren’t there, you’re just not. I have come to realize there is a significant portion of the population that can’t go and sit in a crowded place physically. Anxiety issues are just one of many. Multiple Sclerosis can keep some one inside their home. Fibromyalgia and temperature sensitivity. And we all know some there are immunocompromised persons today that Covid has brought to the forefront.

Being digital, interactively digital, not just “sit here and watch a live streamed sermon from our church you aren’t really a part of anymore,” has helped us see where and what community we desire, maybe are called, to create. (I don’t want to get ahead of the Lord’s will for sure!) Digital church allows us to be in each other’s lives even when we are not in proximity physically. After months of receiving prayer requests submitted through a service we serve, my eyes have been opened to the epidemic of loneliness in and outside the Church. And then to know there are others similar to my wife that can’t go to a physical gathering to be an active part of the Church, I can’t imagine the loneliness some feel.

We’ve always talked about how some people will never feel comfortable to walk into a church building that first time as well. Even digitally there’s some struggle with that too. But, we’ve found that in many ways, people are more willing to take such risks digitally than, “in real life.”

Don’t get it twisted, while I am a huge advocate for digital or any other means to share Christ’s love, I am not a “digital is always better for everyone,” person either. The reality is the same as any other church. Some are going to prefer what we offer than others. And that is fine. We’re here to serve those whom the Lord draws to us and that is all.

Our heart is to provide a safe place for everyone. To be a community of belonging, even from your own home, hospital bed, or prison cell. It’s been a slow journey, and that is fine. As long as we are faithful to seek whatever, and whoever, the Lord desires of us. There’s plenty of lost sheep out there. They are who we seek to bring into the fold.

Are You Thirsty?

Classic Gatorade Advertisement

Think back to a time where you have been really thirsty. I mean REALLY thirsty. Your mouth was completely parched. Tongue sticking to the roof of your mouth. You were to the point that you couldn’t talk clearly. You’d take anything you could to drink. Maybe not Bear Grylls kind of thirsty, but you might have been close to it.

When you’re that thirsty, how do you quench it? Usually when I am this thirsty I actually have a taste for something other than water. I drink water most of the time. But for some reason when I am really parched thirsty, I get this desire for something else. In the past it has been milk. Mind you I don’t generally ever drink milk unless it’s in cereal or my coffee. Yet, for some reason, there have been times when I’ve come into the house, extremely thirsty, and grab the milk container and guzzle down a cup. It’s been a while now that I’ve done that. Now I might down some chocolate milk…but who doesn’t like chocolate milk right?

Have you ever been so thirsty you’d drink just about anything?

What about your spiritual life? Have you been spiritually thirsty? Maybe even felt abandoned by God? Maybe you’ve experienced abandonment by others in the world, and feel as though God too has abandoned you. Maybe you’re missing something inside and you’re not even sure if it is God, if there is a God, or what. You only know you have this emptiness you want filled.

The story of the woman at the well may be familiar to many of us in the faith, but I believe it speaks to some of these feelings of thirst and spiritual dryness. It speaks to a thirst for something, for water, for God, for friendship, for community, for acceptance maybe. 

This story is about an interaction Jesus had with a woman. Not just any woman, a Samaritan woman. And if you don’t know what that means, the short end of it is, these were people the Jews absolutely disliked. They were considered halfbreeds, because they were a mixed people, Jewish and Gentiles, (goes back to Old Testament times). Along with the racial and thnic differences between them, they also had some differences in their religious thoughts/beliefs. They were both Jewish, but they had differences. Kind of like different denominations. Things that shouldn’t divide, yet they do.

Let’s read the full story found in John chapter 4:

John 4:7-26

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Avoiding Samaria

In the beginning of Chapter 4, John explains that Jesus had left the region of Judea and is heading to Galilee and John says Jesus “had” to go through Samaria.

The truth is, He didn’t “have” to, but it was indeed the shorter way to go. It is generally taught that Jews would prefer to go around Samaria than go through it. It’s like trying to go to Missippi from Georgia, you have to go through Alabama. To avoid going through Alabama we’d have to go through Tennessee. It would take a 2.5 day walking trip from Judea to Galilee and turn it into a week-long journey to go around Samaria. 

How many of us, when we travel somewhere, especially locally, avoid “those places” because of the “people” we’ve heard about that live there? Usually it’s due to a different ethnic or racial group if we’re honest, the low class, crime ridden, areas of your location. We’ve been told, “don’t get caught there at night,” right? Horror stories that probably have little truth to them.

Why Was She There?

Either way, Jesus was going through Samaria to get to Galilee. He stops to rest and for whatever reason, all of His disciples leave Him there at Jacob’s well alone to go get food. While there, this woman comes up to draw water from the well. John gives us the time of day just before this interaction is recorded…it is about noon time. It is nearing, if not already, the hottest time of the day. She was there at a time outside of the cultural norm, which would have been early morning. And she was alone.

Do You Wonder Why?

Have you ever read stories like this in the Bible and thought to yourself, “I wonder why?” This is one of those stories that should call us to wonder why. Why was she there alone? Why did she choose to go when she did? Why didn’t she go at the normal time when all the other women would have gone?

And then we read in this interaction with Jesus that she has had 5 husbands, and is now living with a man that wasn’t her husband. Then we think, “oh, that’s why.”

Is She Who We Think?

What do we then tend to think about her? She’s a sinner. She’s been married 5 times and left each marriage for another man? Then we put it together that she’s an outcast, and that is why she is alone. We almost justify it in our minds…”this is what she deserves.” We read into the text what our own presuppositions might be about a woman that’s been married 5 times. It’s her fault we jump to a conclusion about her. So we judge her right? We see Jesus’s Words to her as judging her, maybe, “He’s calling her out in her sinful ways.” 

I want to challenge us on how we read this story. Not to make it say something it doesn’t but to give us a new perspective that came to me about it the other day. You see, I’ve always read it the same as I have described too. But then it hit me, what if? What if she’s not the one to blame in her 5 marriages? What if she’s been the one that was hurt? She couldn’t find a man that would stay faithful to her. A man that would treat her as he should? (Women were property in those days as well). What if the men didn’t value her and only took her for what they could get out of her? What if she’s had 5 husbands and each of them passed away? Now she’s lonely. Alone. An outcast of the community because “something has to be wrong with her, right?” Who knows what stories the locals may have made up about her.

Placing Blame

Now put this same vision in your head about the last person you may have looked upon and judged their situation from the outside. What narrative did you add to their situation that might not have been the truth. How could you know the truth unless you knew the person? And maybe you needed to hear both sides of the story to discern “who’s to blame?”

What if Jesus’s words to her about being married and living with another guy, wasn’t a judgment but a recognition of her pain, her loneliness? What if He was truly being empathetic to her instead of calling her out for her misdeeds. 

He Offered Her His Gift

Another thing to note about this interaction is how did Jesus introduce Himself to her? He didn’t begin with what she had done wrong, or the reason she was there alone. He offered her a gift. He speaks to her thirst for water, but He tells her He has living water of which she would never thirst again. I am reminded of his meeting with Nicodemus, a high religious character he told “you must be born again” in chapter 3 of John. Poor old Nick took it literal and asked how that was possible. Jesus meant being reborn by God’s Holy Spirit. Here we see this woman do the same. She is thinking of the literal water that Jesus is offering her. “Sir, give me this water so I won’t be thirsty again.”

The Real Thirst Quencher

What if the real thirst she had, or the quencher she needed for that thirst was not water, but was love? Acceptance? Belonging? Whether she was to blame for her failed marriages or not, she had a deeper need.

What are you needing right now? Has someone or something made you an outcast? Are you unable to “fit in?” Do you lack acceptance? Belonging? Or maybe you just know there is an internal thirst that you need quenching. You need the water of life that Jesus offers.

God says in the last chapter of Revelation, “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life.” This is the water Jesus is offering. Not only His salvation, but also His acceptance, adopting us as His own through our faith in Him. Giving us a belonging to His own family.

I’m reminded of the old Gatorade commercials, as disturbing as they might have been, but as they had advertised themselves as the “thirst quencher” they ask the question, “Is it in you?”

So I ask you, is the Holy Spirit, the water of life, the cleansing waters of God’s Holy Spirit in you? Do you want it if not? He’ll end that thirst for you right here and now. It’s not something you can earn.

Notice Jesus didn’t tell the Samaritan Woman, “go, fix your life, then come back and I will give you the water you seek.” No, He told her He is the source of that living water, and if she’d ask, He’d give it to her.

Do you want that living water? Do you want that missing part of you to be filled? If you do, pray and ask God to fill it for you. Trust in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross to provide for you a way to be made right with the Father, by faith not works, and ask Him to give you His Holy Spirit, to live within you from now until eternity.

A Challenge

I leave you with a challenge, whether you are currently a believer or unbeliever. Remember to see through the outward appearance of situations and look for the real need they might have. Whether this woman was the sinner we generally behold her as, or if she was simply the victim of a hard life. She needed love. She needed acceptance. She truly needed a community to belong to. And that is the calling of the Church. To share God’s love to the deserving and undeserving alike. The truth is we are all undeserving, yet God so loved each one of us that He offers us His living water, through Jesus.

Improving Your VR Church Experience

Welcome to Church

So, the other day I posted a blog about my experience visiting churches in the metaverse. If you didn’t see it, you can check it out here. But in today’s post I wanted to make a few suggestions for those thinking about leading or are already leading ministries, (or even businesses), in the metaverse platforms. One thing I must add is that I am brand new to the VR world, so take what I say as a completed newcomer the space.

1. Start On Time

In my first “attempted” VR church experience, I arrived at the time the event was to begin…8PM. Altspace doesn’t allow you to enter events early, but I am one that cannot stand to be late either. So, I was on time. And I was the only one there…for about 5 minutes. I was alone. I explored the space and shot a basketball or two while waiting. But, because no one else was there within those first 5 minutes I left. I went looking for something else to experience, assuming, maybe it’s not really a church group. Like one of those Facebook groups you join only to find out no one has posted in two years. As I was leaving, I do think someone might have come in, but the button was already pressed for me to spawn to another place.

I do not recall where I went after leaving, but luckily it wasn’t something that grabbed my attention for long. But what if it had? What if I was seeking community, nudged by the Holy Spirit, and then found the place empty? How might that have affected my life negatively? You may be thinking, “Come on man, it’s just a VR place, it isn’t like real people.” But no! It is real people. It is real life change that we in ministry are seeking to cultivate. We want to be where the lost are right? I know I want to serve those that are seeking a community to belong to…meta or anywhere else digitally. So, what if it was their last hope and they are left alone in an empty room? What if when I left, I found another community that accepted me and made me feel welcomed…not faith based?

Thankfully that isn’t the end of the story. I didn’t stay where I had been and when I went back out to the menu, I saw there were people in the church event, so I went back. I was blessed to meet some awesome people and to experience life giving community there as I’d hoped. In all honesty, it was the best experience I had all week in VR, so much so I know I will return to it. But again we must ponder, what if I was that lost sheep looking for a flock to belong?

2. Engagement Begins with the Host

If you, the leader/pastor, aren’t going to be there at the start time, please make sure someone is. This is where having a host comes in. It’s the greeter at Wal-Mart right? But it needs to be more than that. Your host needs to be personable. At one of my Sunday experiences, I spawned into the event, and walked to a globe they had showing where everyone in attendance was from. (Pretty cool I thought). While there, I did get greeted by a gentleman with a “Hello” and a stroll right past me. Not even a “welcome to Wal-Mart.” He was a host because his name said so just in case you were wondering. So, I turned and began to walk up the stairs to the balcony like area and there a lady spoke to me, welcomed me, said she was glad I was there, and even let me know that the service was starting in 24 minutes and to check out the space and people beforehand. She made up for the prior gentleman in a big way in my experience. Granted I might have had the thought, “I’m not staying here 20+ minutes for the service to start.”

What is it we want when we walk in the front door of a church, (or even business venue)? I think we want to be greeted in a welcoming fashion that says, “I not only see you but I am glad you chose to join us today.” It is also important to be told things that matter, such as the fact that the service wasn’t going to start for 20+ minutes. While that in itself might have turned me off, I did still want to see the space and so I stayed. Waiting 30 minutes to start the service is a bit lengthy to just walk around and maybe talk to strangers…again especially if you’re an introvert like myself.

Thankfully, as I walked up the steps another gentleman said hi to me and we struck up conversation. He too was a visitor, and I asked if he was pastor as he told me he was visiting churches all day in the metaverse. (See, I’m not weird!). The lengthy time before the service did allow us to connect and get to know one another’s story, so maybe that was a plus for us having 20 minutes to chat. Again, not sure that would be good for many others. But my experience with him brings me to my next point:

3. Encourage Your “Regulars” to be Welcoming

I do not recall being spoken to by other church members in any space except the one I joined on my first night. Even there, it was a gentleman that actually served Life Church as a host that was also attending that group who welcomed me initially. He also explained all the details and gave the history of the group meeting there…answering my questions.

This is where I think VR might be the most similar to church “in real life (IRL).” How many of us, as regular church attenders, go and find ourselves talking to the other members until time for the service to begin. I know, we all want to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a week because we’ve probably also not spoken during the week, (yeah that’s a whole other problem we could talk about). A newcomer generally walks around curiously trying to figure out the lay of the land. We all see them…in both VR and real life, we see their bewildered faces. But how many of us will go over and introduce ourselves? How many will leave our comfort bubble to help the newcomer?

It’s funny because even I, as the newcomer in each space, saw the “others” walking around all alone, and thought, “I should go say hi.” Which in one church, as I had been standing on the edge of the worship area, almost walked over to someone else that looked “lost.” What if I were that lost soul in the church for the first time? Would I come back? Would I leave with the opinion that I mattered amongst the “crowd?”

4. Video Streaming vs Avatar

I know, I know, as a church leader myself, our time is limited. And yet we want to reach those in these new spaces without adding to our docket of “work.” So, what’s the easy thing? Let’s just restream our service to the metaverse just like we do to Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, etc. “At least our message will be heard.” I get it, I’m in this battle with myself right now. I want to be in the meta world, and I don’t want to leave my current people behind. If you’re preaching to an in-person crowd, I get the added difficulty. You can’t be in two places at once. But here are a few things I’d like to encourage you to do.

Make sure you have a host there in the metaverse world. Let them be the ones to make the welcome, the announcements to those in the VR church space. I know it will take coordination, but it would add so much to the experience. As my new friend and I were talking, (the one I asked about being a pastor), if we want to watch a video service, we’ll watch YouTube on our TV. When we come into the VR world, we come for a different experience…connection. And that is what a living avatar host can bring to the space. No church space should be about broadcasting only. It should always be about connecting to Jesus and to each other. You want that newcomer avatar soul to truly connect with more than a video screen.

5. Acknowledge Your VR Congregants

My hope would be that the other 4 items I’ve listed here would speak to you for sure. But I understand it may take time for you to make the changes, and they maybe not be perfected, but at least improved. For sure one thing we can all do is this one. If you are the pastor, or host, in an in-person church, please look into the camera and speak to those on the other side of the screen. That includes YouTube, Twitch, Fb, AND VR. At one service I attended, the pastor spoke about everything BUT the VR space. He didn’t even mention it…. though he named about 4-5 other “campuses” or “broadcasting” platforms. Even then I don’t recall him looking into the camera.

The people should matter enough to be recognized as part of your church. To not mention them, to not talk to them, to not look at them, says they don’t matter without you saying a word. As leaders our desire in these platforms should be engagement, even if it’s only a screen they are seeing, we can still engage the person on the other side. The authentic effort you put into that engagement can lead to them feeling a part of your church enough to call you “their church home.” Shouldn’t that be our goal for the lost souls out there? To give them a place to belong, in a family of Christ followers.

As I always I pray this helps you more than discourages you. These platforms give us opportunity and I simply want to see us make the best use of them for the Kingdom.

Exploring Churches in the Metaverse

There’s a big scary thing out there, to some, called… ”the metaverse!” That’s right, there are some that are fearful of it for various reasons…some good some not. But what I wanted to share was my experience of my first week in the metaverse. It’s a place I’d wanted to explore for some time and finally took the dive when purchasing a set of Oculus Quest 2 goggles.

I most wanted to explore it for ministry purposes. I don’t do much gaming these days…though I did join in some paintball fun in “Rec Room,” a metaverse platform. I’d watched videos of VR Church’s services and listened to the “Church.Digital” podcast for some time now and was always fascinated by the idea of church in the metaverse. This is what is scary for some… ”can we do/be the Church in the metaverse?” I’m not going to answer that here, only share my experience from my first week, and more specifically my first Church activities there.

Real quick, let me share with you that there are basically two ways to share your message for churches, on these platforms. Some basically stream their in-person events to their meta “world” and others actually use the avatar feature and inhabit the place themselves. The bonus of inhabiting the place as a “living avatar” versus the “streaming service” is it allows real interaction in real time. Some do have avatar “hosts” or “campus pastors” to fill that void as well.

Me, GeraldNC

My first day was Monday, and after getting my account setup and all that goes along with that and sharing the device with my wife, Allison, I was finally able to jump into the metaverse via the Altspace platform. (One of the most popular, created by Microsoft). It wasn’t long after getting my avatar setup that I found the first church event, “Living Room Church.” They describe themselves as, “Living Room Church is a safe space to ask difficult questions, find community, and share life together.” “Possibly my people,” I thought.

I joined Living Room Church right at the start time of 8PM EST. The platform doesn’t allow you to join events early, and I am usually a “get there early,” kind of guy. So, at 8PM I was there…. alone. I hung around about 5 minutes and gave up. I went out, and a few minutes later I saw people were in the room, (shown on the events page), and so I jumped back in. I was welcomed by a guy named Dave. He is a nice dude that actually serves in Life Church’s world in Altspace as a host. We struck up conversation with me explaining why I was there, and him telling me of his experience as well. I almost left early because my headset was dying, and he mentioned I could just plug it in and use it if I had a long enough chord. Yep, that worked.

Another lady came over and the three of us conversed. After a few minutes we went into the “living room” of the world we were in, (a normal Altspace template…not a full custom build as some do). There the pastor gave us the general welcome words and then invited the same lady I was talking with, “Bernice,” the cue to sing for us. And she did a beautiful hymn I believe it was…not one I was familiar with. Then the pastor, “Rev ZeeTee,” began the lesson by pulling up Scripture on the media player in the room. He read the verses, gave us his thoughts on them, and then asked what we thought about it. After some silence, you know that awkward silence, someone shared. Eventually, I shared my thoughts on it. And around the room people shared what they thought and how it spoke to them. Everything shared was truly from the heart, and eventually we lead into prayer requests. And we ended the “service” with prayer. After that it was general conversation, and I met with the Rev to talk about what he was doing there and learn a little from him while also sharing my own story. I ended the night with 4 or 5 new friends from around the states. A great, fulfilling, experience for me.

The rest of the week I found little time to get on and explore, but I did hop into a few of the other platforms, make new accounts and avatars for them, and venture around a little in them. But I focused on Altspace trying to learn how to set up our own, “Innovate World,” most evenings as I had free time. It takes some learning for sure.

Saturday, I set out a plan to visit multiple churches on Sunday, as I have taken a couple weeks off to explore other ministry tools and avenues, including the metaverse. Unite 180 Worship, VR Church, Life Church, and Cornerstone were definitely on the agenda. A full day of church hopping.

I think it was 9AM that I joined Unite 180. They are a church out of South Africa…lead by a white English-speaking pastor. They were the “streaming” kind of church, making use of a template space. I was greeted by two hosts, one not so talkative and a lady that shared most of the needed information…one being that the service itself wouldn’t start for 24 minutes… (I didn’t come in right at 9AM as I had learned my lesson quickly). I walked up some stairs to the “balcony” space and was met by a gentleman that spoke to me, named Doug. He spoke and shared how he was church hopping too. He was a 57-year-old gentleman from Washington state. We hit it off good, as he was a kind gentleman and a talker. Dave, (from Life.Church), showed up here too. When service started, we went in. Because it was video, there was no real interaction after the initial introductions to the avatar hosts. The pastor on the screen also failed to mention the metaverse church when he spoke of the many other campuses, including “online.” I didn’t stay for the message as the intro, worship, giving, time took a while to get through, and I had other places to go.

I visited, “House of Grace,” on my next stop. They are using the same template space I have been working on for the Innovate Church space, but setup differently. I was late into the beginning of the service, again being video streamed. I think someone might have welcomed me, but we didn’t converse. Oh, and Doug was there already too. Here, the pastor did mention their metaverse world and said he had even been there the prior Sunday and how good of an experience he had. Props to that pastor for recognizing the people in the space as congregants of his church family.

After House of Grace, I took a break knowing Life Church would be on a little later. But I didn’t make it to Life Church as Allison and I had some good conversation, and we ate lunch. I already knew Life Church is a streaming church with avatar hosts like these others anyway. The problem with this, like Doug and I had been talking about earlier, is the fact we can watch a streaming video on our TV anytime we want. While we appreciate there are avatar hosts and “community time” following these video services, it just isn’t why we are in the metaverse.

VR Church was coming up soon, and so I was excited to finally be in there with one of the originating, innovating, churches, that I knew was avatar taught…not video streamed. Sadly, DJ Soto, the pastor, wasn’t in this space today. I also got Allison to join me in this one as I thought it would provide the best “meta-church” experience… (i.e., what is possible). She anxiously joined me lol. (She’s not comfortable with the interaction just yet). VR Church custom builds their world. So, we started out in an outdoor space with a video screen and stage setup. Alena, one of the pastors, lead the service along with an 80+ year old gentleman, former traveling evangelist, “Mr. Pete.” Long introduction and welcome on the screen detailing much of their metaverse world, (they have worlds in several platforms and games), and a video of worship music. Then we were off to the “teaching space,” via walking through a water fall or teleporting by a button.

In the teaching area it was built as a small city, and the teaching was on Matthew chapter 6, the entire chapter verse by verse. We had to “walk” around the city to the various Scripture reading sets, and mostly Alena shared her thoughts on each section of Scripture. Volunteers generally read the Scripture for the group. It was interesting for sure, but more of a free flowing, “this is what I think,” kind of teaching versus a sermon. All good for some and not for some. You be the judge.

We took a little break after VR Church. That’s one thing about wearing the Oculus, you need a break after an hour or two for sure.

Faithbase VR Church

After about an hour I hopped back on and joined, “Faithbase VR Church.” I’m not sure where they are from, but the female pastor brought the heat for sure! Super good message, “Over the Hump,” about not giving up on various situations when you are truly almost, “over the hump.” This was indeed an urban style teacher/church with maybe a Pentecostal flavor. The world was created by them, and you spawned in the parking lot basically, and had to walk some distance to get into the church space. It was like walking up to and into a modern church building. The sanctuary space was rather sparse but had a large video screen in the center with two smaller screens on the outside edges. Seats were the typical cloth covered chrome seats. She taught as an avatar from the stage. And again, she taught with passion for sure! The message was so great I tried to find a recording on YouTube to no avail.

My last church to visit for the day was Cornerstone Church from California. A physical, multi-campus church, with the metaverse world as well. I think someone greeted me shortly after I spawned there, but I also joined there with Doug again as I had visited the world he’d created before the church time. Here they had a world they had fully designed themselves with a rustic open top sanctuary space. They had a “live” avatar host along with video music up front. They hold multiple group meetings in the metaverse as well on other nights/days. For the teaching, we had to go outside and walk to the outdoor teaching space. Again, similar “modern” style chair setup with large video screen up front. They did also have a communion table out, which to me was awesome. I stayed part way through the teaching but left early…even though I really wanted to see/participate in communion with them. I was tired.

All in all it was an interesting week visiting more than six different churches without leaving my home and interacting with multiple real live people in the process. There were a couple churches I visited, or thought about visiting, that didn’t have many people…or any in them…so if I entered, I didn’t stay. That would be one piece of advice I’d give the churches…if you are scheduled to begin at a certain time, make sure someone is there in that first minute. And for us visiting, it might pay to hang out a little longer than five minutes to join in with others. If I hadn’t checked back in on Living Room Church, I would have truly missed my best experience of the week with likeminded friends.

Stay tuned as I may have a follow-up post to this blog on some of my learning and expectations as a metaverse church visitor.