Making the Connection
Yesterday, we connected with hundreds of people. We met some needs for clothing and school supplies. We served people by providing them food to eat and a time of recreation. We introduced ourselves and told them about our church. I believe we were the “hands and feet of Jesus” and that God was pleased. Evangelism and discipleship start with a connection. I only know of about one case where someone just walked up to someone and said, “Can you explain the Scriptures to me and tell me more about God?” It happened in Acts chapter 8. Most God-connections take some planning or some work or some prayer or some obedience, some purposeful steps. We have been called to “Connect Our Community to Christ.” That is our mission. That doesn’t happen in a passive way. It happens 98% of the time on purpose, because we mean to connect with someone.
God could have utilized millions of methods to communicate the Gospel, but He chose one. He chose the method of connection, and I’ll unpack that a bit more as we move through the message. It makes sense that God would choose connection as the method for the transmission of the Gospel because:
We were made for connection. That is how we are wired. We were made for relationship. We have a God-shaped void that only God can fill, right? We were made for a relationship with God, but we also have a people-shaped void. After God created Adam, He said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. Something was missing in His life. He needed a connection with another human-being. We need friendships. We need a sense of family. We need people in our lives. We are better together. It is not only a good-thing that we are here meeting together, but it is a God-thing. This is the way He has planned it. Not only do we need each other in a church family setting, but we need other people in our lives as well, and they need us. Why?
We find and fulfill our purpose in connection with God and others. You cannot find your purpose for life without interacting with other people. It is as you hang out with people and learn from people that you begin to see the possibilities of how your life can count. It is in relationship with others that you discover where your strengths are. You also can’t fulfill your life’s purpose without other people. You will live out your calling, you will make your mark, as you are in connection with other people. You can’t make an impact without other people’s help, without their wisdom, without their shaping, without their backing, without their influence, without networking. It can’t be done.
Think about a Lego set. What good is one Lego by itself? Think about the way a Lego is engineered. It is made for connection, right? A Lego by itself is just a piece of plastic, but when Legos start to be connected with other Legos, unique and wonderful things can be created. The power of a Lego is only realized when it works in connection with other Legos. Look at these four pictures of creations made out of Legos!
We cannot create without connection. God can, but we can’t. And since our main purpose which we are called to fulfill is the transmission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to find meaningful, strategic ways to connect with other people so that we can share God with them.
To understand what that involves, we need to look at the life of Jesus. Jesus was a Master Connector, and as He connected with people, they gained healing, confidence, and access into their communities. Most importantly, however, they gained access to the Heavenly Father. One thing I love about the Kingdom of God is that it gives us the opportunity to be part of something so much bigger than ourselves.
Jesus made an intentional connection.
Jesus didn’t just come to earth hoping to meet people or hoping to make a difference in people’s lives. That is why He got up every morning. Jesus went out of His way to connect with others. He went out of His way. John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus left Heaven to come to earth. Jesus intentionally became like us so that He could relate to us, speak with us, challenge us, and change us.
Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”
Jesus lived on purpose—always looking for who He could connect with in order to impact them with God’s love. He connected with us in our humanity, in our suffering, in our weakness, and even in death. He walked more than a mile in our shoes, right? You know that expression: If you want to know what someone is going through walk a mile in their shoes? He walked hundreds upon hundreds of miles in our shoes. He didn’t try to relate with us apart from our human condition. What a commitment!
Do you remember the story of the Woman at the Well? John 4 tells us He was headed for Galilee and John 4:4 tells us that “He had to go through Samaria.” No, He didn’t “have” to go through Samaria to get to Galilee. He could have taken one of three possible routes: along the coast, across the Jordan and up through Perea, or straight through Samaria. The Jews avoided going through Samaria because of racism, division, and bad history with the Samaritans. One scholar I read after said the hatred was so intense between the Jews and the Samaritans that some of the Pharisees prayed that no Samaritan would be raised in the resurrection. When His enemies wanted to call Jesus an insulting name, they called Him a Samaritan (John 8:48).
So, although Jesus didn’t “have” to go through Samaria to get to Galilee, He “had” to. He was going to make a connection with the Samaritan people. Specifically, there was a woman to meet. There was a Samaritan to convert who would then impact her entire town. He had to connect with her. He intended to go through Samaria. It wasn’t random. It was planned and on purpose.
Jesus made an inclusive connection.
It didn’t matter what your age or gender was, your profession or problem was, Jesus came to connect with all people.
Jesus connected with children. In Matthew 19:14, when the disciples saw the children who were being brought to Jesus as a nuisance or distraction, Jesus told them to bring the children to Him. He took them in His arms. He embraced them, and He blessed them.
Jesus connected with commoners. Most of the disciples were ordinary, unschooled, tradesmen. The crowds who followed Him, for the most part, weren’t the elite of society. They were everyday people.
Jesus connected with known sinners. He was labeled a “friend of sinners” in Matthew 11:19. He went to parties to connect with people. He went to weddings to connect with people. He went to people’s houses for dinner to connect with them. He went to the temple day after day to teach people, according to Luke 21:37. Don’t think He wasn’t trying to make a connection only with those who were there to worship, but also with the religious elite. He didn’t leave them out. We know that one of the religious leaders, Niccodemus, the Pharisee, became a follower of Jesus.
Jesus connected with sick people. He didn’t shy away from people who were diseased or disadvantaged due to a disability. He reached to touch them, to address them, to listen to them, and to heal them.
Jesus connected with people that connected with other people and pointed them to Him. Sick people who were healed went and told people about Jesus. Lost people who had been found, like the Woman at the Well, went to her whole town talking about Jesus.
I met a fella this week who told me he isn’t in church today because twice, in two different churches, he was encouraged to leave or was made to feel unwelcome because he had a past. My friends, that is the exact opposite of our mission as Christians, and the last time I looked, every one of us had a past. Am I missing something? Don’t we all sing, “I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see?” To discourage someone from being part of the Body of Christ is to sin against God and is to trample on the blood of Christ which paid the price for whosoever will to come.
Jesus strategically connected with 12 men. He chose 12 to teach so that He could send them out to teach others. You can’t connect with crowds of people on a personal level, but you can connect with 12. Jesus built community among the twelve. His community had a purpose. Each member of the 12 mattered. They weren’t a perfect small group. They weren’t all alike. They had strong opinions. They made mistakes. They jockeyed for position. They were impulsive and stubborn. They said and did things they shouldn’t have said and done. They had arguments among themselves at times. They doubted Jesus at times, but …. Jesus brought them together, connected them together in order that they could accomplish the work of the Kingdom together.
Simon the Zealot was part of a religious and political party who hated the Romans. He was one of the 12 disciples. His group viewed tax collectors as the scum of the earth. Guess what? Matthew was a Tax Collector. He was one of the 12 disciples. Two different men from two different extremes with major preconceived ideas about each other and differences of opinion were called to live in harmony, in connection with one another as they followed Jesus. It happened, friends, and it CAN keep happening. That is pretty awesome.
Are we only willing to connect with people who are just like us? We live in an increasingly diverse society. If there is any hope for the world to live in peace it has to start in the church. Democrats and Republicans can unite under the banner of Jesus Christ. That qualifies for a miracle, but it can and does happen! All races can live in harmony under the banner of Jesus Christ. People from different socioeconomic groups can come together in genuine friendship. I guarantee you that when Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot got to know each other they realized there was much more that united them than that which divided.
It is time we understand that our willingness to connect with one another is a strategic part of our witness to the world. Our connection with one another is our witness to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples. John 13:35 says people know we are Christians by our love for one another. One thing I LOVE about our church is that we have as many people under 40 as we do from 40-60 and from 60 on up. All generations are represented here and are valued here. There is a benefit, a strength, from worshipping with people older and younger than ourselves. We are connected in Christ to connect others to Him.
Allow me to share some ways that Jesus connected with people as He moved about.
1. Service-In John 13, Jesus washed His disciples feet. He purposely served them. He took on the role of a servant. He did the dirty job, the lowly job, the job no one else wanted to do. He said of Himself that He came not to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Have you ever thought about the lasting impression that act of service made on the disciples? How did it bring them even closer together? How did it connect them further with Jesus and each other? It was powerful, right? Jesus didn’t take His last few moments with His disciples to teach them about working miracles or how to get a breakthrough in their lives. He spent His last few moments with them serving them and building community with them.
People sense they matter when we serve them. It connects them to their value as people created in the image of God.
2. Compassion-So many places in Scripture we see that Jesus was moved with compassion for people. He would stop what He was doing. He would keep going even when He was tired. He would cry with them in their moments of sorrow. Jesus never pretended not to see someone in pain. Have we been guilty of looking the other way so that the person who was hurting didn’t see us seeing them? It’s sad and telling that Jesus had to teach the religious expert about compassion in the telling of the Good Samaritan. To the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the letter of the religious law was more important than people. Listen, when perceived religious protocol becomes more important than people, you have lost sight of what is truly important.
People sense they matter when they experience our compassion. It connects them to God’s love for them as an individual.
3. Friendship-Jesus was a friend to the disciples. He took them in as friends. He invited them to share life with Him. He included them in His plans. He didn’t get mad and cut them out of His life when they messed up. He was faithful to them to the end. If Jesus had been on FB He would never have de-friended anyone. 🙂
People need friendship. They sense they matter when someone wants to spend time with them. It connects them to their life’s potential to make an investment in others.
4. Teaching-Jesus was always teaching because people didn’t know how to follow God. They needed understanding about what the Kingdom of God was all about.
It is time-consuming to teach people. Not everyone will listen even when you do, but unless we take the time to teach people, they won’t know what God has to offer or what He expects. They won’t learn it from the world. It has to be our job. We get disgusted and offended by the actions of people very easy, don’t we. Perhaps rather than be upset at the way the world lives, we need to think about how much teaching we have done about the way God wants people to live. People who know better, often do better. We have about a whole generation and a half who don’t know. Whose responsibility is it to teach people the ways of Jesus? It’s ours. People sense they matter when you spend time passing on what you know to be true about the Scriptures.
Scripture says that our love for God is tied to our willingness to connect in love with other people. Matthew 22:37-40 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets HANG on these two commandments.” EVERYTHING hinges on our willingness to connect with others in love.
May I share it this way? We are to make a Cross-Connection. What I mean by that is this: You can’t have a God-connection without a people-connection. It’s vertical and it is horizontal. Our connection with God and others is really supposed to remind us of the cross. Isn’t it cool that even the cross itself reminds us why we are here. It not only reminds us what Jesus did for us, but it reminds us of why we are here! The cross not only represents our victory, but it is also represents our mission. It reminds us not only that our past is forgiven, but that we have a purpose for living.
Connection takes intention. Sometimes we feel like it. Sometimes we don’t, but that doesn’t change our mission or our responsibility.
This past week, I visited with one of our church members who is burdened for her neighborhood that is home to about 60 families. She is passionate. She is burdened. Even though she is somewhat limited in her physical body and ability to get out and about, she still makes the effort. She told me about people she has repeatedly invited and has vowed not to give up on them. She has taken notice of the cars that are still in their driveways on the Sundays that she can get to church, so she knows that there are a lot of people who need to make a God-connection.
As we talked, she said, “Pastor Melissa, I really want to do something to help these people find the Lord. I am thinking about having some kind of meeting here at my house, but I am not sure what to do.” As we spoke, we came up with an idea together, and I believe it was Holy Spirit inspired. On August 26th, she is going to have an Open House from 2-4 at her home and invite all of her neighbors to come. I am going to help make invitations and get them passed out, and I plan to be there at her event so she can “introduce her neighbors to her Pastor.” We will plan to have invitations to our church there as well. Her name? Jewell Harrison. She let me take this picture of her.
Jewell is 95 years young. My brothers and sisters in Christ, if this 95 year-old Sister in Christ, can find a way to connect her community on Valentine Circle to Jesus, surely, there is something each one of us can do. I came away from Jewell’s home so moved, so stirred, so encouraged. She reminded me what is truly important. My connection with her that day encouraged me to stay focused on the mission.
You were made for connection. God wants to connect with you. You were made for connection with others. You can’t live out your life’s purpose without investing in relationships. God has given us so many ways that we can connect. You don’t have to do it like I do. You don’t have to do it like Jewell plans to, but you can’t follow Jesus without doing it. We exist to connect others to Christ. Will you join me this morning in making the connection?