It takes a Village

A church small groups purpose is to allow us to life in community with others.

Richie Thornton
May 26, 2019    29m
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In this sermon Pastor Richie Thornton teaches us that a church small groups purpose is to allow us to life in community with others. He shares powerful, personal, testimony of the strength of a small group in his life. He also preaches on important examples of doing life in community from scripture as well. Video recorded at Pineville, Louisiana.

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Richie Thornton: 00:00 Man, today we're celebrating Memorial Day, and you know, we just want to...You all give Jeff and Chris a big hand, and Gary a big hand. And also their wives, many of them, and their families are in here today, and so thank for your sacrifice. And we especially want to remember today those that have gone on and paid the ultimate sacrifice. You know, the Bible says this, that greater love is no one than this, than one who's willing to lay down his life for his friends. And you know, many people have gone on and paid the ultimate price, and paid it all so that we could do what we're doing here today. And so we just want to remember them, and honor, and we're especially grateful for them today.

Richie Thornton: 00:48 And so I also want to give a shout out to my wife, thanks for supporting me. And Pastor James, will you all give it up for Pastor and Miss Debbie. I'm so blessed for the opportunity to be able to preach this morning. Thank you all for joining us today as we celebrate Memorial Day, and today is also journey group Sunday. And so whenever you came in this morning, you should have got a card that looks like this. Will you all hold this up for me real quick, let me make sure you got it. So four, okay, they're slowly coming up. So okay, you can put those down real quick, making sure you got it. If you did not get one, these are going to be very important later on in the service. So if you didn't get one, we want to make sure that you get one of those in your hand. And so we have ushers that are available, will you raise your hand if you need one of those in your hand and we'll get it to you real quick, and raise it high where we can see it. Good deal, if he misses you, just raise it high, keep waving at him, and he'll be sure you get it. We'll come back to that at the end of service, so hang on to it, okay? And so, you know, a couple of you may be saying, man, are you preaching on journey groups again? Yeah, I am. So, you know, deal with it. No, I'm joking.

Richie Thornton: 02:07 So here's the thing, this is why this is so important is because everything in culture, and everything in society right now tries to do the opposite of what a Journey Group represents. A Journey Group represents community, a Journey Group represents people coming together and being strengthened by one another. And so many times what the enemy tries to do, is deceive us into thinking that we don't need anyone, that we can do life alone. And guess what? One of the things we often say is isolation leads to desolation. Well, what does that mean? That means if, guess what, if I cut my finger off and disconnect it from the body, it's going to die. Am I right? If you don't believe that, try it, let's see if it, no. What's the point? It's that, hey, guess what, we're all members of one body. And guess what? If we're removed from the body, we cannot survive alone. And so I want to do everything I can to come up against the culture, and against the law of the enemy that says, man, I don't need anyone else, all I need is me. That is not true, and that's not the way that God ever designed life to be lived. He designed it to be live together in community, and in relationship, and that's what a Journey Group offers.

Richie Thornton: 03:26 And so Journey Groups, maybe you've heard of small groups or connect groups or life groups. Guess what? They're basically one in the same thing, they all represent community. Will you say community? They represent community Journey Groups are people coming together, building friendships, building relationships, supporting one another through life's ups and downs. How many of you know that? Danielle, I don't know if this is an up or down for her right now, but guess what? She's got her journey group there beside her, supporting her through this tough day. Am I right? Come on, yeah, you all give that up. It's those people that'll come alongside us and support us through life's up or downs, we grow together to form a community. Now I say that word a lot, and you're going to hear it a lot more in this sermon, but what does community actually mean? It's to find us a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Common attitudes, interests and goals. I can tell you this, our Journey Group, The Forge, is full of a lot of smart alex's, it just is. You know, like if you wear your feelings on your shoulders, don't come to our Journey Group, you know? Just because were rough, you know, but we, we make a good community. Why? Because we share similar attitudes, interests and goals. Guess what? We like to get together and play out, and what's that game we play? Cornhole. If you all like some corn hole, you know, you throw the beanbag. Come get with us, we know how to chop it up, we know how to have a good time when it's time to have a good time, but we know how to get serious when it's time to get serious. And as we do this, as we do life together, what does it do it forms a bond that results from doing life together. There's a closeness that forms, because we do life together, and we share similar attitudes, interests and goals.

Richie Thornton: 05:27 I believe community is so important. Why? Because community equals strength. Would you say that? Community equals strength. Community is the group of people you're growing with, community is the group of people you can turn to during the hard times, community is the group of people that you celebrate with during the good times, and community is the group of people that you can lean in on during times of crisis. I said this a few Sundays ago, guess what? We are all going to experience times of celebration, and times of crisis. And guess what? None of us should have to go through either season alone, we should have that community that we can lean into during times of celebration, and times of crisis. Guess what? As a matter of fact, when the church experiences the type of community that I'm talking about, this is when the church truly thrives. I'm not just talking about the little "c" church, I'm talking about the big "C" church. When we enter into the community that I'm talking about this morning, this is when the body of Christ truly thrives.

Richie Thornton: 06:33 Listen to this, Acts chapter two forty-six and forty-seven, it says, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts, they broke bread in their homes and ate together." They ate together, not they went to the restaurant by themselves. "They ate together, with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily, those who were being saved." Guess what? The early church recognized the importance of community. The early church, they knew how to draw strength from one another, they sharpen one another, they praise God together. And guess what? Because of this, the Lord added to their number daily. The big "C" church began to thrive, not just the local church, but the overall church had a hold of this principle that I'm talking about, and God added to their number daily. Here's the thing, the church recognized, they understood this, that they didn't have to be in this type of setting to do church.

Richie Thornton: 07:40 You know, I think far too many times when, when we think of church, what do we think of? We think of this brick and mortar building. Guess what? Whenever I, I don't know if I need to tell you that. Shoot, I will though, dang it. When I tell people where I live, I say I live across the street from the church. Now you know why I was hesitant to say that, but it's okay. But what am I talking about? I'm talking about, I live across the street from this building. And when we drive through a town, we say this, man, look at how many churches are here. I mean it's just drilled down into us. But guess what the early church recognized? They recognized that the church was not the brick and mortar people, but rather it was the people who came together to make up the body of Christ. The Bible says this, that when two or three are gathered together in his name, he is in our midst. Guess what that means? We can have church anywhere. If we're gathered together in his name, we can have church at Mcdonald's, we can have church in the house, we can have it at Walmart, we can have it on the job, in the bowling alley. We can have church anywhere that two or three are gathered together in his name. They recognized this, and so here's the thing, man, in the Book of Acts we see this time and time again, they met in the temple courts. That's this type of setting. In other words, that's the large corporate setting. But guess what? They also met house to house, which is the small group. It's the small group, it doesn't necessarily have to be in the house, but it's getting the understanding that we don't have to do church only in these four walls. Is that communicating?

Richie Thornton: 09:19 Acts 2:46-47, "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes, and they ate together with glad and sincere hearts." We see this again in Acts 5:42, "Day after day in the temple courts, and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah." Here's the thing, how many of you all believe that Journey Church has a tremendous calling from God? Do believe that? I mean come on, if that patty cake is what you believe our calling is, we got some work to do. I mean, how many of you think that we have a vision and a calling from God to reach this region with the Gospel, and this state and it's to cover the world? Come on, we've got a mission. But I'm telling you this this morning, we will never ever reach what he has called us to do, as long as we keep thinking that it's going to happen within these four walls, not going to happen. That is not the way that the early church functioned. Come on, they came together in the temple courts, but then they went out and met house to house, they met within the community. I thank God that we can come to church, but do remember this? When we leave, we get to what? Be The church. I'm thankful for what happens here on Sunday morning, I'm thankful for what happens here on Wednesday night. But come on, what about Monday? What about Tuesday? What about Wednesday morning? What about Thursday? What about Friday? We have people here in this room right now that guess what? They're meeting at the grocery store, they're doing church. This is some of the only church that some people get, that was a Georgetown way of saying things. That small group meeting in that grocery store, that workplace, is the only church that some people get. If we're ever going to do what God has called us to do, we've got to shake ourselves loose from the mentality that it's only going to happen within these four walls. No, we come in here together corporately, but then guess what? We get to go out and be the church, and this can happen absolutely anywhere.

Richie Thornton: 11:29 Come on, community can happen anywhere. It can happen at the barbecue, it can happen at the crawfish boil, it can happen at the Cinco de Mayo Party. And the forge said, Amen. It's in the settings like this that guess what? The walls come down, and we can share Christ. There are people that you've tried to invite, and guess what, they will never darken this door. Unfortunately, I wish it wasn't so, but they may never darken this door. But you invite them to that barbecue, man, I'm a be there. You invite them to that crawfish boil, man, I'm a be there. And guess what? As you build that relationship, as you share those bonds. Paul said it this way, I try to be all things to all men, so that what? I may share Christ with them, and win them to the Lord. And so you bring them into that setting, and you can begin to share Christ, their walls come down and they begin born again. Come on, that's the small group model, that's what we're talking about. The early church recognized this, they recognized the importance of community, because community equal strength. And when we have it as a church, that's when we begin to thrive. Do you all believe that?

Richie Thornton: 12:37 I believe we see this principle demonstrated perfectly in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. You preached that last time, I know, I'm going to preach it again. It's one of my favorite scriptures, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up, but pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also if two lie down together, they will keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken." We read that stuff, but what does this look like fleshed out? What does this thing really look like lived out? What does it look like when we're functioning in this type of community that I'm talking about?

Richie Thornton: 13:27 I remember when I was 11 years old, for whatever reason, I didn't go to school this day. And I remember being at home, and the day began to wear on. And as I was writing and studying for this message, I actually remembered this, I remember my mom walking in the yard, and I remember seeing her face very red. And now I know that she was crying, but I didn't know what it was. I said, mom, what's wrong? She said, nothing, my sinuses. And okay, it's your sinuses. So I go on and you know, little by little, this room, our living room begins to fill with people. I remember that my brothers and sisters got home from school. And then something strange happened, my sister Amy comes in and then my sister Katie comes in, and this was really odd because they had already moved out, and they were not at home very much. And so it's really awkward that now we're all in this room together, and not a few minutes ago goes by, but then the pastor, Brother Jimmy, he comes to the church. And I'm 11 years old, and this was not really an uncommon thing to have the pastor at your house. I'm from Georgetown, it's a small community, I was in trouble a lot. It was not uncommon for the pastor to come talk to mom about me, you know? And so I'm sitting there, and I don't remember anything that he said, I wasn't even listening or hardly paying attention. But these words are etched in my memory, I tuned in when he spoke these words, he said, and your daddy died. And I looked up and I said, what? As an 11 year old, I said, what? And you can imagine the shrill that overcame that room, as my mom and these six kids begin to immediately weep and mourn and grieve the loss of their daddy. And so now as I'm an adult, you know, I think back on my mom. This single mom, my parents had gotten divorced early on, you know. But here's this single mom and she receives this news that, my God, my kid's dad just passed away, and I'm about to have to tell these six kids by myself that they just lost their daddy. Guess what my mom did? It was too much for her to handle on her own. Can you, I hope I'm never in a situation like that. I hope, maybe some of you have experienced it, I hope you don't have to. But guess what? We are going to go through ups and downs, crisis and celebration, and no one should have to go through that alone. My mom was not even ready to share that news by herself. Guess what she did? She pulled on her community, she called Brother Jimmy and said, I'm about to have to break the hardest news to my kids that I've ever had to break. And guess what? Here's the pastor to share in this. Come on, I'm trying to show you where the rubber meets the road. We were never created to do life alone, but in the context of community, and in relationship. My mom pulled on her community, she pulled on those that she was close to. Why? Because community equals strengths. She couldn't do it alone, but she could do it with the help of those around her.

Richie Thornton: 16:50 Let me ask you something, do you have those people to pray with? Do you have those people to encourage you? Do you have those people to challenge you? Do you have those people to lean up against in times of crisis? Do you have those people that'll put on the party hat in times of celebration? Do you have those people that I would say, man, I don't know the answers, but I'm going to help you find it? Do you have community? It's so important. And guess what? That's what Journey Groups are all about. It's like Pastor James says, you can't do life alone, but you know what the sad thing is many people try. Many people try, and life is going to bring its ups and downs, but guess what? You don't have to do life alone. You don't have to do life alone, that's not the way God designed it. I truly believe this, life is richest and most satisfying when we live life the way God designed it to be lived.

Richie Thornton: 17:42 I believe we see a clear picture of this in Exodus chapter 18. What's happened is Moses has delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, and they're on their way to the promised land, but they find themselves in the wilderness. And Exodus 12:37 tells us that there were about 600,000 mature men. Plus about 23,000 Levites according to Numbers chapter three verse thirty-nine. To this, we must add all the converts, all the women, and all the children. And so some scholars say this, that when you add all those people together, we're looking at something like 2 million people or more that Moses led out of Egypt into the wilderness. Can you imagine being at the front of that line? Oh my. He's doing it, and he's bringing them out. They get out into the wilderness and it says this, you go back and read Exodus Chapter 18. "Moses would go and he would take his seat before the people." And one of them, one of these people would come before him and they would start venting, they would pour out their problems. Well this one said that, she didn't like my shoes, and can you believe they walked by and didn't speak? I'm sure it was more serious than that, but they would pour their problems out on Moses from morning till evening, the Bible says, and Moses would judge the people. He'd give them advice and counsel and he remind them of God's law every day from morning until evening. He would go and take his place, and one after another after another these people would come before him, lay their problems out on him. Moses would give them counsel, he would remind them on the law, the next person would come. Day after day after day with 2 million people. Can you imagine this? Finally, Jethro, his father-in-law said to Moses, he said this. He said, I've got some advice for you. Listen to what Jethro said to Moses, Exodus 18:17-23, "The father-in-law replied, what you are doing is not good. You, and these people who come to you, will only wear yourselves out. (Listen to this.) He said, the work is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone." You know, many times, we take this passage and we say, well, that's not speaking to me because I'm not a leader. No, the principle is the same. You can't do life alone, and guess what, the burden is too heavy. You can't handle it alone, it applies to all of us. That's our core value, you can't do life alone. I can't do it, Pastor James can't do it, Moses couldn't do it, you can't do life alone. Jethro said, listen to me now, I'll give you some advice. Skip to verse 21 "He said, but select capable men from all the people. Men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens." Guess what? That sounds a lot like Journey Groups. We have people from all different backgrounds, all different interests, all different walks of life. We have them of different sizes. We have them of the tens, we have of the fifties, maybe some are going to be of the hundreds. We ain't there yet, but they coming. "And then he said this, have them serve as judges for the people at the times, but have them bring every difficult case to you, the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you." Come on, I'm talking about community this morning and community equals strength. Guess what? They recognized? The load was too heavy for one person to bear. So guess what they did? They spread the load in order to make it lighter.

Richie Thornton: 21:19 Do you know something? This is what we have done as a church. We recognize this, not the calling, that the vision, that what God has called us to do is too great for one man to carry alone. Pastor James cannot carry out the vision of this church by himself. So guess what we've done? We've spread the load. What have we spread it to? Journey Groups, small groups, because in the journey group, you find community. Where am I at? Are you all still here? You ever lose yourself? He said this, quit trying to do it all yourself, it's too much. And if I can be blunt, I believe that's the word to us today, quit trying to do it all by yourself. Quit trying to do it all by yourself, the load is too heavy. We were never called to do life alone. We don't have to bear these burdens by our self. You can't do life alone, that's not the way God designed us to live. Jethro told Moses, if you keep doing it this way, guess what, you're, you're going to wear yourself out. You only going to wear the people out, because you're only one man. , you can't meet all these needs. So guess what? Jethro said, split them up. And that's what we've done as a church.

Richie Thornton: 22:38 Exodus 18:23 Jethro told Moses, I love this, I want to see this picture this morning. It says, "If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain." But this is what I want you to hear this morning. "And these people will go home satisfied." These people will go home satisfied. You know, here's the thing, is that when we begin to step into life the way that God designed it to be lived, there's a satisfaction that opens up like never before. I didn't say that it was easy. Do you hear me this morning? I didn't say it's always most convenient, but what I am saying is that when we begin to do life the way that God designed it to be with, we can step into a satisfaction like no other.

Richie Thornton: 23:28 You know, I want to tell you this this morning. Do you all remember the story I told about my mom and my dad? You know, just a few minutes ago. It wasn't until two weeks ago that I was in the hospital, or actually I was visiting someone in the hospital and, and lo and behold, Miss Betty Linscomb was in the hospital. And she's from Georgetown, she's the hairdresser, She owns Betty's beauty Shop, she cut my hair many times. I remember, when I went in there and said, hook me up with a bowl cut, Miss Betty. She said, Richie, people aren't doing that anymore. Well, what are they doing? Give me that. So that was fun. But, I had this moment to reminisce with her, and somehow this story that I shared with you came up. And she said, you know, she said, Brother Jimmy came to my shop after he had to tell you kids that, and she said he had tears in his eyes. And he said, I just had to do the hardest thing I've ever done, and tell a bunch of kids their daddy died. And they looked at me and said, Brother Jimmy, why did my daddy die? And he said, I didn't have an answer to give them. You know, it's funny how things come full circle sometimes, you know, 15 years later, I've always told the part of the story that I knew, but I didn't know this other side of it. I didn't know the other side of it. But the point that I'm trying to draw out this morning is that here's Brother Jimmy, who is a vital part of my family's community, that's walking with us through a time of crisis so that we didn't have to do life alone. But then he walks out of that situation to somebody else and says, I just had to do the hardest thing I've ever had to do, will you help me out while I lean on you? Do you see that picture this morning? It's just a beautiful picture to me that he just got done helping us out, but then he had to go and get help himself. I'm sorry if this thing is a little rusty, but it's in my heart. Is that okay?

Richie Thornton: 25:49 Exodus 18:23, "Jethro told Moses, if you do this and God so commands, you'll be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied." Who doesn't want to be satisfied? Let me ask you this morning, are you satisfied? Are you satisfied? Here's the thing, I believe that there's a satisfaction that comes from from being involved and doing life with others, and being in a community of believers, there's a satisfaction that you can't get any other way. I want to challenge you with the words of Jethro this morning, I'm paraphrasing, quit trying to do it all by yourself. Quit trying to do it all by yourself. It's my prayer, that you would experience the richness and satisfaction that comes by being part of a community. I believe you can find this community in a Journey Group, and you'll find strength in a Journey Group.

Richie Thornton: 26:47 As somebody comes to play this morning. Do you remember this, that we talked about the beginning? Will you pull it out right now? We made sure everybody had one on, I want you to open it up real quick. Inside this pamphlet you'll find a list of every Journey Group that we have, we've got something like 21 Journey Groups that meet on Sunday mornings, and throughout the week. And here's the thing, I encourage you to look through that and find the group that's right for you, quit trying to do life alone. Come on, we want to come alongside you, we want to strengthen you, we want to help you walk this life out. I want you to experience the satisfaction like never before. Guess what? We're coming into a session, a summer session of Journey Groups, it's only eight weeks long, a weeks long. I want you to get in, I want you to try it out. Come on, I want you to commit for eight weeks, if you don't like it after that, hey, get out. But come on, this is a simple commitment, we want you to find the one that's right for you. Fill out the card. In just a moment there's going to be ushers at the back doors, and as you exit, just turn that card in, and guess what? One of our Journey Group leaders will follow up with you, we'll get you hooked up with that leader, we'll get you plugged in. Also want to point you to the Journey Church APP. Come on, you can go on there, click find a group, and you can scroll through the different groups that we have, and find one that's right for you, and you can join a group that way. We don't want you to do life alone.

Richie Thornton: 28:23 Man, maybe you're here this morning, and you want to begin doing life with this church on a more permanent basis. You want to make a commitment this morning to say, man, I want to be a member, I want to join this church. Maybe you're here this morning, and you want to be biblically, publicly, baptized. Or maybe you need to make the most important connection of all, and make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior. Whatever it is, I pray that God would move upon your heart, that he would have his will, and have his way this morning. Whatever he's calling you to do, make the decision this morning. Maybe you're going through a crisis. Here in just a moment, we're going to have alter workers, if you need us to stand in the gap and pray with you on your behalf. Come on, we want to be that support, we want to be that community, we want to be that strength for you. So come up here, and let us pray for you.

Richie Thornton: 29:11 I'm going to pray, and then if you need to respond, respond. Lord, I love you. Thank you for your goodness, Lord, have your will and have your way this morning. Lord, I thank you that we don't have to do life alone. Lord, draw people, let us step out, let us take the step that you're calling us to take. Lord, have your will and your way in this house. It's in Jesus' name we pray, and everyone said, Amen.



Recorded in Pineville, Louisiana.
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Journey Church
2900 Donahue Ferry Rd
Pineville, Louisiana 71360
318-640-1273