Connection: the city can be lonely - Kyle Hanawalt

First in series: Why this matters


We as a church spend a lot of energy asking people to invest here, invest their time, their money, we ask people to consider becoming a stakeholder in what is happening here, we just did an advertising campaign, using real money to try to get new people in the door. Some of you may be here checking us out for this very reason. Vince and I, and other leaders in this church have personally invested and sacrificed a ton to start this community and grow it.

SLIDE So, why, why do we do this. Or moreover why should you care about this, Why should you invest and connect to a community like this, why should you consider what is being said up front on Sunday's, Why invite your friends to join us here? why care?

For a lot of faith communities, the stakes of this answer is pretty straight forward. You should care because faith and church are a matter of being in or out.
SLIDE Why care or invest in a church, because you want to make sure you are in. Why make changes to your life? well because that is what someone who is in would do. Why invite friends or other people to a church? Because they are out and who knows what awaits them on the outside. If you care about them, you really should do what you can to get them in. And honestly, inviting friends is the kind of thing that someone who is in would do, so stop shirking your duty and do it. You see the stakes innately high, those are in gotta make sure they are staying, and those that are out, better get in.

So I suppose it makes a lot of sense that churches would lean heavily on this for why people should care. The built in high stakes make sure things get done!

However, that is just not how we see or do things here at BLV. If you want to go back and listen to the talk Vince gave on September 3rd. I think he articulated wonderfully that we take Jesus seriously when he tells us that we, as humans, are terrible at figuring out who is in and who is out. We’re just bad at it. It get’s us into all kinds of messes. It’s above our pay grade.
SLIDE But, If the stakes are not relying on in or out here at this church, SLIDE then are the stakes of what we do here or talk about here really just kinda low? Why are we making all these sacrifices we talked about? Why do we ask people to invest money and energy and time here? Why do we want more and more people to connect with us? If the focus is not in and out, does that mean everything just the same? (PAUSE) Actually, we don’t think so. Our experience following Jesus in this church is that setting aside the “in vs out” question doesn’t make this whole faith thing matter less… It makes this faith thing matter so much more -- and in a much more understandable way.

To us, pursuing faith, deepening in connection with God and other people, and following Jesus demands our attention and investment… this is very high stakes!

Because, to us, it’s been the difference between finding or not finding the kind of lives everyone seems to want -- lives that are deep and full and resilient. This comes down to what makes people get up in the morning -- joy, connection, purpose, hope.

Over the next 5 weeks we are going to be talking about the different ways that feels true in this community -- we’ll hear stories from people’s lives, we’ll hear insights from the life of Jesus, we’ll hear about experiences people have had, and we’ll hear suggestions on how we can experience the same.

And those suggestions are going to demand your attention and your investment -- not because this is the difference between you being in or out with this church or with God… but because we think this is the difference between you experiencing or participating in things that really, truly matter to life... to all people. (Honestly, the first working title of this series was “Why give a sh**” it seemed to capture the intensity of what we mean , but maybe not quite the right attitude.)
In the upcoming weeks we want to talk about things that matter and have high stakes for our lives: SLIDE Connection Justice growth and healing we will we’ll look at how we need a place where we are in connection with those who are different than us, in relationship with those who don’t just agree with us. Especially in this day and age we need a space that is not just a silo.
We will look at how we need communities like ours in order to pursue justice, to advocate for and empower the marginalized, and be mobilized to tackle the inequity around us.
And we will look at how we need the words, the way, and living presence of Jesus because we live in a world where growing old does not equal growing up without help, and that as humans who are imperfect and all experience hurts and wounds along our ways, that we need help in life we can’t give ourselves.

Today, I want to start talking about connection. I want to look at how investment in a community like this matters because, the city can be a lonely place. ‘ SLIDE We actually live in a pretty unique time and place. In pretty much every culture ever there were structures in place had built in community. The majority of the world historically and honestly the majority of the world today, are collectivist cultures, where doing life in community is a fabric of society. One’s family and community group were interwoven into life.

Whereas here, in Chicago, this is not the case. Although we live around millions of people, it can be an incredibly hard place to find real connection and community. Particularly for adults.
We live in a culture that separates out work and personal life, it’s is actually usually advantageous to not get too personally connected to those we work with, because it can get messy.

And, we do have lots of recreation, gym, and sports groups. There are places where we can get together and have fun with other people.
But, this is very different from the actual sharing of our lives, where we can be honest and vulnerable with each other.
Relationships where we can go to when we are struggling and need help or encouragement. And most people who do have those relationships rely heavily on connections they made when they were younger, when school helped give structure to relationships. A childhood friend, a college roommate. But once you’re out of the education system, there aren’t really any tracks laid down for you.

SLIDE And the one advantage we have today is online community, which can allow us to stay connected to those old friends, but it does not particularly promote lots of real and honest connection with people, or help us actually do life in connection with others.

SLIDE What I have found is that as an adult, connection is hard, it is just hard to develop real and deep relationships with-out help.

I remember when I moved to Australia when I was 18 and I felt like I was never going to find people who understood me or really, like really cared about me. It was a defeating feeling, really lonely. Have you ever felt like you had no one who understood you or you could rely on? Ironically everyone seems to feel like this at some point.

And I just want to take a second and let the stakes of that sink in, loneliness is not low stakes, not having people in our lives who we can be honest and vulnerable with is not low stakes, not having people who can challenge and is not optional, or “a nice thing”… it is the difference between a good life and a bad one..

Jesus is a super interesting case study. He lived one of the most unique existences ever. I mean honestly, who can ever really understand or relate to what he was going through. However, he throughout his life surrounded himself with people, he throughout his life found those he could do life with, share in what was happening.

I like how the new testament book of Hebrews - chapter 10:24-25, addresses these stakes.

Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another

I like how it describes the challenge, that we may be tempted to go through life alone, that left to our own devices, that without help, humans are prone to giving up on meeting together. And in turn they miss out on love, and encouragement.

I think part of the reason I like this Hebrews passage is that I can relate to it. So, I grew up being a part of churches. However, when I was in my early 20’s for a whole lot of reasons I got pretty fed up with Church. I was still a pretty big fan of Jesus, but I felt like what I was experiencing in Church was just a bunch of BS. I got to place where I really didn’t know what I believed any more. So, I just stopped going for years. SLIDE In this time Michelle and I decided to move to Korea to teach english. This is actually a picture of bundang, the suburb of seoul that we lived in. And while we were in Korea, Michelle and I were looking for a way to connect with people. We had just moved to a new city in a new country, and it wasn’t easy to make real relationships.
So, mostly at Michelle’s prompting, we decided to check out a church.
And the church we went to was honestly just the worst. I disagreed with pretty much everything said - I was actually offended by some parts too I didn’t like the music, I didn’t like the feel and flow of the service. On all the objective evaluations, it was like literally the worst. However, they had a super active group of young adults. It was made up of mostly international english teachers from all over the world. And this group of young adults were actually pretty great. They had tons of things going on that were all about getting to know each other, and helping us connect and develop relationships with each other.
Actually the very first week we showed up they had a sign up table for a mini one day retreat happening that weekend. So, that first week Michelle and I signed up and it was awesome. While I was part of this community I had bit of a revelation. That although I wasn’t sure what I believed, and I didn’t actually agree with what the pastor was saying.
So, if you are not feeling me so much right now, don’t worry, it’s ok! What I did find in that community was far more important, I found connection. I felt more connected to other people, and more connected to God than I had been in long time.
And so when Michelle and I left Korea, I had a different mindset coming back to the states.
SLIDE My mindset was that my life is better when I am living it in connection and community with others. And that I was going to do whatever I could to pursue that.
And that has been validated time and time over.
And think it is in part because more than through sermons, more than through religious rituals, SLIDE God works through honest and genuine relationship.

I think to what Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18 verse 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

That we experience something of the very presence of God when we connect in community.
I have experienced and learned more about God through relationship with other people, particularly those who differ from me, than any book or talk I have ever encountered. And that is exactly what we want to help with here at BLV, we think the stakes are high.

SLIDE So, my take away for you today is to SLIDE participate in the community fair we have immediately after the service today.
I think back to that retreat sign up that was available in Korea, something that simple made such a big difference

We will actually be ending the service a little early so you can participate, it’s no extra time commitment.

And the opportunity is huge, it’s connection. The ability to develop real and honest, and meaningful relationships with people.
This is no small thing, because in the city it is hard to find that without help And uniquely here at BLV, you have the opportunity to develop relationships with people that are different from you, who think differently, come from different backgrounds, hold different opinions. And in turn be challenged, see a bigger picture of the world, a fuller picture of who God is.

The community fair will go like this: At the end of service today, as you exit the theater you’ll see some long tables set out in the lobby with stations for each of the community thing happening through BLV over the next few months. You’ll get a sheet of paper with all of the stations listed, and then we encourage you to visit every station that even a little bit interests you and ask any questions you have to the person behind the table at those stations. And then get on a contact list for the group or event!

We think this matters a lot.

So, secondly my suggestion is to SLIDE Invite a friend to come next week to check out the second week of our community fair (we’ll have these same stations represented again, and next week we’ll be talking more about why it matters big time that you live your life in community). We think this is an opportunity that everyone is looking for and often we just need some help knowing about it and finding it. Maybe you can help someone that way this week! We think that is not a small thing. We think that matters!

If you would stand with me