Refuge // Dysfunctional Family

A review of the culture of Culture of Refuge.Church, and what it means (and does not mean) to commit to being a partner with our dysfunctional family.

Sermon Audio

Sermon Manuscript

7-weeks ago, we said, we’d make this a low commitment deal.  Just show up here, and we were going to lay out who we are as a church, and then you’d have an opportunity to decide if this was a Church you wanted to be a part of.  You can catch all of those sermons on Podcast, or on our website (except week # 1, due to technical issues, we can never re-live that chaos)

Week 2, we talked about REST and Sabbath.  That God deemed rest so important, he made it one of the ten commandments.

That many churches today, have become defined by their activities and programming.  And so many church members, have began defining their connection with Jesus by their attendance and involvement with all that stuff.

If we do not learn as a church to be purposeful about RESTING, that we will only end up resentful and eventually turn on one another, instead of being a Refuge for one another.

Week 3, we talked about being a church that modeled the CULTURE OF JESUS.  We used the example of the peach and coconut.

The coconut, had a hard outer shell, that it was hard to break into, and even when you did, the insides where empty and tasteless.  This was like the Pharisees.  Their culture was hard to break into.  You had to first behave a certain way, and once you behaved, then you had to believe all the right things, and once you got all your theology/doctrine straight, then, and only then, could you belong as a part of their religious community.

But as a church, we want to model the culture of Jesus, which we said could be represented by a peach.  The peach has a soft exterior, that is so soft & easy to get into.

One of the greatest accusations against Jesus was that he was a friend to sinners.  People of all walks of life felt comfortable in his company. They belonged.

Then in that environment something began to change inside of them, and they began to believe who he was, and as their beliefs changed, they wanted to change their behaviors to what honored God.

And so we want to model that culture as a church, that anyone can belong at Refuge.

But we also said that Jesus, like a peach, wasn’t soft all the way through, that he was full of both GRACE and TRUTH.

Jesus’ grace was so scandalous that He got a bad reputation.  We’re OK if we get that kind of bad reputation.  That we allow everyone to belong in this place, regardless of background.

But like Jesus, we will never be vague, or ambiguous, or embarrassed about truth of the gospel.

Week 4, we talked about being a fully functioning body, with Christ as the head.  (Romans 12)

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly…

 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.

 We said that we are church whose pastors, don’t take an income from the church, and no support staff helping them, and so the 80/20 rule won’t work here.  We have to be a church where EVERYONE steps up and generously utilizes their talents/gifts for this Church and our mission.

Week 5, we talked about being a Church that believes that the bible is our only source of authority.  We said that were the bible speaks we speak, and where it is silent, we stay silent.

We said that we believe the bible is inerrant, but that our interpretations, not so much.  And so we would be unified in the essentials of our faith, but allow for liberty in the non-essentials as a non-denomination church.

We also said that we want to partner with other churches.  I quoted the line that “Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a harem” and so a big part of who we are is attempting to change the culture of tribalism that exists in our modern churches, and work in unison with one-another.

Week-6 we spoke of not only being generous with our time and talents, but also our resources.  However, we said we would never be a church that pressures or persuades its members to give financially to the church … it’s why we don’t take up a weekly offering.

(2 Co 9:7 & 12)

7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”

12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving— the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.

We want to make a difference in SWFL together, and so we’ve kept our internal budget very low, in hopes that at least 50% of all financial giving to the Church, would be poured right back out into our community to the help the poor, orphans, widows, prisoners and outcasts.

And last week, we finished our discussions of “who we are as a church” talking about prayer.  That if we’re not a church that puts prayer at the center of everything we do, every decision we make, then we’re not going to have the connection with God to accomplish His mission, His way.  We can’t be a Refuge as a Church, if we’re not communicating with our ultimate Refuge and Strength.

Whew.

And as I’ve said, you can belong here for as long as you want, as you try to determine if this is your Church home.

BUT …  we also kind of want to know, well, who is in this with us?

  • Who can we depend on to help fight the battles and help provide Refuge in the storms.
  • Who’s a part of our core, that is willing to rest, so that they can be generous with their gifts, and their resources.
  • Who’s willing to pray for this church, and its members.
  • Who’s willing to go deep into study of God’s word.
  • Who will be a part of the deep relationships and help deeply serve our community.

Who’s willing to make a commitment, and step out in faith and call this their full-timechurch-family?

I’ve struggled with this.  So Formal.  Really just a family.

But all churches have members.  In fact, in many churches, it’s sort of customary never to take anyone off their church rolls.  So you’ll go to churches that have 30 people at A service, but you ask how many members are here, and they say 58,000 …  because they’ve been in existence for 100 years, and no one has ever been taken off the membership rolls.

We’ve spent 6-weeks, trying to explain and understand who we are as a church, and what our culture is.  But I think it’s also important to understand who we are not.

We are not a country club // You become a member, pay your dues, meet certain qualifications.  Then that Country club provides you benefits.  As a member, you get benefits that Non-Members don’t get, as the club’s existence is to keep members happy and comfortable.

We are not warehouse club // Many of you are members of Sam’s or Costco. Why?  Because you want access to their products.  You want to be able to shop, and get what they have.  You don’t join Costco because you want to make a difference with your life, you join Costco because you want to buy sour patch kids in 5-lbs bags.

We are not a Fitness Club // Seems obvious enough looking around this room.  Many of us, at some point or another, have joined a gym, because we made a spur of the moment decision … we’re going to get into shape.  And so we go out, and we get a gym membership.  And we go for a few weeks, we’re excited about it for a few weeks.

And then we continue, for some reason, to pay our membership fees, and continue to have a membership at the gym, but we don’t actually go.  It doesn’t have any impact on our lives.

We’re still members.  We still tell people, yeah, I’m a member at LA Fitness.  We feel better about ourselves because we have a little key-fob makes everyone else think we’re going.  But it doesn’t have any day-to-day implications.

We are not a business // We don’t have a CEO.  No org chart.  We don’t manage people.  We don’t fire our members, even the messiest of them.  And we never retire from the work and mission at hand.

We’re not a fitness club, or warehouse club, or country club, or even a business.  We’re a family.

1 Timothy 3:15 (GW) 15 I want you to know how people who are members of God’s family must live.  God’s family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

 And so then tonight, we’re asking those who feel led, to commit to becoming a part of this family.  Making this your church home.

Now depending on what’s going on in your life now, or the home you grew up in, this may not feel like a positive thing.

When some of you hear family, you immediately think dysfunctional.  Try this sometime … just type dys into a google search, and it will automatically complete the line for you to say Family.

And listen, we’re plenty of dysfunctional and crazy around here.  Everyone in this room is imperfect, it’s the one thing we all have in common. 

And yet we want it to mean something to be a part of this family.  Where you know, you’re not going to be alone.  That when you need encouragement, others will be there to encourage.  That when you need to be challenged, others will challenge you.

This week, I was talking to Karen, and I was like, hey the band, a lot of them were hats … you think it’d be OK if I wore a fedora while I preached?  She’s like, uh, NO.

That’s what family does, we’re honest with each other.

Being a part of a family is also an on-going commitment.

If I said that I’m a vegetarian … well, most of you would know that’s a lie.  (I’m actually a second hand vegetarian.  The cow eats the grass.  I eat the cow.)  // Dad joke.

But if I said, I’m a vegetarian, and people are like, yeah, but I see you eating meat all the time.  And I say, well, that’s because I made a decision 15-years ago to not eat meat.  I’ve eaten meat ever since, but I did make that one-time decision.

And so when we are partners of Refuge, we’re not just saying, I’ve made a one-time-decision, but that I’m really committed to be a part of this Family …

  • I’m willing to put in the work to form deep relationships and be there for others during storms
  • I’m willing to study and discuss the bible.
  • I’m willing to serve along side my church family
  • I’m willing to move from passive consumer to committed participant.
  • From the greated, to the welcoming committee.

As Christians, we should understand commitment.  Commitment is what we signed up for when we said we’d follow Jesus.

Luke 14:25

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

That will thin the crowds our huh?  That’s one way to figure out who’s just along for the ride, and who’s committed.  Doesn’t seem like a great membership recruitment message.

I just joined a gym.  For real this time.  This isn’t how they advertised.  They didn’t tell me how hard it was going to be to get into shape.  How painful.  How long it would take.  How awkward I was going to feel at first.  They also didn’t advertise that I needed to change my eating habits to look like those people in the ads.

When I was doing my personal training evaluation, the guy asked me what I had for breakfast, and I said a Toaster Strudel.  (The look on his face was priceless)

No, they put up billboards and pictures of really in shape people, laughing and with smiles on their faces.  I’ve been there two weeks now; I don’t see ANYONE smiling … and the only person laughing was AT ME.

But Jesus isn’t marketing himself.  He uses some pretty harsh language.  You must hate your family.  And he’s not saying to literally hate your family, that would contradict all his other teaching on love. One translation says “you must, by comparison, hate everyone else.”

But I don’t want to take away from the harsh language that Jesus uses.

Many in that time, had they chosen to become a follower of Jesus or later a part of the church, would have meant the possibility of losing their biological family.

When I became a Christian and got involved in a Church, it certainly changed the dynamic in my own Mormon family, and I know caused a lot of pain to my parents to see me walk away from that religion.  They certainly didn’t cheer when I got baptized.

I’ve heard other stories of spouses who criticize.  Friends who distance themselves.  BF/GF.

That’s why the church family is so important.  We need support from one-another.

John Piper says: The bloodline of Jesus is thicker, deeper, stronger, than the bloodline of race, ethnicity and family.

We want that to describe this church.  That there is a special connection and commitment to one-another because we are connected by the blood of Jesus.

Jesus goes on in Luke …

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 

I’m a marketing guy.  I know how to create awareness.  I know how to get a response.  I know how to watch my words, and say the right things.  And if I’ve done that here … let me apologize.

I hope, over the last 6-weeks, I’ve laid out what it means to be a part of this Church Family.  That I haven’t made it all glossy and shiny …

That’s why I keep hammering on the point that it’s going to be messy.  That we aren’t always going to get along.  That being a Refuge for someone, in their storms, is going to at times, come at a cost.

I hope, you’ve had a chance to take an inventory of that cost.

I read an article this week, about a church in South Asia, where persecution of the church is common. The leaders of that church ask their members a series of questions before they can become members.  So they are clear what they are signing up for …

  • Are you willing to leave home and lose the blessing of your family?
  • Are you willing to lose your job?
  • Are you willing to forgive those who persecute you, and share the love of Christ with them?
  • Are you willing to give an offering to the Lord?
  • Are you willing to be beaten, rather than deny your faith?
  • Are you willing to go to prison?
  • Are you willing to die for Jesus?

Those are their questions.  Do you still want to sign up?  This church in Asia, is just want to be fair/honest.  That if you join our church, this is what it COULD cost you.

I want to be fair/honest.  Being a part of Refuge, it may cost you something.  Maybe not like this, but it WILL cost you something.  Being in deep relationships with other broken people, from experience, it carries a price.  Time, mental anguish, stress, hurt feelings, disappointment …

Loving other people requires sacrifice.  I said this week on FB; Love is like a terminal disease.  It always leads to death.  Because to truly love another, you have to die to yourself.

—–

And so now, you’ve thought of the cost.  Maybe I’ve scared you away.  Maybe you’re like, but I don’t have it all together, I’m not ready for that kind of commitment.  I’m not qualified.

I’ve thought a lot about making a list of what the qualifications are to be a part of Refuge Church.  Our planting team talked some about this in the early stages.  Never really got around to an official answer.

But if I just answered that question literally; What’s the qualifications to becoming a member of this church family?  I think I could reduce it to this …

That you’re a sinner … and you know it.

Resting, praying, functioning body, generosity, all that (good) stuff we talked about … that’s all a part of our culture, and vision.

But the one-qualification to becoming a member Refuge is that you’re a misfit, that is prone to wander from the desires of God, and acknowledge that you’re not qualified … but that God’s grace is sufficient.

I told my oldest daughter this week, “at your absolute best, you still won’t be good enough for some people.  But at your worst, you will always be a part of, and loved by your family.”

Refuge Church is a family.  We’ll love you at your best and your worst.  You don’t have to change who you are to join us.  Let’s partner together, and let Jesus change us all!!!

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

One comment

  1. I have been very encouraged reading your messages.
    You and Refuge are in our prayers.
    Grace and peace –

    on His service,
    Larry Manning

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