JeremyHouck.com

Crowd or Community

Acts 2:42-47

In 1897 French psychologist named Gustave Le Bon published a book entitled “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.”  Le Bon suggested that large groups of people gathered in the same place at the same time for the same reason all tend to take on the same set of characteristics that he called the group mind. In his study he mentioned several characteristics about groups that I want to briefly mention this morning as we set the ground work for our time together this morning. AS we look at each characteristic, I want you to think about some groups that you have been apart of and see if Le Bon’s theory is true for you.

First, Crowds are temporary: when the event that the crowd gathers for is over the crowd disperses.

Next, Crowds are anonymous: you don’t know anyone else in the crowd except the people that you came with. And further more you don’t expect to make any new friends while you are in the crowd.  You didn’t come to meet and greet other people you came for the event.

Thirdly, Crowds are gullible: in the way that they will believe anything. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups”? Rumors run like a deer through a crowd, which leads us to the next characteristic.

Then, Crowds are impulsive:  If four or five people in a crowd run for the door, guess what the rest of the crowd is going to do. Whether there is anything to run from or not they will probably head for the door as well. It is a terrible thing to happen in a crowd, because once the stampede begins it is hard to stop.

The next characteristic is that Crowds are impatient: What happens when a crowd gathers and things do not happen when the crowd thinks that it should? Remember your last visit to Bestbuy on Black Friday? The crowd rushes in and if the service is not fast enough the crowd gets loud, and rude which leads us to another aspect of crowds.

Le Bonn says that crowds are disorderly: That is why venues always have rope lines, and turn styles, and security guards working the events. That’s why every venue held at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in Atlanta whether it’s a high school football game or a concert has a crowd control procedure.  You see a crowd can easily turn into a mob. Just watch a sporting event whether it is English soccer or a NBA game when the crowd feels like things are not going their way they quickly turn on authority and then one another.

But what may be the most treacherous aspect of crowds according to Le Bonn is that they produce a loss of identity:  Have you ever been in a crowd when you felt like you were being herded like a bunch of cows from one place to another? I have been in airports or amusement parks and heard people say Mooooooove it. You get caught up in this human mass of sweat, and body odor, and pushing and shoving and it is hard to distinguish yourself from the crowd.

Finally, Le Bonn says crowds are very powerful, but they only use their power for one thing.  Crowds always destroy. Do a quick Google search about the Inauguration Day protests or Women’s March that happened this year. While they did not do the millions of dollars in damage that we saw during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, there was still plenty of damage.  According to that Washington Post  95 people were arrested during the Women’s March and 217 during the Inauguration Day protests. A majority of those arrests were for vandalism, arson, and rioting.

Now I want us to compare that brief summery of the nature of crowds with the nature of another large group of people. This is a very large group, about 3000 in number but we would be hard pressed to call them a crowd. Look back at our text for today in Acts 2:42-47

Jesus did not come to earth so that he could draw a crowd.  He came to create a community, as a mater of fact many times in the Gospels Jesus seems uncomfortable with the crowds.  He confronts the crowds, and says really hard things for the crowds to understand and they leave. He thins them out as He calls His disciples.  You see Jesus wasn’t interested in the crowds, but His heart was in the community. And the community that He came to create and the community that holds His heart today is called the Church.

Let’s be honest here, in our society the word or idea of church is a bit unpopular. I have heard folks say that someone was acting very “churchy”, and they weren’t using it as a complement.  And while some of you might not remember “The Church Lady”, those who do will remember the character on Saturday Night Live remember rolling on the floor laughing at her self-righteousness. But the joke was on us because they were making fun of the church.

It is fair to say that the concept of church needs to be redeemed a bit. That’s the hope I have for us; that we will redeem God’s plan as well as the name Church of Christ. I want those of you who are here faithfully every Sunday but are living on the fringes of the community, to be fully convinced that you need to be a part of this community that Jesus died for. I believe what Jesus gave His life to create is exactly what you are looking for.

In every service in this building there are people who talk about the church and use words that expose exactly how they feel about it. They say things like, “your church”, or “this church” and it’s never “my church”, or “our church”. It’s always them and not we. 

I am very well aware that there are some of you here or watching online that feel that way; you feel like an outsider because you have been hurt by a church.  It’s no secret that there is pain associated with well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who have the ability to rip the heart out of your chest. And I want to be sensitive to that. 

And there are others of you that feel like an outsider because you don’t have the same space that others here have. You feel like you have spent years trying to fit in here and you understand the loneness that comes from being seen as a life long visitor.

As we look deeper into the idea of community I want to be very tender with those feelings. So I am going to say some things that you might feel that are directed at you, and by no means do I intend to hurt you more. I just want everyone here to feel wanted, while I try to communicate the truth.

And if you are on the other side of the tracks, you are a full fledged deeply involved card caring member of the Greenbrier Family I want to encourage you to a deeper commitment. I want to say some things to you that will cause you to love Jesus a little more and desire to serve Him a little deeper.

This morning I want us to notice three metaphors that the Bible uses to describe the church. These are not the same metaphors that you would use to describe a crowd. These words only describe a community, they describe what God intends for us to be.   

Our first metaphor comes from the apostle Paul who is fond of calling the church God’s Family.

In Galatians 6 Paul calls us a Family of Believers, and Peter says that we are The Family of God. I love the fact that when Paul outlined the characteristics of Elders he included that they should be “Good at raising a family.” Now why do you think Paul would say that Shepherds need to be good at raising a family if the church was supposed to be something else?

And while I know that a family can be hard to deal with and a real pain at times, when it’s all said and done only your family gives you the answer to the question, Do I fit somewhere? 

Have you ever been in a crowd of folks and felt alone? You know what I mean don’t you, there are thousands of folks around you and yet you feel all alone because there is no one for you to connect with, no one who cares what’s happening in your life, or no one who acknowledges your existence. I can only speak from my experience, but I can tell you story after story of ball games, or shopping malls, or walking in a city center, or even a church building where there were hundreds and thousands of folks around me and I was very alone. But the part that bothers me most is that I believe that you can tell the same stories.

That’s what I find so comforting about the idea of family. It’s a place to fit; a place to find comfort. And it doesn’t matter if you are a bit off, or weird, or strange, or difficult to love. When it comes to your family, you share the same blood, the same DNA, you fit because you are family. When God designed His church and called us a family He was saying that this is a place where you belong to one another. It’s through your family that we find the answer to our first struggle, is there a place for me to fit? 

Look at what the Psalmist writes in Psalms 68:6, “God makes a home for the lonely;”. It makes my heart sing when God uses home language. He created us and He knows the secret desires of our hearts. We all long for a home, a place where we feel safe from the pain, stress, and struggles of this world. A place where we can go and find rest. And here the Psalmist says that’s exactly what God is preparing for the lonely. God doesn’t take the lonely and drop them in the middle of a crowd, He places them in a home He prepared just for them.

The Bible doesn’t call the church a family because it is a great little metaphor, the Bible calls the church a family because it is the place that answers yes, when you ask the question, “Do I fit anywhere?”

The Bible also calls the church a Body which is a metaphor Paul uses more than any other writer. Notice what he writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body. “

After we find the answer to the question do I fit somewhere, the next logical question we ask is “Am I needed?” You see it’s not just enough to fit but I have to have a sense of purpose. The church is not just God’s way of collecting people, the way that we would collect coins, or stamps. Paul says that the Body, the Church, is a unit. 

Now here is a gruesome question; “if you had to give up a body part which one would it be?” Your eyes? How would you see? Your Ears? How would you hear? Your legs? Your arms? your nose? 

Now I know that there are some parts that we can do without. We all know people that have had their  tonsils or gallbladder or appendix taken out. But just because you can live with our those body parts doesn’t mean that your body doesn’t need them. I have a friend who had his gallbladder removed and he lived a long life but couldn’t eat fired chicken or sausage.  Now is that really living???

In a crowd, if someone leaves no one really notices. And sometimes we get more excited when someone leaves. If you are in a crowd and the person waiting in line in front of you leaves that just means you are one step closer. That’s one more person that won’t inconvenience you, you can get to your goal faster now that they are out of the way.   

But it’s different in a body; every part serves a purpose, and has a place.  I knew a guy once that had his leg amputated right below his knee. He told me that the worst part of having lost his leg was the fact that he constantly had pain in the foot that was gone and there was no way for him to get a little bit of relief.

Think about it, when a body loses a part of itself there is still pain that exists even if that body part no longer does. That part was so much a part of the body that it is missed even when it’s gone. The Bible calls the church a body because it is the group of people that answer yes when you ask, “Am I needed?”

Finally in the Book of Revelation John calls the church the Bride of Christ.

I want you to think back for a moment to a wedding you have attended as either, a guest, part of the wedding party, or you were getting married.  Do you have that picture in your mind??? Now I want you to think have you ever seen an ugly bride?

I’m not asking if you have ever seen a tacky dress, or bad hair, or too much makeup. Have you ever seen an ugly bride. I have been to and officiated hundreds of weddings and I have never seen an ugly bride; and it has nothing to do with the physical make up of the one getting married.

You see in that moment, when the music swells and we all stand and give our attention to the woman coming down the aisle, she is transformed because she is surrounded with love. Her beauty is a result of being deeply loved. And when we are called the Bride of Christ we are answering the question “Am I Loved?”

I would venture to guess that love showed through the kindness of our church family will have a greater impact in this community than 10,000 of my sermons. And I would guess that we will lose more people because hardness and coldness of the church than all the doubts in the world.  People are drawn to places where they are loved.

The folks who visit us week in and week out may not be able to explain it or define it, but they know when love is there and when it is not. A man will get up, get dressed dress, pass fifty other churches, and drive all the way across town if he knows that he can get to a place where he is loved and wanted. Sadly for many of us, the love we receive here is the only love we will experience all week long.

The Greenbrier Church l must be a place where you do more than just fit; a place where you are more than just needed.  The Greenbrier Church must be a place where you are loved, and loved to His death.

I want every one of you to know that while the crowd will never embrace you, never make you feel needed, or loved. The church will because that’s what the church does, because thats who the church is. So today quit settling for being a crowd dweller. Be a family member, become a part of the body, come to the wedding.



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