Grounded Podcast

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A Call to Come Back to Christian Community, with Jarrod Sechler

As we emerge from pandemic living, there's a word that is showing up in a lot of headlines: languish. What if there's a connection between our involvement in church and that feeling of being stuck? In this episode, Pastor Jarrod Sechler describes how his congregation is thriving. He'll inspire you to connect with God's people and help you discover how to flourish in Christ. 

Connect with Jarrod:

https://centrechurch.org/about/

Episode Notes:

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Erin Davis: We've got two words for you to consider this morning. Are you flourishing? Or does languishing better describe how you feel? Welcome to Grounded This is a videocast and podcast from Revive Our Hearts. I'm Erin Davis. 

Dannah Gresh: I'm Dannah Gresh. I'm flourishing, Erin, because my fingers are full of garden dirt today.

Erin: I call that “farm girl french tips.”

Dannah: Yeah, exactly. I'm wearing them, and I'm proud of them. We are joining you today along with our co-host Portia Collins. She'll be with us in just a moment. Alejandra is taking some time with her family today. As we emerge from the pandemic, there's a word that's showing up in a lot of headlines, and the word is “languish.”

Now, I had to look it up because I had a sense of what it meant. But I wanted to be sure if many people were experiencing it, I needed to handle the word accurately. So in the dictionary, it says this. Well, I mean dictionary.com. Let's be real, right? Who's flipping pages anymore? It means to “suffer from being forced to remain in an unpleasant place or situation.”

Erin: Wow.

Dannah: Hmm. Let that sink in. And let me ask again, are you languishing? Or are you flourishing? Today, we want to offer some hope and perspective for the Church, followers of Jesus all around the world. 

Erin: And we think we can trace a straight line from the Church to your life because there is a connection between our relationship with the Church, and that might mean your church. It certainly means the Church, Christians around the world. And whether or not we answer that first question I gave you, are you languishing or are you flourishing? 

Dannah: Well, I already said I'm flourishing.

Erin: I think I'm starting to flourish. I think I've had many months of languishing, but I do think I'm heading towards flourishing. 

Dannah: Yeah, I had a friend tell me last week, and this is one of my most godly friends. She's a pastor's wife. She's in the Word. She's praying daily. She said, “I feel like I'm languishing.” That's why I actually looked it up. And when I did, all the headlines popped up. I had no idea so many people were languishing. I gotta say, Erin, the reason I'm flourishing isn't just because I've been in my garden, although that was a glorious afternoon yesterday. I've got to say, I'm pretty sure the reason I'm flourishing is because of my church.

Erin: What a testimony to your church. I think probably part of the reason I wouldn't say I’m all the way to flourishing is because my involvement in my church and my connections with my Christian friends has been very stop, start, stop, start, stop start with why get back in the habit of being together. But when we are, I was with my closest Christian friends just a couple weekends ago, and I just was like, ah, this is water being poured on my soul. So I know that it leads to flourishing when I'm with church and with my Christian friends, I just can't quite get there all the way lately. 

Dannah: Well, our desire today is to call God's people back to church and community, whatever that looks like safely for you. We believe that we flourish when we're in authentic Christian community. 

Erin: And we believe it's time, we've been saying in many episodes here on Grounded, that it's time to come out of survival mode. That means it's time to reconnect with your Christian community. Listen, I got some good news. And I got some bad news. We're not quite to the Good News segment this morning. But I've got some good news and some bad news as pertains to the church. The good news is that many churches experienced growth through livestream data. Don't you remember the beginning of the pandemic, you and I were here on Grounded. There was a lot of predictions about churches not surviving the pandemic. I'll give you one example. Georgia's Redeemer church grew from around a dozen members . . . think about that. That's a tiny church. 

Dannah: Yeah. 

Erin: To over 1,000 members now and a year including viewers. So that is some significant growth. Many churches are reporting in tithing through livestreaming. That was another thing we saw predictions early in the pandemic that church budgets were going to tank, and that hasn't fleshed out. Some churches are saying they've seen an increase of 70%. And giving at my own church has reported, I don't think we've seen a 70% growth, but we've seen a growth in giving over the course of this past year. 

So those are indicators of growth. But here's the bad news. This is where I'd like us to park. Now, the numbers vary, but somewhere between a fourth and half of Christians who were going to church regularly, pre-pandemic, are not going to church regularly now.

Dannah: Wow. I have two different friends whose families have an individual in the home with cancer, their immune compromised, that's a good reason to not be back in church just yet. I think there are some wise reasons. But the problem is, I see a lot of friends post in pictures. I'm not on social media on Sunday, but I get on Sunday night. I'm like, oh, my friends were at a picnic this morning with other people.

Erin: The river, camping which you know those are great things. But to me, it says, we have just gotten out of the habit.

Dannah: Right. And here's the problem with that, Erin. I've read some really credible forecasts from organizations like Gallup and Barnum, that many of the people who are not currently involved in Christian community, whether that's online or in a discipleship group, or they've moved to home church for the time being, or they're still gathering safely in their big church, many of those people will never return ever. About a third of them are never going to be involved in Christian community, again.

Erin: I’ve heard that number. I heard a third who are sitting out are unlikely to return several months ago. My family was still not back in big church. We were doing home church with a couple of other families. We turned to each other and said, “Oh, we're at risk here of just staying in this situation. We’ve got to get ourselves to church because one Sunday led to the other Sunday.” We had to gather these three families and go, “Why are we still sitting out? We don't have an immune compromised person in our homes.” There really wasn't a reason where we live. The government had green-lighted gathering. There were safe ways to gather. We'd just gotten out of habit. 

Dannah: Yeah, yeah. I guess the question we want to ask today . . . Again, there are a lot of wise reasons why you may be doing things differently right now. But you know, whether you're skipping class, or you're just taking the online course, right? You know, whether you're drawing or engaging? And I guess the question is, if you're not ready yet, when are you going to be ready? 

Erin: What are you waiting for? Are you moving toward the people of God or away from the people of God? I've said that one of the things that the pandemic did for me is it made me more inward focused. I suddenly had all these reasons to think about myself and withdraw into myself further and further. Not good. I needed to move toward the people of God 

Dannah: Toward the people, that's right. You know, Erin, two words come to mind as we talk about this today: “challenges” and “opportunities.”

Erin: I like those words. 

Dannah: Yes, there have been challenges; there are still challenges. But there are also some real opportunities here. If we look with the right eyes to consider what the church is supposed to look like, how important is it in our lives? How do we encourage those friends and family members that we know who still aren't in church, or who live in a part of the world, where physically going to church every Sunday still isn't possible?

Our guest today is someone I know really well. He's my pastor, Jarrod Sechler. He along with a highly activated team of elders, the elders are very important in our leadership, they lead Centre Church. During the pandemic, we lost our freedom to meet for a time as everyone did. But we also lost our meeting space because we were renting and the renter's wanted to sell it because they were in the event business, and that kind of wasn't a thing anymore. 

We also lost our pastor who moved to another local congregation. But I’ve got to tell you something, we did not lose our joy or our passion. In fact, I've never in my entire life been more excited about the church and about being with the body of Christ than I am right now. We're flourishing at Centre Church. Find out why when Jarrod joins us to talk about three things God helped us change during the pandemic.

Erin: I’m on the edge of my seat, Dannah, your enthusiasm for the church is contagious to me this morning. We need some good news, every episode of Grounded has it, which means we need our resident ray of sunshine. Good morning, Portia Collins. 

Portia Collins: Good morning. How are you? 

Dannah: Hi, girl. 

Portia: Well, let's dive into some good news today. Together, we'll consider where on the globe is the Church flourishing? In a new study published this month, two researchers have been tracing the vitality of the Church in many nations. They've discovered something that is worth our attention. 

Dannah: Yeah. This is something I really want to make sure we note Portia, before we tell you what that is. They recognize that research based on observation of data doesn't account for and I quote them, “the movement of the Holy Spirit.”

They're saying essentially that God is God. He can do anything anywhere at any time. And I say a great big amen to that! 

Portia: Me too. Me too. I love that. I love that they have released their data with such a humility, so amen to that. Well, we want to do the same this morning on Grounded. As with all research, we present their findings for consideration knowing that there are many factors that could contribute to this interesting discovery, including God Himself. 

Dannah: That's right. Okay, here's what the research discovered, watching the trend of church growth in 166 countries from the year 2010 to the end of 2020. The most important factor in the growth of the church correlated to the support any given country offers Christianity through laws and policies, but not in the way you might think. 

As government support is of Christianity, freedom increased. The number of Christians during the study saw significant decline.

Portia: And vice versa, as government support of Christianity and freedom decrease, well, those are the places where the number of Christians actually grew. The researchers pointed out specifically South Korea as an example. The prolific growth began during a time when the nation was occupied by an aggressive foreign force that repressed faith. Okay? And in the past 100 years, get this. It has gone from a nation with barely any believers to now being the second largest sender of Christian missionaries in the world, right behind the United States. Okay, so that's like major!

And again, that growth began during a time when faith was repressed. So South Korean believers are allowed to worship God now, but they don't get any special protection from the state. Today, about a third of the country actually professes a relationship with Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dannah: Chills. I love that. You know, I have long loved my brothers and sisters and South Korea. I know several of them. They're committed to the Lord, and they're just so very, very special.

I remember a few years ago, I was leading a prayer gathering. I asked everyone if they could get on their knees to express humility before the Lord, I just sensed we needed to do that. Well, afterwards a South Korean sister in Christ approached me and said something like, “I'm so thankful you asked us to bow. In South Korea, where we don't have support from the state in the same way you do here, we never fail to bow. We never fail to pray, because we're that dependent on the Lord.” She loved the idea of bowing. She just said that the bowing reminds them that without the Lord, they can't accomplish anything. And for that reason, they were thankful for it. And just the posture of her blew me away, solid stuff there in South Korea. 

Portia: Yes, it blows me away right now just thinking of that dependency on God. I gotta say, when I think about all that God is doing around the world, I'm very encouraged. But I'm also a bit convicted, because I realize as an American woman, that there are many religious freedoms, there are many things that I can do, and I don't have to think twice about it. I don't have to worry about if somebody is gonna really get me. I don't have to think about that. 

It's really easy to take for granted what we're able to do as believers. It's easy to become lax in my own dependency on God. That's really what I'm thinking about her praying and bowing, and how that's such an illustration of our dependency on God. Sometimes I forget. 

And so, this leads me to also mention another nation, Iran. In the Open Doors report, they stated that Iran is the eighth worst nation on the planet to be a Christian. 

Dannah: Wow. 

Portia: Like we're talking life or death, danger, once again, something that is kind of unfathomable to me. They are dealing with this every day. This is something many of us here in the U.S., we never have to think twice about. And yet, Iran is experiencing some of the fastest spreading growth of the Christian faith on the globe right now.

It's difficult to get accurate numbers. Because, I mean, it's hard to project anything because we're trying to protect the church, protecting our brothers and sisters in the faith. But it is estimated that there could be 1 million Christ followers in Iran today. 

Dannah: Wow! Now that that is some good news. No, Portia, actually, that is great news!

Portia: Yes. 

Dannah: Thank you for sharing it today. 

Portia: You are welcome. You are welcome. But so, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. And I hate to end on a bad note. Not all the news from this study was good.

Dannah: Really? Really, tell me. 

Portia: So, let's look at our own country. Y’all heard the sigh, because this grieves me. We've increased in something, but it's not Christianity. In 1991, only 6% of Americans considered themselves to be unaffiliated in terms of religion. Well, America was at that time considered to be a Christian nation. 

Well, today, nearly 1/4 of the entire population say they don't have any part in any religionChristianity included. 

Dannah: Wow.

Portia: The Church is dwindling here in the United States. I know many of you have felt it, and you know, I find myself asking, What lessons should we take from this kind of information? 

Dannah: Exactly, exactly. That's my heart too. That's actually a good question to cue our guests as we get Grounded with God's people this morning. I am so excited about our guest today. He is very special to me. He's my pastor, and he's my friend, Jarrod Sechler. Together with a team of elders who are actively involved, he leads Centre Church. We've been learning a lot of lessons this year. Jarrod is a licensed minister, he teaches a dynamic leadership course at Grace Prep, our local Christian High School founded by my husband, Bob. That leadership has come in handy this year as we faced tremendous loss. But instead of looking at these as challenges, Centre Church decided they were opportunities. And the result is a congregation that's thriving. I want you to hear some of the lessons God's been teaching us. Welcome, Jarrod.

Jarrod Sechler: Thanks, Dannah. Thanks for having me. 

Dannah: So glad to have you, Jarrod. Let's back up a bit. Lots of American congregations faced challenges that were absolutely, because of the pandemic. None of us were meeting back in March 2020, April. But that seems to be just the beginning of problems, at least for us here at Centre Church. What were some of the unique problems that we faced at Centre Church, in addition to that? 

Jarrod: Well, you mentioned earlier, we had a couple spaces that were meeting in that both became unavailable. We weren't able to meet in those spaces, our lead pastor resigned. And so, we just found a challenge of, how do we get together? 

Dannah: Yeah. 

Jarrod: When we can get together. So that was a real challenge. 

Dannah: I would say at the beginning of the pandemic, the first few months anyway, our church was not thriving. We were gathering online. We were pressing into the problems. But we really went through some, I would say, problems inside the problems. Do you have any evidence that other congregations have faced similar challenges to that? 

Jarrod: Absolutely. Just in our own local district, as we were in transition, we discovered generally, there's one or two churches in transition, but the number was actually in double digits during the pandemic. Pastors have either burnt out or tired. Even just in our local alliance district, there were so many churches just, I guess, languishing—learned a new word today.

Dannah: Yeah, me too. I'm learning it too. I actually saw mega church pastors and denominational leaders coming out on social media, in blogs, in sermons and stuff like that saying, “Yeah, pastors are struggling, churches are struggling.” And it's like the pandemic allowed all the weaknesses to kind of bubble up. Now, there were also churches that didn't struggle like that. But certainly, a lot of them did. How did the leadership at Centre Church face those challenges? 

Jarrod: I think like a lot of people, we started off last March with this attitude of, hey, we just need to endure this. It'll be over in a couple weeks or a couple months, and we can move on. But as time passed, it became apparent that that wasn't going to happen. And so, we really just began to pray, seek the Lord and say hey, this is an opportunity. God saw this coming. It was not a surprise to Him. He knew what was going to happen. And so we really began to just embrace it as an opportunity and said, “Lord, what do you want us to do? You have seen us. You know our situation. We believe You've called us together as a body of believers. We believe You have an answer.” 

So, we really turned to Him to seek the answer. 

Dannah: Yeah, we did. And things are very, very different, now. In fact, I can say I have not loved being a part of the church this much ever. And I've been a part of some pretty fantastic congregations, including Centre Church, before all of this. Something really special has happened, as we've looked at those challenges and said, these could be opportunities. 

You could feel it in the air this Sunday, I think, when we gathered. And I should say, we don't gather, that was unique. We were not gathering. Well, I'll let you get to that in just a minute. There are new faces in the crowd, and there's new energy, and there's new excitement. We're flourishing. What's different?

Jarrod: Well, I think three things. I think the first thing is we really just turned back to the Word and said. “Let's look at the Scriptures. Let's see what God says less about leadership about church.” And so, we really jumped into the Word. We had one of our elders point out the familiar Scripture, in 1 Timothy. Paul tells Timothy, like, until I come devote yourself to the public. The public reading of Scripture to preaching and teaching, (1 Timothy 4:13) and churches are good at preaching and teaching, but I don't know how much we're good at the public reading of Scripture. 

And so, we just started doing that. In fact, right before Easter, we just took (and we'll talk about micro churches in a minute) a minute as a congregation in our different groups, and just instead of a teaching or preaching moment or video, we just read the Word together for a Sunday. We saw how God can minister to us through that.

Dannah: I gotta say, Jarrod, when you said that, because you said, “Hey, the Bible says we're supposed to be devoted to the public reading of Scripture, we're going to do that.” And the elders are all excited about this. I was like, wow, a whole service reading Scripture? But it was amazing! It was amazing! Something came alive in us, because I think the Word is alive and active. But that wasn't the only thing we did to devote ourselves to the public reading of Scripture, is it? 

Jarrod: No. I had a similar reaction. One of our elders said, “Hey, I heard about this idea where you get together and you just read the New Testament together in one sitting, or you sit down and just read it continuously.” He developed the plan we call the New Testament Retreat. On a Friday night and then all of Saturday, we got together and we just sat and read the New Testament together out loud. I'm gonna be honest, my first reaction was like, this is gonna go a little slow. 

But as we did, that is one of the most powerful weekends. As we sat and read the word together, read it, things jumped out to me. The Word came alive in a way it really hadn't before just reading it one sitting. I'm a firm believer now in it's in there—not just preaching and teaching, but devoting yourself to public reading of Scripture. 

Dannah: So as we were in the Word, and I, especially as the elders were in the Word, they started to look at church differently. They're praying; they're in the Word. They're saying, “We're in the middle of this pandemic. We don't have a pastor; we don't have a meeting place. Lord, what do you want us to see?” 

So, lesson number one, get in the Word. What's lesson number two, because of what you saw when you were in the Word?

Jarrod: Lesson number two is we don't go to church, we are the church. In the first four centuries of the church, there wasn't a church building. So, if you said to one of the believers in the first four centuries of the faith, “Hey, come to church with me.” They’d look at you like, are you crazy? Because church is something you go to; it's something you are. 

And so, we really just began to see ourselves as the church—not church as something that we do. And that really was transformational. I think traditionally when I've looked at church on a Sunday morning, you have a speaker or worship team, you have 4 to 8 people up front using their gifts. And then you have a bunch of people who are just watching, they're watching church happen. They're not really participating. I mean, they're participating in worship, I'm not gonna diminish that. But as far as using the gifts that God has given them on a Sunday morning, it's not really happening. 

If that's your only interaction with Christians throughout the week, where you're not really using the gifts that God has designed . . . And so we said, “Wow, how can we engage more people?” And then in the middle of a pandemic, we had been meeting outside together as a congregation throughout last summer. We knew we live in Central Pennsylvania, and we knew October was coming, and we knew it was going to get cold. 

Dannah: Yeah.

Jarrod: We knew outside was not going to be an option. And we didn't have an inside option for everybody. As a leadership team, somebody suggested the idea of, “Hey, let's meet in small groups or in homes around our communities.” And we prayed hard about it. And we started doing that. We've continued three Sundays a month, we meet in what we call micro churches. There's about eight of them meeting in different homes. They vary in size from eight to 10 people up to 25–30 people in a home. And what's amazing is how many people are using their gifts on a Sunday morning. It's not just a small group of four to eight people. 

As we were preparing to go into this last fall, someone in an outside service said, “Hey, are we using this mode because we're called to or because we're forced to?” And I'm like, “Wow, that's a great question.” 

And I'll tell you, I think it was just divine inspiration, because the Lord just drew me to the Israelites at the Red Sea. They're standing on the shores of the Red Sea. The Egyptians have been pinned in. God's opening the sea. And I felt like God said, “Hey, did the Israelites cross the Red Sea because they were forced to or because they were called to?”

I really felt like it was both like, it can be both. Like, hey, we're forced to do this right now. But as we embrace it as God's opportunity for Him to work, it's been amazing to see what He's done.

Dannah: I know it has been. First it helped us get through the second and a third wave of the pandemic, because each micro church was its own little pod. We were still protecting my new grandbaby girls at the time. So our pod was teeny tiny, and it was mostly made up of family. But then Bob and I when Addy and Zoe finally got COVID and that ship sailed, we joined a larger group and Robby and Aliyah joined a big group. 

We were in these pods, so we were safe, in terms of not spreading anything, but we were still experiencing authentic community never realizing that the Lord is about to birth gifts. Like, we couldn't imagine as people who loved leading worship but didn't hadn't for years started leading worship in their little church group, as people started using hospitality. You know who does the best hospitality in my group? One of the men. He makes us omelet things every Sunday morning. 

It's great. Anyway, here's a disclaimer. Don't quit your church if they aren't hosting micro churches, because every church probably needs to approach community differently during this time, as every family does. But what I want you to hear is this. We faced big problems, but the elders of Centre Church made them opportunities. They took them to God. They got into the Word, they prayed, and they said, “How do we solve these problems?” I think we're experiencing something really more like what the early New Testament believers did. It's a little less showy and perfected but more deep and more authentic. All right, lesson number three, Jarrod.

Jarrod: Lesson number three is really faith. We increased our giving in a time where in most churches giving was down. We committed as a church to give more. If you look at the first century believers, it's one of the things that drew people to them. There was a lot of the government that didn't like them. There were rumors about them, that they were cannibals and all sorts of crazy things. But what drew people to them was the way that they took care of one another and the way that they gave to help people. 

And so we made a commitment as a church, “Hey, we believe God can meet our needs. And we believe it's our duty to help meet the needs of others.” We gave to people to help with their heating bills; we gave it to people to help with car expenses. There was a local church that was having trouble meeting their payroll; we gave a significant amount to them. There's a Christian school whose income was down. We gave to them. We're like, “We're gonna commit to give.” What was amazing is the end of the year, we gave away more money, a lot more money. And right at the end of the year, God gave us gifts that came in that were unexpected from people that weren't really involved with the church at the time. So we gave more at the beginning of the year, we continued, we blew our budget for the year in the first two months of 2021. And God has continued to increase. 

“It's that time of like, “The government can do whatever they want. But really, as a church, if we're the church, God meets our needs.” 

Dannah: Yeah.

Jarrod: We've seen that happen. 

Dannah: I really think that's essential as we are in an increasingly less tolerant place for Christianity in our world. They need to see that there's something different about us, that we're flourishing, and that we're giving and helping other people. 

I've loved to see how we're helping single moms; how we're helping just not not just people inside the church but outside the church. Jarrod, what advice would you have for someone who's languishing right now? They're not flourishing. Speak to that woman who's like, “I want to flourish, but I'm not.” 

Jarrod: Well, you mentioned earlier studies that Gallup and Barnum have done. My son actually pointed out at the end of 2020, a poll Gallup and done. They did a poll where Americans reported on their own mental health at the end of 2020. It's done by Gallup; it is not a Christian organization. They looked at your income level, your gender, all sorts of things across the board age, and every group reported a decrease in mental health except for one. And it was those who attended a religious service weekly. So the number one thing you can do is engage in your church. Again, we're not saying our model is the model, but engage with the people in your church, because church isn't something you go to. It's something that we are, and so engage in a body of believers. 

Dannah: I love it. Thanks, Jarrod. Thanks for being with me today. It's fun to show you off to my Grounded girlfriends. 

Jarrod: Thanks, Dannah. 

Dannah: You know, friends, I see Jesus front and center at Centre Church, and I love that. I don't know if we could have seen the shift in us if we hadn't been through these challenges. As I said, the elders looked at them and said, maybe these are opportunities, maybe these are Red Sea moments where God is saying, “I need you to go someplace different.” 

And that might look different in your church, that might look different for your family. But I hope that Jesus is becoming the center of your community. I for one am flourishing as we press into community and press into Jesus.

Portia: Amen, amen. You know, first of all, I love this concept. It's not a really a foreign concept, because we see this in the Bible—micro churches. But that has blessed me. Just hearing about how you guys made it work for the sake of community, for the sake of fellowshipping. And that is super encouraging to me. It just reminds me to always tell people my happy place is in God's Word. My second happy place is with God's people. It really helps me to flourish. And so, I'm happy I got a chance to meet your pastor today. This was a blessing to me.

Well, if you aren't flourishing, we have a special invitation for you to come get your heart grounded in God's Word. I want to invite you to spend a couple of days with me, Erin, Dannah, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and others, and together we'll get grounded in the Word so that we will not be shaken. Check out this video.

Woman: Picture an ancient oak tree. Its wood is solid. Its branches reach to the sky, and its roots run deep. In the book of Isaiah, God's people are compared to an oak tree—unwavering, resolute, and deeply rooted,

Child: “That they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”

Woman: When the storms of life rage around us, you can be rooted and grounded in God's Word. Like that oak of righteousness.

Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth: What are you trusting? When the world around us crumbles? Will you be able to stand firm because you're being held by the God who cannot be shaken?

Woman: You can learn to stay rooted and grounded at Revive ’21. It’s a conference hosted by Revive Our Hearts in person and online. On October 8th and 9th, women will gather in Indianapolis, Indiana, and tune in live from living rooms around the globe to discover how to live rooted and resolute. 

Nancy: Those who trust with all their hearts will never be disappointed, because He will never fail. 

Woman: You can be grounded in Christ, grounded in the gospel, grounded in God's Word. And you can stand firm in a shaking world. Join us for Revive ’21.

Erin: Well, it wouldn't be Grounded if we didn't get grounded in God's Word. So, grab your Bible and go ahead and flip to Mark chapter 14. Before we publicly read Scripture, as Pastor Jarrod was encouraging us to do, I want to encourage you to close your eyes for just a moment (unless you're listening to Grounded while you're driving down the road), and then just use your imagination. I want you to think about the highlights of your Christian life. So far, I want you to think about those moments when you had a strong sense of God's presence. 

Now, we know God is always with us. But there are those moments when we are just aware of His presence in a new way. I want you to think about those moments when Jesus set you free of something you needed to be really set free from. Think of those moments when your heart was overflowing with worship, maybe your hands were up in the air and tears streamed down your face. I'm going to guess, as you think about those moments, those high points in your faith, that you're not the only one in that snapshot, in your mind. 

If I were to close my mind and think about the peaks of my Christian walk, I would think about being in a hot auditorium when I was 15 years old. I gave my life to Jesus for the very first time. Now I know, theologically, that I was surrendering to Him. But in that moment, it felt like I had no choice. Christ so compelled me toward Himself. As I think about that moment, I can feel the hot temperature, no AC, but I can also see in my peripheral that there were people all around me. 

I think of the day that my husband Jason baptized my son Judah in the ocean, while my other sons and I sat in the sand and watched. And there are people in that important moment. 

I think of times of confession of sin. Something you might not know about the Grounded hosts is that we are each other's safe place to confess when we are sinning. I have other friends that I have had to do that with. I've had to say I am struggling with this, or I did this. Someone's physical vocal cords helped me believe God's voice in Scripture that says I'm forgiven. When I think about those peaks, there are always people. Our walk with Jesus is deeply personal, but it is not private. 

If someone asked the 12 disciples to consider the highlights of their journey with Jesus, I am going to guess that all of them would choose the one that's described in three of the four Gospels. We're going to look at the version from Mark 14. 

What was going on was that it was the Passover. And if you know your Bible, you know your Old Testament, you know that the Passover was a ritual. We can be adverse to that word “ritual” as modern Christians. We like to say it's about relationship. It's not about religion, but actually as we study Scripture, we see that God gives us many rituals. And He does that as a kindness to keep us tethered to Him, and to keep us tethered to each other. 

And so, Jesus and the disciples were gathered together to celebrate the ritual of Passover. We've seen paintings of it; we've heard about it in Sunday school. You know, they gathered in that upper room, but I want you to picture it a little differently this morning. Not Jesus gathering the disciples at a long table that they were all on the same side of for the sake of future artists. No, that's not what was happening here. These were Jesus's closest friends. And the point of Passover was to remember what God had done when He rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. When they had that Red Sea moment Jarrod mentioned. 

So, strip away the Sunday school version of this story. Here's what was really going on. Jesus was gathered with His very best friends who believed in the same God he did. He is God, but who shared the same faith. They were there to eat, and they were there to drink. They were there to talk about God and to remember what God had done.

Then Jesus did something remarkable. Let me read you Mark 14:22–24. It says this, “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’”

Here Jesus gives us the gift of Communion, which is a ritual. It's a way we can remember what He did for us, and it's deeply intimate. I go to a Communion-every-Sunday kind of church, and I cry every single week. I cry thinking about that moment. It's so special. But it's also shared. It's also something we do in community. Now, we certainly don't pass the cup and the bread in a COVID world. I don't know how your church is doing it. But my church is doing those little self-serve communion cups. It's like, rattle rattle, rattle, and everybody's trying to get them open, and the cracker tastes like styrofoam. 

But what no pandemic, what no government, what no hardship can take from the people of God is the sacrament of Communion. It's ours. It's for the Church. And Communion is what I missed most during those long months of home church. 

We were still hearing the Word; we were still singing, but we weren't having Communion with our other brothers and sisters. There are other sacraments, rituals that are set apart for the people of God. Baptism is one of them. Now, you can go baptize yourself in your bathtub, I suppose. But it doesn't have the same powers when there are the rest of us gathered around and giving testimony to God's work in your life. 

Baptism is another thing I cry at every time it happens in our church. We all repeat the good confession together, there's such power in it. And then somebody goes under the water and comes up. Confessing our sins to one another. That's a sacrament or ritual, the ordination of our leaders. It's a sacrament or ritual. These are personal, but they're not private.

So can we follow Jesus without these things? Yeah, we can. This is not how we earn salvation. But here's a question for us to consider this morning. As we are honestly wrestling with our flourishing or languishing, why would we want to? Why would we want to forego regular opportunities to remind each other? This is Christ's body broken for you. This is His blood poured out for many.

I'm prone to forget who God is. I call it spiritual amnesia. I can get a bad case of it sometimes, and you can too. But God has a plan for that. There are things we do to remember. There are things we do together. Portia.

Portia: Amen, Erin, amen. I'm thankful for the sweet reminder that you've given me today through this teaching, bless you. 

Well, it's time to recommend the good stuff. It's the tools to get you flourishing. Today, I want to encourage you, especially if you're languishing, to get a copy of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Bible study Seeking Him. She co-wrote it with Tim Grissom, so it'd be a great one to do with your husband or maybe a discipleship group of both men and women. Nancy and Tim will guide you through lessons to experience the joy of personal revival. 

We're gonna drop a link in the chat for this study and in the show notes for those of you who are listening, and we'll drop a second link with a free chapter for you to check out.

Erin: You know, we love to give you the good stuff. 

Well, as we wrap up this episode, there's a story I heard a long time ago. I actually heard it from my brother-in-law, and I use it often with my own children. It goes like this. I don't know if it's true, you can Google it. 

There's a small village in South Africa. And in that village, when somebody commits an offense, their version of justice is so powerful. They circle—the whole tribe makes a circle. The tribe says to the offender, this is not who you are. You are not a thief. You are not a person who abuses his family. You are a father, you are a son, you are a friend. 

And so, my little tribe will often kind of circle around and say, buddy, this is not who you are. But then we will speak who that child really is. And so, this morning as we are thinking about the Church, I want us to picture the global Church of Jesus in a huge circle this morning and with love. I want to say, this is not who we are. We are not fractured. We are not disconnected. We are not languishing; we are more than all of that.

Dannah: Amen. You know, Erin, that makes me think that circle gathering around. I heard recently that some ancient church documents from the early days of the Church stated that they would put the Communion you talked so beautifully about that today in the center of the gathering. They would gather in a circle. You know how the New Testament talks about that koinonia fellowship, the circle of fellowship, and that Jesus was the center of that. And as we went to Communion, we were cleansed of everything that we're not. We are reminded of whose we are and who we are. 

Let's speak that out this morning. And when you remember the beauty of the Church, the power of the Church, the influence of the Church, the beauty of Christ's body and blood, it's so much harder to stay away. Who are we? Let's just let's just take a moment and say some words Erin, Portia. Let's say some words about who we are. 

Portia: A family.

Erin: Christ’s Bride.

Dannah: A forgiven chosen people. 

Portia: Yes.

Erin: We are an army mobilized for the good of the world. 

Portia: Yes.

Dannah: Yeah, we are whole and being made whole through Jesus Christ. 

Erin: We are ambassadors of hope.

Portia: Amen. We are loved. 

Dannah: We are loved. Friend, if you're a follower of Jesus who is not connected to a community in meaningful ways. If you're not connected to us, through the body of Christ, we want you back. We want you back. And if you know someone who was still on the outside of the circle, will you pull them in? Pray for them, and tell them just tell them out right, just like I did just now. Tell them, we want you back. 

Portia: Yes, we want you back. You know, we get glimpses of God's people flourishing every week on Grounded. I am so grateful for our Grounded community. I'm so grateful for this blessing opportunity. But I want to remind you of something. We are not a substitute for your local church. 

Dannah: That's right. That's right. 

Portia: And more than seeing your sweet comments in sweet faces here each week, we want to hear how you are serving and encouraging and sharing the gospel through your church through your local community. 

Dannah: Amen. 

Erin: Amen. Hey, hurry back here next Monday. It is Memorial Day, but we will be here so let's wake up with hope together next week on Grounded

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About the Hosts

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. She is the author of many books and Bible studies including: 7 Feasts, Connected, Beautiful Encounters, and the My Name Is Erin series. She serves on the ministry team of Revive Our Hearts. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Portia Collins

Portia Collins

Portia Collins is a Christian Bible teacher and writer/blogger who enjoys studying and teaching Scripture.  Portia is the founder of "She Shall Be Called" (SSBC), a women’s ministry centered on helping women understand and embrace true biblical womanhood through solid study of God's Word. To learn more about SSBC, visit www.sheshallbecalled.com.  Portia and her husband, Mikhail, have a daughter and currently live in the Mississippi Delta. 

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

About the Guests

Jarrod Sechler

Jarrod Sechler

Jarrod is a pastor at Centre Church in State College, PA. He is committed to being a part of a loving, transparent family of Believers. He has been working with teenagers for over two decades as a pastor, mentor, and teacher. Jarrod loves sports, hunting, fishing, being outside, and spending time with his family. With a passion for adventure, he has bungee jumped out of a hot air balloon and ridden his bicycle across the country with his dad.