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Part 6: Together | February 11, 2018

 

JONATHAN

Thanks again for joining us today. We are so glad to have you with us. My name is Jonathan Deatherage, and I'm here with Pete Briscoe. We’re following up after his sixth sermon of the Reset series on “Together.”

I’m very excited to have this conversation with him. I know community is a big deal in my life, and has made a big difference for my personal walk with Christ, so I’m really excited for us to dive in a little bit deeper today.

Pete, good morning. Good to have you here.

PETE

Morning, Jonathan. Thanks.

JONATHAN

Well, I’d love to just go right into some important questions and concepts for this sermon. I noticed right at the beginning you talked about how you like being alone. I resonate with that. I lean towards introversion myself. But as a man, as a leader, how do you find intentional balance in your life of valuing that alone time but also valuing community time?

PETE

I think it comes down to taking moments periodically. They’re introspective moments. You just do a little bit of an analysis of where I am and how I’m doing. One pastor once described it as kind of like the dials on your dashboard that tell you your oil is low, or you’re getting overheated. Just look at the dials of your life, and ask yourself, “How am I doing? Am I getting angry at my kids? Am I short-tempered at work? Am I struggling with this sin struggle that I can’t get on top of? Am I avoiding my time with the Lord?” Are there things going on in my life that are red flags? And if so, I think it’s really really appropriate to get a little alone time at that point and just go to the Lord. Get your journal out and just get quiet.

I mean, obviously the spiritual discipline of solitude is a good one for a time to get recalibrated, to get back on track, to hear from the Lord. I think to schedule those times in is really wise. I schedule four days a year where I just go away off by myself and spend time alone if I’ve had an extremely busy season at work and I’ve been traveling, too. I’ve been traveling on the weekends, getting in Saturday, and then preaching on Sunday. Jane, my assistant, will actually schedule a Monday just so I don’t have to do stuff. So I have some time there to get alone and reconnect with the Lord.

So I think there’s wisdom in planning that and preparing for it. That’s one way to maintain balance. I don’t pretend to be an expert on maintaining balance in this area of my life. [he laughs] But that’s one thing that I’ve done, because it is important to get alone periodically.

JONATHAN

I’m sure. I live with an extrovert, so I’m sure all the extroverts when they heard you say that were like, “Woah, I love being with people! No problem here!” I’m hearing you say there’s an importance in balance. For those of us who find ourselves in isolation more than we should, this is a check to say, “Hey, pay attention. It’s time to look around you and open up.”

PETE

Yes. I would argue, too, though, that it’s not really about introverted/extroverted. There’s a lot of isolated extroverts, too: truly, authentically isolated, meaning they don’t really experience true biblical community. They may have lots of friends; they may do stuff. But the type of community we were talking about today - the depth of praying together, worshipping together, caring for one another, carrying each others’ burdens, that kind of stuff - there’s a lot of extroverts that don’t experience that either.

JONATHAN

Well, I definitely want to come back to that topic. What’s the structure? What’s the content of one of those kinds of meaningful relationships? Before we go there, I want to ask: you did mention how it’s hard for men to make meaningful relationships. As a man, I feel that growing up even in my family context, I saw that as well. So I’d love for you to speak into that a little bit more. Why do you think it’s so hard for men to do that?

PETE

I think it’s more natural for women because they tend to be - this is obviously a huge generalization - but they tend to be a little bit more relational that men do, just generally. So they actually seek out relationships and then they tend to want to go deeper in relationships. Men tend to be okay on the surface, talking sports or golf or whatever.

So, for us, it’s a bit of a discipline to a) prioritize friendships, and b) to take them to a deeper place.

I think it’s just kind of how we’re wired. I think our culture really leads to isolation. I think the things that men are interested in - sports and stuff - there’s so much of it now that you could spend your whole life doing it, either by yourself or even with your buddies, watching it or doing it, that you feel like you’re forming relationships. But once again the depth isn’t there; the intimacy isn’t there.

It just sounds a little scary for men to be intimate with one another. It seems weird. But what I just experienced with my friend on the back deck was a beautiful, relational moment for me. And I was reminded of the fullness of true biblical community, and how imperative that is.

JONATHAN

Yeah, I loved that moment that you explained. Recently for me, as an introvert, we’ve had a lot of time with friends this week. I’m just like, “Oh, gosh, I would just love some alone time right now.” And I know you said it’s not an introvert/extrovert thing. So what is that thing? What does it characteristically that we say, “This is an intentional time where I am engaging in this fellowship that Acts 2 talks about that’s life giving”?

PETE

I think it’s a choice to live a deeper, richer life, is what it is. Do I want a shallow life? Or do I want a deep life? I have Christ. I have everything that I need in him. But one of the things he provides for me is this family where depth happens. To me, at the end of the day, it just comes down to whether I am willing to settle for a shallow life, or am I willing to step into some uncomfortable situations so I can have a deep one?

JONATHAN

I know you mentioned how, when [your friend] was there, you listed off the three things we’re shown in Acts chapter 2 where you eat together. You talked about what was really going on, and you prayed for each other. You spent some time discussing the Word aspect of what God’s doing in your life. It seems to me that those are some really key components. There is time where you can spend time with your friends, have fun, and it’s good. But it’s really that shift to say, “Hey, we’re really going to engage in spiritual conversation here. We’re really opening our life to each other, and speaking truth, and praying for each other.”

PETE

One of the reasons that eating together is so important is because it takes time. You’re together for two hours. Things can happen during that time. I think eating together kind of breaks down some barriers.

I think it’s totally cool just starting with, “Hey, let’s just eat, and have fun, and spend time together.” Just let the Spirit take it where it goes. I don’t think you have to come with a checklist of we’ve gotta do these four things tonight. Really let’s just be committed to actually investing time into one another, and then ask the Holy Spirit to deepen our relationship. And he will do that.

JONATHAN

So maybe you answered this question a little bit earlier, but I’d love to hear if you have any more thoughts. When is it okay to be alone?

PETE

Yeah, I think I addressed that a little bit before. I think it’s okay to be alone at any time. I think if you are characterized by being alone then you’re isolated. And if you’re purposefully avoiding people and relationships, that’s isolation. There’s nothing wrong with solitude. It’s part of a balanced life. But if you’re avoiding people and you’re characterized by isolation then that’s a problem.

JONATHAN

I think we’re reaching in our culture epidemic levels of isolation because of our devices. Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone. [Pete laughs] There’s an ease of looking at your smartphone when you’re waiting, or when you seem bored. Honestly, those are moments when, if I’ve stopped looking at my smartphone and looked up and looked around, I notice everyone else is looking at their smartphone. And I’ve realized this is a moment where we could be having face-to-face, “Hey, how are you doing?’” or just a “Hi,” acknowledging that you’re in the room with me or standing in line with me. It is amazing how many opportunities we miss because this has become the fabric of our society.

PETE

I heard a guy, he’s a Harvard guy, at a conference recently. I don’t have the study in front of me, so I don’t have the exact numbers, but the experiment that they did was to see the impact of the smartphone on attention level. They had a person working on the computer on a project, and they had three different ways they did it. One was they had their smartphone upside down on the table next to the computer. So just upside down. The second was they had it in their purse or pocket. The third was they had it in another room. And the difference with the attention span and the ability to process information just with those three variables was staggering. It was amazing the difference specifically between having it on the desk and having it in the next room. And it just shows the power of that little device. It doesn’t even have to be telling you anything. The idea that it might tell you something in just a moment is enough to distract you and keep you from focusing on what you’re actually doing.

So, yeah, we could spend a whole hour on this topic. I think it’s a huge issue. It’s not just the milennials. You see people of all generations just swallowed into those things. It’s an issue we’re going to have to deal with somehow.

JONATHAN

I think the first point is that discipline, and awareness that I’m doing this way more than I should be. It’s just a reminder in a moment when I’m waiting that I could be engaged with people.

PETE

And in the spirit of what I just preached, this is a great strategy: (We do it at our home when we have the whole family over.) There’s a basket or a bucket, and when it’s dinner time, everyone puts their devices in there. They’re not at the table; they’re not in the room. They’re in the other room. We turn them off. And it’s incredible how different it is, and how much conversation just erupts. If we’re eating together, let’s get those things out of the way so that we can really connect.

JONATHAN

And be present with each other.

PETE

Yup. Sure.

JONATHAN

So if I’m a person who says, “Yeah, I’ll admit, isolation is a big deal in my life, and that’s what I’m being characterized as,” whether I’m struggling with pain in my life, and hurt, and it’s hard for me to reach out to people; or I’m just saying I don’t even want to try, I’m being lazy; or if I’m really struggling to get my priorities straight, I’m too busy, I’m not able to make time for these deeper relationships. How would you counsel me? How do I move from a point of isolation to a point of community in my life?

PETE

It really depends who you are and where you are. If you’re in a local church context, most good Bible teaching churches have community options for you. Just go sit down with the pastor that you know or one that you just met, and say, “I need to get connected.” There’s small groups. A way a lot of people connect at Bent Tree is serving. It’s a great way to connect with other people. We here put our servants into groups so they’re loving each other, and caring for one another, and spending time together.

But it’s going to require a step into something that you’re not now doing. It’ll either be a small group setting or a serving setting so that you can open yourself up to relationships. That’s the decision. You just gotta choose to do it.

JONATHAN

And it’ll feel a little risky.

PETE

It’ll feel very risky.

JONATHAN

As we’ve discussed in previous conversations, when we avail ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit it feels risky. So that’s my next question. Why do you think this is something that has to be a move of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

PETE

Because in the flesh we don’t like being vulnerable. We don’t like being known. We’re afraid. We’re afraid that people will get ot know us and they won’t like us. The fact of the matter is, in Christ we’re beautiful people and when we connect with other believers there’s a true bond that’s lovely and supernatural. At the end of the day, it’s a Holy Spirit thing, ‘cause in the flesh we don’t want to be known. But in the Spirit, we do. So it’s going to the Holy Spirit saying, “All right, you do this. I can’t do it. If I’m left to my own devices, in my flesh, I’m going to go watch TV all night. But I want more than that. I want a deeper life. So, Holy Spirit, go for it.”

JONATHAN

I love that. I think it is easy to live in isolation when [you believe], as you mentioned, the worth statement, a value statement, that “I don’t feel like, if they know me, they would love me.” It’s the Holy Spirit in our lives, seeing the value of Christ’s love for us, and really living from there. I think that makes a huge difference.

PETE

Yeah, we stand accepted by Christ. Out of that acceptance, we can take the risk of maybe not being accepted by others.

JONATHAN

Another thing I think about is when I’m part of a small group I like to remind the folks in my group, “You are not here just to get from us. You’re a valuable contribution to our group.” And I think that’s an easy thing to forget. You mentioned how in the flesh I’d rather just sit there and watch TV. I think it is overlooking the reality that, as you mentioned in the sermon today, we don’t just come to get, we come to give. And that’s so valuable to remember that it’s a work of the Spirit that, in Christ, we all have something to share with each other.

PETE

Yeah, I was just talking to Scott Dyer and we were talking about the folks who have fallen into the pattern of watching from home. And Scott was saying how, if it’s true that God brings us together to serve one another, that means every day I stay home there’s probably someone here that didn’t get served because I wasn’t there. To shift our mindset to “He’s got a mission for me at church. He’s got someone at church today for me to encourage, or to support, or to serve, to love, to pray with,” and to come expectantly looking for that person. As opposed to, “I get as much out of it as watching it on TV.” That’s the wrong mindset.

JONATHAN

So let’s say I’m somebody that took your challenge from the sermon, and I said, “Okay, I’m going to step out and do that risky thing. I’m going to follow the Spirit’s leading.” It’s after that dot that you were talking about, that decision day. A few days later I’m personally feeling some sticking points, like “Oh gosh, this is actually different for me.” What are some sticking points that will be helpful for me to be aware of as I’m trying to move from isolation into community. What’ll kind of help me feel more comfortable as I’m walking through.

PETE

Oh, I have no idea, Jonathan. And I’m not really interested in making you comfortable either. [he laughs] You know? It’s an uncomfortable thing to put yourself out there. And depending on who you are, and your history, and your wounding, it’ll be different sticking points for all of us. But just assume they’ll come, and it’ll be awkward at times. In the Spirit power through those things, and it’ll be worth it.

JONATHAN

I don’t know if anybody listening today can relate to this, but I’m a perfectionist. (Ironic that I just stumbled over that word.) And for me, I like to have those TV moments, those interactions where you’re like, “Oh yeah, they said the right line, and I said the right line, and it was so great. We all just got along, and it was so great.” And yet so many times I’ll drive home and replay the conversation and be like, “Ugh, why did I say that? I was so stupid to say that!” or “Gosh, they said that, and it was so hurtful, and I can’t believe…” and I think this is one of those reasons why it’s hard to be in relationships.

And I would hope that as somebody’s moving from isolation to community, these things are going to come up. Relationships are messy. It is easier to live in isolation for that reason, because you avoid the mess. You don’t have to have that drive home where you’re fighting against shame, you’re having to self-talk like, “No, it’s okay that I said that. I’m not perfect. It’s okay that they said that. They’re not perfect. We can still love each other.” What counsel might you give to somebody going through that?

PETE

I think that’s really insightful, Jonathan. I think relationships are a little messy, and it’s a cost-benefit ratio at the end of the day, right? [he laughs] The cost of isolation is loneliness. And loneliness is brutal. It’s just an awful way to live. To wake up one day and look around going, “I could not show up for work today and no one would care. I could not go to church today and no one would notice. There’s no one in my life that knows what’s going on.” That’s lonely. And that’s a sad, sad place to be.

So the benefit of community is that you don’t end up there. You actually are in other people’s lives. You’re having an opportunity to pour into them, and to speak into them, and to share, and to give, and to pray for them. And all of a sudden your little world starts expanding. When you’re isolated, your world just gets smaller and smaller and smaller. It’s just depressing.

And so, to me, it’s a cost-benefit ratio. The cost is some awkward moments, some hard conversations. The benefits are legion. It’s just so worth it.

JONATHAN

I’d love for you to lead us in a prayer now. Pray for folks that might find themselves in isolation, and where they can go from there.

PETE

Lord, anyone who’s listening to this right now who feels isolated and is isolated, I pray for a measure of your grace, and your encouragement in their life today. I pray they don’t feel condemned by us, because we’re not remotely condemning them, but that they would hear the concern in our voice and the longing for something better for them.

Just do a work by your Spirit in their lives. I pray that you would bring them into some healthy relationships of depth that are full and rich, a place where they can experience life with others. So just do all this Holy Spirit, we pray. And we pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

JONATHAN

Amen. Well, thanks again for listening today. Bent Tree is a place that encourages people to experience the freedom and fullness of Jesus in everyday life. And as we like to say here, life is better together. Have a great week.