Better Together: Discover the Power of Community

Better Together: Discover the Power of Community


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Community Is the Surprising Solution to Your Self-Help Needs

Exercise. Eat right. Share your faith. Produce fruit for God. Oh, and try to relax. Ever feel like trying to succeed is all about you? Or that trying to "die to yourself" only makes you more self-focused?

The Bible certainly has a lot to say about "me," but it has much more to say about "we." In fact, there are over 100 passages in the Bible where the two words "let us" are used. Let us not give up meeting together . . . let us encourage one another . . . let us serve one another. Could it be that the only way to fix "me" is found in "we"?

In Better Together, pastor Rusty George teaches how to satisfy your deepest needs through the power of "us." Together we connect with God better. Together we heal better. Together we overcome fears, raise families, fight temptations, and bless the world around us better. Learn how to live in true community to find the fulfillment you've been looking for.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764230790
Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Rusty George is the lead pastor of Real Life Church (RLC) in Valencia, California. Over his 11 years at RLC, the church has grown to over 6,000 people and three campuses. Rusty speaks regularly at conferences across the country, and he lives with his wife and two daughters in Santa Clarita, California.

Read an Excerpt


I don't need anyone

I was in fourth grade when I first fell in "like."

I say like because love is a strong word. At the time, I still loved pizza as much as anything, so let's say I was in fourth grade when a girl finally didn't have cooties.

I'll call her Amanda to protect her identity. Thanks to the help of a mutual friend, I discovered that she reciprocated my feelings. So one hot Kansas day on the dusty playground in between the jungle gym and the monkey bars, we expressed our "like" for each other. Nothing they'd make a movie about — just "I like you." "I like you too." But in my mind, this was as good as when Han Solo told Princess Leia he loved her. (At least I didn't just hear "I know" as a response.)

This "like" of each other lasted all through fourth and fifth grades, but when sixth grade came around I began to sense she had lost that loving feeling. One day on the playground I approached her and asked her bluntly with fingers crossed, "Do you still like me?" Before she could reply, the bell rang. I had to wait four hours to get the answer at the bus stop. What would she say? How would I cope? Was there something I could say that might change her mind? Help me, Lionel Richie.

I walked out to the bus stop and waited for her class to come out. There she was. The smile had left her eyes. She looked at me and told me the words I was dreading: "Just as a friend." Our love story was over.

I walked to the bus trying to hold back the tears, but by the time I sat down I'm afraid the ugly cry had begun. My friend Scott was already in our bus seat. He looked at me, and he didn't even need to ask. He knew. He knew that Amanda had broken the heart of his best friend. And it was his duty to respond.

He stood up on his seat and used all his strength to open up that stubborn bus window that usually required a technician to move. He caught Amanda's eye as she marched to her bus like a tiger after a kill. He did what any loyal best friend would do — he began to shout profanities at her. Thank you, Scott, for saying what I wanted to but didn't out of my fear of going to hell.

I was not surprised that Scott had my back, because he had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. Scott's family lived three doors down from ours, and we spent our summers, weekends, and evenings after homework was done playing outside. I was Batman, he was Robin. I was Luke, he was Han. We played baseball, basketball, and football together. We rode our bikes all over town with quarters in our shoes to buy donuts and Big Gulps at the 7-Eleven. Scott and I were inseparable. And when Scott saw me take a light saber to the heart, he reacted the only way a best friend would. He avenged me.

I don't remember much after that moment. I probably had a panic attack. But if I know Scott, we probably played catch in the backyard for a few hours until I forgot all about the breakup.

There was something special about an elementary-age friend. It was friendship without the etiquette book. We never thought about niceties or appearances or dressing appropriately. We were just who we were. Sometimes weird. Often smelly. But always ourselves.

It's been over thirty years since that day, and I find friendship like that hard to come by. Why is loyalty like that so hard to find the older we get? Something happens after elementary school. We all grow up and worry about what others think of us. I think it has something to do with puberty. Suddenly we get concerned about wearing deodorant, battling acne, matching our clothes, and getting a date. And when you're trying to win the affection of someone, all friendships are negotiable.

Add social media and things get even more confusing. Think about the questions we wrestle with: If I have 1,500 friends, why am I so lonely? How come when I post something I only get a few "likes"? Why has everyone else been tagged in the picture, but not me? The struggle is real.

Is Together Really Better?

While we may smirk at the wounds from social media, we all have our friendship scars. It might have been a breakup. It could have been harsh words on the phone and then a hang-up. Or a string of painful words or deafening silence. It might have been betrayal or abandonment. However they come, we all have scars. And we remember the pain. We begin to wonder, Is together really better?

When my wife and I moved to California, we felt like fish out of water. We were desperate to find friendships and meaningful connections. We had moved two thousand miles away from our family and friends. Lorrie was home all day with our one-year-old daughter, and I was trying to lead a three-year-old church still meeting in a movie theater. The only people we knew were other church staff members.

So the first thing we did was join one of our church's small groups that happened to meet in our neighborhood. We were delighted to meet some new friends, and one couple in particular. They lived right around the corner from us, and even though their kids were older than ours, we had a lot in common. Our wives liked to walk and talk, and we (the other husband and I) enjoyed football and teasing each other when our teams lost. Their family was active in the church and seemed committed to the cause, so Lorrie and I felt blessed to be in relationship with them.

But after a few months I noticed things were changing. The familiar faces became more disgruntled. It started with occasional questions about the direction of the church and morphed into some venting about more depth. They were friends. I trusted them. And since I was a young leader, I let them help steer the ship. We added staff to teach classes they would enjoy. I made changes to my messages to meet their needs, but the comments continued.

Finally one day he took me to lunch and told me they were "moving on." His reason? They didn't like my teaching. Wow! Tell me how you really feel. They assured us we'd still be friends and get together, but you know how that goes. We didn't see them on Sundays or Mondays anymore. We stopped dropping by, and the friendship never recovered. It was hurtful for both Lorrie and me.

I remembered a time in second grade when a friend moved away from my class. I was very sad about this, so my mom offered this age-old proverb: "Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver and the others gold." That sounded nice at the time, but now that I'm an adult it seems ridiculous. Friends that leave me are neither silver nor gold. They are more like dirt.

I wish that were the only time we experienced pain with friendships, but it's not. My guess is you have your own friendship wounds. You also know the pain of getting close to someone only to discover the feeling is not mutual and they walk away. No matter what reasons they give, and no matter how justifiable their actions, it still hurts. And it leaves a mark.

Collect enough of these friendship wounds and you begin to think, I don't need anyone. After all, why do I even need friends? This is especially true if you are married, with kids. Your life is busy enough. So you begin to think, The people in my house are my friends. I don't have the time or emotional bandwidth for anyone else. What we really mean is we don't want to risk being hurt again.

After a few decades of this you learn to put up some walls. Never let anyone see the real you. Only show them what they need to see. Keep everything on the surface. After all, didn't Solomon say, "Guard your heart"? Not needing anyone has its benefits.

Benefits of Going It Alone

I protect myself

The older you get the more relational lines you have to manage and thus the more opportunities to be hurt. When you're young, the only non-family relationships you manage are friends who live near you. When you get into junior high and high school, you have teammates, study groups, and social cliques to coordinate. Move on to college and you exchange your high school friends for dorm or fraternity friends.

After you graduate from college, things really start to get complicated. You have work friends, and if you get married, you have married friends. The odds of finding a couple you and your spouse both like are slim to nearly impossible. Then you have kids, and you develop friendships with the parents of your kids' friends.

The more relational lines you have to manage, the more opportunities you have to be hurt, the more wounds you receive, and the less trusting you become. How many people can you really trust, anyway? Who are all these people? If you share your heart with them, they may be gone tomorrow — or worse — they may share your heart with everyone they know. I heard someone say, "I find that if I just keep asking questions, I can listen or not, but I won't have to share anything about myself."

My wife and I went to dinner recently with a couple we would consider very close friends. We've been around each other for years. Our kids are Best Friends Forever (BFF) with their kids. We've traveled together, vacationed together, and shared lots of experiences. But as close as we are, I still found myself wondering at dinner what they were thinking of me. Why didn't they laugh at that joke? Did I offend them? I wonder what they meant by that?

Do you ever do that? They didn't text right back — did I offend them? After a while I feel like a criminal profiler trying to determine the suspect's motive. This only makes me want to deal less and less with people outside my immediate family.

So the walls go up. I keep it light. I protect myself from getting hurt. I walk fast and speak little. I say, "How're you doing?" and pray they don't answer me. It may be lonely, but it hurts less.

I get my way

Another perk of not needing anyone is I get to call the shots. I don't worry about your opinion. I don't stress about meeting your needs. I get to be in charge, and I get to take care of me.

Ever notice how your thoughts are consumed with you? You are the star of your own movie. So it only makes sense that everyone else should see themselves as supporting actors in your film, right? When your friends suggest a place to eat, your first thought is Do I like that place? And if you don't, you don't go. When neighbors invite us over, my only criteria is Do I want to go? Not Would it be a good idea to get to know them better? but rather I just don't feel like it right now.

I used to think having kids was the cure for all selfishness. After all, you are caring for a life, raising a child, providing for their every need. Surely after doing that for more than one child over several years, every ounce of selfishness would be gone. Not so much. For our six-year-old's birthday party she wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese's with some friends. But in my mind, all I'm thinking is I hate their pizza. Not But she'll love it. Not What a great idea for her and her friends but They have terrible food! As much as she was excited about it, I found myself trying to figure out how I could talk her into going across the street to Chili's instead. I know Jesus said to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. But this is just dinner. Is it that big of a deal?

Why is it we can so easily become focused on ourselves even when our loved ones want something else? Here's why: Because at our core we are all selfish. We act like it's about self-preservation. We say we are just taking care of ourselves. We think somehow it's more spiritual to just need Jesus, not other people. But the truth is one person is easier to manage than many — especially when that one is me.

Even God Is in a Small Group

We don't know the exact audience for the book of Hebrews, but we know a few things about them. They were truly persecuted. They faced far worse than Chuck E. Cheese's pizza. Because they had become Christians, they faced the loss of businesses, homes, families, and even life itself. They knew people who had gone to prison for their faith. They knew fellow church members who had died because they refused to deny Christ.

After bearing witness to all of this, they had to be feeling a little bit of buyer's remorse. I'm sure they were building up relational walls and becoming suspicious of everyone. Who can I trust? Who will turn on me? Is it worth it? Everything about them could have closed the door and locked out the world. It's just my family and me. We'll get through this on our own.

That's why this letter is so powerful. The author knows they need this letter to help them keep the faith and not give up hope in Christ. He knows this letter will be read aloud in gatherings and passed from house to house. He knows he has a chance to capture their attention, direct them to the great God they now serve, and motivate them to stay the course.

So here's what he does — he paints beautiful word pictures to show God in all His fullness. He is more than a man named Jesus. He is more than a Spirit in the sky. And He is more than a Father to their fathers. He's all of the above. Before we conclude that we can live our lives alone, we need to realize something: God doesn't. God himself exists in community. Throughout this letter of encouragement and instruction, the author of Hebrews reminds his readers that although God doesn't need anyone, He exists in perfect community — a small group, if you will.

The Trinity has always been a difficult concept to explain, let alone understand. I've heard my share of metaphors to help us grasp it: water, steam, and ice ... they're all HO. Or even sauce, pepperoni, and cheese ... they all make up the same pizza. But these examples feel inadequate. After all, how do you describe the indescribable?

Though we serve only one God, and God is one, we know that God exists in three persons. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We see all three present at creation. We hear God say, "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26 KJV). We see Jesus in the baptismal waters while His Father says, "Well done" and the Spirit descends like a dove. God exists in a small group. Perfect community.

Author Dale Bruner refers to God living in perfect community. The Father is always pointing to the Son and the Spirit. The Son is always pointing to the Spirit and the Father. And the Spirit is always deferring to the Father and Son. They use phrases like Look at Him, Worship Him, Be grateful He is coming. They live in perfect submission to each other's glory. And yet they are all one. And though it's a little like trying to explain to a fish the concept of air, the author of Hebrews still wants his readers (including us) to be mindful of this relationship God lives in, even as complicated as it might seem.

For God never said to any angel what he said to Jesus: "You are my Son. Today I have become your Father." God also said, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son." And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, "Let all of God's angels worship him."

Hebrews 1:5–6

He points out the distinction of the Father and the Son and even the community of angels in heaven. Later on he gives further insight into the relationships between God the Father and God the Son.

While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God's Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.

Hebrews 5:7–9

Here we see these two persons of the Trinity taking the label of Father and Son for the sake of all humanity. And then the Son becomes our High Priest by providing the sufficient sacrifice for our sin.


Excerpted from "Better Together"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Rusty George.
Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword 13

Acknowledgments 17

Introduction: Taking a Selfie 19

Section 1 Help! Everyone Drives Me Crazy

1 I don't need anyone 27

2 No one "gets" me 39

3 Everyone else is an idiot 51

Section 2 Better Together … to Connect with God

4 Intimacy with God is deeper together 67

5 Joy is found quicker together 81

6 Anxiety is calmed together 95

Section 3 Better Together … to Overcome Our Weaknesses

7 Healing happens together 111

8 Temptations are conquered together 125

9 Perfectionists find peace together 139

Section 4 Better Together … to Leave a Legacy

10 Families are built to last together 155

11 Impossible goals are achieved together 169

12 Home is discovered together 185

Notes 199

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