Tag Archives: small group

Links worth Clicking: Tim Keller, Saddleback’s small groups, and What it’s like to serve the homeless

Here are a few interesting links to start your week…

Small Groups: Mark Howell blogs on “The Unexpected Twist in Saddleback’s Exponential Growth Formula.” It was interesting for me to read about how far they’ve come in terms of small group participation.

Easter, Prison Tattoos, Men in Pantyhose: This post from Brandon Hatmaker shares some of the stories of what it’s like to do ministry for the homeless in Austin, TX. Honestly, stories like this stop me in my tracks. What if every church had systems in place to serve the homeless in their community? This quote from the post is the one that really got me:

Need is everywhere. If we can’t possibly find it, we are either looking in the wrong places, or we’re not really looking. And the goal can never be just the EVENT of serving the poor. The goal is the people we meet along the way. In that place we will find Jesus. He was clear that he’d be there among those on the margins.

Unofficial study guide for Keller’s marriage book: A professor and theologian local to Grand Rapids, David Murray, has prepared an unofficial study guide for Tim Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. If you’ve not heard of David before I highly recommend checking out the videos he’s developed at Head, Heart, Hand.

Book Review: Are you on the book review website, Goodreads.com? I am and last week I found this great review of It’s Personal by Brian and Amy Bloye. Here are a few lines from the review that I absolutely love:

To me, the most compelling element of this book is the fact that it is completely absent of strategy, process, and formula. Of course, there is advice on how to handle certain situations, but this book is more about the heart of the church planter and the church than it is about how to start a church that will explode. This makes the book timeless, because methods change almost daily, while principles are unchanging.

In a culture that is obsessed with quick fixes, sexy sermon series, and all-star bloggers, Brian and Amy bring us back to the refreshing and humbling reality of what Christ really intended when He established His church, and how we must go about our lives and our vocations if we are to truly be a part of that vision.

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

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My wife and I are trying (desperately) to teach both thankfulness and prayer to our two boys.  My eldest son has a hard time with both of these (must take after his dad).  After our family Bible story each evening we go around and pray and all we ask for now is that they say one thing they are thankful.  Luke was thankful for being able to go to the park yesterday, but Jack said he didn’t have anything.  After pressing him, he was thankful for “the day”.

Why is it so easy to feel entitled to things and take blessings for granted?

I know, sin.  I think it also has to do with the fact that, as Craig Groeschel puts it, “we believe in God, but live as if he doesn’t exist.”  Thankfulness is something that comes out of a heart that understands and appreciates the gift given.  Prayer is an outpouring of our need and true belief in God.  If we expect blessing and feel entitled, we won’t be thankful, and if are not thankful, we will probably not see a need for God, or need for prayer.

I fully point the finger at myself on both of these counts.  Having grown up in the church, as well as in a middle-class home, I felt a certain amount of entitlement both spiritually and externally.  I was like the elder son in the parable of the prodigal sons – I didn’t want the Father any more than the younger son, I just wanted him for what I was going to inherit and kept “slaving away”.

So what to do about my son’s (any my) lack of thankfulness and desire to pray?  In his first session from The Christian Atheist, Craig Groeschel says that to know God better, seek him.  If you seek him, he will reveal himself to you.  It seems that going through the work of daily counting our blessings and setting aside specific time to pray will help.  Another idea came from my pastor while teaching on Ephesians this weekend.  Take yourself under the wing of a prayer mentor from the Bible.  Look at Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 1.  Paul says, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Look how Paul prays, and use this prayer as a template of sorts.  Pray that you would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, that God would reveal himself to you.  Pray that you would see the hope of who you are in Christ and what he has called us to be.

This is what I told Jack last night.  That sin keeps us from being thankful, and when we are not thankful we listen to the snake (Satan).  But when we are thankful, we listen to Jesus and defeat the snake.

For the whole message about believing in God, but living as if he doesn’t exist, watch The Christian Atheist on YouTube here.

Second Child as Birth Control and Becoming Christlike

Do you have kids?  I have two boys, 4 1/2 and 3 years old.  Jack is my oldest and is a very compliant, sensitive, thoughtful little boy.  Luke is…not.  Luke reminds me of my younger sister growing up – very funny, very sweet at times, but if things ever so slightly go awry or not the way they want, watch out.  My wife and I jokingly call him “Lukifer” at these times.  I find myself at a loss with him multiple times a week (and I’m not the primary care-giver!).

As a dad, I think I am involved, and take my role as the leader in the house seriously.  I have also discovered that I am not nearly as patient and unselfish as I thought I was.  I have read many books and watched many parenting studies.  Quite often, these gives tips on training your children and communication and discipline.  That is all well and good, and have found many of the resources helpful.  One parenting study, though, that I have been going back to is Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas.  This study looks at how children shape our souls to become more like Jesus.

Sacred Parenting looks at how parenting changes the parent, not the child.  Thomas calls parenting a school of spiritual formation, and our children are our teachers.

I think this is such a great study, that I want to give it away today.  Here’s what you need to do to get the DVD and Participant’s Guide free:

  1. Watch the full session on YouTube here: http://zndr.vn/KajKtK
  2. Answer Gary’s question at the end of the video about a particular challenge that you are facing (or faced) with your children and leave it in the comments on YouTube.
  3. Paste the same comment below here (so we can connect with you about sending the resources to you).
  4. Available today only.

Also be sure also to visit the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  Watch full-length small group Bible study sessions free from authors and pastors like Timothy Keller, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Mark Batterson.

Leading Life-Changing Small Groups review by Mark Howell

Bill Donahue, willow creek churchOver on Pastors.com Mark Howell has posted a helpful of review of new edition of Leading Life-Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the books that shaped my understanding of small group ministry was “Leading Life-Changing Small Groups” by Bill Donahue. When it was originally published in the mid 90s, it quickly became the most important tool in my leader-training efforts. With the third edition (published in May 2012), it’s even better!

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about “Leading Life-Changing Small Groups” is the fact that it begins at the beginning — literally. The introduction develops a very understandable theology of community. As you begin to build a small group ministry, this is an essential ingredient.

Another aspect that makes this book so valuable is that Bill Donahue is truly a practitioner. Don’t miss this key! He wrestled with developing small group leaders for years in one of the most interesting group-life laboratories anywhere, Willow Creek Community Church. The practices and principles included in this book aren’t theoretical but practical and proven.

You can read the whole post here.

But Leading Life-Changing Small Groups isn’t the only new resource from Bill Donahue. Bill, and his co-authors Russ Robinson and Greg Bowman have also significantly revised:

The DVD is a new product that supports all three of the books.

Will Downloads Kill the DVD Star?

…I don’t think so, but you can now download any individual session from any of 20 small group Bible studies now on ChristianBook.com.  Download an entire study, or cherry pick different sessions from different studies and create your own study.  Pick from best-selling small group studies like The Reason for God, When God’s People Pray, Surprised by Hope, The Christian Atheist, The Story, and others!

Each video download is available for purchase for only $2.99 and you get both mp4 and .mov formats (depending if you would like to play it on your mobile device or need high-definition, respectively).  If you would like the corresponding participant’s guide session in PDF, that is bundled with many for $4.99 a session.

So head on over ChristianBook.com and see what’s available.  Let us know which sessions you pick out and what you think of the experience!

Also be sure also to visit and subscribe to the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  There are nearly 100 full-length sessions available for free to view from authors and pastors like Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Timothy Keller.

The Relationship between Words and Life

Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. – Mother Teresa

One of the recent challenges that I have had is the implication of my words.  A couple of weeks ago I read a great blog post from Michael Kelley about using your commute time to focus on a word to “bring home” from work.  I have found this fantastic advice and been working on this, and have seen a difference in attitudes and behaviors in my family.  A month ago, I watched the first session from Craig Groeschel’s new small group study and church campaign, Soul Detox.  This first session deals with “lethal language”.  Craig says that our words have the power to destroy or the power to build up.

“Whether you’re eighteen or eighty, you can probably recall the pain of someone’s harsh words scalding your soul.  ’You’ll never amount to anything’; ‘You’re nothing like you’re brother’; ‘I never loved you’.  As devastating as these words can be, they can be offset by words of truth, hope, and love.  The right words at the right time can be helpful, healing, and life-transforming.  Proverbs 18.21 says, ‘The tongue has the power of life and death.’  What you say can give life to you and to other people, or it can take it away.”

So measure your words going forward.  Read Michael Kelley’s blog post, watch the first sessionfrom Soul Detox below, and speak life-giving words to your spouse, kids, family, friends, and neighbors.

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Be sure to visit and subscribe to the Small Group Bible Study playlist on YouTube.  There are 100 full-length sessions available for free to view from authors and pastors like Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Rick Warren.

God Still Speaks…Are You Listening?

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in church and I had a prompting.  I felt led to invite a specific guy and his family to dinner at our house.  I hadn’t ever talked with him, never met his wife, and only knew that he had a son around my sons age.  I either very rarely receive promptings from God, or (more likely) very rarely am listening and recognize them.  Well, I had recently watched Bill Hybels teach on promptings from God in his small group study, The Power of a Whisper.  I decided that whether or not it was from God, it was a good idea, so I invited him to dinner.  There was nothing earth-shattering about our dinner, or what I did.  He and his wife have 2 boys around the same ages as our two sons.  They had recently moved to Michigan from New York and didn’t know many people.  We connected and plan to get together more often.

But this experience definitely has moved me to be more attune to God’s “whispers”.  I have wanted to not discard any feeling that I had, and I’ve wanted to be more intentional in my prayer to listen, not just talk.

In The Power of a Whisper, Bill Hybels shares his history with whispers from God as well as his filter for deciphering whether or not the whisper is actually “heaven-sent”.  His five filters are:

  1. Is it from God? (consistent with God’s character)
  2. Is it Scriptural? (is there a specific passage that refers to your whisper)
  3. Is it wise?
  4. Is it in tune with how God made you?
  5. What do trusted friends advise?

Hybels talks about whispers that he received from God: leaving his family business to plant a church; starting the church in a movie theater; launching a training organization for leaders.  To watch the first session of The Power of a Whisper, go to YouTube here.  There are also over 80 other sessions from other small group studies on YouTube here.

What whispers or promptings have you received and responded to from God?

Better Without Jesus

About six months ago my 4-year-old son “asked Jesus into his heart”.  I did the same around that age, and I know that many people do the same.  But should we use that language?  As Dr Mohler stated a number of years ago, it is not heresy, but it is not helpful.  Recently, I watched the first session from Jim Cymbala’s six-session group Bible study, When God’s Spirit Moves.  Cymbala teaches on the power and presence of the Spirit and how Jesus taught that it was better for him to go so that the Spirit could come.  Cymbala said this is true because no outward teaching can replace the inward power of the Spirit.

I wasn’t raised with much of a theology of the Holy Spirit, and most people I know would say the same.  The Spirit was something that some people took too far, so it was best to not get wrapped up in emotion and swing to the other side and treated as the black sheep of the Trinity.  But as Cymbala says, Christians are distinct from all other religions and cults because of the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

I am challenged and excited to see what God will do when I open my life to the Holy Spirit.  I also am challenged to instill in my boys a better knowledge and understanding of the Holy Spirit than what I knew.  Maybe the language we should consider is asking the Spirit into your life, rather than Jesus into your heart.  I would encourage you to watch the first session from Jim Cymbala’s When God’s Spirit Moves on YouTube for free below, and check out his new book on the same topic, Spirit Rising.  In the video below, you will hear Cymbala’s inspiring teaching on the person of the Holy Spirit, and an amazing story of transformation from a former gangster named Roma:

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