Archives For Ben Reed

Sunday School vs Small Groups

Ben Reed —  October 29, 2009 — 9 Comments


“Sunday School guys” and “small group guys” are often pitted against each other.  Here are some of the stereotypes:

Sunday schools help people to grow in Biblical knowledge…small groups don’t.

Small groups build healthy relationships…Sunday schools don’t really care about the relational aspect.

Small groups are relevant…Sunday school was relevant 50 years ago.

Sunday school really helps people go “deep” in their faith…small groups stay on the surface-level depth of Christianity.

Here are a few things I can confidently assert about the discipleship in the Christian life:

  • Discipleship is more than just information transfer.  The disciples spent time with Jesus.  They heard him preach…but that wasn’t Jesus’ only method of making disciples.  He spent significant amounts of time with them.
  • “Depth” doesn’t just mean a person can quote all 9 of John Piper’s sermons on TULIP, or completely and succinctly recite the Westminster Catechism.  Some of the deepest, most life-changing conversations I have had with others haven’t revolved around difficult, divisive theological issues.  Depth, in my opinion, is about things which matter both here and in eternity.  Not all of those things necessitate insider language. (see my post on the danger of insider language HERE)  Can we really say that the intricacies of the atonement are “deeper” than the challenge to truly love our neighbor?
  • However we communicate (via sermon, blog, twitter, Facebook, over a cup of coffee, a text message, an email, a letter, or an iPhone app), we need to portray the life-transforming nature of the Gospel (the nature and pervasiveness of sin, the hopelessness of the sinner, the person and life of Christ, and the hope of a coming resurrection) in a way that makes sense to both believers and non-believers alike.
  • The goal of Christianity is Christ-likeness. See Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 4:19, Ephesians 4:13, 22-24
  • This goal cannot be accomplished without the help of others.  Jesus, in John 13:34, said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  You cannot do that on your own!

I believe that the way that we, at Grace, do small groups is the best way that the above truths of discipleship are accomplished.  If, at some point, we cease to make disciples, I’m willing to throw out the system in favor of the mission.  Don’t believe me?  Read my post about that very thing HERE and HERE.

What do you think?  Is discipleship better accomplished in Sunday School or small groups?  Should we throw both of them out and start all over?

If you want to see small groups expert Rick Howerton and Sunday School guru David Francis talk this through, check out the video they put together HERE.



Ben Reed —  October 19, 2009 — 6 Comments

I’m a learner, at least according to Strengths Finder 2.0.  Here’s their description of one of my personality traits:

People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

I’m constantly compiling and processing information.  I would be content reading and learning all day long.  Whether it’s books, blogs, podcasts, or asking good questions, I enjoy the process of learning and discovering new truths.  Because of that personality trait, some call me a nerd.

As I was compiling this mornings, I loved the post by Ron Edmondson at his blog, Graced Again.  He highlighted the effects on various people when the constraints of micromanagement are removed.  I also watched this video, posted by The Soderquist Center:

‘LeaderSkilz’ Pilot Episode from The Soderquist Center on Vimeo.

So, my question to you is this:

Are you a micromanager?  Is that working for those you’re leading?


Chili Cook-off

Ben Reed —  October 15, 2009 — 2 Comments

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I like to talk smack about how my chili is much better than yours.  Well, here’s your chance to step up to the plate and show the world that your chili is…not as good as mine!

chiliHere are the details:

Date: Saturday, October 24 – APSU vs EKU

Time: 4pm (chili should get there by 3:30)

Location: Parking lot in tailgate alley, between the Dunn center and the football stadium.  Look for our black tent that has a red Grace Community Church sign

How to enter: Email HERE.

How to win: beat Ben! (voting happens the day of the event)

This is a great opportunity to see college ministry in action and invest in college students at Austin Peay.  If you’re looking for a ministry to plug into, maybe this is the one for you.

If you’re looking to win a chili cook-off, you should look elsewhere.

Think you’ve got what it takes to win?


I didn’t grow up listening to Chuck Swindoll, or his Insight For Living.  Many people did, but I just didn’t, for whatever reason.  After hearing his talk at Catalyst 2009, I wish I had.  After receiving the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 2009, he shared with us what he had learned in his 50 years of ministry, and his goals for his next 50 years in ministry.  Needless to say, I took feverish notes.  I love to sit at the feet of leaders who have been faithful for so long.

10 Things Chuck Swindoll has Learned in 50 Years of Ministry

1. It’s lonely to lead

2. it’s dangerous to succeed.  Every successful person he’s known has had a time where he or she was crushed by God.  This is dangerous work.  It takes time, often includes failure, and is unbelievably difficult.

3. It’s hardest to lead at home.  “Nobody told me that in seminary.”

4. It’s essential to be real.  Phoniness is personified among leaders, and those you are leading see right through it.

5. It’s painful to obey. God will ask you to go to some places where it’s not your choice to go.

6. Brokenness and failure are necessary. He quoted Malcolm Muggeridge, former editor of Punch magazine, “If it were ever possible to eliminate affliction, life would be too trivial.”  The cross signifies this affliction, and draws us to Christ.  In the eyes of the world our failure was a complete failure, but it was completely essential.

7. my attitude is more important than my actions

8. integrity eclipses image. what you’re ding isn’t a show, and what you do behind the scenes that makes you who you are.

9. God’s way is always better than my way. Our problem is that we’re actually too capable, too skilled, and can pull things off in the flesh.  God’s going to have His way.

10. Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility.  ‘I am meek & lowly in heart.’ Matthew 11:29.

5 statements worth remembering during his next 50 yrs in ministry

1. Whatever you do, do more with others and less all alone.

2. Whenever you spend time with others, emphasize quality not quantity.

3. Wherever you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you the best (it will help you keep from exaggerating).  Make sure those you love are in the audience, because it creates accountability, honesty, and humility

4. Whoever may respond, keep a level head.

5. However long you lead, keep dripping with gratitude and grace.


Did Rob Bell Offend You?

Ben Reed —  October 13, 2009 — 24 Comments

If you’ve not heard of Rob Bell, you should get to know this guy.  Whether you’re on the same page with him theologically or not, he is a leader for our generation worth knowing about.  He thinks outside the box and helps others to do the same, especially through his wildly popular small group video series, Nooma.

I had the privilege of hearing Rob at Catalyst this past week. Did I agree with everything he said?  No.  But there was predominantly more that I did agree with than that I didn’t. (on a side note, thinking about criticism…don’t criticize somebody until you’ve read their books firsthand, or heard them speak for yourself…don’t just take another blogger/writer/pastor’s critique of the person…do the work yourself, then you can criticize)

I’ll spare you all of the notes from his sermon, but suffice it to say that Rob was on point.  His, “Is Bigger Better?” was exactly what pastors needed to hear.  Citing John 6:22-26, 60-71, Bell says, “Sometimes the crowd thins and the people leave.”  Jesus there corrected misconstrued ideas, and when he did, people deserted him.  They deserted Jesus, and we should know that some will desert us if we remain faithful to the Gospel message.  Bell told a story about how, just a few days before, he was talking with a pastor of a smaller church.  This pastor was lamenting his situation, and saying that he couldn’t wait until he made it big, and God blessed him with a bigger church, because then he would have a legitimate ministry.  His flock of 300 people wasn’t too big of a deal…he was waiting for his big break.  Bell then made this statement,

And I responded with, as the French say, “WTF?”

The audience gasped.  Some chuckled.  He had captivated everyone (though he hadn’t said the curse word…ok, if you don’t know what I mean, just take a stab at what cuss word starts with “F” and you’re probably right).  Rob had gotten away with referencing a highly charged, highly offensive cuss word while preaching to 12,000 pastors.  Bell couldn’t believe that this pastor did not view his current ministry as valid, or that those 300 people were somehow less important than the big crowds.

If there is ever a time to cuss, it’s right there.

No matter the size of your ministry, God has called you to those people!  Whether you’re leading a small group of 3, a church of 300, or speaking to 300,000, you are called to shepherd those in your flock.

What are you more offended by, the fact that Rob Bell used a reference to a cuss word, or the fact that the other pastor completely blew off his people, the role that God had called him to, and the ministry that He had equipped him for?


5 Reasons I go to Conferences

Ben Reed —  October 5, 2009 — 6 Comments

I’m headed to Catalyst Conference in Atlanta this week.  Conferences are often the bane of the office worker.  Conferences mean meetings all day, then working in the evenings to catch up on normal work missed because of said conference.  Conferences mean being away from family.  Conferences mean learning new skills, which means more responsibilities when you return.

While the above may be true, I go to conferences for a different reason, and I think that my outlook on them changes my experience when I attend.

5 Reasons I Go To Conferences

1. Conferences get me out of my normal work environment. When I sit at my office desk day after day, doing the same thing week after week, things become stale.  Traveling to a different city helps me to think outside of the box and re-energize me.

2. Conferences offer great networking possibilities. Conferences are a great place to connect and network with other folks.  I’m a huge proponent of networking.  It’s something that the workplaces undervalue and overlook.  Read more about what I’ve written on networking HERE.

3. I get to hear from speakers not like me. At the conferences I attend, there is always one, or more, speakers that are not just like me.  They don’t think like me, write like me, minister like me, or lead like me.  It’s good to hear from folks like that.  They stretch me in a good way.

4. I get to hear from the most skilled people in the world. At the conferences I’ve attended, the speaker lineups have been incredible.  These guys communicate clearly about issues that I’m dealing with on a regular basis.  They’re doing similar ministry, and speak truth to me in a way that directly connects with my role in leadership.

5. Conferences give me a chance to dream. I don’t naturally dream.  I’m a task-oriented, inside-the-box kind of guy.  I need to plan times to pick my head up and dream a bit.  Conferences force me into that, as I hear from speakers, network with other guys, and think creatively about the future of ministry that to which God has called us as a church.

Can you add anything to this list?


Fantasy Football

Ben Reed —  October 3, 2009 — Leave a comment

I love this video.  Do you play fantasy football?  If not, you should play against me this season…you’re guaranteed a win!

Do you think this video has been doctored?


Arguments against Twitter

Ben Reed —  October 1, 2009 — 2 Comments

I really like Twitter.  Maybe you knew that…maybe you didn’t (all of my posts related to Twitter are HERE).  I’ve heard this about twitter so many times lately:

I don’t care that you walked the dog…or are heading into work…or are eating lunch now…or are sad. I don’t care, and nobody else does! That stuff just doesn’t matter to me.  And it’s just a waste of time for me and for those reading it.

Have you heard this, or something like it?  Frankly, I’m tired of hearing this from folks.  It’s not a great argument.  So few people (well…at least the ones that I follow) update about narcissistic and/or self-loathing goings-on that, to say you don‘t buy into Twitter because of those silly updates is like saying:

I can’t stand baseball. All they do is bunt, and that’s so boring.

I don’t like to read because there are so many big words.

I don’t like the Bible because the book of Revelation is so hard to understand!

The problem with this line of arguing is that people are taking a specific instance (that may or may not be true) and making a generalization about the whole.  I don’t even see many (if any) twitter updates from actual people (not twitter bots) that say, ‘I’m sad.’ Here are examples of typical Twitter updates (aka, “tweets”)…this is a screenshot from my computer that I took just now:

Screen shot 2009-10-01 at 10.38.09 AM

This is a form of a weak argument called “hasty generalization.”  We notice a few examples and quickly jump to broad-stroke conclusions. (HT: John Mark).  It’s not an invalid argument…just a weak one.  Hasty conclusions are much easier to jump to than justified ones.  Not enough of these type of frivolous updates have been observed to warrant throwing Twitter out with the proverbial bathwater.

Baseball isn’t all about the bunt. Very few people, if any, understand every word of Revelation.  And not every word in every book is a difficult word.

If you’re opposed to Twitter, fine.  But come up with some better excuses for not jumping on board.


I took my wife on a date last night.  We went to 3rd and Lindsley, a bar & grill in downtown Nashville, to eat and listen to music.  We both enjoy music from the singer-songwriter genre, and though neither of us were too familiar with the lineup of musicians, we enjoyed the night. (as a side note, Paulie Pesh, the opener for the show, was really good)

Listening to the headliner Ernie Halter (another side note…neither of us liked his performance.  The music was okay, but the lyrics, and his commentary on them, were really shallow, which is not becoming of somebody in the singer-songwriter genre), perform, I was struck by this:

Why is it easier for a musician, who knows nobody in the crowd, to be completely vulnerable and honest with his in-between-songs-running-commentary, than it is for people in a small group?

Maybe it’s the fact that he didn’t know anybody in the crowd.

Maybe he’s just an open book.

Maybe it’s that he was 2000+ miles from home, and didn’t count on word traveling back to LA.

Maybe he had had too much to drink.

Whatever the reason, he quickly developed a relationship with the audience.  He had them (except my wife and I) eating out of his hand, sharing stories that allowed the crowd to be able to quickly know his story and his struggles.  Community was developed in a matter of a couple of minutes.

The quicker a small group can move from surface-level talks about the weather to deeper talks about real life, the quicker they can move into authentic community.  And this move to authentic community needs to start with you.  Whether you’re the group leader or not, you can be the one that helps your group move away from one-word answers to questions and prayer requests for your next-door neighbor’s 2nd cousin’s cat.  You can begin to discuss and pray over personal issues that matter, and lead the group to do the same.

Are you willing to take the risk?


Leading without authority

Ben Reed —  September 28, 2009 — 2 Comments

One of my pet peeves in leadership is when I’m given a leadership responsibility, but not given any authority to make decisions.  Have you ever run into this? You’re delegated a task, but not been trusted enough to answer questions, set any sort of direction for the project, or answer questions about the current or future direction.  That’s why, when I ask somebody to lead a small group, I cast the vision for small groups at Grace, then actually let them lead. I get back and watch them shepherd their group.

I could get in and tweak with each and every group.
I could micromanage each group and make sure they were exactly like I wanted them to be.

But I’d rather cast vision, equip the group leaders, and let them lead.

After all, God has called them to lead the group, right?

If you feel confident enough in a person to ask them to become a leader, then it makes sense to actually let them lead!  Try turning loose some of your control.

Have you ever been delegated a task only to find out that you have absolutely no authority, even over that task?  What did you do?