Archives For Ben Reed

Is your church safe? I don’t mean “we have police officers” and “we have hidden cameras” and “I’m packing heat on my pew.”

Is your church safe for you to be you? Can you be the you that doesn’t have it all figured out? That has more questions than answers, some days? Can you be the you that you are on the inside that nobody else sees? The you that wonders how in the world a God that loves justice could also love you? The you that you’re ashamed of?

Is it safe to for you to bring your doubts?

Fears?

Questions?

Struggles?

Victories?

Insecurities?

Quirks?

Gifts?

Doubts?

Is it safe for you to bring the full force of these and not be shunned?

Not be cast out?

Not be shamed?

Not be laughed at?

Not be marginalized?

Not be made to feel “less than”?

Maybe a bigger question than, “Can you?” is “Do you?”

Do you lead the way in vulnerability? Because if you don’t, they won’t. If your current church environment doesn’t afford you this luxury necessity, create it. If you’re waiting for someone else to give you the permission, you now have it. I’m granting it to you right now. Be you. And when someone else brings their junk, don’t take a step back. Take a step forward towards them and with them. Give grace, mercy, and patience. Give truth in love. Give space for continued exploration.

If we have a Savior that died for us, and was the ultimate example of welcoming sinners, we as the Church should be the most welcoming environment on earth. The safest place to still be “in process.” The place where when you join our community you instantly feel at home. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but our people should feel like your people. Our group, your group. Our home, your home. Our grace, your grace. Your story, our story.

By our posturing, may we, the Church, be certain we’re not telling the world, “Fix your junk before you come in here. Otherwise we will boycott, marginalize, slander, and shun you.”

The safest place you’ll ever find yourself is in a small group community that simultaneously knows and loves you. (Tweet that)

Jesus was a “friend of sinners.” (Matthew 11:18) Are we?

 
photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Getting your small group to like you isn’t something you may have explicitly set out to do. If you did, you’re pretty self-centered. And there’s a great chance that nobody really likes you.

There. I said it.

While you may not have set that out as a written goal though, it’s on the back of your mind whether you’re a leader or a group member. Don’t lie. You want to be liked. And that’s not a terrible thing. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d probably be a jerk. Caring what others think (while not being dominated by that) shapes our responses, and helps us become more loving and generous. If you didn’t care what others thought of you, you’d dress like a slob and never shower. So please, please keep caring.

If people genuinely don’t like you, and you’re a representation of Christ for them, then there’s a great chance you’re acting as a barrier for them to enjoying Jesus. It would be wise for us to not be a barrier.

How to you get your small group to like you? Well you can start by taking a shower before group. Then, let’s get to the more important things.

How to get your group to like you

Listen intently.

Listen way more than you talk. When you think you’ve listened too much, you’ve just started the process.

Share your story.

You’ve got a story of loss. Victory. Defeat. One that makes much of God, and His power to change your heart and shape your journey. Share that. It’s a gift.

Be authentic.

Nobody likes a fake leader. We all want to know that the person we’re following is the person we think we’re following. Be real and open and honest with your struggles and victories.

Be consistent.

Show up and engage. Week after week after week. On the weeks that you feel like going, show up. On the weeks that you don’t feel like going, show up. On the weeks when you’re too busy, show up. Consistency builds trust.

Go over and above.

Have coffee with a group member outside of your group’s meeting time. Invite a couple over to your house for dinner. Text them when you know they’re going to have a difficult day. Reach beyond the “normal” and “expected.”

Love unexpectedly.

Call on their birthday. Offer to watch their kids so they can go on a date night. Buy them a book that’s made a difference in your life.

Give grace when it’s not deserved.

I know, I know…grace “deserved” isn’t really grace. But there are times when you give grace and it’s expected. But when it’s not deserved in the least. When it hasn’t been earned. When everybody in the room expects you to go 100% truth in the moment…go 100% grace.

Learn their kids’ names.

Do this one today.

Remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Go ahead and plug them into your calendar now, and set yourself a reminder. Trust me…they’ll notice this.

Share a well-timed truth.

Don’t just sit in your big comfy chair and drop theological bombs on your group. Listen well, and share a well-timed, well-pointed, well-applied truth. One that’s informed in the moment, and that walks the nuances of a deep relationship.

Give your resources.

You can’t give everything to everybody. But you can give significant, needed resources, to your group members. In a way that’s much faster, more efficient, than applying for aid from government, or even parachurch, organizations.

Be yourself.

If you’re funny, be funny. If you’re contemplative, be contemplative. If you’re patient, be patient. If you’re the life of a party, be the life of the party. If you’re an intellectual, be an intellectual. Be the you God created you to be.

Anything else that you do that engages your group to enjoy being around you?

 

We all have an opinion on small group life. Some of us lean towards “small groups are amazing.” Some of lean towards “small groups are just plain difficult. And awkward.” Rarely is someone neutral when it comes to intentionally building spiritually-formative relationships with others.

I’ve been a part of life-giving small groups that I long to gather with week in and week out. Ones where I leave with more of Jesus than when I came. I’ve also been a part of groups that seem to suck the life right out of me. Ones where I give, but get nothing in return. (I think that has to do most prominently with small group dominators, but that’s another post for another day)

iStockPhoto, user: Noriko Cooper

iStockPhoto, user: Noriko Cooper

Healthy small groups teach us more than they often set out to teach. We are molded and changed in so many ways, because God uses others in mighty ways to make us more like Jesus. In fact, you can’t be like Jesus without others. It’s impossible. You can’t serve others, love others, be generous with one another, or accomplish any of the “one another” commands in Scripture by yourself.

9 unintended benefits of small group life

1. Not everybody thinks like you do, and that’s ok. (Tweet that)

Sometimes, our pride needs a swift body check. We need to run after a fly ball in center field and crash into the wall. We think we’re the only ones with a corner on the “right” answers, and we need subtle, and not-so-subtle, reminders that there are other ways to think.

2. Not everybody thinks like you do, and you can still love them them. 

Loving those who can, and will, love us back is barely love. Loving those who think and act differently than we do is more challenging, and takes more faith. It’s more risky and more difficult. Just because someone thinks differently doesn’t mean you can’t go out of your way to love them. Hanging around people that think like you do is more dangerous than living life with different people that stretch you.

3. Jesus followers can have fun. (Tweet that)

Maybe this post was written just so you’d read this benefit. If you’re a Jesus follower, please don’t check your humor and love of laughter, fun, and general frivolity at the door. After all, a cheerful heart is good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)

4. People desperately need you.

You have gifts. You have a story. You have experiences. You have a living, breathing, active relationship with Jesus. And other people need you. God has created us to work interdependently, and though you may not have been valued for your contribution to the Church in the past, small group highlights the value you bring to the table. (1 Corinthians 4:12-31)

5. You desperately need people.

You may have gifts, but you don’t have them all. It becomes quickly and readily apparent in group life that others are wired and strengthened differently than you. Which is beautiful! No longer do you have to be all things to all people. You can be the you God created you to be, and lean in on others as they’re being who God created them to be.

6. Prayer works

Don’t believe me? Try it. Try asking for prayer. Try praying for someone else. God uses the prayers of the righteous to accomplish His work. (James 5:16)

7. The bible is living and active.

As you’re discussing the Scriptures week in and week out, you’ll find God speaking right into your story, as if the Bible were written just for you, where you’re at in life. He’ll speak through others in your group, using the Scriptures as the Truth you need to think, and live, differently. (Hebrews 4:12)

8. Confession brings healing. (Tweet that)

The more comfortable you grow with your group, the more you’ll be willing to be open and honest with your faults. As you confess, you’ll find healing. (James 5:16)

9. Dirty hands clean your heart. (Tweet that)

The more you love people, the dirtier your hands get. The more deeply you love others, the more likely it is you’ll get burned. Serving people well necessitates getting messy. Because people are messy. And the more you love, serve, and give generously of yourself, the more you begin to look like Jesus.

Are you in a group? Any other unintended benefits you’ve found?

 

The Pastor’s Kid

Ben Reed —  March 25, 2014 — 1 Comment

I’m not a pastor’s kid, but I’m raising two of them. And I’m scared to death.

My prayer for my kids is often, “Lord, help them to not, because of me and the church where I serve, hate your bride.” It’s easy when daddy spends his work day, and many evenings, serving a local body of believers, for kids to grow bitter. Instead of seeing life transformation and community-building, grace-infusing work being done, they see a “job” that takes daddy away from home. They see a group of people that expects more out of them than they can give. They have unfair expectations thrust on them that they didn’t choose, but were chosen for them.

That’s why I’m pumped about Barnabas Piper’s new book, The Pastor’s Kid (releases July 2014). Because I don’t want my two children to grow up despising the church.

Check out this trailer.

 

 

To measure the impact of a book,

don’t count the pages.

Count the coffee stains that mark late nights and early mornings.

Number the highlights, underlines, notes, and scribbles.

Note the dog ears, screenshots, and Facebook shares.

Watch how your thinking shifts and your attitude morphs

as questions increase.

Notice your patience rise. Your love of life swell.

 

Life never slows down,

until you find yourself buried neck-deep in line after line,

page after page,

thought after thought,

crescendoing with an abrupt crash that leaves you marked.

It changes your world.

It whispers into your past and present.

Into the future a book beckons.

 

It’s time to wrestle your nose into a good book.

One that will challenge you to think,

to love

to grow

to change

To measure the impact of a book,

don’t count the pages.

Count the coffee stains that mark late nights and early mornings.

 

What are you reading right now?

 

I never wear my shoes in the house. Shoes bring in dirt.

On top of that, I’m more comfortable without them on. My at-home routine when I finish the day is to take my shoes off and put them in the basket beside the front door. After that, I feel like I can relax.

I don’t choose to take my shoes off because I feel like I have to. Or because my wife expects it. Or because it’s something I’ve done since I was a child. I do it simply so I can relax.

Small group time

Just a few weeks ago, we started a small group in our home. When I came in that Tuesday evening before people started arriving, I continued my normal routine. I took my shoes off, placed them in the basket, and started getting our house ready.

30 minutes before we started, I got my shoes back out of the basket. I put them back on my feet, tied them, and wore them until everyone in our small group had gone home for the night.

Then I went back through my routine. I took my shoes off, placed them in the basket, and sat down on the couch.

I didn’t accidentally wear my shoes during small group. I didn’t forget to take them off. And I’m not self-conscious about the smell of my feet. (though you may be conscious about the smell of my feet, I’m not. :-) )

I wore my shoes to help people feel welcomed.

Many people don’t like to take off their shoes in others’ houses because

  • they’re self-conscious about the smell of their feet
  • they have dirty socks
  • they didn’t cut their toenails
  • they’re worried about the dirt in someone else’s house
  • they don’t take their shoes off in their own house
  • they feel more relaxed with their shoes on
  • their feet are cold

And if they feel like they have to take their shoes off, they’ll either:

a. Not. And feel guilty.

b. Take them off. And resent you for it.

So I chose to wear my shoes, and help people feel comfortable coming just as they are. Not having to bend to the rules of our family, or change their routine to fit our culture. I wanted them to feel like their wasn’t a hurdle they had to jump over, that they don’t have to at their own house, to engage in our group.

If keeping my shoes on helps someone feel more comfortable, welcomed, and loved, I’ll wear my shoes every week.(Tweet that) Small group is a blend of cultures, values, and traditions. Some people value keeping their shoes on.

If you want to love people well, go out of your way to serve them. (Tweet that) Surprise and delight. Make the best coffee in town. Let them sit on the couch nobody else gets to sit on. Let them eat off of the forks you reserve for special guests. Kindle the fire if it’s cold. Crank up the A/C if it’s hot. Open your home, open your life, and open your heart-shaping, will-bending, costly generosity (Re: Luke 14:12-14).

And if you want to create a culture that values people right where they are in life, let it start with your shoes. (Tweet that)

How do you creatively welcome people into your life?

The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. – Acts 28:2

 

 

 

I wish I could forget

Ben Reed —  January 31, 2014 — 3 Comments

Ever said this? I bet you have. There’s something that’s happened to you that you wish you could wipe from your memory forever. You wish it would never pop up when you hear that song. Or visit that restaurant. Or smell that smell or see that movie. You wish you could go back to the time before it ever happened because the reminder is so deeply painful.

I was recently meeting with someone who had been deeply sinned against. He had been hurt by someone else, and he made the statement, “I just wish I could forget that this ever happened.”

Maybe you’ve said something like that.

You wish you could forget

  • that relationship
  • what she did to you
  • how he treated you.
  • when your dad left.
  • when you failed at ___.
  • when you quit ______.
  • the pain of divorce.
  • when you started your addiction.
  • when he hit you.
  • when you got fired.
  • when you had to ask my kids to forgive me.
  • the time he sinned against you.
  • the time he sinned against you again.
  • the time he sinned against you again and again.

It would be easier to just forget this pain, wouldn’t it?

But remembering the pain of someone hurting you allows you to love them in a way you couldn’t otherwise. It gives you the chance to offer grace where it is not deserved. Forgiveness where it hasn’t been earned. And it encourages you to seek God in a way you wouldn’t otherwise, being forced to lean on Him for support in a fuller way than you may have without the pain.

God doesn’t let us fully forget. Because by leaning more fully on God, and offering more grace, love, and forgiveness, we become more like Jesus.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – the Apostle Paul, Romans 8:28-29

 

This is the time of year when people are returning to the gym. You know those guys. Maybe you’re one of those guys.

You have intended to be more faithful in the gym, more faithful to work out. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding the gym (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-workout in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in the gym? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You are really packing on the pounds.
  • You sure do need to be at the gym.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks.
  • I see that pudge…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into the gym. When you look around, you see people who work out every day. You see equipment that’s intimidating. And then you see yourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-round. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on your fragile psyche.

Instead of asking them where they’ve been, or feigning shock that they’re back, just welcome them. Help them feel acclimated. And remember that being there is better than not being there.

Church returnees

The same thing is true around this time of year in churches around the world.

People are gracing the doors of church buildings in an attempt to maintain spiritual goals they set that they knew they should’ve been working to keep all last year. Maybe that’s you.

You have intended to be more faithful in your spiritual life, more faithful to God. But life has happened. Kids’ sports have happened. Work has happened. Vacation has happened. Sleep has happened. And it’s not that you’ve been intentionally avoiding God (ok, well, maybe you have, but just hang with me), it’s just that carving out time to drive across town, get an hour-long-worship in, then drive back hasn’t happened.

Thank you very much, January-new-years-resolutions, for reminding us we need to get back at it.

You want to know the worst thing you can hear when you step a foot back in a local church? The one thing that, more than any other, may cause you to not come back? The one thing that seems benign by the one who speaks it?

Welcome back! It sure has been a while…

Thus implying:

  • You must be lazy.
  • You must hate God.
  • You are really living a life of debauchery.
  • You sure do need to be in church.
  • I know your kind…we probably won’t see you for more than a few weeks. (churches even have a name for you…C&E. Christmas and Easter attenders.)
  • I see that tattoo…I smell that alcohol…I heard that muttering…hopefully you’ll stick around long enough to work it off.
  • You haven’t been here in a while, so you probably have no idea what you’re doing at all.

That may not be explicitly stated, but it’s often what’s heard, because it’s so easy to bring our insecurities into church. When we look around, we see people who have been following Jesus longer than we’ve been alive. And way more effectively than we ever will. We see processes and procedures and systems that are intimidating. And then we see ourself. Out-of-shape. Out-of-time. Tired. Weak. A-little-too-hooked-on-something. Don’t-really-want-to-be-there-anyway. And those seemingly innocuous words fall like a ton of bricks on our fragile psyche, full of baggage that we bring in towards God, the Church, others, and ourselves.

Church returnees: we’re sorry. We say dumb things to help us feel better about ourselves. Or sometimes we just babble because we don’t know what to say. Please give us another chance. We’re just as broken as you are. We need Jesus as much as you are. We can just be knuckleheads sometimes when words start coming out of our mouths.

Church members: just shut your mouth. Paste a genuine smile on your face. And for crying out loud, would it kill you to just give someone a hug? Or, if you’re not a hugger, give a hearty handshake. Nothing else. No “funny” comments about wondering why they’re here. You’re not that funny…and in fact, you’re offensive. If you say, “Welcome back! It sure has been a while…” they won’t come back. Trust me.

 

 

I had a little time off for the holidays. Oh, how nice it was. I mean, I love my job. I absolutely love it.

But being with my family for an extended amount of time? That’s hard to beat.

I built countless Lego sets with my son. TV binged with my wife. Changed…oh so many…poopy diapers. Took scooter rides around the neighborhood. Slept in. Stayed up late. Put together toys for Christmas morning. Read through, and colored through, the Advent. Worshipped with my family. And at the end of the day, I rested. I Sabbathed. And I needed it as much as the rest of my family.

I need to let you in on a little secret, though.

Tending to our home, and our 2 kids, was no small feat.

Yes, my wife was there. The whole time. But I tried to take a load off of her plate as much as I could. I changed every dirty diaper. Tended to every tear. Made peanut butter sandwiches. Disciplined the whines. Hugged the “injuries.” Cleaned the kitchen. Vacuumed the rug. Made the bed. And did whatever it took to give my wife a little break.

And through this, my respect level for my wife has gone through the roof.

The day-to-day operations of raising children, keeping the house straight, making meals, and keeping your sanity is more difficult than you could imagine, especially if you’ve never done it before. Or if you imagined it was a fairly easy job.

As soon as one kid is fed, the other needs help. Then the other is crying. Then you’re having someone over for dinner, so the house needs to be straightened up. And dinner needs to be started. And…oh wait, dirty diaper again.

If you’ve ever said thought that stay-at-home moms have it easier than working dads, I’m calling you out. Right here, right now.

Moms have the most difficult, rewarding, exhausting, frustrating, chaotic, never-finished, messy, no-book-can-tell-you-what-to-do, thankless, joy-inducing, tear-stained, God-ordained, grace-filled job in the world.

A mom’s thankless work is never done. [Tweet that]

To think otherwise is to think too little of the work that moms do. To think otherwise is to downplay a task you either

1. Have never done.

2. Are terrible at.

To be an excellent mom takes your heart, mind, and body. It takes Jesus working in you and through you to sustain you. And to keep you from losing it each and every moment of the day, which is a very real and present option. I felt myself teetering on the brink of going crazy many times.

Motherhood is a calling. In my opinion, it’s one of the most difficult.

Thank you, Laura Reed. I love you even more.

To my mom, for putting up with my brother and me…you’ve got crowns upon crowns in heaven coming your way.

To all moms: don’t give up on your children. They need your grace, love, correction, hope, hugs, and cookies, because sometimes only a freshly-baked batch of cookies will do the trick. [Tweet that] I know this first hand.

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life … Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. – Proverbs 31:10-12; 25-30

 

If you’re married, do you get your spouse a gift?

Or do you forego the gift? Because, after all, you don’t really need anything, right? Or…well…this is a time to get other people gifts. Or…our budget just won’t allow it.

Is it really that important to get your spouse a gift? Or can we just skip it and focus on others? Do we really need to focus so inwardly?

Yes. Yes, you do.

If you’re married, you better get your spouse a gift for Christmas. [Tweet that]

I remember in premarital counseling, my pastor told me something about my then-fiance, now-wife. It was over a decade ago that he spoke the words, but I’ll never forget them.

Your spouse is God’s gift to you. They are your treasure. Treat them like they are. – R. Sing Oldham

If something is my treasure, I’m going to do whatever it takes to find, and keep, my treasure. I’m going to guard it. I’m going to protect it. I’m going to go out of my way to value it because it’s valuable! At the end of the day, I’m going to…treasure it.

One thing that I tell couples when I counsel is that a key to remaining happily married is to continue to date your spouse. Look for moments to steal away. Snag a kiss. Go out of your way to make the mundane special. Go on dates. Do little things to show them you love them. Do big things. Do tiny things. Do medium-sized things. But whatever you do, continue to date them. Continue to get to know them. Spend your life getting to know, and love, your spouse increasingly.

I got gifts for Laura when I dated her. I wanted her to know just how much I loved her. Just how much I treasured her. I wanted her to know how special she was to me. I wanted to impress her with the gifts I got. I wanted her to know I knew her well, and that I understood what made her tick and what she valued.

Just because we’re married now doesn’t mean I should want to impress her less. Yes, we’re committed. She’s not going anywhere and neither am I. But if I really love her, I ought to go out of my way to show her.

I ought to get creative. Think out of the box. Listen to her when she says what she likes and what she thinks looks good to her.

Sure, my wife may not “need” anything. She may not even say she “wants” anything. But it would make no sense for me to go shopping for hours, stretching my brain and my budget, to buy stuff for others without buying something for the one I love the most on this earth.

You’d better get your spouse a Christmas gift before you run out of money and ideas. [Tweet that]

I’m not saying you have to get something expensive. Not at all! It has very little to do with a dollar amount, and everything to do with your heart, your motivation, and how well you’ve listened and know your spouse.

Gifts that show you’ve listened well are more valuable than expensive ones. [Tweet that]

And those you love the most should get the best, most thoughtful gifts of all.

What do you think?