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Holes in the gym floor

Ben Reed —  September 27, 2012 — 1 Comment

I played city-league basketball growing up. I wasn’t that great…just like now, I was a skinny white kid. But I was quick, and a decent shooter.

We played games on Saturday mornings at a local elementary school gymnasium. Overall, it wasn’t a bad place to play. Plenty of seating. It was heated and cooled. And generally, it was clean. Generally.

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image credit: Flickr user atlanticcape

Taking a look at the gym floor, you’d assume everything was fine. You could tell it had been used by decades of kids playing ball, but it looked acceptable. Not new, but on the freshly veneered surface all looked well.

But there was a spot.

And if you were to take me to that gym today, I could close my eyes and walk to the spot.

It was about 6 feet out from the basket on the side closest to the door. It was dead.

Everybody playing knew the spot was there, but in the heat of a game, usually once or twice, the guy with the ball would forget about the spot, and go up for a layup with nothing in their hands. Running down the court at full speed, the ball that was once bouncing right back to their hand would bound no more, falling like a bowling ball to the gym floor and making the player look like a fool.

If only the maintenance crew had peeled back the hardwood and exposed the subfloor, it would’ve been a problem easily remedied. It wouldn’t have cost a ton of money to fix the problem. But instead of fixing the underlying issue, maintenance decided to paint right over the spot and pretend it wasn’t there. Just below the surface hid this ugly hole, hidden by a freshly painted, freshly lacquered surface.

Spiritual Lacquer

We do the same things spiritually, don’t we? We put on beautiful masks to cover over a dark part of our story. We put a fresh coat of paint over the pain to tell the world we’re perfectly fine. We slather on fresh lacquer and cover up something that we’d rather others not know is there.

We forget that God can repair and restore what’s broken. We forget that God’s in the business of reconciling all things to Himself. (Colossians 1:19-20) And though that reconciliation might not look like we hope it will look, in time we’ll grow to see the beauty. We’ll experience God’s love, forgiveness, and grace. We’ll become new.

It’s in this process of restoring you and giving you hope that God will breath hope into someone else, too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) But not if you paint over your issues. Instead of healing, you’ll cover over rotting wood that’s waiting to explode in the heat of the battle. When you need the foundation of your life to hold the strongest, you’ll find it crumbling as you live life in hiding.

You’ve got plenty of mess and pain and disappointments and frustrations. Plenty of unmet expectations, unmet desires, and unreached potentials. So do I.

Quit acting like you don’t have problems. We’re born without a mask. So let’s quit putting a mask on.

Be real and honest with someone.

I’ll start:

I deal with insecurity. Not every day, but I have to battle against my flesh and remind myself that I’m loved by the King of Kings. I care too much what people think and what they say. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me” doesn’t really ring true with me. Names hurt. Words injure. And I do battle with caring too much how others respond to my leadership.

Your turn.

 

 

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I’m taking a break from my blog between Christmas and New Year’s. I’m re-posting a couple of your favorites (based on clicks) and a couple of my own favorite posts from 2011. I hope you enjoy! I’ll be interacting in the comments section, so if you comment, I’ll respond. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!


If you’re looking for a small group, you probably wouldn’t like mine.

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Why you won’t like my small group

  • Nobody’s perfect. Our group is rather messy…in fact, much messier than I ever thought it would be. If your life is clean and put together, and messiness frustrates you, you’ll hate our group.
  • We celebrate small steps, not just the ‘huge’ ones. And small steps may seem insignificant to you, so if you’re not willing to get excited over a step towards Jesus (no matter how seemingly insignificant), you’ll not feel at home with us.
  • There’s no teacher. Just a facilitator. And the facilitator doesn’t have all of the answers, so if it’s merely answers you’re looking for, mosey on.
  • We talk about challenging stuff. And I don’t mean that we debate obscure theological dogma. I mean that we work to apply the Scriptures to our lives. If you love a great, obscure theological debate, you may not enjoy our group.
  • We expect full participation. Nobody in our group is lazy. In one way or another, every member participates, and is vital to the success of the group as a whole. If you want to be a lazy sponge, don’t join us.
  • We know each other’s stories. No hiding in our group. Our group kicked off its first month by encouraging everybody in the group to share their faith story. Comfortable? Nope. This group’s not for you.
  • We’re transparent. Mere platitudes aren’t acceptable. If all of your answers start with, “Someone once said…” instead of, “I am dealing with…” then you’ll never be comfortable in our small group.
  • We’re diverse. If you’re looking for people that are just like you, who look, smell, act, read the same books, live on the same side of town, have the same number of kids…keep moving. You’re not going to find that here.
  • Our group is going to end soon, and I’m going to ask each group member to take a step of faith and lead a new group…each one of them. No moss will be gathering with us. If you like moss, find another group.
  • We serve together. Don’t want to serve? That’s fine. Just don’t get frustrated with us when we ask you to join us in making a difference in our community.
  • We have fun. Every week. We laugh so hard that we snort. We play games, share stories, and study the Bible…all while having fun. I wrote more extensively about the importance of having fun in small groups HERE. If you don’t like having fun, you’re an old codger. And old codgers don’t last long in our group.

* image credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

 

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Community is realized in story

Ben Reed —  November 14, 2011 — 13 Comments

Community is realized in story.

Image credit Creation Swap user Pierce Brantley

On the first night of our small group, I didn’t want to make things too awkward. I didn’t want to be the guy who dumped all of my junk on everyone…you know, the emo guy that just goes around with a rain cloud over my head, and shares dark things all of the time. You know who I’m talking about. Every time you talk to them you think, “How are you even still alive? You are so dark and mysterious…”

Community and Prayer

I didn’t want to pressure people too much, so I closed in prayer. I just laid it out there and said, “Hey, we’re going to close in prayer…please don’t feel the pressure to share anything…if you want prayer, please mention it and someone will volunteer to pray out loud for you in a moment.” There must have been something magical in those words. Because in that moment, the heavens opened up and it was glorious.

Our group gravitated towards each other’s stories. We could’ve gravitated towards a lot in that moment, but it was with each unfolding story that our group began moving inwards.

I didn’t ask for community to happen…it just did. Our group went from fragmented, broken individuals to a unified community in the matter of about 12 minutes. And I’ve seen this over and over again. Fragmented individuals come together more quickly and more tightly, forming the bonds of community, through the power of story. Stories reveal shared experiences.

Isn’t Community Through the Gospel?

I know that some of you right now are saying, “Nope, it’s not through story, you crazy liberal! It’s through Gospel. We’re aiming for Gospel-centered community, NOT story-centered community. Have you read Blue Like Jazz too many times?”

 Community is not realized in a group simply when we find out that we all follow Jesus.

Community is realized

  • When I hear how the Gospel has changed your life.
  • When I hear the junk you’ve had to deal with, and that God’s grace has brought you through it.
  • When I hear the pain you’ve been through, yet hear how the hope of the Gospel has sustained you.
  • When I hear about how the Gospel has changed your desires.
  • When I see that the Gospel transformed your family.

In the process of hearing your story, I hear mine. I make connections between who you were and who I was. I link who you’re becoming with who I’m becoming. And I see that the Gospel is strong enough. Scandalous enough. Generous enough. Big enough to transform my story, too.

Your story gives me hope.

Without your story, community isn’t found. “Bible study” may be found. “Fun” may be found. “Relationships” may be found. But genuine community is formed when I see and hear and feel and  smell and hug and experience the Gospel in your life.

To choose to not share your story is to choose fear. And it’s choosing a weak, inadequate form of community when the Gospel offers much, much more.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. – Romans 12:15-16

 

 

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I just had lunch with a guy in our small groups ministry, and we talked about the importance of accountability.  We talked about the fact that we all need to have those people in our lives who know everything about us, and are not afraid to ask us difficult, awkward, yet ultimately Christ-honoring, sin-defeating questions.  We need those people who know all of our junk, yet love us still the same.  They don’t love our junk, but they love the chance to help point out the sinful habits and blind spots that we have, and those things (whether good or bad) that ensnare us.  They’re not satisfied with letting us continue in our sin because they “know that he (Jesus) appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:5-6).  We are sinful creatures, and our sin loses its power when it’s confessed, and brought into the light.

How do you make sure you’re held accountable?  Are you accountable to anyone other than God?  Are you accountable to anyone other than your spouse?

How can you, as a group leader, help those in your group be accountable to each other?

1. Foster an environment of authenticity and vulnerability.  Be real with your struggles, failings, and sinful tendencies.  You’re not perfect, and your group members know that.  When you mess up, confess it!

2. Divide your group based on gender for times of prayer.  I don’t like to air out my dirty laundry in front of another man’s wife, and I’m sure that you feel similarly.  Guys can be more openly honest when it’s just guys in the room.  We understand each other better, know how we think and operate, and often know how to minister to each other and hold each other accountable better than you do.  The same holds true for girls.

3.  If you’re the leader, meet with group members (who share the same gender with you) outside of the normal group meeting.  These times are great for building relationship, and opening up with areas of your lives that are not as easy to bring up in a larger group setting.

4.  Choose curriculum, and ask questions in the group, that cover a wide variety of Scriptures and topics.  You won’t know what areas people in your group struggle with until you ask.

5.  Encourage group members to find somebody that can hold them accountable.  It can be another person in the group, or a believer outside of the group, but it does not have to be you, the leader.  Your role as the leader is to encourage others to put themselves into relationships full of confession, love, and vulnerability.

Accountability, just like spiritual growth, doesn’t just happen.  You have to desire it, and you have to seek it.  Accountability is crucial to your growth in Christlikeness.  How much do you care about your growth?

 

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