Archives For community

Ever feel like you’re further from God now than you were a few months ago? Maybe you had that deep sense of awe before God in every aspect of life…and now it is as if that moment in time was just a whisper.
As the theologians “The Righteous Brothers” penned

You’ve lost that loving feeling
Whoa that loving feeling
You’ve lost that loving feeling
Now it’s gone…gone…gone…who-oh-oh-oh-oh

Though they may not have directly been speaking to their spiritual lives, it seems an apt description of our relationship with God in different seasons. We felt close to God…then we wonder where that closeness has gone, gobbled up by life, kids, careers, hobbies, “religion,” and even by our spiritual disciplines.

Now it’s gone.

image via Tim Pirfalt, Creation Swap. Edits and quote mine.

image via Tim Pirfalt, Creation Swap. Edits and quote mine.

And the answer to getting it back isn’t found in trying harder. Because the harder you try, the further you’ll find yourself from the presence of God. A lack of feeling isn’t fixed by a mere flurry of doing. 

My friend Jamin Goggin, with Kyle Strobel, has written a book that addresses just this issue. It’s called Beloved Dust: Drawing close to God by discovering the truth about yourself. It’s really good, striking a hard-to-find balance between being rich, full, thoughtful, deep…and being accessible and helpful and readable. Many books aim at, but few find that balance.

I asked Jamin a few questions about the book, and I think you’ll find his answers helpful.

Ben: What are some of the most common ways you see people try to get closer to God? What’s so empty about those pursuits?

Jamin: In Beloved DustKyle and I explore common ways that Christians seek to grow in their relationship with God. We argue that some of them actually lead us down the wrong path. Ultimately, they are the result of very sneaky idolatries. One of these idolatries for example is “experience.” What we have found in our own journey is that it is incredibly easy to worship an experience from God rather than God himself. Often times we hit seasons in our spiritual life that feel dry. Worship feels boring, the Bible is uninteresting to us or maybe we just feel bored in prayer. We don’t like this feeling of disconnect from God and malaise in our spiritual life, so we look for solutions. We want to feel the way we used to feel in prayer or at church. This may lead us to try a new technique in prayer or maybe we will find ourselves looking for a new church that can make our spiritual life feel exciting again. Whatever it may be we are on the hunt to get back those old feeling we used to have. We want excitement. We want a “mountain top high”. We want an “aha moment”. The problem of course is that we don’t truly want God himself, but rather a felt experience. We want God for how he makes us feel. Thus, rather than going on the hunt for those old feelings or trying to generate an experience for ourselves, the call of God is to be honest with him about how we feel. Quite often God leads us into these kind of desert seasons precisely to show us our idolatry for experience. He is inviting us into a mature love, which does not love for what we get, but for who God is.

Ben: What’s something that a person could do right now to begin actually growing deeper in their relationship with God?

Jamin: What we are seeking to emphasize in Beloved Dust is that all of life is to be lived with God. We seek to dispel the notion that there are some activities that are “spiritual”, while most of our lives are lived on our own. Rather, our hope is to cast a vision of life with God that points people into communion with him in their work, their play and their home. The Christian life is about being with God who is always with you. As a result, the primary way we grow in intimacy with God is prayer. Prayer is our means of being with God at all times. Prayer is not merely another spiritual discipline, but is the very heartbeat of the Christian life. That being said, let me take a stab at actually answering your specific question. As we cultivate the habit of praying (being with God) in our everyday lives there are certain habits of heart that we can practice in prayer to grow in our relationship with God. Habits of heart are relational postures we embrace while we are praying. For example, one habit of heart is honesty. If we desire to grow in our relationship with God then we need to cultivate the practice of being honest with God; inviting him in to the truth of our heart amidst the vicissitudes of our everyday life.

Ben: There’s a tension between “doing” and “being.” Is it possible to find “being” in the “doing”? How?

Jamin: Great question. I actually prefer the language of “being with.” This denotes communion with God. Not just “being”, but “being with.” I think when we use the dichotomy of “being” vs. “doing” we often tend to be imagining very polarizing opposite ends of the spectrum. On one side is the person who is constantly self-reflecting or contemplating. While on the other side is the person who is constantly getting things done and is active for the kingdom so to speak. I think this is a false dichotomy. Jesus makes this clear as he talks about the importance of abiding in relationship with him in John 15. What is clear is that “being with” does proceed “doing for”. The heart of the gospel is not activity for God, but communion with God. However, what is also made clear in John 15 is that if we truly are abiding in Christ then we will indeed be active for the kingdom. Our “doing” so to speak is the fruit of our “being with.” As we participate in the love of Christ we share the love of Christ.

Ben: Is it possible to have a fully-realized prayer life on our own? What part does community play in our closeness with God through prayer?

Jamin: Community is unquestionably crucial in the Christian life. Often I hear the language of “context” when talking about Christian community. It is the “context” in which we grow in Christ. I think this is fine, but I think it misses the depth of what Christian community truly is. Participation in the love of God in Christ by the Spirit is not merely an individual endeavor. As those who are in Christ, the Holy Spirit now lives within us, pointing us on to Jesus and inviting us into God’s life of love from within. However, the Holy Spirit continues to pull us into God’s life of love not just from within, but from without. For he is working in and through our fellow saints. His gifts of love are being poured out uniquely through the body of Christ. You see, being “in Christ” is essentially a communal reality, for it is the church that is his “body.”

So, community is not only the right “context” for growth, it is the place of growth. It is the place which the Holy Spirit is at work.

[Tweet “‘Being ‘in Christ’ is a communal reality, for it is the Church that is his body.’ – @JaminGoggin [via @BenReed]“]

Ben: You’ve got a companion small group guide that goes along with the book. And I love it! Can you tell us what makes this small group study different than others?

Jamin: Yes, thanks for asking. I am really excited about this small group guide. I think what is most unique about is its invitation into prayer. What you will find is that there is work to be done in-between the weekly meeting session. Part of this is reading the book. However, the other part of this is a prayer exercise we call “Being With God.” We invite folks who are going through the study to spend 30 minutes each week opening their heart to the Lord in prayer regarding the specific area they are exploring in their walk with him that week. These prayer exercises include prompts inviting folks to consider reflection questions that invite them into honesty with God in prayer. It is this time of prayer each week that we then invite the groups to share as they begin their weekly meeting. The hope is that this will engender a depth of sharing and intimacy that is uncommon in the small group setting. In other words, each member of the group will take the time to share what came up for them during their individual prayer time.

Lastly, there is one more element that I am excited about in this study guide. If folks choose to they can take a 3-4 our self-guided spiritual retreat when they finish the study. The idea behind the retreat is that it provides an opportunity for folks to pause and reflect over the previous 6 weeks focusing on what God was doing in their lives, and then in turn provides space for them to discern next steps in their journey.


This really is a rich, soul-stirring work. Pick up a copy, or have everyone in your small group pick up a copy, and work through it together.

You can pick up the book HERE and the small group study kit HERE.

If you’d like, here’s a video you can share with your small group that helps them know what the study is about:

 

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Welp, here it is. Summer. The time for vacations, baseball tournaments, camps, and fireworks. Time for the pools to open and the schools to close. Crank up the lawnmower, fire up the grill, and…

…prepare for everyone’s normal schedule to be completely jacked up.

And if you’re a small group leader, you know exactly how difficult this can be. Tuesday nights were wonderful, until little Johnny started baseball. Thursday mornings were perfect, until Laura’s two kids weren’t in school throughout the summer. Thursday evenings worked for everybody…until, for 6 weeks straight, someone was on vacation.

Before the summer hits, you and your small group need to have a plan. Be ready for the chaos that is June and July so that when it drops, your group survives.

To help you out, I thought I’d give you some tips. Depending on whether you want to destroy your group or not, choose which list fits you best.

 

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Photo courtesy, iStockPhoto

 

6 easy ways to destroy community over the summer

1. Meet every week at the same time.

A rule’s a rule, am I right? These people signed the small group covenant. If they can’t abide by it now, then kick ‘em out.

2. Just stop meeting.

After all, if you can’t meet every week, what’s the point? These people should be more committed.

3. Send angry tweets at the people who don’t show up every week.

Because nothing’s better than a good ole public defamation.

4. Assume that the people in your group that don’t show up every week have no commitment to the group.

Also, assume that they don’t really love Jesus. Be sure to include them in your “they really must need our prayer” list.

5. Petition your church council to remove them as members if they don’t show up every week.

6. Since your schedule is out of the norm, bar anyone else from meeting.

And if they decide to meet, let your pastor know that they’re probably conspiring against him.

1 easy way to flourish this summer

1. Be flexible.

Schedule’s are going to be crazy in June and July. So be flexible. If someone can’t show up, let them off the hook. Even before they ask. Don’t make people feel guilty for missing small group in the summer. Help them find time to value their family, and to value the vacation time they’re going to take from work.

Here are some practical ideas for your group.

5 practical ideas to help you be flexible:

Vary your meetings times: Meet 3 times in June and once in July. Or have a June party and a July party. Or meet the first 2 weeks in June and the first 2 weeks in July.

Include the kids: Choose activities where kids could be welcome.

Throw two parties: Have a party in June and a party in July.

Travel somewhere together: Go get ice cream. Or go on a hike. Or eat ice cream while you’re hiking.

Connect regularly: As a leader, be sure to individually connect multiple times with each of your group members, so they know you haven’t given up on them amidst the chaos of summer.

Don’t give up meeting together completely, and lose the sense of community that you’ve built as a small group. 2 months is a long time to go without connecting.

Just be sure to build flexibility in.

* this post was originally published at Lifeway’s Bible Study Insider blog.

 

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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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Disruption: the king of community

Ben Reed —  September 19, 2012 — 2 Comments

I met the king of community last night. He was in my small group, just waiting to reveal himself at the right time.

I’ve seen him before. He’s popped his head in a few times to small group or to random conversations with friends. I’ve seen him at the gym, in the coffee shop, and waiting in line at Wal Mart.

It’s hard to plan for him, because he comes and goes as he pleases. The best thing you can do is to be ready for him, because when he shows up he could destroy a relationship. He could so distract you that you think he’s an annoyance, something you need to move past to get to something else that’s more important. In the moment, nobody really likes him.

The king of community’s name is not “food,” though that helps. His name is not “coffee,” though in my small group coffee is vital. His name is not “funny joke” or “comfortable couch” or “a great Bible study” or “common interests.”

His name is disruption.

image credit: CreationSwap user Jeremy Binns, edits mine

He shows up in a number of different ways. He shows up often in small groups, but if you’re not ready for him, he’ll come and go unnoticed as the king. He’ll frustrate, distract, and derail. In fact, when he shows up, he’ll make people want to leave.

But if you’re ready for him, he’ll build a stronger sense of community than you could ever imagine. Small group leader: be ready.

Unplanned disruption

Pain.

Sometimes this pain is caused outside of your group (losing a loved one, losing a job, etc.). Other times it’s a pain that’s shared together by the group. Either way, pain and difficulty disrupt the “normal” and build community. Neither of these painful experiences can you plan, and neither of these painful experiences would you long for. But either can cause your relationship with that person to go really deep really quickly, knitting your stories together.

The prayer request.

Look out for this one, because it’ll sucker-punch you in a small group. You’re ready to shut the group down for the night when someone brings up the request, “Dave’s not here tonight because we decided to separate.” Or, “Every week I just sit here and listen, but I need to tell you that I’m addicted to _____.” In these moments, slow down and let community happen.

The random question.

You’ll be tempted to dismiss this one as a distraction. And though it may be distracting you from the topic at hand, it can be a great community builder. These questions disarm people, giving them a chance to rally around their doubts, confusions, and curiosities. Chances are good that one person’s curiosities will reveal another’s.

Planned disruption

Meeting to serve.

Try putting your Bible study aside for the night and serving at a local soup kitchen. Or going shopping for your neighbor with 3 kids whose husband just left. Or going on a full-fledged mission trip together.

Game night.

Nothing reveals the depravity of the human heart quite like game night. Gloves come off, ribbing begins, and friends turn on each other. All is fair in love and war…but not in a game of “Cranium.”

The tough saying/hard question.

“What’s God calling you to do with this?” “How are you going to obey Jesus with this today?” “Why does God ask us to ____?” Wrestling through difficult questions and hard sayings builds community. Plan these question-bombs wisely.

Watch for disruptions. They’ll either rip the fabric of your group apart…or weave it together into beautiful community.

Question: 

Have you experienced authentic community? What helped build that?

 

 

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Don’t give me relevancy

Ben Reed —  August 29, 2012 — 13 Comments

For a long season, churches focused on relevancy. They wanted to look cooler, sleeker, hipper, and funner than the options that the world had to offer. Take this world and give me Jesus…the cool one with gel in his hair, a tat on his left arm, and when he speaks, LED lights shine through the thick fog that billows around his feet. The one that speaks in catchy phrases, never offends anyone, and focuses on being slick rather than worshiping the King.

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image credit: Flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/friulivenezia/

I wonder if that trend is over.

I hope that trend is over.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being slick. Or using LED lights (we use them at Grace). Or having gel in your hair. Please, Lord Jesus, tell me there’s nothing wrong with gel in my hair.

The problem isn’t those things at all. In fact, the Church should be the most creative, mind-and-heart-stretching gathering on the planet. The problem is when make our aim and end-goal “relevancy.” The problem is when those things become our crutch, and substitute for what my generation is really looking for.

If you aim for relevancy, you’ll be frustrated every time. As soon as you find the coolest lights, you’ll realize that the touring Broadway company that comes through town just smoked you. As soon as you shoot the best video, you’ll realize that Hollywood just released a blockbuster with a budget of $250 million. As soon as you print off the best-looking bulletins that the church world has ever seen, you’ll realize that the start-up A/C company down the road sent out 15,000 mailers that make your bulletin look like the preschoolers colored it.

Maybe relevancy shouldn’t be our goal. Maybe we shouldn’t rely on the “cool” and “wow” factor to draw my generation in. (and I’m thrilled that my church doesn’t rely on these things to be the hook)

My generation wants counter-cultural. Not relevancy.

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The Gospel is relevant. It always has been. And as long as there is pain, frustration, disappointments, failed expectations, failed families, abuse, neglect, and a desire for a more beautiful reality, the Gospel will continue to be. But it’ll never be relevant because of the lights, sounds, and hipster tight jeans.

If we want to reach my generation, counter-cultural should be our aim. Not anti-culture. Not oblivious-to-culture. Not naive-to-culture. And not enmeshed with the culture. Jesus seemed to do this pretty well, living in culture among us (John 1:14), but he stood out because of his love and radical grace.

Lights, videos, and billowing fog are great. But don’t forget the weightier matters: justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). That’s what’s going to hook my generation.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2

 

 

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3244

image credit: CreationSwap user Jason Harper

Traditional thinking in American Protestant culture values individual time with God. We purport that as the center of spiritual growth.

Go in your room, shut the door, and study.

Master the art of the “quiet time.” Just you and God. Not you and God and ____. Leave ____ out.

Read a book by yourself. Put headphones on and listen to a podcast by yourself. Go sit on a hammock and pray…by yourself.

This bleeds into our worship services, too. We sit in a classroom-style setting, with rows of chairs in a Sunday school class or a worship center. One person, the teacher or preacher, proclaims the Truth we need to digest, while being certain to keep our hands to ourselves. There’s no talking allowed in either setting. I even remember a note in the bulletin of a local church I attended saying, “If you have to get up during worship, please do so before the sermon starts in order to not distract the work of the Holy Spirit.” Because the Holy Spirit throws up His hands in utter ‘what-am-I-going-to-do-now’ fashion as soon as a kid gets up to go to the bathroom.

Contrast this with traditional Jewish styles of learning:

Jews seldom study Torah alone; the study of Torah is, more often than not, a social and even communal activity. Most commonly, Jews study Jewish texts in pairs, a method known as havruta (“fellowship”). In havruta, the pair struggles to understand the meaning of each passage and discusses how to apply it to the larger issues addressed and even to their own lives. – Rachael Schultz

Studying, wrestling, and seeking hard after God is done communally. We Protestants have missed that. With our rows of people, quiet services, quiet times with God, and personal spiritual growth plans, we inadvertently push people towards an individualistic faith.

My friend, James Grogan, says

Circles are better than rows.

He may have stolen that phrase, but since I don’t know who said it first, I’ll give James the credit. Circles promote group growth, unity, and a combined synergy towards knowing God, encouraging each other, correcting each other, and pushing each other towards God’s best.

The reality is that I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible. God hasn’t revealed all angles and varied beauty of truth to me. Your life experiences have given you a certain interpretation of the texts of Scripture that help me know God more fully. Your upbringing, your failures, your pain, your victories, your passions…they all help me know God better. Not that if we study and engage God together that we have to walk out of that clones of one another. I’m still me and you’re still you. But our collective relationships with our Creator is multiplied together.

The advantages of studying together

1. We both work to fulfill the Great Commission.

Iron sharpens iron, and together we push one another to love Jesus more.

2. We build fellowship.

The early church devoted themselves to fellowship, and God honored them in this. (Acts 2:42) You can’t do this on your own.

3. We fight against pride, realizing we’re not the only ones with the “right” answer.

On your own, you’re prone to thinking you’ve got the best angle, the most understanding, and all of the “right” answers. If you thought you didn’t, you’d change your mind, right?

4. Past experiences are (at least) doubled, adding new flavors and angles to the truth.

You only have one past, one set of experiences and one mind. And thus only one insight into the vast depth of Scripture.

5. We can laugh together.

And that’s vital for our growth. If you laugh on your own, while it’s just you and God talking, people look at you weird. And put you away in “homes” for a long time.

6. We don’t get “stuck” on questions.

We’re less prone to getting stuck, because we can help each other out of our ruts of questions.

7. There’s built-in accountability.

I can’t short-cut the process of learning if I’m constantly being pushed and challenged by someone else. Alone, in a large room, though, it’s easy to disappear, not process, and not challenge myself.

8. You’re prone to being narrow-minded by yourself.

We can so easily dive straight into narrow-minded legalism and bigotry when we make our faith only about ourselves.

9. You only have 2 ears to hear from God, alone.

When you read the Scriptures and study them alone, you’re limited to your own ears. God speaks to other people besides you. You know that, right?

10. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Obeying God is too hard. Trying to understand, and obey, the Scriptures will break you. If you go it alone.

We Protestants have missed the boat when we study, prepare, and deliberate the Scriptures by ourselves. We’re better together.

Because circles are better than rows.

 

 

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I’ve lived and served in small group life for nearly 5 years, on staff at Grace Community Church.

Small groups have become my heartbeat. Connecting people in biblical, authentic community has become the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, and what keeps me up late at night.

photo credit: iStockPhoto user Digital Skillet

Over the past 5 years, I’ve seen lots of folks thrive in small groups…and many die on the vine. I’ve noticed that there are certain things that small groups can never be…and certain things that at which small groups excel.

Those qualities that a small group does well are summed in 1 Thessalonians 5:14:

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

 5 Things that Small Groups Do Well

1. “Brothers” 

Small groups help people “belong.” This is absolutely essential in our walks with Christ. That we have brothers and sisters to whom we belong, and are connected with at a deep level. This is the foundation for the rest of the verse, and the foundation for living life in community.

2. “Warn those who are idle”

We’re not talking about an “idol.” The word here is “idle.” Speak truth and hope into the lives of people who are stuck. Who forget that living life as Jesus follower is one of action. One of serving and loving and giving and going. Some of us need to quit planning, and start doing.

3. “Encourage the timid”

Fear is a reality for us in many different seasons of life. It grips our hearts and keeps us in bondage. Which is why we need other people. We need others to encourage us when we need to take that step of faith. We need to know that others have our back when we might fail.

4. “Help the weak”

Oh, how often I’ve needed this. And how incredible a bond you form with someone when they help you in need. When small groups rally around people in their group, or others in their community, there’s a deeper level of relationship than is found in most other areas of life. Helping the weak is something that healthy groups do well, especially when we realize that we can use our pain to help others.

5. “Be patient with everyone”

We’re all at different points in our spiritual journeys. And at various points, each of us can be a difficult person. The way we treat each other reveals our theology. Whether we’re walking through a mess ourselves, helping others deal with a mess, or trying to figure out what God’s got next for us and we’re just fearful or resistant, we need others to be patient with us…and we need to learn to be patient with others. Just like God’s patient with us. And it’s impossible to practice patience on your own. Being that we’re all broken sinners…small groups give us a great chance to exercise patience with one another.

Notice one key component of all of these: they’re active. None of these can be accomplished while you’re passive. None can be accomplished if you just look at group life as a sponge. If you expect that following Jesus is about sitting around.

If you go expecting to sit and soak, you’ll dry up. If you go expecting to give deeply of yourself…expect to be filled.

Question:

Have you seen any of these fleshed out in group life? What else do small groups do well?

 

 

 

 

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Recently while working out at CrossFit, I ripped my quad.

It hurt about as much as you’d expect ripping a quadriceps muscle would hurt. Unless, of course, you thought it wouldn’t hurt at all. In which case…it hurt much more than that.

image via: http://www.flickr.com/photos/crossfitpulse/

I was doing a kip-up, a martial arts-style move where you “jump” from your back all of the way on to your feet. I made it to my feet, and in that moment, all of the energy transferred to my already-weakened quads, and I instantly felt the pain shoot through my legs.

I sat down for a minute, trying my hardest not to throw up. And trying to act like I was ok. One of the trainers came over to check on me. “You’re probably just tight…and when I’m tight, I just take my fist and pound down my leg like this…” at which point he punched me in my leg. I crumpled to the ground like a man with a torn quad would if punched in said torn quad.

It’s taken me a week to get back to the gym. I’m not nearly at 100%…just close nough to fake my way around.

In the process, I learned a lot about life and leadership.

5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from an Injury

1. Stretching is vital.

If I’d stretched a bit more, I may have prevented my injury. Or at the very least, stretching would’ve reminded me that my quad was still weak.

In leadership: Before major decisions, take a moment to breathe. Before you blow up on a co-worker, stop and check your heart. Before you move forward, take a moment to look back. Before you start your day, spend a few moments in prayer. It’ll remind you who you are, where you’re headed, and that you’ve got a loving Father who wants to guide and shape you every step of the way.

2. Know your limits.

Apparently, kip-ups are above my pay grade. For now. :)

In leadership: “Knowing your limits” means understanding your gifts and your weaknesses. And learning, when you’re weak, to surround yourself with others who are gifted. Don’t be prideful. Know your limits. And know that you don’t have every gift necessary.

3. Sometimes, you just have to slow down.

When I was injured, I couldn’t go to the gym. Well, I could’ve gone, but it wouldn’t have done any good. I would’ve had to sit out the majority of the workouts.

In leadership: Organizational life can move at a fast pace, and if you don’t intentionally slow down, remind yourself of what matters most, doing what only you can do, and resting, you’ll burn out. God created the Sabbath because we need it. Which is also why, I believe, He created the hammock. Sabbathing should be a part of your weekly workflow. It’s vital, whether you’re “injured,” or just want to prevent “injuries.”

4. Allow others to help you.

I had to ask for help while I was injured. I needed help across the gym floor. At home, I needed help getting ice packs ready and, at times, just doing normal activities.

In leadership: To try to lead alone is foolish. God has hard-wired us to need others. He’s created us to be dependent on Him…and dependent on other people. Don’t forsake the gift that significant relationships play in your life. Alone, you’re prone to giving up, prone to always thinking you’re right, and only have 1 life experience to draw from. Together, you collaborate, refine processes, and draw from multiple life experiences.

5. Healing takes time.

It’s taken me a week to get back to the gym. It’ll probably take me a month or more before I’m back to pushing myself.

In leadership: When you’ve been injured, whether by relationships, broken dreams, or your own bad choices, it takes time to heal. The same is true for those you’re leading. Don’t expect that you, or anyone else, can recover immediately. It might be awkward, but ask for help! Surround yourself with people who know and love you best. You might not like mine, but find a small group. And pursue active healing.

Question:

Ever torn a muscle?

 

 

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image credit: Creation Swap user http://creationswap.com/kconner

You, alone

are not the Church.

are bull-headed.

are prone to give up.

think you’re right.

are narrow-minded.

only have 24 hours in a day.

have only 2 ears to hear from God.

have only 1 life experience to draw from.

can blindly veer straight into foolishness.

easily slide into pride.

think you’re more amazing than you really are.

are alone.

 

You, together

collaborate.

curate the best ideas.

encourage one another.

refine processes.

think outside your box.

have 24 x ___ hours in a day.

have 2 x ____ ears to hear from God.

can build more relationships.

have multiple life experiences.

fight against pride that any one person is always “right.”

get more done.

pursue the most wisdom.

are the Church.

So quit trying to lead by yourself.

 

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. – Proverbs 15:22

 

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My wife and I had a conversation with a young married couple about sex a few weeks ago.

It was incredibly refreshing. We could be open and honest with them, and help them take steps forward in their marriage.

Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

Church leaders should talk with people more about sex, in a positive light.*

Most of the “sex talks” that happen with church leaders are

  • a premarital conversation that goes something like this: Don’t have sex. Quit having sex. Wait for a few more months.
  • a sermon series in the student ministry that lasts for 8 months. Think I’m joking? I’m not…I ran into a student pastor who said he’d been preaching on sex for 8 months with his students. “I think we’re just about done” he said. “I bet they’ve been done listening to you talk about it for about 8 months, because that’s way too long for students to hear their 50-somethings youth pastor talk about sex” I replied…in my head, of course.
  • an awkwardly timed, not-so-funny joke in a sermon on Sunday morning. Either you think, “Can I laugh at that in church?” or “Can I laugh at that, just to make my pastor feel better? That wasn’t funny…”

Church leaders should have more frank conversations about sex. Not in a “sex is dirty” kind of way, and not in a way that’s constantly condemning the bad things about sex. But in a way that helps a couple honor God with this area of their life.

Culture teaches us a lot about sex, most of which is glamorized, made out to be some sort of physical-only act that’s super easy for a couple to enjoy together.

It Ain’t That Easy

If you’ve been married long at all, you know that sex isn’t easy to get “right” (meaning something that’s mutually enjoying and honoring to God). More often than not, especially in the first few years of married life, sex is frustrating for husbands and wives. It’s not the beautiful act that God intended, but a point of contention. Instead of an act of union and love, it drives a wedge dissatisfaction.

And sex is so, so important to a marriage. It’ll bring a marriage down in a heartbeat if it’s not addressed. We’d be foolish to assume that all couples just know how to flourish in this area of their lives. Understanding your spouse is something that takes time…it’s not an intuitions you’re born with. As quickly as it can bring a marriage down, it can also help a marriage turn a corner. God intended sex to be an emotional, physical, and spiritual act. It’s intended to be a deeply satisfying intimacy for which no other act can substitute. (don’t believe me? Try reading Song of Solomon and not blushing)

A Little More Conversation, A Little More Action

Don’t wait for your church to have a sermon series on sex. Even if they do, it’s impossible to cover every specific issue for every couple. While there may be general problems, ideals, pitfalls to avoid, and healthy steps to take, in no way can a sermon be comprehensive. Those comprehensive questions and concerns and frustrations need to be worked out in the context of healthy relationships.

So go ahead. Ask the awkward question to someone you have a close relationship with:

How’s your sex life?

You’ll get them snickering like middle school girls. But you’ll also open up the opportunity for a beautiful conversation.

And if you’re not having good sex, it may be time to ask for some advice.

Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love (Proverbs 5:15-19).

*Talking about sex isn’t just relegated to church leaders…all followers of Jesus should make it a point to talk openly and honestly about this issue. Church leaders especially. This blog just tends to be read by a majority of people who are, at one level or another, leaders in their local church.

* image credit; Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

* catch up with the “this is awkward” series HERE.

 

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