Tag: rick howerton

Don’t be “too good” for me

I am a learner.  And as such, I actually enjoy learning.

And when I started out as small groups pastor at Grace Community Church, I had no idea what I was doing.  Some days, I still feel like that.

So I started looking for a tribe.  I read books.  Blogs.  Twitter accounts.  I went to conferences.  Sent emails.  Made phone calls.  I just knew there had to be a tribe out there.

And I grew a ton through this process.  But I got a myriad of no-responses.  Or responses that went something like,

Well, I will be at this conference, and we can talk there…if you’re able to get to Dallas…tomorrow by 6 am.

I was just trying to build some relationships and learn from guys who had been blazing the path I was peering down.

The problem was that these guys were ‘too big’ for me. They were a bit too important to talk with a rookie in Tennessee. (although rock stars Heather Zempel, Alan Danielson, Mark Howell, and Rick Howerton (just to name a few) actually did take time to answer emails and phone calls…thanks guys!).

I never want to get so important that I can’t schedule time to talk with another person who wants to learn from my mistakes.  I never want to be the big shot that can’t walk someone else through principles that have helped me grow as a young pastor.

If I ever get that ‘important’ I have done something wrong.  The day that happens, please unfollow me on Twitter, block me on Facebook, and unsubscribe to my blog.  I’m not worth following at that point.*

Pride goes before destruction,
and haughtiness before a fall.

Better to live humbly with the poor
than to share plunder with the proud. – Proverbs 16:18-19

Will you give up the plunder with me?

*Note to future self: you’re not as awesome as you think you are.


A word for young pastors

Rick Howerton is a good friend of mine.  What I love about Rick is the wisdom that he has…and shares generously.  He has recently transitioned to a new position with NavPress, where he’s overseeing small group life.  In my opinion, Rick is the foremost small group expert in the country.  You can follow him on Twitter HERE.  His blog is currently being redone, and will launch again in January.  When it launches, it’ll be a must-read for small group pastors and leaders.

When I spend time around people who have been leading in the church for longer than I’ve been alive, I love to soak up as much wisdom from them as I can.  I want to know what I should be thinking, reading, doing, and being…now…so I can grow into the husband, father, pastor, and leader God intends.  I asked Rick to share some wisdom for young pastors.  Because none of us wants to waste the influence God’s given us.

A word for young pastors

What you interpret as your “instincts” may be the whisperings of the Holy Spirit. Throughout my ministry life I have found myself instinctively making leadership decisions. For many years I followed those instincts and saw God’s blessing. As I grew older and learned the Scripture I realized those instincts were actually the whispers of the Holy Spirit guiding me down biblical paths. Today, when I have an instinctive moment, I check it with the Word of God. Bottom line… do not ignore what may seem instinctive, check it with God’s Word then move forward if you’re on the same page as God.

Make your family the people you are most passionate about discipling. We seem to be embracing discipleship like we never have before. I’m noticing that, in our mind’s eye, discipleship is finding a few other people of the same gender and giving our time, attention, and discipleship energies to them. We should do this but not at the expense of the discipling of our own children. Remember this… God created in your child a longing to know the love of and to have the knowledge of the dad and mom that God gave them. You were appropriately chosen by God to disciple your kids.

Never believe the lie that new ideas are the only right ideas. It seems that every generation of church leaders chooses to set aside anything that was birthed through the generation that came before them. In so doing, we oftentimes move away from biblical church to generational and cultural church. Cling to biblical church while allowing new methods to be played out, but don’t play out new methods if they demand you delete the parts of the Bible that aren’t cool or sexy… today.

Don’t give too much of your attention to the great theological debates. If you do they will…

  1. redirect your energies from the transformation of hearts to theological treatises and coalitions that, in the end, will begin to shape a politician, not a pastor.
  2. lead you into ecclesiastical elitism… believing that those evangelicals whose theological perspective is different than yours are not as theologically astute as yourself or that the interpretations they espouse are heretical when in fact, both sides of the debate may simply be demanding a final word on what God is keeping a mystery (Deut. 29:29).
  3. force you into a pigeon-hole that will limit your ministry. Most of us want to affect the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Many have chosen to battle for a theological perspective which has limited the churches and movements they are welcomed into.
  4. become idols, taking the place of the Christ. You will know if this is true if your reputation is built on a theological perspective rather than Jesus Christ. Remember these things… What you speak of most passionately you will be known for. What you’re willing to go to battle for you will be known for. What we are to speak of most often and go to battle for is the person of Jesus Christ.


If you’re a young pastor or leader, I’d love to connect with you!  Please find me on TwitterFacebook, or follow along HERE on the blog.  Learn along with me, from guys like Rick.


Outside the Box, Rick Howerton

Earlier this month, we put on a missions conference for small group leaders at Grace, and other churches in the Clarksville, TN community.  It was a success, for sure.  The video below is fairly long, but I think it’s worth your time.  It’s Rick Howerton speaking on missional small groups.

Outside the Box, Rick Howerton from Ben Reed on Vimeo.


Outside the Box

I don’t know about you, but I tend to box myself in.  I find something that works, then stick with that plan 100% until I have completely run it into the ground.

And that’s not a good thing.

When it comes to serving in ministry, “boxes” are helpful, but should constantly be evaluated…and burned if necessary.

That’s why I’m offering, for free, a leadership training event called “Outside the Box.”  I’ve created the event to help us think outside of the normal way of operating.  To not accept mediocre.  To push for excellence.  And to not rely on yesterday’s ideas to accomplish today’s problems.  Because yesterday’s ideas worked really well….yesterday.

In order to continue to grow as a ministry at Grace Community Church, we need to think outside the box.

Especially when it comes to the idea of being missional.

Here is the lineup of speakers:

Kenny York – Kenny is launching a new ministry in Clarksville to minister to the homeless.  Instead of asking the homeless to come to a centralized location…he’s going to them, bringing hot meals to where they are.  You can read more about Manna Cafe Ministries HERE.

Ryan Chappalear – Ryan is Founder/International Director of Africa for Jesus.  Ryan, and the way he has led AFJ to plant churches and train local pastors in Africa, has changed the way I think about international missions.  You can read about the ministry that Ryan leads HERE.

Rick Howerton – Rick is one of the premier leaders in the small-group movement. Having facilitated an untold number of small-group journeys over the last 17 years, his passion is contagious. This guy honestly believes that small groups can and will change the world!  He blogs HERE.

This event is designed for our small group leaders (and volunteers) at Grace Community Church.  If you lead a small group but you don’t go to Grace, we’d still love to have you!  Just call the church office at 931-647-6800 and ask for Ben Reed.

Hope to see you there!


The Summit video

I had a chance to watch The Summit live, but many people didn’t have that opportunity.  So, Lifeway has made the video available for you to watch.  And, just like the conference, this video is FREE.

I blogged the event, including highlights from the entire week while the small group experts were in Nashville, at Rick Howerton’s new blog.  Click HERE to see his blog, and my notes.

I’ve posted the video of the event below.

The Summit: A Convergence of Small Group Experts from LifeWay Productions on Vimeo.

What were your takeaways from the event?  Was it worth your time?


The Summit

I asked this question on Twitter:

I was hoping to get a list of the conferences that people I know and trust are attending.  I did.  And the list was huge.  It included men’s conferences, pastor’s conferences, conferences close by, and others far away.  Some designed to equip you to be a better leader.  Others focused on spiritual growth.  Some were for men with funny accents.  Others for pastors whose last name ended in “Q.”  And still others designed for pastors whose wives graduated from a state university 2 years prior to their husband graduating from seminary.  And, I’m sure, all great conferences in their own right.

But a couple of people mentioned The Summit conference.  They said that small group experts were gathering together to talk through small group-related topics.  Since I’m involved in small groups ministry, I checked into it.

For budget reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

For ministry-related reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

For conferences-mean-I-get-further-behind-with-regular-work reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

For I-love-my-family-and-don’t-want-to-do-a-ton-of-traveling-if-I-can-help-it reasons, I pick and choose the conferences that I attend with much discretion.

I think that The Summit answers all of these reasons.

The Summit is:

  • Free – can’t beat that!
  • Online – watch it from your couch.  Your office.  Your phone.  Your friend’s phone.  Your friend’s couch.
  • 1 1/2 hours – I like things that are short and to the point.  Give me what I need to know and send me on my way.
  • 10 small group ministry experts – this is literally the “Who’s Who” of small group guys.  You may not have known that a “Who’s Who of small group guys” list existed, but it does…and it includes these guys:
  1. Lyman Coleman
  2. Steve Gladen
  3. Randall Neighbour
  4. Bill Donahue
  5. Carl George
  6. Rick Howerton
  7. Bill Search
  8. Reid Smith
  9. Greg Bowman
  10. Eddie Mosley

Quote from The Summit site:

These men represent decades of experience with small groups including the six basic types: free market, closed, open, organic, multi-group, and cell church. We’ll use a question-and-answer format to tap into their collective knowledge and give you real-world answers to your small group challenges.

Sign up HERE for the event that happens on Thursday, February 18th, from 10:30-12:00 CST.

I’ll be watching.  What about you?


Operate like a Pro

Whether you’re a professional or not, you can operate like one.

I meet with people a lot.  A whole lot!

Invariably, lots of folks have to reschedule.  And I love it when they let me know beforehand.

I was supposed to meet with Rick Howerton today in Nashville (about a 45 minute drive from Clarksville, where I live).  It’s well worth the drive to meet with Rick…except if he’s sick, and can’t make the meeting.

So Rick cancelled on me…two hours before we were supposed to meet.

Rick, being the pro of all pros, went to extraordinary lengths to get me the message.

  • At 6:25, I got a Twitter Direct Message from him.
  • Just a few minutes later, I had a Facebook message from him.
  • Followed by an email.
  • Then I got an email from Karen, a staff member here at Grace, saying Rick had emailed the church office to let me know he couldn’t make it.
  • Then I got a text from Karen, saying the same thing.
  • The I get a call from my mom, saying that this guy, Rick, had called the house (not sure how he got my parent’s house number, but I guess ninjas have their secrets), and that he can’t make the meeting with me this morning.
  • Then I notice that Rick’s put out a blast to everybody on Twitter asking if anybody knows how to get in touch with me.

So, to sum it all up…I got the message.  Thanks Rick.

You may not be a “professional,” but you can operate like one…and we, as followers of Christ, should be careful to do just that.  I firmly believe that not keeping our commitments, and being flippant with our responsibilities, is dishonoring to God and is a violation of the 9th commandment:

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

If you’ve got to cancel a meeting, that’s fine.  Do it the professional way.

Do it the “Rick Howerton way.”


Sunday School vs Small Groups


“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.


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