Why it’s biblical to keep your shoes on during small group

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

 

 

 

My Judea

Our church is doing a church-wide initiative where we are serving in our “Judea.”

Taken from Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Judea would’ve been within a 20-mile range of Jerusalem. So Jesus was commanding them to bear witness not just in their own hometown (Jerusalem), and not forget about the surrounding community.

We’re taking Jesus up on that.

Here’s a video that our team at Long Hollow put together. It happens to be my personal small group. I love these guys!

 

What is your small group doing to serve your “Judea”?

 

What real men do

I asked this recently on Twitter and Facebook, and got some great response.

Real men _____.

I broke my list into two categories. The things that real men do that we puff our chest out about. And the things that, I believe, make us great.

1664

image credit: Creation Swap, Todd White

Real men (read these while grunting like a caveman)

  • Drink their coffee black
  • Drink their coffee so strong you have to eat it with a fork
  • Hate cats and thinks they’re pointless.
  • Work in the yard.
  • Occasionally grow a mustache because they can.
  • Hate ‘browsing’ at the mall. Shopping = getting what you need and leaving.
  • Prefer charcoal to gas.
  • Love tobasco on everything. Everything. And will drink it straight from the bottle if called upon.
  • ‘If it is ‘bacon-wrapped,’ it’s better.’ – men
  • Only cries while slicing onions.
  • Can drive a stick shift.
  • Yell at the tv when the ref gets the call wrong.
  • Will eat a jalapeño whole if the moment calls for it. 
  • Never owns a juicer. (Or at least doesn’t admit it)
  • Love a good steak. Medium-rare.
  • Prefer their turkey deep fried.
  • Prefer their potatoes deep fried. 
  • Prefer anything and everything fried.
  • Never eat ribs with a fork.
  • Never consider a salad a meal. 

Real men (what makes a man great)

  • Put others first
  • Play with their children (wrestle with their boys. Play tea cups with their girls)
  • Are present with their family 
  • Cherish their spouse 
  • Have deep relationships with other guys
  • Worship God in their own way. (authenticity)
  • Spend way more time with their wife and kids than they do playing video games. 
  • Ask for help when they need it. 
  • Leads their family spiritually.
  • Takes steps of faith.
  • Serves their community. 
  • Encourages others constantly. 
  • Admits they’re weak.
  • Flee sin. 
  • Cry out to God. 
  • Realize they can’t do life alone.
  • Admit when they mess up.
  • Pray.
  • Find ways to be generous with their expertise.
  • Work hard at their job.
  • Work hard to serve their family. (Not just at their job)
  • Act silly with his children, looking foolish for a good laugh.
  • Spoil their children with an extra donut when mom’s not looking. :)
  • Watch a chick flick because he loves his wife.
  • Goes shopping with his wife
Anything you’d add?

 

 

A note from your pastor

pen-and-paper (1)

image credit: sandstormdigital.com

I just got this note from your pastor. You weren’t aware that we knew each other, were you?

He said he’s not comfortable sharing this with you. But I’m not scared, so here goes.

Dear church member,

I’ve been flipping through the rolodex of names in my mind, and yours keeps coming up. Could be that God’s placing you on my mind for a reason. Maybe it’s accidental. But I’m betting it has something to do with the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe.

See, our church is growing. Like crazy. You know that. You see the new faces every week just like I do. You hear the stories of brokenness, the depth of shame, and the need for grace. Since you’ve spent more than 1 week with us, you see needs all around you every week.

So I started praying for you. That God would prepare your heart for serving others. That you’d be willing to use your gifts, talents, passions, relationships, and energy to lead more and more people to Jesus.

I just recently asked you to ______ (lead a small group, join the student ministry team, go to camp, help us set up on Sundays, be a greeter, join our worship team, etc.), and you told me no. “I’m just too busy right now. Maybe next season I’ll jump in.”

Can I be honest with you? Yes, since this is my letter? Ok. Here goes.

You won’t jump in next season. You’ll be busier then than you are now. Life never slows down, it only ramps up. You won’t have more time next season…you’ll have less time. Life doesn’t carve itself out for what’s most important…it carves itself out of a well-worn rut of the most urgent. Life doesn’t slide towards what’s best for you…it slides towards what you want.

You’re not too busy. You’re too selfish.

News flash: We don’t create environments just for you to sit and soak.

You’ve been doing that so long you’re shriveling up. You’ve gotten spiritually fat here in our church. It’s time to get off the couch and start serving. Start giving. Start going. You’ve learned enough, grown enough, and been served enough for 10 lifetimes.

Since you’ve been invested in, start investing. Since you’ve grown, help others grow. Since you’ve seen God working in others, it’s time for Him to work in you and through you.

Lead that small group. Join the worship team. Get out of the country on mission. Give sacrificially of your time until it hurts. The Gospel is worth it, isn’t it? The people you sit beside on Sunday morning are worth it. Our community is worth it. Your neighbors are worth it. The next generation is worth it. The current generation is worth it.

Your spiritual growth is worth it. Because I guarantee you you’ll grow as much in this process as those you’re leading will.

And this is just as much a commission to me, your pastor, as it is to you:

Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20)

Don’t sacrifice your family. Don’t burn yourself out.

But get in the game and quit being selfish.

Church isn’t all about you.

Signed with love,

–Your pastor

 

 

15 Christmas Ideas for your Small Group

image credit: creation swap user Matt Gruber

Lots of small groups take the Christmas season off. And that’s fine.

But if you’re one of the groups that really loves Jesus, you’re not taking the season off. You’re soldiering through like the little drummer boy who could. Massive traveling, family celebrating, and time off of work won’t slow you and your group down!

If you’re one of the groups that’s meeting throughout the month of December, you may be wondering what you can do that’s a little outside of the norm. I’ve got some suggestions.

15 Christmas Ideas for your Small Group

Fellowship:

Don’t feel bad about wanting to have fun together as a group this Christmas season. Having fun together is very biblical.

  •  Go caroling.
  • White elephant gift exchange. See explanation HERE.
  • Ornament exchange.
  • Pot luck with your favorite Christmas dish.
  • “Favorite book” exchange.
  • Celebrate with a gift exchange mid-January. That way, you can get gifts on sale, and extend the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Jesus would probably have loved a good sale. Am I right?!?

 Serving

  • Email your pastor for families in need, and serve them food and gifts.
  • Contact your local public school system and tell them you’d like to sponsor ___ families with food and gifts this Christmas. Ask them to connect you with the families.
  • Contact your local Salvation Army and sign up to ring the bell.
  • Write letters to soldiers who are deployed, if you live in a military town.
  • Bless your pastor. Examples: a gift card to Amazon, a night away for him and his wife, or a gift card to a nice local restaurant.

Worship/study

 Is your small group meeting for the Christmas season?

* image credit: creation swap user Matt Gruber

 

Giving your Best Away

photo credit: Creation Swap user Red Bottle

I don’t know what you’re good at.

Maybe you’re amazing at building things.

Maybe you’re skilled at fixing broken things.

Maybe you’re a gifted communicator.

Or you can write in a way that makes thoughts come alive.

Maybe you have a strong back and can move heavy boxes.

Maybe you can coach soccer like nobody’s business.

Maybe it’s working with electricity that you’re skilled at.

Maybe you have every Friday night free.

Maybe you can think “systems” in a way that structurally organizes chaotic programs.

Maybe you’re a good painter.

Give away your best for free.

Your “best” is a gift. Especially when you’ve been trained (through school and/or practical on-the-job training) to use that gift more effectively. It’s a blessing God’s given you. There’s nothing wrong with making money doing what you’re good at, but God’s not just given you your gift to make money. He’s given you your gift to bless others and make a difference.

It’s time you stopped complaining about not knowing what you can do.

It’s time you stopped making excuses for not doing.

It’s time you stopped bemoaning a lack of resources.

You’re good at something. I guarantee that you are. There’s something that you do that comes easily for you, but others just can’t seem to pull it off.

God’s given you that gift to serve others.

Find a way to start using it.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. – 1 Peter 4:10

*Photo credit: Creation Swap user Red Bottle

 

Oops…I just “churched”

photo credit: Clarksville Now

I know that the word “church” isn’t grammatically an action verb.

But neither is the word “Facebook,” and we use it like it is.

“I’ll Facebook you later today…”

“What’s your name? Great…I’ll Facebook you!”

Neither is the word “Google,” but we verb it up, too.

“I have no idea what the population of Idaho is, so I’ll Google it.”

So can you give me a little leeway? Because last Saturday, I “churched.” By that, I mean I WAS the Church. I didn’t attend a mass. Or give my tithes. Or sit in a pew. I didn’t hand out welcome bulletins or greet new visitors.

I was “the Church” in action verb form.

On Saturday, I was a part of a mobilizing of people from Grace Community Church who worked to make a difference here in our city. We called it Operation Serve, and this is the 6th year we’ve done this. We worked in partnership with the city of Clarksville to send out over 1200 volunteers.

Some of us remodeled houses.

Some landscaped.

Some played with special needs children.

Others worked on projects with non-profits.

Did we serve because it’s the cool thing to do? Nope.

Did we serve because that’s what we were told we had to do? Nope.

We served because that’s what the Church does. The Church serves because we follow the lead of our Savior who served us. Our Savior who is in the business of making old things new again, righting wrongs, and healing the broken.

We served expecting nothing in return. We didn’t have a string attached to our hammers that said, “We will help if you _____.” We don’t serve so that we can get something in return, but because that’s what we were created to do. That’s who we are and how we love.

We serve because we’ve been served. We love because we’ve been loved. We give because we’ve been given much.

This Sunday, millions will gather to worship. They’ll “go to church.” And while that’s an important part of being a follower of Christ, we want to remind the world that we, the Church, don’t simply exist to gather in our own little huddles. The Church is here to make a difference in our community. To leave things better than we found it.

Last Saturday, we put our faith on display.

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. – James 2:18

*Photo credit: Clarksville Now

 

You probably wouldn’t like my small group

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

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.

Based on the reasons above, would you want to join my small group?

 

An Open Letter to Church Visitors

Church visitor,

We’re so glad you’re here!  We’re absolutely honored you’d worship with us.  You need to know that we love Jesus.  We’re not perfect, but we’re taking steps of faith regularly.  So it’s okay that you’re not perfect either.  You’re welcomed just as you are, and we want to serve you in any way that we can.

But instead of just waiting for us to make the move to get you more involved, find you a small group, ask you to serve, and tell you about who we are…I give you permission to approach us.  Don’t hang back and expect that we have to make the first move.

Maybe we didn’t see you.  Maybe you just slipped out too quickly.  Maybe we were working to serve someone else.  Maybe we thought someone else had already connected with you.  Maybe we wanted to give you space we thought you needed.

Trust me when I say that we want to serve you.  We want to connect you.  We want you to feel warm and welcomed.  We want to help introduce you to Grace.  And Hope.  And Mercy.  And Forgiveness.

But nowhere else in life do you expect someone to make a friend for you.  You expect that you’ve got a role to play in building a relationship and reach out.  There’s got to be a give-and-take in every relationship.  Right?

We won’t bite.  We’ll actually be happy.  We’re delighted to plug you in.  You make the move.  Don’t wait on us.  Move.

Sincerely,

–Church leaders everywhere

to view the flip side of this, the Church’s response to visitors, see my thoughts HERE.


 

Mostly Forgotten

I go to your church, but you don’t know my name.

I sit in the back.

I slip out early.

I’m there every week…almost.

I try to follow God, but I’m not perfect.

You give me a smile and a handshake, but you don’t know my story.

You don’t know what I do for a living.

You don’t know my passions.

My struggles.

My plans or goals.

My past failures.

You’re happy I’m at church…you tell me every time I come.

But you never follow up throughout the week.

With an email or a phone call.

I’m not in a small group.

I’m haven’t been on a mission trip.

I’m not serving others.

I’m not on your radar.

Or your potential leaders lists.

But God’s gifted me.

And those gifts were meant to bless others.

Including you.

Our church needs my gifts.

And I need to use them.

But I need you.

I need your encouragement.

I need you to believe in me.

To breathe hope into my life.

Show me that I matter.

That God cares.

That I have a part to play.

That my story matters.

But until then…

I’m mostly forgotten.