Last week was a busy week for me. I led a seminar entitled, “Connecting he Sermon to the Small Group.” This seminar introduced pastors to the concept of reinforcing expository preaching with sermon based small groups. The seminar went well and I’m looking forward to doing it again at the Small Church Leadership Conference. I’m trying to finish a doctorate and this small groups study has been life giving to me.
Another highlight this week was the privilege to go to the National Conference on Preaching. This was the best preaching conference I’ve ever been to because of its diversity in ethnicity, theological stances, and denominational communities. The ethnic diversity was great. And the diversity was not based on politics. While politics divides people (even Christians), scripture unifies people (especially Christians). Although there was a diverse presenter team and crowd, the theological differences were respected while not abused. The cardinal doctrines of the faith were evident. The event was beautiful, refreshing.
Here are my takeaways:
1. Exposition is still the way to communicate with authority in the church. It can be done creatively and yet still be true to scripture. This conference reminded me of Haddon Robinson saying to preachers,
Do you bend your thought to scripture or scripture to your thought.
2. Kay Arthur reminded me of the need to always dig in deep to a text before preaching it. She is an excellent scholar and models expository Bible study.
3. Ken Ulmer modeled how exposition of a text and communicating it through planting and painting the text works. He’s got unction and is truly an artist with a Bible.
4. Len Sweet reminded me of the need to know the difference between the Guttenberg world and the Google world. I cannot stay in the Guttenburg world while living in a Google world. Culture has shifted. Even Walter Kaiser and Elmer Towns used power point.
5. Elmer Towns challenged me to do something big for God that requires faith. His great quote was regarding small groups
The body grows by the division of cells.
The conference was excellent. I’ll be a better communicator of the word because I went. I recommend you go next year.
Today we pulled of my doctoral workshop on sermon based small groups. It went well. I was pleased. I cannot state enough how much I appreciate my good friend Kenneth Priest who serves at the SBTC. He helped me pull this off in a way I could not have done myself. Dr. Richards and his team were gracious to allow me to use the facility, have acess to churches via mailout, and they provided me with materials, notebooks, and food for the participants. The SBTC team even provided me with video and audio recordings of the event. If you would like to get a copy, email me or connect with me on Twitter. We had up to 40+ sign up and may have had nearly that in attendance.
Here are my initial thoughts on the seminar today:
1. I am glad I did all this research on sermon based small groups. It has made me a better leader and preacher. I felt confident in answering questions and still thing the SBSG model is a great way to disciple people.
2. People with a traditional structure in place, like Sunday School, struggle with the SBSG model because it’s hard to see changing present structure. It’s hard to admit our Sunday School classes would be better off with small groups in them instead of care groups. It’s not impossible. As a matter of fact, I used to be a one way guy. I was Sunday School only. But I have come to the middle and employ the best of Sunday School and Small Groups. The SBSG model can work in a traditional structure. And it can sure be added as a small group component to an existing Sunday School structure.
3. My next opportunity to do the seminar will be in March and April at the Small Church Leadership Conference. I will make adjustments to the seminar so it can focus more on writing the material.
When a fire breaks out, opportunity strikes.
I have been working some in my Sunday School Class through Purpose Driven Life. It’s amazing how these young adults have come alive in the last 8 weeks. Every day they are sending text messages about the book and what it means in their lives. Fire has broken out and is spreading.
Life is funny. Much exciting can happen when we are willing to take risks and be available. There’s a great difference between satisfaction and holy discontent. I understand there are seasons in life. But taking initiative to relate to people has become fun and gratifying. Seeing change up close is wonderful.
3 Steps to Ministry Freshness
1. Invite some to eat at your home.
2. Listen to their story.
3. Minister out of the listening.
Have a big day tomorrow. Worship the Lord. Pray for your Pastor to preach with power and evangelistic passion.
In 1992 I was called to ministry. I didn’t choose it as a profession. God spoke and I moved. I left a career, went to seminary, and have served in 4 churches as a pastor or associate pastor. I love being a pastor. Why?
I love being a pastor because…..
1. I know I’m doing what God has called me to do.
2. I get to help others come to Christ and disciple them.
3. I get to help people at times in life when no one else can (Death, Marriage, Trials, Benevolence).
4. I get to rub shoulders with great Christian leaders.
5. I get to keep my family grounded in the church (I’m there often).
6. I get to study the word of God for a living.
7. I get to take care of God’s house and campus.
8. I get to be a part, as a leader, of the greatest movement in history (The Great Commission).
9. I get to develop other Christians leaders formally and informally.
10. I get to see peoples’ lives change.
Most of you know I believe the scriptures teach we should prioritize relationships. That’s what God did. The very nature of the incarnation shows that God left heaven and pursued relationship with you (John 1:14). God pursues relationship with us as lost people. Then if we receive Him (John 1:12) He continues the relationship. Relationships were important to Jesus as He discipled the 12 (Mark 3:13-15). He called them that “they might be with Him.” Jesus was His own curriculum. For 3 years He was living curriculum. For Jesus, mentoring people to cross the line of faith, grow, and becoming self feeding enough to birth new disciples was the goal of the process.
The other night our small group started out of our Sunday School class met to begin working through Purpose Driven Life. We ended our time together by going around the circle and each person responding to the question, “How can I pray for you?” When we ask that question of a few, and mean it, it’s transforming in their lives. Why? Because everyone wants to have their story told and heard. People by nature are relational. The other night as I watched everyone go around the circle, I saw not requests, but stories. Live stories not from the news or books, but lives. I realized a crucial truth all Sunday School or Small Group leaders should remember:
There’s power in the question, “How can I pray for you?”
As you all look toward a fresh start in 2009, get close enough to see the action in peoples’ lives. Go to your Sunday School class and start a small group out of it. Disciple 12 this year. You never know what your efforts may do:
1. You might keep someone from smoking weed
2. You might keep a couple from separating
3. You might help someone from making a mistake before they make it
4. You might help someone from being lonely and falling out of the church to pursue relationship somewhere else
5. You might provide a family atmosphere for some whose families are broken or non-relational
6. You might provide pastoral care for everyone in your group (and class through many groups)
7. You might be able to help some understand and apply the scriptures from the sermon or Bible lesson
2009 should be a year when the church seizes the moment on race relations. The two girls in the picture to the right are twins. They have an Black Dad and White Mom. It’s an amazing story if you want to read it, go here. The parents had twins recently and AGAIN, they produced twins: one black and one white. Look at the picture. That family does not view race like most Americans, including Christians.
Rev. 5:9 says in the end time,
And they sang a new song, saying, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
The church has an opportunity to seize the moment and produce authentic racial unity. While I’m excited about the unity found in the election of our first Black President, I’m still looking for the people who should have racial unity to show up. The church must show up this year. The church has no reason to passionately pursue racial unity in the church as a witness to the community.
1. Will the church do anything different this year OR, will we remain as divided as ever?
2. Will our country really see change, the mystical change we have heard about in our recent election cycle?
We will see! Let’s do our part. I’m going to do my part. We can experience a little heavenly culture on earth. How bad do we want it?