Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lifegroup outline for 2/1/09

Click here for a printable copy:

Lifegroup map 2/1/09 “Restoring Joy is reflecting God’s Glory” John 2:1-11

Please choose any of the following Ice breakers:

(Everyone doesn’t have to answer the same one… pick one you like!):

  1. What is one way you’ve felt God’s presence in your life this week?

  2. What was your favorite scene in Steve Martin’s “Father of the bride”?

  3. Share a story where someone saved you from an embarrassing moment.

Life exploration time: Read out loud John 2:1-11

~ Does Jesus come off as disrespectful to His mother in JN 2:1-4?

(Please Explain your answer, either way you may see this…)

~ See JN 2:5. Since Jesus hasn’t performed any miracles yet: What would lead Mary to any kind of conclusion that Jesus could remedy this situation, and, should we think Mary expected a miraculous repair?

~ Read JN 2:6-9 and try to put yourself in the servants’ position for a moment: What do you imagine was going through their minds?

~ Read 2:10. How come instead of replacing the depleted wine with the exact same quality, or, a mediocre-quality wineWhy does Jesus turn the water into a noticeably superior quality of wine?

~ What is so shocking about this being the 1st sign that Jesus performed?

~ John records in 2:11 that Jesus’ “disciples believed” in Him, but why doesn’t John mention the impact this made on: His mother, the Master of Ceremonies, the wedding guests, the servants, or even the Bride & groom?

Personal reflection

In what ways has this passage encouraged/enhanced my trust in Jesus?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Extra grace requires:

Inevitably there will be a member in your group, that you think is draining or sucking the life out of your group by their self-centeredness.  After doing small groups for at least ten years I know I've felt paralyzed more than once by these freaky experiences....  Some people are dubbed "EGR" or people to whom the term applies: Extra grace required.  

This is the person who derails or dominates each meeting, at just the wrong time.  They are needy, whiny, they use the meeting as a platform to drag you into a weekly group-counseling session.  They have an answer to every question; one that somehow focuses on what they are facing that day/week.  They might be the Bible expert.  They might be the super-spiritual one. They might be more on fire than you, they're the holier than thou one...  

Who knows what behavior manifests; but you recognize the danger to the group as soon as this EGR acts out.  As soon as they, the EGR, begins to talk, people cringe.  Your spouse rolls their eyes...  Visitors look at their watches...  And you as the leader feel helpless to deal with this challenge....  So, I want to make a few points on what extra grace requires...  Notice the difference between the "ed" ending and the "s" :-)

1. The leader needs to be able to increase their own threshold of tolerance for other people's pain.  Sounds harsh?  Well, if you as a leader find this tension difficult to balance, then you aren't deep down a harsh person.  It should be natural to feel the need to minister to the EGR who is in obvious pain of some sort, but still, you want to keep the small group on track.  This is okay.  So, recognize the reason why this tension is happening for you, and use how you are experiencing that tension to allow you protect both those who need extra attention, and to continue to help the other folks grow.

2.  Leaders, recruit help from the more mature members of the group.  When your EGR has surfaced, you may not be prepared to address their needs in the 1st meeting.  You are not a "one-man/woman-show"  as the leader.  During the following week ask for help, look for someone who can partner with you to help you keep the pace of your meeting flowing.  A simple question from another member that returns people back to the lesson/curriculum can help.  Or, if it is appropriate, have a mature member ready to offer their help at the right moment to talk privately in another room with your EGR so the meeting can continue.  Obviously this needs to be handled carefully and thoughtfully.  If your EGR is in pain, for example, from past abuses from the opposite sex, it is a no brainier on the sensitivity of how/who you ask for help.

3. Handle this next one with care...  Take some time during your fellowship-time to let the EGR know you truly do value them.  Sometimes EGRs simply need to be validated more often.  Don't we all need this at one level or another?  You can also communicate that their questions or side-bar comments are interesting or insightful.  In the end though, you do not want to feed the very issue you are trying to fix.  If you establish a legitimate rapport that communicates you value and care for your EGR, you've provided the platform that will help you when you need to continue facilitating the meeting, and not allow the EGR to hijack the group.  When you establish a healthier relationship with your EGR, one that communicates mutual respect, you'll feel better and they will feel better when you respond to their distraction with a simple "I hear you, but let's postpone that idea for now and stay focused..." or some similar catch-phrase you plan to use to communicate love & care but determination to be conscientious of the entire group.

4. Resources.... Read up on the topic; I promise it isn't going away.  Pretty much every decent book on smallgroups I've read has at least one paragraph filled with advice on how to care for your EGR.  Google the topic and skim a few articles.

5. Pray for your EGR.  They need your prayers and care.  

6.  Don't be Dr. Phil.  You can't diagnose their deep problems in front of an audience.  When the EGR begins gushing some irrational emotional pain, or hijacks the group with their expertise in the topic....  the group will not benefit from you becoming the expert to fix the EGR on the spot...

Keep this in mind:  The EGR probably doesn't know they are problematic.  They want to be part of the community too.  They have real needs that we are called to minister to as Christians. II Cor 1:3-5 (ESV) reminds us, " Blessed be the  God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."   

In the end, even as we minister to the EGR, the entire group needs to feel safe and healthy too.  We can't sacrifice the the one for the other.  So, as you walk the tightrope, with prayer and assistance from others, care for your EGR, but don't become an enabler and don't allow them to sabotage the group.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lifegroup outline for 1/25/09

Click here for the printable version:

Lifegroup map 1/25/09 “Come and see” John 1:35-51

Please choose any of the following Ice breakers

(not everyone has to answer the same one):

  1. If you could change your 1st name, what would you change it to and why?

  2. The farthest location from home you’ve ever traveled to is????

  3. What is your favorite free “sample” that the grocery store passes out?

Life exploration time: Read out loud John 1:35-51

~ What really stands out or fascinates you in this passage?

Briefly share: Who introduced you to Jesus, and what that was like.

~ We all are at different places/stages in our faith & we each grow at our own pace.

  • What is one goal you have for your current relationship with Jesus?

~ Most people today rarely consider what it would be like to spend the day with God. A currently popular book, “The Shack” is a tale about a man who (because of a terrible tragedy in his family) ends up spending time with God “face-to-face” in a rustic cabin/shack.

(Read Jn 1:35-42. Answer one of the questions below that most appeals to you)

  • If you could spend a day with Jesus, what would you want to talk about?

  • What would you expect it would be like to be with Jesus for the day?

  • How would your life be any different if you had an opportunity to experience a one-on-one afternoon with Jesus?

~ Why might it be more valuable to simply invite people to “come & see” and explore what Jesus is all about for themselves, as opposed to debating, arguing or “pushing” your views on them?

~ In tonight’s passage, several dynamics involving personal relationships impact the narrative. In Jn 1:43-51 Philip begins following Jesus; Philip then invites Nathanael to meet Jesus. Jesus at one point comments/questions the reason why Nathanael believed Jesus was the Son of God & King of Israel.

  • How can we too, in our day-and-age, help others discover the real Jesus?

  • Why do relationships still play a major role in people discovering Jesus?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Lifegroup overview:

Here's a brief document that reviews a few basic principles of our lifegroups:

Feel free to read it over whenever you get a chance.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

3,2,1.... takeoff!

It's about as official as can be :-)
The Lifegroups are forming this week and next, and we are looking at launching on Sunday the 25th of this month.

I'll plan on posting the weekly "sermon-based" outlines here and I'll try to include the printer-friendly version as well :-)

For all of the folks who signed up, and who volunteered to host and lead too, to all involved, thank you!  I'm especially grateful to Larry & Allan for their work helping to get the groups organized and to help get the ball rolling!


Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Who Stole my Church?" left me Hesitantly surprised

I just finished, literally, just finished Gordon MacDonald's "Who stole my church?"  (It's still warm)  I was pleasantly surprised.  I need to explain the title of this post before I go much further though...

I'm a big MacDonald fan!  I've read several of his books and have even bought copies to pass on to others.  Here's the catch though, he writes "Christian living" books, along the lines of spiritual growth and maturity.  He's an expert there.  "Who Stole my Church?" on the other hand, in my 1st impression, was not going to be worthwhile.  Why?  Two reasons: #1. The dust cover looked eerily like a sample (read music "sampling") of Collins's book "Good to great"  So, I was not interested as soon as I saw the cover; what I thought of as a cheesy similarity of Good to great....  #2. and more importantly, I was pretty sure that MacDonald wouldn't be any good at making the transition from books he's good/great at, that being  non-fiction self-helpish genre, over to.... fiction.  Yes, "Whole stole my Church?" is a fiction work.  So 2 and 2 together, and I "wrote" off reading it.... (nice pun, huh?)  I was wrong though.  So why did I read it?

Well, a future in-law of one of the college kids at NE who just happens to be in ministry recommended the book to me for certain reasons that aren't necessary to post about; so, I was open to the idea.  I was doubtful of the book at first, ok, I was cynical of the book at first glance....  but when the book was recommended to me, and how it was, I immediately got on Amazon and ordered it...

Would this be too corny to say, here's a book that should be required reading for all Christians?  Well, I am from the Midwest and love cornfields...  The book is powerful.  I shouldn't of discounted the book off-handedly the way I originally did.  The book tells a story from the perspective of the preacher of a congregation that is facing a time of transition, a time of worship wars, a time of generational perspectives that don't match up...  Sound anything like the real world?  It should, because I think the framework for the plot fits nearly every congregation that's at least 20 years old.  New church plants won't relate well to the book, though  I'd bet there'd be some pearl of wisdom, here and there, even new Church plants could glean....

I won't spoil the plot.  Let me say that the story gets rolling over a Sunday afternoon congregational meeting that blows up in a fight of sorts, and the morale of the Church is lower than low.  

The reasons I would recommend the book are multiple.  While not exhaustive, here are a few of the gems in the book:  It teaches us how the generations see each other, as in,  not the same (duh).  How to build consensus so as to introduce change and how to help people see change without being overwhelmed or too threatened.  It raises the subject of the value of mentoring.  It unpacks the inconsistency in the worship wars that many Churches are embroiled in; how all music was new at one time....  and, this books shows in a powerful way how conflict when handled in a mature way is healthy...  If I were teaching a class to ministry students I would make it mandatory....  There's a ton of other team-building lessons that are woven though the narrative, and the need to be opening our eyes on how evangelism is nearly never going to happen when there's infighting going on...

Oh, by the way, I did buy a copy of "Who stole my Church?" for a good friend of mine here at our Church.  I'm looking forward to the conversations it will generate.  And, I guess I need to email a thank you note to the one who recommended the book...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

New ABC TV show, "True beauty"

Last night Tammy and I watched the 1st episode of the new reality show on ABC, "True beauty."  I don't know if you've heard of it, but it's worthwhile to watch at least one episode.
The irony is, of course, that Hollywood has influenced our culture perhaps more so than any other sources into buying into the lie that real beauty is all/only physical...

The show has a great point to make, that real beauty, "true" beauty, is not only the outward appearance. They are judging "contestants" on the outward looks, but the show's judges are also judging the person on the inside.  The point the producers are making, as amazing as this sounds, is that real beauty is more than skin deep.  

The show is funny, because the people who are the contestants are being told they are competing for a slot in People magazine's 100 most beautiful people...  The contestants have no idea that part of the process is, they are on "spy cam" all of the time, and the judges are watching them.  One example, the contestants were sent to Beverly Hills to an expert in beauty who would rate them on a scientific scale of real beauty.  While each contestant waited in the doctor's office, the medical files of all the other players were in plain view... so the judges secretly watched to see if the competitors would look at the others' files...  Watching them from the spy cam was rather funny.

I think there's a great Biblical principle being raised, even through a Hollywood produced reality TV show.  Who we are on the inside is at least as valuable as our appearances.  We know from Scripture, the inward person is what counts.  I Sam 16:7, "But the Lord said to Samuel,  “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  
And I Pet 3:4, "but let your adorning be  the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

It is pretty amazing to me that Hollywood can even surface the question of what makes a person truly beautiful, and handle it in a halfway decent manor.   I have no clue how the show will progress, or turn out, but I enjoyed the discussion the show raises for a culture enamored by physical perfection...