August 2010

A flower…are you kidding me?  I was actually thinking about the start of a new football season: high school football games on Fridays, college football games on Saturdays, even NFL pre-season games on Sundays right now.  Fantasy football is kind of cool too. So the topic I was thinking about was passion.  About the things that raise my energy, raise my emotional level, stir my heart.  I must admit I was a little concerned about what photo the internet might associate with “passion” but I sure didn’t think a picture of a flower is where I would end up!

There are several times in the course of a day where my voice becomes a bit louder, the pitch rises, I become more expressive, and folks around me know…really know that I care about something…that I am passionate about something. At times it’s sports, at times politics, at times family, and often work-related.  I wish there were more times though that my passions told others the true story of my heart.

Here are just a few definitions of the word passion for our edification:

1. Passion- a strong affection or enthusiasm for an object, concept, etc

2. Passion- ardent love or affection

3. Passion- the object of an intense desire, ardent affection, or enthusiasm

4. Passion- the sufferings and death of a Christian martyr

Big difference there, huh?  I sure wish my passions fell more often somewhere between the third and fourth definitions (at least in a figurative sense).  How about you?  What are you passionate about?  How does that compare to your passion for Christ?  No guilt trip here.  Just sayin’…

Bill Donahue and Steve Gladen. Photo courtesy of @warriorriver.

Last week we wrapped up the filming for the DVD portion of Building Biblical Community, a new resource scheduled to release at the end of the year in time for January campaigns, new-group launches, and new beginnings. Building Biblical Community owes its concept to authors Steve Gladen and Bill Donahue, two of the most notable names in small-group leadership over the last decade. Bill and Steve have more than 50 years of small-group leadership experience at Willow Creek and Saddleback respectively.

Given that this is the first time that Bill and Steve have collaborated on a resource, we were all a little uncertain about how the dynamic would work once we got the cameras rolling. Although they’ve known each other for several years, this is the first time these two leaders have come together to create a small-group experience—and the 2-day video shoot went better than anyone could have dreamed. Not only did Bill and Steve deliver the goods in terms of the content and the small-group experience, but they also hit a wonderful on-screen rapport beginning at the first countdown through the bonus material. Your groups are going to love the spirit, interaction, and heart that these two leaders were able to convey.

What the Donahue/Gladen team has created is a small-group experience to help groups understand the dynamics of being a true, authentic biblical community. To achieve this, according to our authors, groups must become a celebrating, learning, loving, and serving community. Drawing from tried and true biblical principles, examples, and experiences, Building Biblical Community is not only perfect for new groups and church campaigns, but also for groups that have yet to hit the sweet spot—or else stalled or even sinking. We’ll be writing more about Building Biblical Community here at the Gypsy Road over the next several weeks and I’ll be posting more about how production is coming along both here and through Twitter (@bcdaniel).

In this short video we captured a little bit from our authors about their first experience working together. I just wish I could have gotten either a photo or a video of Steve riding in my Jeep Wrangler with the top off. Now that was a sight.

I always dreamed of growing up to be a kindergarten teacher, marrying an incredible man, and having children. You know the dream — it’s the one with the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog — it’s happily-ever-after. Today I am more than grown up (in other words, I won’t be admitting my age here). I haven’t found that incredible man or the 2.5 kids. But I do have a dog and a white picket fence, so I guess that’s something. Lots of times I have wondered why God took my life in this direction. I’ve screamed at Him, cried to Him, and even stopped speaking to Him because He didn’t give me what He promised He would. After all, He did say He would give me the desires of my heart, right?

Today I know the true answer to that question, and I remember clearly the day I found it. It was one of those feeling-alone-and-sorry-for-myself days and I was talking to some of my close friends about it. Through a lot of tears I remember saying, “I don’t understand why things haven’t worked out for me to get married and have a family. The Bible says God will give me the desires of my heart.” With a heart of compassion, one of my friends looked at me and spoke as gently as he could. “I don’t think that’s really what that means,” he said. Turns out my friend was right.

Somehow I got the idea that “He will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), meant God would give me anything I wanted. I missed the point. And missing this point ultimately affected my relationship with the Lord because I came to feel He wasn’t trustworthy. I thought He made a promise to me that He didn’t keep.

But that wasn’t the case at all. My desires were exactly that—my desires. The desires I had held all my life, the ones that had become a part of who I was. Surely God would want those same things for me.. … but what if He didn’t?

Letting go of what I’ve always wanted out of life seemed huge and risky to me, and I fought it with all I had. But freedom came with the understanding that God was stripping me of everything I’ve known and taking me to new, unknown places. He was preparing me for His desires for my life. The ones that are bigger, better, grander than anything I can ask or imagine. So now I ask myself, What more could any heart desire than that? I honestly can’t think of a thing.

So, what are the things that confuse you? I pray you, as small group leaders and members, consider your small-group community a place where you can work through misconceptions and misunderstandings and speak truth into one another’s lives. For me personally, it made all the difference.

Until next time,

I don’t know about you, but over the years I’ve put a lot of effort into getting myself to small-group meetings only to sit there like an empty shell. Either I completely zone out and take advantage of the one hour a week someone isn’t depending on me for something, or my mind is a flurry of activity, covering every topic under the sun—except, of course, God.

(And maybe it’s just me—you who ride to your small-group meeting with a spouse and/or kids can verify this—but doesn’t it seem like more arguments occur during the ride to church activities than during the other 167.5 hours of the week? If I’m not frazzled and totally distracted before I leave the house, I certainly am by the time I get there. Enemy tactic, perhaps?)

We come to meetings, having the opportunity to feel the very presence of God, to unite ourselves with other believers, and to see the Spirit move in the hearts of the people.

Yet we somehow manage to leave un-amazed.



Clearly, we miss out on something huge when we go there without being there. There’s a hymn you may know—it’s been around forever—called “Brethren, We Have Met to Worship.” I was listening to this song when God began to help me understand the elements of true worship. Check out the music with lyrics here. (This version arranged by Bart Millard.)

We’re aware of the physical things that have to happen for meaningful small-group meetings: literally, getting up and going, actively participating in discussion, interacting with people, etc.

These physical actions get us to the meeting and make us seem engaged, but it’s the unseen spiritual actions we take that ready us for what God wants to show us:

1. Prepare your heart. In my opinion, the best way to get ready for small group (or church meetings in general) is to get thankful. Thank God for who He is and what He’s done in your life. This helps us remember that He is worthy of our trust and our attention.

2. Pray for leaders.
Don’t forget that small group leaders and others in church leadership are no more immune to struggle than you or I. It’s important to pray that they will accurately and powerfully convey God’s Word.

3. Get humble.
Think about what and who God is—Creator. Faithful. Mercy. Forgiveness. Power. Then focus on the awe and wonder of being able to worship Him in a manner that actually pleases Him.

This is by no means a complete list, but taking the time to do even one of these things prior to your small-group or church gathering will help you start to turn your empty attendance into genuine worship. It doesn’t make sense, but God craves our undistracted presence with Him. And when we show up ready to engage with Him, He is faithful to bless us, to cheer us, and to steady us (Psalm 21:1-7). And I don’t know anyone who doesn’t desperately need these things.

I’d love to know what other things have helped you prepare for worship and how God has blessed your commitment to being fully present and ready to interact with Him.