One of the most refreshing projects I’ve worked on since coming to LifeWay is Gospel Revolution by J.D. Greear. J.D.’s small groups pastor Spence Shelton helped us develop the curriculum and it is definitely done with a local church focus in mind. While our Serendipity team has focused primarily on small-group curriculum in the past, this study has even broader appeal. More traditional discipleship groups would benefit greatly and find it easy to use also. Let me give you a little background on the project so that you can get a better feel for it.

Gospel Revolution is really about rediscovering the gospel. J.D. reminds the reader that the gospel is not the diving board off which we dive into the pool of Christianity but the gospel is the pool itself. Building off of the concepts in J.D.’s excellent book by Broadman and Holman called Gospel, the group study really meets many Christians where they are. The list of what “good Christians” should be doing never seems to end. Evangelism. Missions. Adoption. Radical generosity. Bold prayers. Audacious faith. Every time we turn around we’re learning about something else that good Christians are doing. The result is that many Christians find themselves more exhausted than inspired. Jesus’ revolutionary message is that at the center of Christianity is not a list of things we are to be doing for God, but an announcement of what He has done for us. As we stand in awe of what He has done for us, what we should do for Him will come naturally. J.D. incorporates a simple gospel prayer as he teaches and models how to live out the gospel in everyday life.

Here are a couple of blogposts that also discuss this gospel message that God has given to the church through J.D. Greear:

Interview of J.D. by Trevin Wax http://trevinwax.com/2011/09/28/recovering-the-gospels-power-a-conversation-with-j-d-greear/

Overview of Gospel’s Generosity Matrix by J.D. http://www.churchleaders.com/outreach-missions/outreach-missions-blogs/154951-jd_greear_the_generosity_matrix.html

What I found most encouraging about J.D.’s teaching is that he is not only biblically sound but culturally relevant. J.D.’s authenticity really draws you in and his illustrations are things to which we can all easily relate. I was not only professionally challenged by this study but personally inspired. The old-time message of the gospel came alive for me and has resulted in the kind of spiritual fruit that God intended the gospel to bear in my life. Well, that’s my testimony. I hope you too will take part in this gospel revolution and rediscover the power of the Christian faith!

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For the first time, LifeWay Small Groups brings you a Bible study inspired by an award-winning novel. Through the power of visual storytelling, teaching from the author, and scriptural truths, Rooms: The Small-Group Experience will guide your group into deeper biblical truth and understanding.

Rooms is the story of Micah Taylor—a young software tycoon—who inherits an incredible beachfront home from a great uncle he never knew. A home on the Oregon coast. In Cannon Beach. The one place Micah loves. The one place he never wants to see again. But strange things happen in the house. Things Micah can’t explain. Things he can barely believe. The locals say that the house is “spiritual.” But Micah slowly discovers the house isn’t just spiritual, it is a physical manifestation—of his soul.

While Rooms: The Small-Group Experience uses story, character, and themes from the novel, it’s been created so that even someone who has not read the book—or who does not intend to—can still find fresh perspectives and strong biblical content. This study is a powerful experience for those who have read the novel as well as those who haven’t.

Rooms: The Small-Group Experience guides participants through the four most significant themes from the novel:

  • Woundedness: group members will have an opportunity to consider the events of their lives that have tended to drive their behavior most
  • Destiny: group members will explore the true desires of their hearts, what makes them come alive, and what they have been divinely designed to do
  • Warfare: helps group members identify the voices of their lives, recognize truth from lies, and realize the potent weapons for combating the enemy that are at their disposal
  • Freedom: takes group members on a journey toward greater freedom in Christ through the sort of healing made possible in Him

I’ve edited lots of incredible LifeWay resources in my almost 22 years here, but I’ve never been quite as excited as I am about Rooms. This study will be available October 1. Click here for a sneak peek.

Until next time,
Signe

I finished my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving this year — gifts wrapped and under the tree. My cards are done — complete with handwritten notes. My decorations have been up for weeks.

Now, in an ideal world, I’d be sitting back with my peppermint mocha enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smells of the season.

But wait … I just got a card from a friend I marked off my list years ago. And last week I had lunch with someone who came bearing gifts. We’ve never exchanged gifts before. Should I run out and buy a gift? Or does that make it even more obvious that I didn’t intend to get her anything? And while I was out running errands the other day I saw some decorations that would look great outside my house. I do need to add to my collection this year — all the neighbors did.

And then there’s that holiday baking I wanted to do. But I’m running out of time, so I’ll probably just pick something up at the bakery. I’m sure my friends will enjoy that more anyway. I’m not much of a cook.

Funny how it seems as if it’s never all done. I’m exhausted. I thought by getting ahead of the game I would eliminate the stress I experience every year when I focus on everything I think needs to be done —  and done perfectly, of course.

Maybe the real stressor isn’t the dozens of things I feel I need to do but, instead, why I choose to do those things. Do I send Christmas cards because I genuinely want to stay in touch with all those people? Or do I send cards because I feel an obligation to those who send cards to me? Do I give gifts because I want those special people in my life to know I think they are special? Does the gift have to be the “perfect” thing? Or can it be something that reminds me of my friend or a memory we share? And what about those decorations? Do I really care how I measure up to the neighbors?

This year I want the reason behind everything I do to be a reflection of Jesus. I want my Christmas cards to serve as a way to catch up with those I don’t talk to often but care deeply about. I want to give gifts out of love. I want to bake so that the important people in my life have something I took time to create just for them. I want to decorate because it makes me happy and makes my home welcoming to others.

Things don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be special. After all, the stable wasn’t perfect, but it was special because Jesus was there. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and I pray your holiday will be about those things that are closest to your heart.

Until next time,
Signe

studdsmr

Just reading over a little book by C.T. Studd that was often an inspiration to me while working in the Last Frontier.  It’s called “The Chocolate Soldier” and here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“THE OTHERWISE CHRISTIAN IS A Chocolate Christian, dissolving in water and melting at the smell of fire. Sweeties they are! Bonbons, lollipops! Living their lives in a glass dish or in a cardboard box, each clad in his soft clothing, a little frilled white paper to preserve his dear little delicate constitution.”

You can read the booklet in its entirety at http://www.wholesomewords.org/missions/msctserm.html.  Hope his words serve as an inspiration and a challenge for you in missional living!

He likes Jesus...
He likes Jesus?!

A few weeks ago I received a link to an NPR story about Bill Maher and what he thinks about Jesus. You may know Bill from his HBO show Real Time or his new film Religulous (Did you catch the insinuation of this new term? It seems to be a mix between the term “religious” and “ridiculous.”) And that’s right where Maher seems to land when it comes to religion.

The article states… “In his new film, Religulous — a satirical documentary in which Maher travels to religious sites around the world, ranging from the Vatican and Jerusalem to a Muslim gay bar in Amsterdam and a Christian theme park in Orlando, Fla. — he describes religion as “dangerous.” He goes on to say that… “the idea of a personal god who responds to prayer, who performs miracles and battles evil in an active way, is the result of “a long, 2,000-year-old game of Telephone.”

Sounds like Bill has a problem with all belief systems that have God in their ideology, including Christianity. But does he? The article continues… “The message of Jesus,” on the other hand, “is not only beautiful but revolutionary,” Maher stresses. “The idea that the meek shall inherit the earth, and that the poor and the powerless have just as much dignity as the powerful and the rich, that was a very new idea at the time — and it has not gone out of style.”

The article goes on… “The shame, Maher argues, is that that message gets lost amid what he describes as “the magic tricks and the bells and whistles and the nonsense” of organized religion.”

I want to ask you a question. Do you think most people who are hesitant about church and/or joining a small group have the same concerns as Bill Maher? If so, why do you think they are so disturbed by “organized religion?” I would really like to hear your comments.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem [Nashville, Nashville]!… How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Luke 13:34

Building upon building filled with people on a journey; some of them seeking spiritual truth. I want to be an instrument used to point them to His “nest”…

 God seems to be directing a lot of Christians to coffee shops so they can make Jesus famous. The latest statistics are showing that millions of people meet in coffee shops for “spiritual conversations” on a weekly basis. Many of these people will never come to church or an in-house small group meeting. This pre-existing audience in need of Jesus is almost untouched. The groups are already there discussing various belief systems, not necessarily Christianity. Many of these groups are mixed groups made up of agnostics, atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and people who are simply apathetic about any belief system at all. Joining or starting of group of this nature will allow an individual to insert the name of Jesus into the conversation as well as sharing the Word of God with the group.

If you decide to start of group of this type you may be wondering how to recruit people to join you… a few ideas:

  1. Simply ask the coffee shop if you can put up an announcement telling what day and time. They will most likely be excited about this as you are bringing consistent business to them.
  2. Invite friends from work, people you meet at the grocery store, neighbors of yours, etc…, anyone who you start a conversation with and you sense a chemistry with them. That sense of oneness may well be from God.
  3. If you are near condominiums or an apartment building go door to door and place a personal letter from you under the doors of people living in the complex. The letter should be written in very personal language inviting people into the conversation. Don’t give your address though. This could be dangerous. And, if possible, follow-up by going door to door asking people if they got your letter and seeing if they’d like to join you. It would be best if you didn’t go into the apartment or condo even if invited until you know the persons you are talking with.
  4. Go to the same coffee shop at least four weeks in a row at the time you plan on having your group meeting. See if there are people who tend to be there consistently on that day and time each week. God may have put a group in place for you already.
  5. Something to keep in mind… Since your goal is to make Jesus famous with a group of people who don’t know of His stardom yet, you may want to see what groups are already meeting in the coffee shop near you. Joining a pre-existing group without leading the group will allow you to share the facts found in the Bible and the name of Jesus just as intently. In fact, when telling how His story has changed your story you may be less intimidating as an equal member of the group.

 

We church planters are always looking for locations and situations where we can connect with people in an environment that is comfortable for both parties. This is it!

If you decide to make Jesus famous in your local coffee shop by being part of a small group of this kind, Serendipity by LifeWay has a resource written specifically for this setting. The series is titled “Soul Cafe.” A description of these studies reads… “Soul Cafe is a series of open-ended conversations developed to drive you deeper into the story God is revealing. Soul Cafe is not a place for being comfortable or indifferent. It’s personal, penetrating, raw. It isn’t for the religiously refined; rather it’s much better suited for spiritual barbarians.” You can find this resource by going to www.serendipityhouse.com.

If you’re a church planter and you want to delve deeply into small groups that transform a community, don’t miss Exponential, one of the best church planting events for 2009.