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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Do you appreciate beautiful island ambiance? Are you a surfer? Are you a fan of Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt, or AnnaSophia Robb…or even Hercules (Kevin Sorbo)? Do you love Carrie Underwood? Do you like movies that make you cry?  For all of these reasons or just for one, you should consider going to see Soul Surfer this weekend. This is a movie that also models a faith that is not perfect but real.

About a month ago I was invited to a preview of the movie, and honestly my main reason for attending was because it was a free date night with my wife.  Little did I know how my heart would be engaged that night, however. Now, I am definitely not a cryer.  There are a couple of movies with tear-jerking scenes that have caused me to quickly wipe my eye before anyone could see, but this one had my eyes welled with tears throughout.

The film is based upon the real life story of Bethany Hamilton, a teen sensation surfer in Hawaii who lost her arm in a shark attack. The character development that takes place in the movie is remarkable given the length of time they had to work with; consequently, most viewers will come away being able to relate to this family and wonder how their own might have handled the adversity that the Hamiltons are forced to face.

From a faith perspective, the movie is inspirational. While God is directly mentioned in only a few scenes, He is all over the place. Reminds me of the book of Esther in that way.

It’s difficult to call Bethany’s story a tragedy, and she certainly wouldn’t want us too. Conversely, we can view it as a triumph–the triumph of faith over fear and amazing accomplishment in spite of adversity.

If you can organize a trip to see Soul Surfer this opening weekend–with your family or your small group—you definitely won’t regret it. The movie is getting great publicity and the well-known cast should also allow your friends who are not Christ followers to feel safe in attending. You’ll have ample opportunity for conversations about faith afterwards.

(And for my missional, country music-loving friends, there’s a great segment with Carrie Underwood leading a mission trip to Thailand that may inspire your group as well! ;-))

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I read an interesting article that was tweeted to me recently by @desiringgod explaining the reasons for differentiating between evangelism and missions. Because the term missional is being used more frequently now, I wonder if that isn’t the reason for the timing of Piper’s article. I have seen some great shifts in the way we do church and the way we are being the church because of the missional movement. This article reminds me that as I encourage our folks to be more missional here at home and in fact more missionary, I still need to offer that unique challenge for people to forsake all to go to the dark corners that will never be reached “as we go.” Check out the article and let me know what you think!

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/AskPastorJohn/ByTopic/7/4153/

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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!

22Okay, these guys are really ancient. And before you write them off as heretics as Western Church history usually recounts, you might want to do some fresh research now that the world has become so much smaller and we are able to fill in some gaps. While the Nestorians at different points in their history continued to make confusing statements about Jesus’ dual-nature (see the website http://www.nestorian.org/index.html for more information), what can’t be denied is their incredible missionary zeal. Christians from “the Church of the East” as they preferred to be called, were doing Business as Mission before the term was coined. Some historians believe that Eastern Christians first took the Gospel to Japan, but there’s no doubt that they made it throughout India, Russia, Mongolia, and China. These guys were serious influencers.

What I love most about the Eastern Christians is that they were so serious about their faith that they incorporated it into every aspect of their lives. They were not so compartmentalized like we tend to get sometimes, separating our “church-life” from normal life. Small bands of believers would join the ancient trade routes along the Silk Road and share their faith at every stop. Not only were they going somewhere to share their faith, but they were living their faith as they went. They prioritized education and memorized much scripture as well as capturing the important truths of the faith in songs and hymns that they developed along the way.

These guys were doing life together and apparently their authenticity won many to Christ throughout Asia. Whole tribes of barbaric Mongols were known to come to Christ as a result of the Nestorian efforts. As it turns out, they got a little too comfortable and civilized later in the courts of emperors, especially in China, and their lifestyle became much more like the establishment religion that we often think of when we think back to the Dark Ages.

My hope is that we will be as serious about impacting our world as these Eastern Christians were, and that we will live with that level of authenticity. But let’s not let it wane like they did!

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I consider myself somewhat of a romantic, nostalgic, something-like-that kind of Nomad. More than anything else probably, I’m a collector of stories from around the world. That has only increased since traveling to some of those awesome places where missions movements were either birthed or met their temporary end. One of the groups that has always fascinated me is the Moravians. First of all, I really love their motto:

(Latin) In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
(English) “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity”

That helps us keep a pretty healthy perspective and is certainly applicable for small group life. Some of the other aspects of their movement that I appreciate are:

Passion- Their passion led to sending 9 missionaries out for every 1 who stayed behind at one point. Some of them even sold themselves into slavery in the Caribbean so that they could better reach slaves with the Gospel.

Piety- Their piety was evidenced by a continuous prayer watch that lasted for 100 years 24/7. These folks really sought to live the holy life.

Simplicity- They lived in settlements where people maintained personal ownership but lived out the principles of simplicity and generosity.

Small group focus- They formed hundreds of small renewal groups that encouraged personal prayer and worship, Bible study, confession of sins and mutual accountability


Here are a couple of links to learn more about the Moravians. Hope they offer you some encouragement and a reminder that we are part of a missional legacy much bigger than ourselves!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moravian_Church

http://forallnations.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/the-worthy-lamb-history-of-moravian-missions/

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As I continue my transition to Stateside living, I’ve been looking for more ways to incorporate some of the principles and practices that were effective for Kingdom expansion overseas. One of the growing trends in church-planting circles is called “Business as Missions” or BAM.

Here’s a link to a good article about BAM that you can read: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/november/24.24.html.

Question: What principles that BAMers use do you think can be utilized by our Small Groups to transform our communities for Christ here in the U.S.?

I’d love to hear your ideas!