The past six weeks have been crazy busy around the LifeWay Small Groups halls. And the majority of my time has been devoted to a resource that will release in February. It’s called Stolen, it’s with Chris and Kerry Shook, and it’s compelling … to say the least.

Kerry and Chris Shook founded Woodlands Church, formerly Fellowship of The Woodlands, in l993. Since then the church has grown to 17,000 in average attendance each weekend. It is one of the fastest-growing churches in America. Kerry and Chris wrote the New York Times best-seller One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life as well as Love at Last Sight: Thirty Days to Grow and Deepen Your Closest Relationships.

Here’s a little bit about this six-week study: Over the course of our lives the Enemy works hard to rob us of the treasures God has set aside for us—our inheritance, strength, peace, dreams, joy, and passion.  In this creative small-group Bible study, Pastor Kerry Shook and his wife, Chris, use specific biblical examples to lead you into a discovery of the ways you can reclaim these treasures. From illustrations of how Paul was able to find strength in God’s promise to the Shunammite woman who had allowed her dream to die to how we see passion play out in the story of the prodigal son, you’ll discover the bigger picture of who we are in Christ and all He intended for us to experience.

Watch for more information coming soon. But first check out this message from the Shooks. And get ready for a journey to reclaim what is rightfully yours!

Until next time,
Signe

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“There’s something about the word fresh that changes everything.”  Kerry Shook

As I type this blog post, our latest Platform resource—Fresh: Reviving Stale Faith—is on the way to the printer. While editing this project, Kerry Shook both challenged and inspired me.
Let’s see—meditation, fasting, and silence. OK, so … I have a tendency to get focused on my to-do list, my agenda and often forget to carve out time to meditate on God’s Word on a regular basis. And fasting … well, I’ve never fasted in my entire life. And then there’s silence … my friends who are reading this are laughing out loud right now because being quiet and still are definitely not strengths for me. Honestly, I’m embarrassed to admit those things here. But I bet I’m not alone.

Does your faith ever feel stale? Are you maybe a little intimidated when you think about carrying out these spiritual disciplines in your own life but at the same time you’re at least a little curious—and a lot ready for a fresh faith? Then this study is worth checking out.

To the ancients, daily life included spiritual disciplines such as meditation, fasting, and silence. But our modern world has all but abandoned these time-honoring principles, instead relenting
to overcrowded agendas, busy schedules, and fast-paced, frantic day-to-day routines, leaving us with a faith that’s stale and tired. Yet it’s fresh faith that’s appealing. It’s fresh faith that feels active and alive. It’s fresh faith that makes a difference in this world. In this addition to the Platform series, Kerry Shook explores the ancient disciplines of meditation, fasting, and
silence and reveals the irony of how patterns of the past are really practices that promise to revive our faith.

Kerry is senior pastor of Woodlands Church, one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He and his wife Chris founded Fellowship of The Woodlands, now Woodlands Church, in 1993. Since then the church has grown to 17,000 in average attendance each weekend.

The six small-group sessions are:

1.  The Art of Focus — the benefits of meditation
2.  The Art of Discipline — the strategy for meditation
3.  The Art of Restraint — the purpose and power of fasting
4.  The Art of Emptying Yourself — how to develop a plan for fasting
5.  The Art of Margins — the power of silence to reduce our stress and express our faith
6.  The Art of Silence — how silence can empower communication and increase our sensitivity

Fresh: Reviving Stale Faith will be available December 1 … check it out!

Until next time,
Signe

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

Here is a small-group study based on Luke 17-11:19 that you can use if you find yourself between studies, waiting on books to deliver, or … whatever. This is a sample of the transformation model and discovery Bible study that you’ll encounter in many Serendipity House or LifeWay Small Group Bible studies. I’ve both been in a group that used this text with these questions as well as led a group conversation rooted in this same material. It’s a great entree into the heart of spiritual transformation and formation:

11 While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, 10 men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance 13 and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And while they were going, they were healed. 15 But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. 16 He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus said, “Were not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19 HCSB

1. What is our modern day leprosy? Point out the ways these groups and individuals are isolated, ostracized, and walled off by mainstream culture. Or maybe you’ll decide that some are actually embraced by the mainstream thus making the need for healing and salvation more difficult for them to acknowledge.
2. How does Luke describe the level of communication with Jesus (v.13)? There is both the acknowledgment of a need only Jesus can meet as well as the sense of desperation. Although it may appear to be more obvious with certain demographics, we’re all desperate for the sort of transformation only Jesus can offer.
3. Why do you think only one returned to thank Jesus? What’s up with the other nine? A great discussion question. Don’t let the group settle into simple “black and white” or “right and wrong” positions. This scenario is more about “good” and “greater good.”
4. What was the added benefit of the one that did return? What do you think is the difference between “well” and “healed”?
5. Read vv. 15-16. What steps to wellness and fullness emerge through an examination of this passage? I allowed a great deal of latitude here, but for the most part we landed at (1) acknowledgment (2) repentance (3) Giving glory (demonstration) (4) Worship (inner transformation)

Consider wrapping up with an application question that asks members you consider the “So what?” aspect of your conclusions. It’s not a difficult assignment to identify those most the desperate of our culture. But for others that have learned how to manage their greatest needs else medicate these needs through various methods—not as easy. For more on leading a small-group Bible study or small-group principles and practices download the free Small Group Life Ministry Manual by clicking here.

In the spirit of the 2010 census, I’ve come up with 4 questions of my own. Because (1) I don’t get out much (2) want to continue growing and becoming better at meeting your needs, we’ve initiated a month-long project in which we as a team will analyze and re-visit practically everything we continue to publish, are considering publishing, and have published in the past. In addition to our self-analysis, we will also be looking “out” in order to better understand the total landscape.

If you would be kind enough to take 3-5 minutes to respond to a 4-question survey it would be greatly appreciated by us on this end, and hopefully only helpful in the long run for you, the small-group leader, in the long run. You can get to the survey by pasting the link below into your browser. Thank you for participating—it’ll be a blast (I am prone to overstatement).

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6TMJJ68

“The glory of God is man fully alive.”

Saint Irenaeus

So what is meant by “fully alive”? If true, then what application does this have for us as small-group leaders; as small-group members? This is one of the weightiest ideas I’ve come across.

“The apologetics of the 1970s and ’80s are useful if you are teaching in a church camp, but it’s not that relevant to the claims the New Atheists are making, which are very different. The New Atheists are really surfing the waves of 9/11, equating Islamic radicalism with Christianity. These are not questions addressed by C.S. Lewis or Josh McDowell.” Dinesh D’Souza, author of What’s So Great About Christianity?

This Christianity Today article describes an unexpected surge of interest in apologetics. Read more here. Keep in mind how effective and accommodating your small groups and small group ministries can be in equipping members to counter the arguments of the New Atheists. Be very intentional in your Bible study. An understanding of the differences between community and redemptive community is also crucial.