Who knew silence could be so loud?
I’ll tell you who: small group leaders.
You ask a question. A good question. A simple one, even.
And the response?
Someone’s stomach growls. One guy gets up to use the bathroom. A girl fake coughs in an effort to break the brutally awkward silence. You begin to wonder if you have bat in the cave considering that no one dares look at your face.
Who thought small groups were a good idea anyway?
Leading a small group is a bizarre, inconsistent, often bewildering experience. Thankfully, over the years, I’ve picked up two approaches that have helped me immensely in prompting productive group discussions. Each tool is incredibly simple. No specialized degrees necessary.
Continue reading “Two Underutilized, Highly Effective Small Group Leadership Tricks”
Last week I taught on the topic of God’s sovereignty at a college ministry. We covered why God’s sovereignty matters for decision making, but I also wanted to cover the topic of trusting God amid tragedy.
Tragedies consistently cause us to question God. They make us skeptical of his goodness, his power, and his claim to be in control of all things. If God is sovereign, then why would he allow a forest fire to consume a neighborhood?
In response to these questions, scripture provides at least three reasons to trust God.
Continue reading “Trusting God’s Sovereignty Amid Tragedy”
If you spend a lot of time inviting people to things, then you’d better be prepared for rejection.
As a church planter, I would know. I’m basically a professional at being turned down.
But of course, I’m not alone. Talk with anyone in sales, donor development, marketing, start-ups, or any other line of work that requires a lot of invitations, and they’ll assure you, the only thing certain is that rejection will come, often in large, unrelenting quantities.
Through the hundreds of rejections I’ve received in the last few months, I’ve noticed a pattern. The most common way of being told, “no”, comes in the form of, “I’m sorry, I’m just really busy”.
I want to help us understand the dynamic occurring when someone declines your invitation in this way. Because, I think, we’re confused. We’re missing the truth of what’s being communicated in that interaction. At first, I was, too. But now, being the seasoned vet of rejection I am, I see things more clearly.
Continue reading “The Actual Meaning of “Sorry, I’m Busy””
We’re a society that affirms the prevalence and struggles associated with mental illness; yet we’re also a society that says, “Do whatever feels right; listen to your heart”. These two values contradict one another, and their contradiction exposes deeper problems underlying a purely secular take on the world.
The worst advice you can give a depressed, postpartum mom is, “Just listen to your heart; do what feels right”. In her case, that which feels right may be smothering her infant to suppress his unrelenting colic.
When we tell someone to “follow their heart”, we’re generally encouraging them to trust their most basic, visceral sense of what is best. We’re telling them to trust themselves, to look inward for inspiration and guidance.
The problem for clinically depressed, anxious, anorexic, or otherwise mentally ill people is that they can’t trust themselves. When they look inward, they don’t see truth. They see lies.
What a world swimming in mental illness needs is not more admonitions to follow your heart. Rather, we need an objective, external, immovable point of reference to provide an anchor for our wayward hearts. What we need is the presence of God and the hope of Jesus Christ.
Continue reading “Follow Your Heart…Unless You Battle Mental Illness”
On this Good Friday, as I consider the lifeless body of Jesus sprawled out and sagging across rough-hewn planks of cedar, his suffering seems appropriate for the season.
Called for, even. Necessary.
Sometimes, in our modern American comfort, in our State Fair variety bliss, in our cornfields of gold familiarity, we think of Jesus’ suffering as too much.
For what did this man die? Is God so malicious? Must he mishandle his own Son with such brutality?
Continue reading “An Unclickable, Unlikeable, and Generally Unpleasant Lamentation for Good Friday”
Some days, the world seems pretty bleak. Our bodies ache. War and poverty prevail. Natural disasters abound. Just when we begin to get a little piece of mind, another tragedy strikes.
If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves living perpetually in hope of an escape. We trod through the days; we fulfill our duties. But we’re distracted. Our eyes are always scanning the horizon, searching for the nearest exit, wondering when we’ll have the opportunity to finally check out and be done with this miserable planet.
At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that the God of Hope entered into all this mess. “God came down to earth”, we say, echoing Jesus’ own description of his mission.
Continue reading “Bleak to Enchanted: Exploring One Way Jesus Didn’t Come Down”
Last night, I did the bedtime routine with the boys.
Dinner. Diapers. Pajamas. Sippy cups. Tooth brushes.
Shoot. Totally forgot to brush their teeth. Dad fail.
Continue reading “Presence is Productive”
The secular, post-modern world we inhabit has formed a consensus when it comes to a conception of god.
The consensus goes something like this:
Yes, I do believe in God. Or, at least, in a god. I do believe there is some kind of higher, transcendent power at work beyond the physical world. I am not merely a materialist, nor an atheist. I’m more of an agnostic. I do not believe we’re all here for just a few short years only to die and be gone forever in the most definitive sense. I believe there must be some kind of power that unites all humanity, and binds us with the created order. Whether we know it or not, whether our wars and violence veil it or not, we are all somehow connected.
Continue reading “The Problem with the Present Spiritual Consensus”
In any institution, behavior follows values. By “values”, I don’t necessarily mean morally praiseworthy values, but simply “whatever is valued” in that context. In addition, “values” do not necessarily correspond with the random posters hung around the office, nor the official company emails sent to the list serve.
Behavior follows actual values. If the senior leadership of a company values profit above all else, then employees will scramble to make the most money in whatever way possible and be noticed while doing so. If senior leadership values promptness and professionalism, then meetings will start on time, and everyone will be well dressed.
Continue reading “Dethroning Conversion: Correcting Evangelicalism’s Longstanding, Misplaced Priority”
You can have all of this world,
just give me Jesus.
The lyrics of this beautiful old hymn communicate a classic Christian conviction: that the riches found in Jesus Christ are more valuable than all the riches this world has to offer. And by “riches”, we mean not only finances, but all material possessions and experiences. We know this life offers many delights we could chase. From seaside vacations to fine wines to an evening on Broadway, the landscape of the world beckons us to come and see, to sit and eat.
But this hymn directs our affections toward a different end. Instead of temporary pleasures, we seek the greater, more lasting delights found in a life faithfully given in pursuit of Jesus. He is the one great aim of a Christian life.
Continue reading “Just Give Me Jesus…and Coffee…and a Couch”