Tag Archives: life group

A Leadership Night with Alan Fadling

Yesterday night Rocky Peak had its end of the year Life Group leader gathering. It was a night filled with worship, testimonies as to what God had done in Life Group, and some encouraging words on “rest” from Alan Fadling.

In case you don’t know him Alan Fadling is author of An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, which was honored with an “Award of Merit” by Christianity Today under the category “Spirituality.” The book has been getting rave reviews by some heavy hitting authors/pastors. I (who am not a heavy hitting author/pastor) liked it a whole lot as well! Also, on a more personal note, many many years ago Alan was the College Pastor at Rocky Peak! How crazy is that!

Anyway here are some highlights of what he talked about last night:

  • As leaders we often lead on empty… What if leadership was leading from overflow? What if it is just sharing what is overflowing from me? That doesn’t happen when you live life in a hurry.
  • Hurry is a disordered soul.
  • We want God to answer quickly, we want him to do things fast… but God has a bias towards relationship, and he knows that sometimes when he gives us what we want when we want it we are quick to run off.
  • Work is certainly a gift from God, but so is rest.
  • I am not what I do… that is not my identity. My identity is “beloved of God.” That identity is true of me whether I am at work or at rest.
  • In the Bible rest comes first, work flows out of that.
  • One thing that you need to understand is how much Jesus treasures your friendship.
  • The more I thank, the more I remember how graced my life is.

There were many more highlights from last night, but those are just a few. If you are interested in what he has to say, I recomend that you pick up his book An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest. Whether you are a pastor, college ministry leader, or don’t do “ministry” at all, there is much to draw from this book.

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Book Review – Uncovered by Rod Tucker

Let’s be honest for a minute – on a scale of 1 to 10 – how honest and open do you think you are? How honest are you with yourself? Your own sins, your own baggage, your own issues, etc. How honest are you with others? Do you feel like you can share your mistakes, your shortcomings, and your junk with people at church? How does our lack of being honest with ourselves and our fear of being honest with other people hurt our relationships? These are all the sorts of the questions Rod Tucker addresses in Uncovered.

The Positive

Let me be honest with you – I loved this book. I loved Rod Tucker’s desire to see the church become more honest. I loved his desire to see the church become a haven of grace. I loved the fact that he points out that the gospel frees us up to be open. I love the fact that he challenges us to be more honest with ourselves and with our Uncoveredchurch community. I especially loved how he tied honesty in with maintaining our image and focusing on the American dream; it’s a lack of authenticity and honesty that leads us to consumerism in order to cover up our shortcomings.

There are some great chapters in this book, let me just highlight a few of those for you:
➢ Chapter 2: Self Protection – Rod shares about how we use dishonesty to protect our self-image.
➢ Chapter 3: Sewing, Hiding, Blaming – We resort to these three tactics (just like Adam and Eve) to cover up the things we are ashamed of.
➢ Chapter 15: Being a Safe Place – “We need to treat people exactly how God, because of Jesus, treats us.” The keyword is grace!
➢ Chapter 16: Why Honesty Matters – We can use excess and stuff as a way of hiding. This hinders our relationships.
➢ Chapter 18: Mirrors – A brilliant short story about a girl who all of a sudden discovers her reflection.
➢ Chapter 20: Reconciliation – God is in the business of bringing people back to himself. If we want to be a part of that, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that we were once in a position of need, just like all the lost people out there.

I could see myself using this book as fodder for sermons but I could really see myself handing this book over to some church small group leaders, telling them to open it up and read certain chapters as a form of training. In other words this is a much needed resource for the church. We need to listen to a lot of what Rod Tucker is saying in this book.

The Negative

Again I will be honest with you – I loved this book – but there were some parts I didn’t like or agree with. 1)The chapter on homosexuality – while there was nothing in this chapter that I necessarily disagree with or reject, it seems as disjointed from the rest of the book. The chapter doesn’t really “fit,” so I am not sure why he included it. More importantly though… 2)His idea that “honesty is the point.” He says “honesty is not something to move past.” He argues against people who want to move past “simply being honest and figure out how to quit sinning” (56). Although I would agree with him, that “quitting sinning” is not the goal of our faith, simply being honest isn’t the goal either. Our goal is to be Christ-like, yes that includes honesty but when it comes to spiritual growth, honesty is a major tool for bringing the sin to the light and allowing Christ to transform us. What is a bit disappointing about this book is that he builds it off the premise that “honesty is the point.” It almost seems that for Rod Tucker, honesty is the silver bullet that will solve most if not all of the Church’s current problems. However honesty in and of itself certainly will not solve any of our problems, only Jesus can do that, thankfully Jesus has given us the grace to be honest, and that will definitely help the church grow into becoming Christlike.

Overall
This book was a short read. It was both provocative and challenging. As I read I felt the desire to grow in honesty with people in my life around me. Rod’s goal was to show us how to cultivate honesty within the church, having finished the book I can say that this book will certainly help in doing that.

As a bonus to you, the reader, I want to give you a free copy of this book. So Today only (April 7th) you can download the book on Amazon by clicking the link below. After that it will be on sale through amazon for only $2.99.

Uncovered-BloggerAd-450x150

(Note: I received this book from Kregel in exchange for an impartial review.)

Why I’m Going Back to Junior College

The title is a bit deceptive, I am not going “back” to junior college; I am going to junior college for the first time. I have a masters from Fuller Seminary in theology and I graduated from UCLA with honors in philosophy. So why exactly am I going back to JC instead of going forward to do my Ph.D? It’s a long story, so let me explain….

When I went to UCLA I fell in love with the college experience. Freethinkers. Dialogue. Debate. Making of Meaning. All things that mark the college ethos. As a philosophy major, I dealt with the tough questions about life, and I walked alongside other undergraduates who were also asking the tough questions. I was fortunate enough to be able to walk alongside of these people and point them to Jesus.

There are three vivid gospel encounters I remember from my time at UCLA.

One day I was having lunch with a Filipino friend,  after graduating his plan was to go back to the Philippines and enter into politics (he came from a long line of politicians). As we were sitting in Ackerman, I remember him saying out of nowhere: “You really make me wonder about this Christianity thing…” I was thrown aback a little bit. Its not everyday that someone throws you a gospel alley-oop. I responded by asking him what he meant. He said that he grew up catholic but that he had abandoned his faith when he moved to the US. Then he told me “it really boggles my mind that you are so smart and you still believe in God.” I went on to explain why I was a Christian and what Jesus did for me in my life. He ended up telling me that he wanted to keep exploring, and maybe start going back to church.

The other encounter happened at a friend’s party. People were doing the typical college thing at this party: drinking beer and consuming illegal substances (pot brownies). So I was sitting at the dinning room table, talking to people as they kept asking me why I didn’t want any beer/brownies. I explained that I’m not into that stuff. Most people were cool with it, except for one guy who wanted to know why I really didn’t want to partake in the festivities. I responded by giving him my testimony, it revolved around watching my dad destroy his own life and our family through his alcoholism. I explained how I found Jesus in that period in my life, and I have been trying to follow Jesus faithfully since that time. As I shared the gospel and my testimony, the guy remembered who I was. I was that Christian guy from his philosophy classes. He went on to tell me that I wasn’t like the other Christians he knew. This guy grew up going to church in a small town of about 500 in the Midwest. He started to ask some tough questions about God and theology but people basically told him to shut up and stop asking questions. He was soon branded as a heretic because he questioned what they taught in Church. He came to realize that he needed to stop being so antagonistic because his questioning was alienating him from the rest of the town. So he and a friend from high school became closet atheists, vowing to “come out” once they left the town. This guy “came out” as an atheist when he came to UCLA. But he found my faith interesting. I wasn’t like the people he grew up with. I asked the tough questions, I engaged respectfully with the same philosophers (even the atheistic ones) that he loved. By the time the night ended he admitted that he has his doubts about his atheism, but the Church hurt him too much to go back. I encouraged him to seek, to ask questions, I told him that God isn’t afraid of your questioning. Others might be afraid of it, but God certainly doesn’t need anybody to defend him.

The third encounter happened during the Undergraduate Philosophy Club. I was an officer in the club, and I was in charge of creating the discussion curriculum. So I was in a position of authority in the class, respected for my faith and my knowledge of philosophical topics. I was the rare “smart Christian.” I was an anomaly. Anyway, one day while we were sitting discussing Spinoza the door flings open and a guy runs in screaming, “they are after me! They are coming to get me” and he hides under a table in the corner of the room. Needless to say, the room was in shock. I knew the guy, we had talked about Christianity and the sermon on the mount multiple times. The few times we had talked about Christianity he told me his life story. Turns out this guy was a bit older than most of us, he had dropped out of college multiple times because of drug problems, but he had been sober for a few years. What happened though was that everybody sat in his or her chair silently, not having a clue about what to do with this guy. So I walked over to him, and asked him if he was all right. He frantically told me that he had relapsed, and now “they” were out to get him. I tried to calm him down, but it was to no avail. So I did the only thing I knew to do in that moment, I prayed for the guy. Now I have no clue what I was thinking, stopping a philosophy meeting at a secular university to pray for a guy, but I did it anyway. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring him peace, that he would sense God’s love in the moment, and that God would remove any fear that he might be feeling. Miraculously the guy completely calmed down and sat silently and relaxed for the rest of the meeting. But I could tell the rest of the room was in shock. What just happened? Nobody really knew. All they knew was that I prayed for a guy and it seemed to work. All I knew was that God showed up and touched this guy.

I share these stories so that you will catch a glimpse of the fact that college is a prime place for doing ministry.

A few months ago I was talking to a missionary friend who came back from an Islamic country. He was sharing with me their strategy for reaching people. It involved a lot of relational time. Eating. Playing. Having meaningful conversations. Gatherings in central locations. Just plain doing community together.  He explained that these things were key to effective evangelism. As he shared, a light bulb turned on in my brain; college is a prime place for these activities! People eat together, drink together, play together, go to sporting events together, ask tough questions about life, try to figure out their identity, try to figure out what they believe, hang out together, they just plain do community together. The college campus is the ideal mission field! Everything that my missionary friend desired in a mission field is found in a college campus.

College campuses are ideal mission fields.

I have been doing college ministry for several years at my church. The ministry is called “Soma.” Our church is located in a prime position; We have three universities and four junior colleges within a 15 mile radius. Talk about having a huge field to harvest from!

One of my jobs in this ministry is to preach on a rotation. We have three regular speakers and I am one of them. Its cool having a team approach. One guy preaches about God the Father and the gifts of the Spirit a lot. Another guy preaches about community and identity in Christ a lot. And I preach about mission and the gospels a lot. It works about nicely. Its quite Trinitarian. As I preach about mission I have been challenging students to see their workplace and their college campuses as mission fields. Its been really cool to see students begin to catch the vision for missions. They really are beginning to live missional lives.

As I have been preaching about being missional God has put a new desire in my heart; He has been putting something on my heart that we as a ministry have never done before.

The Lord has been putting it on my heart to begin to help Soma students to plant simple churches on their college campuses.

You see, I believe that there is a difference between being evangelistic and being missional. What happens when people share the gospel and invite people to church is evangelistic. This is the paradigm that most of us grew up with. However to be missional is to move into the community and bring God’s presence there. It involves bringing the church to them as opposed to bringing them to the church. God has put it on my heart to bring the Church to these college campuses.

My plan is to follow the Spirit’s lead as he builds a simple church on campus. As that begins to happen, some students will be trained to do the same thing at the schools that they will transfer to when they leave Moorpark and go to CSUN, UCLA, UCSB, or (God forbid) USC. ( Go Bruins!)

The simple churches will multiply!

I believe that the Lord can do this. In fact I believe that the Lord wants to do this. The Lord wants his gospel to infiltrate Moorpark College. He wants to open up people’s eyes to see Jesus. He wants to replace these college student’s desires for the things of this world with the desire for himself.

I’m not going to lie, I am scared to do this. I am scared to plant a “church” on a college campus. I have never tried to do such a thing.

I’m scared of being ridiculed.

I’m scared of coming back with no results; returning to my church with nothing to show.

I’m scared that nobody will catch the vision for planting simple churches.

Basically, I am scared to fail. Its my pride that makes me afraid.

Thankfully the Lord has been working on my pride. Going back to Junior College is a step towards humility. But more importantly going back to junior college is a step towards bringing the gospel to a generation who desperately needs Jesus.

I invite you to pray with me and for me as I enter the mission field commonly know as Moorpark College.

Pray for the following things:

  • Gospel Partners: The harvest is large but the workers are few. Pray for workers!
  • Boldness: Pray that I would be bold and that my co-workers in the gospel would be bold too.
  • Favor: That we would find favor in the eyes of students and professors.
  • Softening of Hearts: That the Lord would convict people of sin and begin to implant a desire for Jesus within student’s hearts.
  • Christ-Centeredness: Pray that we could be focused upon Jesus, that we would hear his Spirit, and that we would be Kingdom minded.

Missional Rhythms

“We don’t want to add things to our schedule, but bring intentionality to what we are already doing.” – Caesar Kalinowski (HT: VERGE Network)

Missional Rhythms

There is a big difference between living life and tacking on mission as a side thing vs. living life on mission and being intentional about creating missional rhythms in everyday life. What do you lean towards?

 

Four Types of Small Groups

For Christmas 2010 my girlfriend Amelia gave me a book on small groups called Missional Small Groups. In one of the Chapters the author (Scott Boren) tells the story of four different small groups. Each one of these small groups represents various models that have been created for small groups. I thought it was very interesting and worth sharing. I would love it if I could get some feedback from ya’ll about what you think.

1-The Personal Improvement Smallgroup

  • We get together because life is tough in this world and we need a few friends. It is not always convenient for us to meet every week, but we do meet when we can. Usually we meet in short six or seven week periods or we meet a couple times in a month. We get together talk a bit about God or study the Bible, and share what is going on at work and in our family. I am not sure that we are close, but it is good to have a place where we can share a little about what is going on in our lives. Being in my small group has improved my life.

2-The Lifestyle Adjustment Group

  • This group has become a priority to us. We have adjusted our schedules to meet together at least every other week, but usually we meet weekly. In our meetings we either study the sermon preached by our pastor or use a Bible study guide that we all find personally beneficial. We truly enjoy each other’s presence and we put a high priority on the group and the members in the group. We even do something social once each month. We rise to the occasion when someone has a need and there is a sense that we are friends.

3-The Relational Revision Group

  • Our group has a weekly meeting but I’m not sure that you would call it a meeting in the formal sense of the word. When we get together it is the culmination of the rest of the week when we have bee in one another’s lives. It is a time of sharing what God has been doing, praying for each other, and talking about how God is using us in our normal lives. Yes we do have a weekly lesson, but the leader usually only asks one or two questions from it. The most important part of our group however is not the meeting; it is how we are connected the other six days. I have never been part of a group in which people are so willing to sacrifice time and energy for each other. And this connectedness actually spills out into our neighborhood. It seems like we are always interacting with, praying for, and serving people who live near us. And in some ways they are just as much part of our group as those of us who call ourselves Christians. Recently we had to wrestle with some relational conflict and hurt feelings. In the past I would have run away from such encounters but not this time. It was not easy but we pressed through. We are still learning what it means to be God’s family.

4-The Missional Group

  • We have developed a way of connecting with each other and God that has resulted in some rather unpredictable developments. 2 couples and a single person in our group live within walking distance of each other. So as a group we decided to adopt their neighborhood. We started with a block party. At first it was hard because no one knew us but after the first party we started becoming a presence in the community. Then one person started a summer children’s Bible study and as she got to know the neighbors and their needs we began to pray. Now we have come around a single mom who has 3 kids, and we include her as much as we can in the life of the small group. She has yet to fully understand who Jesus is, but we feel led to embrace her and her kids and see what God does in her life.

QUESTIONS:

  1. Which one of these best describes the small group that you are in right now?
  2. Which one of these is the kind of small group that you aim for?
  3. What is keeping your small group from getting to that “level?”

I would love to hear your feedback or any other comments in general.

Missional Small Groups