Better late than never. That should be a title of a book. Maybe it is. If it is, it wasn’t one of my favorite reads in 2017. So, if you are looking to spend those Amazon gift cards you got from Uncle Ronnie, I got you. Looking for books to add to your list for 2018, here we go:
To celebrate the 500 year anniversary of Luther swinging his hammer—if you want to learn more about the Reformation, or maybe you want to keep reforming—here are 13 resources.
The #WhyIWrite is all over Twitter today, and it got me thinking about the why of my writing.
Here’s why I write:
“I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:16-21 CSB
- I want to help, as best I can, God’s people comprehend God’s high-voltage love for them in Christ.
- I want my brothers and sisters to be rooted and established and flourishing in his love.
- I hope we can be strengthened by his power as we ponder his grace and love for us.
- And may God be glorified by the Church in this generation and the ones to come.
Only God can do this. And God uses our words, sentences, sermons, counseling, ministries—and writing.
Ephesians 3 captures why I write.
Preachers love preaching, but they shouldn’t love it too much. A potential idol for preachers is the act of preaching. You can crave the pulpit too much. And while we preachers can talk to the sheep about not finding their identity in their work but in Christ, this is a word we preachers need to preach to ourselves.
We need to film more stories with deep roots and thick trunks. Testimonies with some time on the tires. It’s good to celebrate professions of faith but we don’t need to rush a production for social media.
We are either suffering now, know someone who is—or we are about to suffer. It’s unavoidable. We will walk through the valley of the shadow of death more than we’d like. But, the Lord is with us, and so are his people.
Here’s a collection of resources to help you in the valley. Songs to help you sing. Articles, books, and sermons to help your heart and mind. Definitely grab the playlist of songs in either Spotify or Apple Music. Let’s keep looking to the Lord.
We are often tempted to tabulate God’s love for us based on the quality of our lives, our desires being met, the quality and quantity of material blessings, and our tide-like emotions. But this is not how we know God’s love for us.
Lounging in my backyard is a treat. It’s sole-melting hot in Houston but the pool, the shade, friends and family make it worth it. Well, tolerable.
While sitting in my chair and watching kids cannonball into the pool, something caught my eye.
Home Groups, DNAs, Missional Communities, Community Groups, Life Groups—whatever your church calls them, let’s not put too much weight on them. They may break. Bear with me.
I’m not saying small groups are unimportant. I’m saying we need to be careful in how we view, speak, and teach on small groups. You’ll hear people speak of their small group systems as the nitrous booster that sped up the health and growth of their church. “What’s y’all’s small group structure? You doing missional communities?” These aren’t the kinds of question we should be asking. But as churches become over-industrialized, we tend to think more in structures and systems than we do in values and verses from the Bible.
It’s not like Paul forgot to include weekly participation in a small group in his letters. But Paul included the call to community, fellowship, and love for the glory of God (Col. 3:12–17).
Beyond Small Groups
I hope you’re sitting down for what’s coming next. You probably are, so:
You can have a vibrant Christianity without a Home Group.
This doesn’t mean you can opt out of your group. It’s meant to put things in their proper orbit.
Do you think Charles Spurgeon had a vibrant and flourishing walk with Jesus? Yes, of course. And yet, somehow Spurgeon could live a Christ-exalting life without a Missional Community. He had community. He had fellowship. This is what we are after. It may happen in a group structure but for others, it may not and we’ve got to be okay with that. We’ve crashed the system if we value the system more than the value for which the system exists. (Read that again if you must.)
There’s a real danger in elevating a small group system over biblical values of community and fellowship. I’ve heard of churches requiring commitment to their version of small groups for church membership—talk about adding to grace, amiright?
Community Groups aren’t commanded in the Bible. Weekly Small Groups aren’t lined out by the Apostles. Missional Communities aren’t the eleventh commandment. You’ll hear conference speakers and others rave over these strategies and systems like they were also discovered with the Dead Sea Scrolls. We need to remember what we are really pursuing here.
Community is The Call
If we aren’t careful, we can become small-groupies—modern-day Judaizers who define righteousness and maturity with attendance to a group.
Small Groups aren’t the value, community is. Community groups aren’t the aim, fellowship is. Community, fellowship, love, and one-anothering are commanded in God’s word. So, let’s not confuse the horse and the wagon, the arrow and the bull’s eye, the fork and the food, the road and the destination.
You can’t have a vibrant Christianity without community, fellowship, and one-anothering.
Systems and structures are helpful but they can’t guarantee that fellowship and community are happening. We can get so obsessed and near-sighted with our way of pursuing God’s commands that we eclipse what we are called to pursue in the first place.
We have small groups at our church. They are a good way to help foster the biblical call to community and fellowship. Small group systems are a way of seeing this happen in a local church, they aren’t the only way. Small groups can help pursue the goal of community, and if they do, we should do them. If they don’t? Renovate, recalibrate, restructure, rethink, re-something.
Jesus isn’t looking for the “Community Group” slot in your weekly schedule. He’s calling for much more. He’s calling for lives of fellowship, community, encouraging one another, and so on. Resurrected lives are more than time slots. The gospel empowers us for this end. Let’s chase it.