I listened to Frank Viola's podcast or a message he gave called, "Warning, Christian Community Does Not Work Without This". This is some of what Frank said:
Living with other Christians in community is one of the most glorious experiences a Christian can know. But it doesn’t work, it never has worked, and it never will work unless you embrace the cross....
10 Insights About the Cross
1) A person cannot teach you how to recognize the cross in your life. God must show you. It’s a matter of spiritual instinct.
2) The ears of God’s people tend to be deaf to the cross. We don’t like to hear about it.
3) The cross is the easiest thing in the world to forget. So we need to be reminded of it.
4) You will never know the Lord you’re supposed to know outside of a head-on collision with His cross.
5) Authentic body life never works the way you want it to. It’s a railroad track to the cross.
7) You cannot crucify yourself. You can drive one nail into one hand, but the other hand will be free. So the cross is God’s wonderful design.
8) God will create a tailor-made cross for you. Jesus is a carpenter, so He knows how to build them. And very often, the cross will be served to you freely by your brothers and sisters with whom you fellowship.
9) The more gifted you are, the more the cross is needed in your life to break your tendency to rely on yourself, to manipulate, and to exalt yourself in subtle ways.
10) In community, your blind spots will eventually get exposed. True body life is a house of mirrors. The Lord will not destroy the Lord within you, but He’ll seek to destroy everything else. This is especially true if He has called you to His work.
The whole transcript of Frank's message is here.
Churchianity or Kingdom of God?
Roger Thoman, at Simple Church Journal, re-posted something he wrote back in 2005, That Which Has True Kingdom Value - Love, in which he quotes Greg Boyd, from a sermon of Greg's, in which Greg says that we can build a church that has no kingdom value:
But it's not clear that building a church in and of itself has any kingdom value. One could
Only to the extent that we act as Jesus acted, dying for those who despised him, are we authentically his body. Only to the extent that we sacrifice our lives for others, whether they be enemies or friends, can we claim that the kingdom is present in us. Only to the extent that we replicate the sacrificial love of Calvary for the homeless, the sick, the rejected, the oppressed and for prisoners, do we belong to the kingdom of God, as Jesus taught (Mt 25).
From the distinct perspective of the kingdom of God, all the profound knowledge we might ever acquire and dispense to others is nothing more than a 'clanging cymbal' if it isn't motivated by and doesn't result in communicating Calvary-quality love (I Cor. 13:1-4). All the 'true doctrines' we might believe, all the pious talk and religious activity we might ever engage in, all the theological debates we might ever win and all the great revivals we might ever hold are altogether worthless, devoid of any kingdom significance, if they aren't motivated by and don't result in love defined as Jesus Christ dying on the cross.
Only to the extent that we bleed out of love for others in what we do does anything we do manifest the dome in which God is king. This is as simple as it is challenging. It is as obvious as it is obviously absent from the Church.
Why Small Groups, Cell Groups, or Home Groups Don't Work (usually).
Brian Jones wrote this provocative post, years ago (and please see the follow-up), saying that small groups need to die:
Think about that for a moment. Forget about your goals. Forget about your motivations for offering them. Forget about all the supposed benefits of participating in one. Do you honestly think Jesus would join, lead, or start a small group within the existing structure of your small group’s ministry at your church?
Of course not. Not a chance. Not in a million years.
Because while your people are stuck in the “hairball” of your church’s ministry (to steal Gordon MacKenzie’s great line), Jesus would be out rubbing shoulders with people in your community, helping them to find their way back to God and teaching them to obey his teachings.
Jesus would be actually doing what small groups say they want/should/need to be doing, but they can’t, because they’re too busy being a “small group” inside the confines of your small group’s ministry infrastructure.
It’s like a jogging class at a community college where the instructor, instead of taking his or class jogging and commenting on technique while they’re actually jogging, stuffs everyone into a classroom and lectures to them three days a week and then gives them a final exam.
Disciples are created “out there.” Small groups, if not by their definition, definitely by their practice, all occur “in here.”
With few exceptions, modern-day small groups are great at producing:
- Christians sitting in circles, talking to one another inside a building
- Reading and commenting on the Bible
- Ranting about how they long to “get out there” and do something that matters
- Awkwardly ending their time by praying for “prayer requests”
- Going home unchallenged and unchanged
Five years went by and Brian Jones posted an update. His church focused in on making small groups work at making disciples. Small groups are places where the opportunity exists for making disciples, spring-boards, if you will; is what he wrote. About discipleship, Brian wrote:
5 Discipleship Convictions Solidified
In the last five years some core convictions regarding the process of discipleship have been solidified.
1. It takes time to create a disciple.
Not in the commonly promoted annual “small group” life-cycle time-frame, but years. 5 years. 10 years sometimes. Just about every person that likes small groups talks about a group where they grew to become a disciple, years ago. And that’s a key issue – discipleship takes YEARS. Where we miss the mark is in thinking, “It took Jesus 3 years to make disciples, so that’s a good bench mark.” Really?
2. 99.99999999% of the time it takes separating men and women.
I don’t know what it is, but I can lead a group of men to serious levels of intimacy and sharing, but sprinkle a little estrogen in the room and its right back to talking about football and work. Women tell me it’s the same way. Discipleship can occur with mixed groups, but it’s rare. Actually, I take that back. I have never seen an instance where guys open up and talk about their deep personal struggles to obey Jesus’ teachings with women in the room.
3. It takes a very, very small group.
Small group practitioners make the mistake of “modeling” their small group leader-to-attendee ratios on a flawed model – Jesus. Jesus had 12 disciples, not because that’s the ideal ratio for disciple-making, but because, as most scholars believe, he was making a statement about the apostles, the twelve tribes, and a new Israel. If you’re looking for a more realistic model, the inner circle of Peter, James and John is as good as any.
4. It takes a genuine disciple.
According to Matthew 28:18-20, discipleship is not about teaching people Jesus’ teachings, but teaching people how to obey Jesus’ teachings. In fact, that’s probably the simplest definition of a disciple I can give:
A disciple is someone who knows and obeys Jesus and his teachings.
Who cares if someone can lead a small group discussion on worry? People become disciples in the presence of someone who can teach them how to stop worrying, from experience, by the power of Jesus. The argument most people make against small groups is flawed. The problem with small groups isn’t that they pool the group’s collective ignorance; it’s that they pool the group’s collective disobedience.
5. “Group time” must be balanced with “out there” missional time.
If we know anything about Jesus its that (1) he spent time with his disciples alone and (2) they followed him into situations where they watched him heal, teach, rebuke, serve and love. My experience confirms that an added dimension of growth occurs when those being discipled are encouraged to go “out into the wild” and “actually do what Jesus did.”Brian's website is here.
God is Both Good and All Powerful
I listened to Michael Youssef talking about "Why Does God Allow Evil". Dr. Youssef refutes the
Grace in Suffering
listened to (March 11, 2014 pgm.) Rick Warren talk about, "The Courage To Keep On Going". Here is his outline from part 2. The links to the outlines for parts 1 & 3 are not functioning. My "take away" was that God gives you, the one suffering, grace to go through whatever you are facing. God does not give grace to those observing your life from the sidelines. These folks who lack grace for your dilemma will be ungracious to you and towards God. They don't always mean to be mean either. Some people don't know or don't have faith that God will give them grace when they will need it, so they don't take risks, spiritually, and so they don't grow.
When Your Prayers Don't Seem to Connect With God
David Hayward wrote about "What do you do when you realize prayer doesn’t work?" David wrote that when prayer is not working for you, that you should admit it, embrace it, and deepen it. Then, he explained:
My prayer life has dramatically changed over the years. When someone asks me if I
- I no longer view “God” as up there, out there, in here, beyond or remote. For me, the story of the incarnation describes That Which We Call God, revealed in Jesus, then sent as Spirit, as now among us, in us, as us. All is “That-Which-We-Call-God”.
- While aware of this overwhelming and overarching reality, I allow all of who I am to emerge… all my sorrows, my failures, my weaknesses, my wants, my joys, my passions, and desires, my longings… everything that I am… all of who and what I am… I allow this to rise within me into my awareness to join with the former awareness of the reality of #1 where these two awarenesses abide together.
Men Dying In Marriage (it's a good thing)
Regi Campbell wrote a follow-up to his most commented on blog post, "The Happy Wife Pledge". The pledge has 15 parts. He wrote (before giving the pledge):
I used to think marriage hinged on picking the right woman. Choose well and you’ll have
Now I believe it’s almost entirely up to the man. And I can prove it.
Men are quick to quote the “submit” verses Paul wrote. We overlook the fact that “wives, submit” is always accompanied by “husbands, love”. Show me a man who gently and patiently loves his wife and I’ll show you a man whose wife will gladly ‘submit’. But it’s not the ‘chicken or egg’ question because men have to go first. Love her well and she’ll be more than happy to submit and meet your needs.