Thursday, October 30, 2008

Confidence Before God: The Three Tests of 1 John

My old friend Daisy writes in with some extra context and wonderful encouragement (see the second comment on the 14 October "Daisy" post). She recalls a talk I gave almost 20 years ago at a youth event where I challenged the kids to examine the reality of their faith. The subject was 1 John, in which I suggested three "tests" that John repeatedly lays down by which we should examine whether our faith is genuine. It makes for a great small-group study or large-group lecture.

The message is perhaps best introduced with 3:21-24: "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."

We learn from this that God's Spirit gives us confidence to know we are His, as we believe in Jesus Christ, obey his commands, and love one another. We can further break this down as follows:

There are many ways to lead people through this, but one of my favorites is to simply read them through sequentially through 1 John. For example, I read 1:5-6, then say "let's remember this point by calling this the 'moral test' of our faith." When I get to 2:3-6, I say, "what did we call that test?" I then introduce the 'social test' in 2:9-11, and then on throughout the book. (Hat Tip: I learned this technique from Nels "Bud" Nelson, who discipled me while he was the Navigators missionary at Clark Air Base, Philippines in the late 1980s).

Once you've driven home the point that John is really serious about this by going through the passages above, you can then sum up the challenge and promise of the three tests with 5:1-5: "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. "

One final note--John is not preaching legalism nor perfectionism (see 1:8-10). But he is saying that if Christ saves me and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in my heart, it will certainly reflect in my life. If not, like Daisy, I'll need to ask myself some hard questions before God!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Encouragement Practice

One very simple technique I have used to good effect at points over the past 20+ years for building group intimacy is a practical exercise in encouraging one another. This works with a relatively stable group in a closed setting. It would be awkward in a coffee shop, as you'll see.

It begins with a verse or two on encouraging one another, such as Hebrews 3:12-13 or Ephesians 4:29, and an explanation that we're going to practice this type of encouragement in a verbal way. Then on to the ground rules:
  • The leader will introduce an object into "play". In the past, I've used stuffed animals, balls and candles.
  • The leader will pick another person in the room and begin to describe that person's gifts, talents, attributes, and especially personal stories about how that person has been an encouragement to others. The important thing is to use words that are "helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
  • Once the leader has finished describing a person, he or she passes the object to the person just described. It is now that person's turn.

From here, the leader's job is to enjoy the uplifting time together, and to make an effort to involve everyone as the object makes its way around.

A couple of variations I've used include keeping the name of the person being described secret until the object is passed. This can add an element of fun. Also, in certain circumstances I've simplified the matter by drawing names out of a hat and passing them around, as each person describes the person whose name is on the paper. This ensures equal treatment, but you have to be committed to see it all the way through.

I've used this exercise with groups varying from under 10 to over 30 people, including military officers, youth groups, Bible studies ... and once in a secular setting with the "letter girls" from the band where I attended high school (really, they were fighting like cats before the exercise, and the transformation in their attitudes after the exercise was stunning)!

Friday, October 24, 2008

On Those Who Are Not Against You

Many of my readers are likely to be in the military, as that is also my calling. Others may work in hospitals or other places where you are served by chaplains. Chaplains, we find, come in all shapes and sizes. Many will be strong and Biblical Christians, while others may be non-Christians, or something in between and frustratingly difficult to pin down. The question of how to interact with such chaplains is a constant topic for discussion for those of us in military ministries. In general (and within reasonable limits), I believe in working with them to the extent that it advances the gospel, regardless of their theology. Allow me to illustrate with a personal example:

During my basic officer training, I held the position of Chaplain's Representative (or "Chappie"), meaning that I was the liaison between the actual military chaplain's office and the trainees. By this I was able to assemble a weekly small group for busy trainees. We called it "Time-Bust Prayer Time" to accentuate that we would keep it brief because we knew what pressure everyone was under.

Now for the hard part ... our chaplain, I soon learned, was a member of a non-Christian cult, but classified and assigned to us as "Protestant" by the military. What to do? After all, Christ said, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters." (Luke 11:23) How could I work alongside one who is working against my Lord?

I did so, in short, by turning back two chapters in Luke: "... whoever is not against you is for you." (Luke 9:50b) Notice the contrast--one may be against Christ, but not against you--he or she may in fact be a useful ally in your mission! This chaplain was a bearer of a false gospel, but he was also providing me the avenue by which I could minister the true gospel to my fellow trainees.

I mentioned reasonable limits. At no time did our chaplain attempt to influence or dictate the subject matter of our weekly prayer meetings. You may be amazed to learn that I attended his services, which took place on Sunday mornings at the only "General Protestant" service on our little installation. His sermons were bland and empty, but they were not overtly heretical, and those I wished to reach were there (most having no clue of his theology, as he gave little away). Had he openly preached heresy, I would have certainly drawn the line, as my participation would have implied my agreement, and would moreover have caused my brothers and sisters to stumble. Thankfully it never came to that point.

There will be those among you who object to my choice of tactics here, to which I can only appeal to Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8. This for me was "food sacrificed to idols" and caused no one (to my knowledge) to stumble. Rather, I made the decision to use the avenue available to me to reach those I was called to reach, and was able to reach and encourage many in the faith.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reading Through the Bible

If you have a relatively stable, committed group, try a Bible-reading challenge! The New Year is the time to start something like this. Here are some guidelines I generally put out:

1. Count the cost. Reading through Scripture is a great objective, but the time will come from somewhere. Be ready to commit.
2. Remember this is a Bible survey, not an in-depth study. The key is to keep moving. Feel free to skim the genealogies, for example.
3. Don't solve every theological conundrum. You're going to encounter lots of new material. Don't get bogged down every time you don't understand something, or you'll probably never finish. Just file it away as something you'd like to learn more about, and perhaps bring it to the group when you meet for discussion.
4. Link arms. The temptation to quit will be strong, especially if you fall behind. You'll need your group to stick together to keep everyone moving.
5. Don't overwhelm your group if they're not all on board. This is not for everyone nor every small group. There may be many reasons why people can't or won't commit to this. You'll need to either meet separately with those who choose to take the challenge, or be very creative with keeping the others involved without making them feel guilty.

You don't necessarily need to start in Genesis and plow through to Revelation. There are plenty of published plans available. Discipleship Journal has a number of good plans available for a fee, or there are some older ones available for free in the public domain (I've generally used this). The One Year Bible also has some free options.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Jesus in My "House"

Try this as a discussion starter--I got this idea originally from one of the episodes in the Living Proof: Discipleship video series put out by Christian Businessmen's Committee. It goes like this:

Jesus stood at the door to my house and knocked. I opened the door and he came in to eat with me. (Revelation 3:20) I was happy to receive him, but anxious about the state of my house. What would He do when He discovered what a bloody mess it was?

To my joy and surprise, He not only loved me in spite of the mess, He began to help me clean it up. For a while we cleaned together, but eventually I became tired. I wanted Him to take a break. Things were looking pretty good, at least in the living room! But Jesus wasn't interested in popping a Coke and watching TV on the couch. Instead, he pulled out the sofa and told me to get the vacuum.

As the living room began to sparkle, I started to feel pretty proud of myself. In fact, I started to look down on my neighbors, still sitting around in piles of pizza boxes and dirty socks. I remarked on this out loud, but He said, "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" Oh.

With the living room looking fairly neat, Jesus moved on to my kitchen. He didn't seem surprised at my appetites, but that didn't reduce my embarrassment! Just having Him there made me aware of how I was filling myself with way too much spiritual junk-food. He started on the dishes while I got busy throwing out the Twinkies.

After a while, I tried to encourage Him to relax, but He said, "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!" He certainly has a way with words. I had to look up "sluggard", but I was pretty sure it meant we weren't going to catching my show at 8:00.

This process of going from room to room and cleaning out the dark corners has continued for as long as I've known Him. It's been harder than I thought at first, though I must say it's been wonderful also, knowing that He really takes joy in our journey together.

From time to time I've tried to lock him out of certain rooms, but He's been more than willing to kick down the door or punch a hole through the wall (He's very committed to this process). At other times He's had to replace large parts of my foundation. Those have been very painful times, and yet I've come to see how they were also so very necessary and good. Still, I don't look forward to them, and there are rooms I really wish he'd steer clear of.

But in a deeper place, I wish something else: "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." And so I know that this process will never end while I yet live in this house, until I reach the perfect mansion He has prepared for me.

Gregg

Gregg was a fence-sitter, and a source of frustration to me as a young believer full of enthusiasm (and perhaps a bit full of myself). He was a co-worker and a good friend, but he would stick his toe in and out of the Bible study I'd repeatedly invite him to. I tried gentle persuasion and muscular confrontation, but when he left the Philippines I felt in some ways no further along with him than when we'd started. It's a good thing I wasn't in charge.

A couple of years later, I called him up in Hawaii from my station in Okinawa, just to see how he was doing. When he realized who I was, he exclaimed, "Praise God!" I balked ... was this the right Gregg?

Praise God indeed! He had done His work in His time. I was not present at Gregg's conversion, but I'd played my assigned part in sowing seeds, and would continue to play my part in being Gregg's friend. God brought us back together repeatedly through the years, and he remains one of my dearest brothers.

He also remains a silent reminder to me that my God is mighty to save--and I'm not.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gary

Gary was a difficult case for a small-group leader to figure out. When he started attending our military devotional group during a recent Middle East deployment, he wore a very critical demeanor. He was faithful, but his arms seemed to be always folded over his chest, and he wore an intimidating scowl. Another participant once said to him, "I think I've only ever seen you smile, like, once." Gary replied, "That was a grimace."

Still, he seemed to have a solid understanding of the gospel ... so I asked him to lead. In fact, I asked him to organize the devotional for the rest of his time in the desert, while I turned my attention to a couple of other groups that were meeting at the same time. Incredibly, he took to it like a duck to water. His devotionals were interesting, insightful and encouraging. People looked forward to them and attendance steadily grew as we filled up the back of the little coffee shop we used. God used him powerfully.

Before Gary left, he opened up to the group in an amazing confession. He said he had been angry with God over some of the things that had happened to him professionally in the recent past. Leading the devotional was exactly what he'd needed to restore his perspective and refresh his spirit. It was a display of emotion and openness that took us all by surprise, and blessed me tremendously.

Gary was not a devotional leader out of central casting. Instead, he was the example of God bringing together a need, an opportunity, and a gift in His perfect way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Patrick

My dear friend Patrick has become my first "inmate" (a blog follower ... see link along the right-hand side). This gives me the opportunity to tell a great story about him. I remember while we were stationed in Okinawa in the mid-1990s, Japan, Patrick was a close family friend and participated in a Bible study I led on the book of Romans. Patrick was a fairly new Christian, and would get visibly excited about some of the basic truths of our calling, election and salvation in Christ. I distinctly remember being very moved by his response, and thanking him for reminding the rest of us "old heads" that this stuff is supposed to be exciting!

The longer I walk with Christ, the more I need new Christians to remind me of the joy that comes with salvation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Daisy

My first group leadership "assignment" was in a church youth group when I was just 18 years old. Looking back, it truly seemed like the blind was leading the blind, but it's really astonishing what God can do with very little (humanly speaking)! Years later, I saw Daisy, one of my "kids", at a wedding. She stunned me by introducing me to a friend of hers as "the one who set me on fire for the Lord." This was news to me, and a testament to God's faithfulness to work through a willing heart, even if it's connected to an incompetent brain. Be encouraged--sometimes progress is imperceptible, but it doesn't make it insignificant! I have other stories like this one, which I'll share from time to time.

It's also testament to the wisdom of my pastor, Allen Moran, who saw an opportunity to disciple me as well as launch a youth program. Likewise, be on the lookout for opportunities to hand the baton (even for a week) over to someone who could use the chance to spread his or her wings ...

Update (28 Oct):  Daisy writes in (the following was "promoted" from the "Comments" section):
[Jailer], you impacted my Christian life in many ways, between introducing me to "hip" Christian music like Michael W. Smith to sharing your own spiritual journey. I remember you speaking one evening at church and telling us about a mission trip you went on. You said that someone asked you "if you died today, do you know for certain that you will go to heaven?" You said that you had to think about it at first, but then knew for sure that you believe in God, therefore you will go to heaven when you die. It impacted me so strongly. I didn't know if I would go to heaven at the time you spoke to us if I died. Even thought I was raised attending church all of my life,I had so many questions. I spent so much time in church timing the long pastoral prayers, drawing, daydreaming, and counting the wooden knots in the roof. I didn't understand whatever was being said by the pastor. Your words made a lot more sense to me. I know now for certain that I am going to heaven when I die!  -Daisy
Daisy, you made my day (week/month/year)! Thanks for the encouraging words. :)  Jailer

The Greening of a Discussion Leader

The first article I remember reading that really had an impact on my group leadership was "The Greening of a Discussion Leader", an extract in Christianity Today from a 1982 InterVarsity Press book called Getting Together. It explains how to use open-ended questions to generate deeper, more meaningful discussion and reduce the tension in a group. My favorite advice comes right at the end, though: you don't need to wrap up a discussion! "The whole purpose of the discussion was to stimulate. You'd much rather see people walk out of the room arguing, churning with things yet to say, bothered by ideas they've heard. The best way to accomplish this is to simply cut off while things are going well." Read the whole article.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More Tips for Starting New Groups

Starting out is a very unpredictable period in the development of a fellowship group. A few pointers can help reduce the anxiety:
  1. First, remember it's God's business. You're the foot soldier, not the commander. Let Him worry about the results. I remember once feeling intensely guilty about not being able to make a particular Bible study I'd organized. Leaving it to one of my brothers, God turned out an amazing number of people that week, in part (I believe) to remind me who's running things.
  2. Find a reliable partner. Having at least one other reliable brother or sister committed to the vision is priceless. Last year I started a devotional group in the Pentagon, but it struggled early and I had to sideline it for a few months until God brought me Marc to come alongside and share the load. I took Marc's arrival as God's go-ahead to move forward, and then watched Him bring along Lisa, Bill, Laura, etc.
  3. Don't stress over the lean days. What if you're the only one to show up to your breakfast devotional? Drink a cup of coffee, eat a donut and enjoy a private time with God! If He brings only one person, then He's scheduled that time for you to get to know that person (see #1 above). Next week you may have half dozen show up and surprise you.
  4. Use just-in-time advertising. I try to send out a reminder to my e-mail list with the 5 Ws (who-what-where-why-when) before every meeting. I learn the best times for this (mid-afternoon before an evening affair or before a breakfast devotional the next day, mid-morning for a lunch meeting, etc.)
  5. Keep some hip-pocket material, either for yourself or to give to the other week-by-week leaders. You never know when you'll need something if Plan A falls through. Part of the purpose of this blog is to give you some resources.
  6. Don't get locked into your original plan. Sometimes you can forget why you started meeting on Wednesdays at noon, or you can miss the importance of the 3 guys from the same office who've been showing up (maybe it's time to start another group in or closer to that office). Watch for opportunities to follow where God's going next. If the pillar of cloud moves, be ready to pull up your tent. Go back and see my post "Here I Am, Lord ... Now What?" for a reminder of how to look for God's leading.

ACTS, Popcorn and Psalms: More Hints on Prayer

A friend in California recently reminded me of a very helpful tool in teaching and practicing a balanced prayer life. You'll recall I mentioned the Navs' "Hand" illustration below, but the "ACTS" acrostic is what I learned first and still use: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. What I've really come to appreciate about both tools is the reminder to begin with adoration (or praise), recognizing and honoring God for who He is, which is something distinct from thanking Him for what He has done.

Another favorite technique for group prayer, when time and environment permit, is what's commonly called conversational (or "popcorn") prayer. This method recognizes that corporate prayer can easily devolve into a series of individual prayers, where the "experienced" pray-ers dominate with long, eloquent, or fervent soliloquies while the newer, more timid or just more reserved participants keep silent (or spend most of the prayer time trying to compose an acceptable prayer, hoping to sound competent or at least not foolish). Popcorn prayer begins with a couple of simple ground rules:
  • No prayers over 2 sentences
  • When someone is praying out loud, we're all praying
  • Try to build on one anothers' prayers

Warning: if you bring this into an established group, it will take some getting used to. Some people have never prayed this way, and find it difficult to stop themselves after 2 sentences.

We've even used this quite a bit at home and have discovered our kids open up much more using this kind of open-ended model.

A couple of final notes: First, just to clarify, a devotional setting in a food court or a bowling alley is seldom conducive to this kind of interaction. Second, depending on your group dynamics, you may find it convenient to skip the "prayer request" time when you use the popcorn method, and simply invite people to lift their requests straight up to God ... after all, you're all praying together!

ACTS and popcorn prayer can be used in tandem, with the leader providing the transition from phase to phase. Begin with the leader explaining that you'll begin with adoration, and then at intervals announcing the transition to the next phase (i.e., "Confession!").

Finally, I'm a fan of praying the Scriptures. Psalms are perfect for this, of course, though there are others that can be used. I like to open or close a prayer time with a prayer directly from Scripture.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More on Scripture-Reading Pitfalls and Strategies

If you've had a chance to read my article on John 9, you know I believe it's critical that we know (and help others learn) how to read our Bibles. This is a great topic for discussion in your local group.

When you read the book of Job, you get to meet Job's friends Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz. Though Job was God's #1 example of devotion to Him, these three set forth to rebuke Job for what they assumed were his misdeeds -- after all, isn't everyone who suffers guilty of sin? They were familiar with God's law, but were themselves rebuked by God for their ignorance and self-righteousness.

Their example illuminates how careless interpretation of Scripture can lead us far astray. Let's start by examining some of the Bible study pitfalls:

  • Bias – "I'm a _____, and we believe that ..." Once you decide that anything God pours out must fit within the container of your identity, you've lost the opportunity to be open to God's teaching. (John 5:37-40, Acts 15:1-35)
  • Fear – "What if I discover something that upsets my comfortable belief system?" You must believe that God's Spirit will faithfully guide you, and that His truth can withstand some hard questions. (John 16:13, James 1:5-8)
  • Impatience – Beware of jumping to conclusions about what Scripture means when it doesn't seem to "fit" within your current understanding -- this is the birthplace of much bad theology. Remember that we yet see and know "in part". (1 Cor 13:12)
  • Arrogance – The idea that my knowledge is complete, and that I can thoroughly explain the mind of God is both sinful and foolish. (Rom 9:20 & 11:33-35, Pr 26:12)
  • Laziness - All of us are guilty of this to some extent, simply by not taking the time to understand God's Word. (Heb 5:12-14)
  • Intellectualizing – Exchanging true communion with the living God for mere head knowledge is a particular danger for those of us who teach! (James 1:22-25, )

We can then talk about some Bible-reading habits we should adopt to avoid these pitfalls?

  • Engage with God – This is an interaction with the Alpha and the Omega -- ask Him to teach you. (Pr 2:1-6, Heb 4:12)
  • Observe – Before you decide what it means, ask: “What does the passage actually say?”
  • Contextualize - Could you separate and randomly scramble all the individual verses in the Bible and not change the meaning? Of course not! That's because the context really does matter!
  • Correlate – Use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Find out what else the Bible has to say about the subject.
  • Interpret – Yes, of course we do this ... but this is much later in the process than usual for most of us in most cases. The problem is not that we don't interpret, it's that we interpret too carelessly.
  • Cross-check – God gave us one another for a reason ... so what do other believers I trust think this means?
  • Apply – Ask God, “What should I do with this information you just gave me?" Then do it.
  • Wait expectantly for more – Sometimes the best response to a confusing passage is, "Please reveal this to me in Your time, Lord." I'm constantly amazed at how a passage will take on a completely new meaning to me many years after I first encountered it.

Resources at the Ready

If you're just starting out, or just want to have some good discussion-oriented resources in your hip pocket, you might want to consider some of the Navigators' illustrations. Some of these, like the Bridge, the Wheel the Hand have been around for decades, but are still very relevant and great conversation starters. Also, if you pass the Devotional leadership torch around weekly, you can hand this to a hesitant participant and ask him to lead a discussion on this subject.

Follow the links to the Navs' site for printable worksheets.

Tactics: Starting Somewhere

One of my favorite tactics for start-ups is to begin with an "anchor ministry" -- something that's relatively easy to maintain and helps identify teammates. I like a devotional format for this for several reasons:
  • It's easy. All I need to lead a devotional is a verse that means something to me. Once I'm done explaining what it means to me, I'll ask a simple open-ended opinion question like, "what do you guys think?" or "has this ever happened to you?" After that I just keep the discussion moving.
  • It's flexible. I've had small-group devotionals in coffee shops, food courts, bowling alleys, conference rooms ... whatever's accessible (and preferably has food/coffee available).
  • It's fast. You can schedule it before work, during lunch, etc. People can come late, leave early, or drop in. I make it a point to spend no more than 30-40 minutes per devotional. If you consistently go long, many people won't come because they "don't have time".
  • It's transferrable. Whenever possible, I pass the leadership torch around from week to week. Besides distributing the labor and introducing some really interesting material, it gets people involved and committed to the group.

Devotionals are especially good for workplace fellowships, which is another topic for later ...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Here I Am, Lord ... Now What?

"Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen." (Nehemiah 9:19-21)

You'll recall from my previous post that asking God to reveal His will, then following His leading is the way to make sure of His blessing, just as the Israelites above were assured of manna and water for as long as they continued to follow the pillar of cloud. Still, absent a fiery pillar in the desert, understanding what He is saying can seem overwhelming. The "Discover" part requires us to examine the circumstances He has carefully arranged for us. Consider the Apostle Paul's circumstances:

"Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Acts 16:6-10)

Paul and his companions were gifted evangelists who were commissioned and sent on a mission. When they reached the border of Mysia, they found they could not travel where they assumed they were to go, but instead followed God in another direction, where He greatly blessed their work.

Likewise, God provides us with gifts and talents with which to meet the needs and opportunities He’s placed before us. He makes resources available to us but also places constraints on our service to guide us to where and how He wants us to minister. Think of it like this:

Paying attention to where the circles intersect helps us understand how He is arranging the terms of our service. The dashed lines around the circles remind us that our understanding of our abilities and circumstances may be selling God short--like Moses or Gideon we need to exercise faith in what God can do beyond our apparent limits.

As a starting place toward better understanding the context of God’s direction for your ministry, conduct your own, personal inventory:
  • What gifts & talents do you believe God has equipped you personally, or in the form of your ministry partners, if you have them? (Hint: These are generally areas in which God has given you a special passion and ability. If you're not sure, consider those listed in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 as a starting place. We'll talk more about gifts and talents in a later post.)
  • What particular resources has God has supplied you with? (Consider time, money, relationships, material goods, home or access to facilities, health, mobility, family situation, etc.)
  • What constraints has God placed on your capabilities and resources?
  • What special needs and opportunities is God drawing your attention to?
Use this as a way to organize your prayer time. Commit the above questions and answers to prayer and begin a discussion with God. Ask Him to reveal how He has equipped you and for what purpose.

Pray, Discover and Obey

This blog begins with the premise that there is are local leaders out there ready to be commissioned--some have already got started, while others are waiting for something, such as a position to come open or the mysterious "word from the Lord". Once we do get started, we generally try to apply some boilerplate method that we've used or seen used before, or some materials we like. Then we strike out, praying and hoping that God will bless our efforts.

Officers Christian Fellowship turned me on to the very different concept of the Pray, Discover & Obey method of finding out what God wants me to do. It's not really such an novel new idea, but it's remarkable how few of us ever try it: first ask God what He wants you to do, then let Him tell you, then do it. When we follow God instead of leading Him, the blessings come naturally. Check it out!

What's this all about?

Over the past 20+ years, I've had the joy of leading small-group fellowships of many types and in many places: Bible studies, devotionals, workplace gatherings, Sunday school, special projects ... you get the idea! Now I'd like to pass along a few things God has shown me during that time, and invite you to share your thoughts and ideas as well. Perhaps between us we can encourage others to step out boldly and take the lead where they live and work.