My first experience with Hosanna and Faith Comes By Hearing involved cassette tapes. Later came CDs, then podcasts.
Now they have their own iTunes Store. This is significant since only 27 entities have their own store. This one is well worth checking out. Hosanna has been translating the Bible into the language of developing countries for many years and all of their work is now available on iTunes. You can search by region (Africa, Europe, Americas, etc.) or by country (Albania, Ghana, Russia, Togo, USA, etc.) As an example, after choosing the country Ghana there are 27 language choices for Podcast downloads available. It’s a wonderful tool, as is their solar powered Proclaimer, their BibleStick and their Military BibleStick. Check them out.
I am excited that Buddy Bell from Montgomery, Alabama will be in Dallas for a tightly packed few hours of small group learning and discovery. He comes specially equipped to help anyone wanting to grow and improve their small group skills. Whether you’re new to small-groups, a committed group member, or a seasoned group leader, you’ll leave this seminar with new inspiration and tools.
In 2001 Buddy founded Share Him Ministries which has helped literally hundred’s of churches around the country set up successful small group programs. Playing the dual role of preaching and small group minister at his own church has given him a unique viewpoint to see how small groups can be tightly integrated into the ministry of a local church.
After the seminar your small group toolbox will be filled with:
The seminar is free. There will be free childcare. We are guarding your valuable weekend time with a 3-hour morning session on Saturday, November 14.
I hope anyone in the Dallas area with join us from 9:00 to Noon (Registration is at 8:30 unless you register online) http://tinyurl.com/yfb6heo
Prestoncrest Church of Christ
6022 Prestoncrest Lane
Dallas TX 75230
If you were to ask a follower of Jesus for the clearest, most complete description of love, you would probably be directed to 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter.” It has found a place in wedding ceremonies, inside Valentine Day cards, and on counter-cross-stitch pillows. And while I am sure it is not best understood lifted out of its painful, real life setting, it is a powerful chapter all by itself.
Verses 4-8 describe love in terms of what it does, feels, plans, and desires. In fact, the description almost sounds like a living being.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Here are 16 direct statements about what love is and isn’t. But does love really have to be thought of as an “It?” Is love inert, non-living, and inanimate? Does it make sense to say that love has no capacity for emotion? Could love be a living being?
Twice in 1 John 4 the text says, “God is love” (vs. 4, 16). And so, take a few minutes and go through this little exercise.
First, if God is love, then it is appropriate to exchange terms, so that the description in 1 Corinthians now reads, “God is patient, God is kind … God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, etc.”
Second, John 3:16 says that God loves the whole world. But his love is specific to each of us. He knows the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7). He knows the status of each bird (Matthew 6:26) but says that I am much more valuable. And so, since his love is so entirely specific to each of us, add your name to the end of each description so that it reads, “God is patient with Bob, God is kind to Bob … God is not easily angered by Bob, etc.”
And please don’t allow this exercise make you feel childish. Be honest with yourself. For most of us, it’s not difficult to picture an abstract concept of love. It’s easy to conceive of “It” with these glowing terms. “It” is patient and kind. For some of us, it’s more difficult to picture God in this way. We have to personalize the concepts. But, the life of Jesus, makes this much easier (John 1:14, Hebrews 2:14). But for many of us, it’s very difficult to put our own name down as the recipient of God’s love.
And so, third, make an honest note of the phrases that are the most difficult for you to believe or accept. You may find it easier to believe that “God is patient with you” than to believe that “God is not easily angered by you.” Do you believe that “God keeps no record of wrongs on you and that God always trusts you?” You see, our ability to accept a dimension of God’s love will affect our ability to extend it on to others.
Frederich Buechner, in his book, Wishful Thinking, has written,
“Of all powers, love is the most powerful and the most powerless. It is the most powerful because it alone can conquer that final and most impregnable stronghold which is the human heart. It is the most powerless because it can do nothing except by consent.” (53-54)
Do we believe that God loves us? Until we give our consent, and open our hearts to his love, the deepest power of love will continue to elude us.
Imagine a small group leader asking a group for their opinions. Imagine the people giving their various answers. And then, imagine the group leader reacting to their opinions by saying, “No … that’s not what I’m looking for … any other thoughts?” How many “other thoughts” do you think would be offered? Not many.
In case you are wondering, I didn’t make up this scenario. I actually saw a discussion leader ask a question, receive an answer and then say, “No … that’s not what I’m looking for.” He continued to give this response to several answers, and I watched the group become quieter and quieter. In fact, after a while, only those with the courage to guess what he was “looking for” continued to respond until, finally, we all stopped, because it was clear to us that these were not really discussion questions. They were test questions.
In a small group, turning our discussion questions into test questions usually shuts down participation. Tests put people on the defensive. They are afraid they might give the “wrong” answer and look foolish. And so, they become silent.
How different is a relaxed, open environment, where people feel free to explore, to think out loud, to share their opinions, doubts and even their confusion. This kind of atmosphere encourages people to consider new ideas, to examine their own lives, and even consider changes in their life-style.
And so, in addition to the factual questions from the biblical text, be sure to also ask the group members a completely different kind of question:
What do you think? (Only they know their thoughts)
How does this make you feel? (Only they know their emotions)
What would you do? (And you must really want to know)
With which part of the story do you identify?
What do you think this story teaches?
In all of these questions, you are asking for something you genuinely did not know before the group session began. And you ask these questions, not to pass or fail a “student,” but to hear and understand the thoughts, insights, and emotions of your fellow group members.