Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Highest Common Denominator

Remember grade school mathematics and the concept of the lowest (or least) common denominator? You had to look at a set of fractions and determine the lowest common denominator (that number on the bottom) so you could process the fractions. I was reminded recently of how our society and its entertainment suppliers quickly go to the lowest common denominator to get a laugh as a co-worker talked about the latest R-rated, raunchy summer comedy while we waited for others to join a conference call.

How are Christians to counteract lowest common denominator thinking? How are we to get past the just getting by, doing the minimum, least/lowest common denominator walk? By spurring one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10.24-25), exhorting one another daily (Hebrews 3:12-13) and pointing to the highest common denominator, Jesus Christ – the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Scripture tells us we are to imitate God (Ephesians 5.1), that we are being conformed into Jesus' likeness (Romans 8.29, the often left-out continuation of that Christian favorite "God works all things together for our good" Romans 8.28). We need the Holy Spirit to lead as we work to imitate our Lord. And we need our brothers chasing after that goal with us, encouraging, exhorting, training for godliness (1 Timothy 4.7) together and holding each other to the highest common denominator, our Master. Jesus is the standard. He is our pursuit.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

Set the bar high. Go after the highest common denominator in your walk and in your small group.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bread over Circuses

The food critic (great gig, huh?) on one of the local TV stations used to rate the restaurants on bread (i.e., the food) and circuses (i.e., the atmosphere). What if your small group was rated on bread and circuses?

That idea struck me as I listened to Todd Dugard, the HBC Barrie Senior Pastor, teach on the HBC preaching pillar (Proclaiming the authority of God's word without apology) at Harvest U at the end of April. As Todd talked about the centrality of God's word, it struck me that our small groups need to emphasize bread (God's word) over circuses (i.e., creativity or entertainment value). Certainly we need to create a welcoming atmosphere for small group members. But that cannot be our focus as we prepare to lead the group or during the group meeting.

We need to be combing through God's word in preparation for the meeting. We should teach our small group members to do the same. And we need to make sure our small group meetings don't go too many minutes at one stretch without someone reading from or quoting from God's word.

In Matthew 4 Jesus fought the temptations of Satan with the following: "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" As leaders entrusted with ministry for the King and His kingdom, we must do the same and teach our men to do the same. We must feed on the word of God daily. And we must point the men in our care to feed on the word of God daily and to look to it for direction, answers, comfort, peace and reassurance.

So as your small group meets this next week, make it bread over circuses.

Friday, June 12, 2009

WANTED: FAT Christians

If you attended Small Group Leadership 101 at HBC years ago, you heard us say we are looking for FAT people in our small groups. FAT = Faithful, Available, Teachable. While that comment made people giggle or gasp, it was easy to remember. So why are we looking for FAT people in our small groups? What does FAT look like?

FAT people are faithful to the group, in the spiritual disciplines (regular quiet time in God's word, prayer, scripture memorization) and most importantly to the Lord. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul tells Timothy to entrust what Paul has taught him to "faithful men."

FAT people are available. They show up for group, for prayer nights and work for Christ opportunities. They are available for the Lord, for His work and for their next assignment.

Finally FAT people are teachable. This might be the hardest one. Who of us in our flesh is teachable? But in the Spirit, we are to be humble and most certainly teachable. Being teachable, open to and even hungering for godly change is at the core of sanctification. Will they take godly counsel and implement it in their lives? Have they moved away from comfortable patterns to grow in their walk? Do they submit to the elders of the church and to the leaders in small group ministry? In 2 Timothy 2:2, Timothy is to teach faithful men as Paul has taught him. Timothy was teachable. He was to look for FAT people.

The end of 2 Timothy 2:2 – who will be able to teach others also – explains why we look for FAT people to be apprentice small group leader(s). FAT people reproduce. So do what Paul did. Find FAT people and help them develop into small group leaders who will reproduce. And watch God multiply the ministry.