How our life group tries to build authentic relationships

One of our values at Grace Seal Beach is being a church where we are “Known by Name.” The best place for that to happen is in a Life Group.  How can your life group grow as a place of community? 

Here are a few things we do in the life group I lead: 

1. Highlight/Lowlight of the week – We want to know the good and the bad going on in each other’s lives, not just the pretty things that go on facebook. Sure, it’s a bit contrived – we go around the circle, and everyone says something, whether it’s deeply emotional or off the cuff. But we’re asking the questions: what made you rejoice this week, because we want to rejoice with you; what made you weep this week, because we want to weep with you. 

2. Dia de Bob (or Joe, or Jane, or whomever) – Like every group, we like hanging out together. But rather than go for the lowest common denominator every time (blockbuster movie, beach day, etc), each person takes a turn inviting us into his/her world to experience something unique to them. So, we’ve gone to ice hockey games, drawn anime cartoons, even dressed up as TV characters and gone to dinner together. Who are you? Let us see the real you, and enjoy that together. 

3. Sunday lunch – After church on Sunday we go to lunch together. Okay, not the most unique idea in the world, but it still works, especially when you want to make new friends in a new place. 

4. Serving together – While some of the people in our life group serve in a variety of different ministries throughout the church or community, we also try to serve together. For our group, that’s meant adopting Precious Lamb Preschool (or rather, letting them adopt us). We help with childcare, mailers, Christmas parties, whatever they ask for.  It helps us grow together as a group, gives us a common mission together, and develops trust. 

7 questions I ask while writing a sermon

Once I have an idea of what the biblical text says and what that means for us today, it comes time to fill in the outline. Here’s how I do it:

1. What objections should I address? Are there aspects of the biblical  idea that are hard to swallow? Let’s talk about them. These could be theological objections (“Doesn’t it say in Romans…?”), textual questions (“How did you get that from this?”), cultural questions (“Would God really say that today?”), or application questions (“How can I be expected to do that given my everyday life?”)

2. What key words or phrases will make this memorable? Long sentences are precise, but oral communication needs to be clear and memorable. How can I make this complex theological idea simple without being simplistic? Is there a word-picture I can use? Is there a hook word I can use throughout the sermon?

3. What illustrations or metaphors would be helpful?  What can I do to “shine light” (literal meaning of “illustrate”) on the idea the biblical text is presenting? These could be true to life narratives, news items, video clips, historical examples, biblical cross-references, metaphors, or personal stories.

4. Can I use an object on the platform? For the visual learner, is there some “thing” I can bring on the platform that will drive the point home? This could be a ladder, an apple, a guitar, a baseball glove… whatever.

5. How does this sermon create or reinforce vision (“we”)?  Our church has five core values (Biblical Worldview, Missional Life, Known by Name, Participatory Worship, and Faithful Compassion). Is there an aspect of this sermon that can reinforce or encourage ministry in those areas? Is there a “win” we can celebrate in our church that’s tied to the text and our values?

6. How can I encourage the congregation to pray in response to this? I want us as a church to wrestle with the biblical text during the week. Is there a prayer project I can suggest that will help the people to do this?

7. How can I use transitions well in this sermon? This is more mundane than the others, but not unimportant. The sermon needs to feel like a whole, not a series of points. How can I transition well throughout the whole thing?

Hope these help you as you prepare or listen to sermons!

Five questions to ask when reading the Bible

I love good Bible interpretation, and want to know what the original author meant to communicate when I read the Bible. Sometimes, however, that can lead to me neglecting the personal application aspect.

Based on content from Tim Keller, here are five questions you can ask when you’re reading the Bible to make it personal to your life: (Thanks to Steve McCoy

  1. How can I praise God? Since the Bible is fundamentally about God, what does this passage I’m reading tell me about Him? How can I worship as a response? 
  2. How can I confess my sins on the basis of this text? What does this passage tell me about living under God’s authority? Where have I rebelled against that? 
  3. If this is really true, what wrong behavior, what harmful emotions or false attitudes result in me when I forget this? Every problem is because you have forgotten something. What problems am I facing?
  4. What should I be aspiring to on the basis of this text? How does this give me a vision for what God wants me to experience, live out, or enjoy about Him? 
  5. God, why are you telling me this today? Is there a connection between my life circumstance and what I am reading? Why? Is God speaking in a direct way to a decision I need to make?