Going Deeper with Community

By Erin Bird,

This past Sunday, I talkedCommunity blank 350x196 - Going Deeper with Community a little too much about porcupines. But I thought these prickly rodents were the perfect example to illustrate the spiritual discipline of community. God did not create humans to live like porcupines who avoid one another so they won’t get quilled. Instead, I think God wants us to fight through the “quills” that comes in relationships because He wants to do something great through these relationships.

A Clarification
As I reflected on my message from Sunday, there is one aspect to this topic I wish I had clarified better.

I believe the majority of the time, when mistakes are made in relationships, we need to forgive others. For instance, you might have a friend, sibling, or spouse, say some very hurtful words, and in most circumstances, you need to forgive and allow that person back into your life and heart.

However, there are some things that are downright evil. You still need to forgive, but to forgive does not mean to forget. If someone sexually abuses your child, you need to forgive them, but you also need to prosecute them – to keep other children safe and help them get to a spot where they can deal with their sin.

So please don’t mishear me: There are times when a person is so toxic that fighting for the relationship is actually harmful to them and to you. There are cases where you may need to sever a relationship, hopefully just temporarily. However, as I said on Sunday, the large majority of difficult situations you will probably find yourself in need to be fought through for the sake of the relationship.

Community Tips
A couple of things I want to draw out as you consider building Jesus-centered relationships that will help you go deeper with Jesus:

1. Give Time to Others
Community can’t be built by accident or  distance. So schedule time to be with people. Perhaps you can give your Friday nights to others, or do early morning breakfast with a couple close friends every week. Whatever you do, give some time to people.

2. Ask good questions
True community doesn’t come only through time together. To truly get to know someone, you need to ask them good questions. So don’t dominate the conversation. Ask them questions to find out how they truly are doing.

3. Listen
This should go without saying, but when you ask a question, truly listen to them. Don’t start thinking about your next question. Take an interest in them.

4. Be transparent
When you do talk, don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. Just be you. Be honest with your faults. Be open about your pursuit of Jesus. Just be real.

Ideas for Going Deeper with Community
So if you want to enter into the spiritual discipline of community, here are some ideas for how you can go further with it:

  • Get involved in a Growth Group this Fall
  • Invite a friend over for dinner
  • Stop by a friend’s house just to say hi
  • Send a text or Facebook message to someone to let them know you are praying for them
  • Read a book with a friend this summer
  • Plan a moms-play-date w/ kids or a Moms-Night-Out
  • Get a group of guys together to go fishing or take in a Bucks game.
  • Write a letter to someone close to you letting them know what you appreciate about them
  • If you’re married, plan a date where you ask each other questions.
  • If you have kids, plan a one-on-one outing with each child.
  • Invite a friend to meet weekly to simply read Scripture together or pray for one another.

Going Deeper With Scripture

Welcome to summer! School is done, diplomas have been handed out, the pool is open, and summer activities are getting started.Scripture blank 350x196 - Going Deeper With Scripture

Many people see summer as a time to relax. Others see it as simply a change in schedule. But what I hope for you is that summer is not a time to lay off the spiritual growth God wants to do in you.

That’s why I am planning to use this weekly email to help you go further with the Sunday sermon. Each Sunday in June and July, we will look at a different spiritual discipline as part of our Disciplined series. And then on Thursdays, I will give you more resources and/or ideas to help you go deeper with the discipline we looked at four days prior.

Since this past Sunday we looked at the disciple of Scriptural intake, I want to give you some resources and ideas to support you in this discipline of reading and learning from the Bible.

Read

Listen

Study

Journal
Do you have some Bible reading ideas as well? Share them in the comments of this post on our Facebook page!
This coming Sunday, we will look at the spiritual discipline of community. We’ll see you Sunday at 10:00 am at the Fairgrounds!

From Shrot-term to Long-term

By Erin Bird, From short term to long term blank 350x196 - From Shrot-term to Long-term

I want to conclude our series on four internal shifts that need to take place within Jesus-followers as they share their faith.* So far, we’ve seen that we need to move from event-driven to person-focused, from combative to attractive, and from monologue to dialogue. This week, the last area I want to look at is to shift from a short-term view to a long-term perspective.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
When my family lived in Kansas City, a friend invited us over for barbecue ribs. He had slow cooked them on his grill for hours. When you lifted a rib to your mouth for a bite, some of the meat just fell off the bone – it was that tender. And the taste was amazing!

Now, imagine if my friend had thrown the spare ribs in the microwave. The ribs would have been done faster, but they would have been no where near as delicious. Instead of falling off the bone, the meat would have been chewy. What made them so good was the fact that my friend was willing to wait.

When it comes to evangelism, many Christians (who have great intentions) share their faith with a microwave method. They erroneously think if they tell someone about Jesus, their friend should instantly fall to their knees, pray a prayer, and then come to church on Sunday.

But more times than not, someone who doesn’t believe the gospel needs to let the story of Jesus simmer within them a bit. They need it slow cooked into their heart and thinking.

Take my friend Zac, for example.

Zac’s first job after college put him in a work group with two other guys who were both Jesus-followers. Zac was full of spiritual questions (some of which were intentionally antagonistic), but rather than give him microwaved answers, these two guys took the long-term approach. They befriended him, were patient with his questions, and accepted him for who he was. And slowly, over time, Zac began to move toward Christ. His antagonism faded and a true interest emerged. One of the highlights of my life was getting the email from Zac sharing with me that he had finally placed his faith in Jesus. A few weeks later, I had the joy of baptizing him.

I’m so grateful Zac’s friends didn’t take a short-term approach to sharing Jesus. Rather, they had a long-term perspective, waiting patiently for God to open Zac’s eyes to his need for Jesus.

So if you consider yourself a Jesus-follower, when you share your faith, don’t take a one-and-done approach. Rather, be the patient friend who loves others with a long-term perspective, realizing that God is not done with your friend, so neither should you.

*To give credit where credit is due, these four shifts come from Gary Rohmeyer, President of the MidWest district of Converge.

From Monologue to Dialogue

By Erin Bird, 

There is a Bible verse found in the Apostle Peter’s first letter that says,

“[I]n your hearts, honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15)

I love this verse! But there is a part of it that I think leads many people to wrong thinking. When Peter says “make a defense,” it conjures up images of standing before someone who questions your faith, and yo

u give an amazing response that leaves the other person in amazement. And to further cement this image in our minds, this imaginary moment has been immortalized in several overtly Christian movies.
But I think we are missing something here. We imagine

ourselves doing all the talking. But notice that Paul says you are to give this “defense” who someone “asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” In other words, your “defense” should come in the middle of a conversation with someone. This means Peter is inviting us to enter into a dialogue with those who don’t follow Jesus yet, not to simply give a long-winded practiced speech.

So if sharing Jesus isn’t just about what you say, but rather about having a dialogue, I invite you to:

3 From Monologue to Dialogue blank 350x196 - From Monologue to Dialogue

1. Ask questions
So often, when we actually get to know someone, it adjusts what we say or how we say something. If you launch into a prepared monologue, you may not say what the other person needs to hear. But by asking them questions and then truly listening to them, learning their thoughts, feeling, past, personality, and more, you can better respond to any questions they may ask.

2. Build Bridges
As you get to know the other person, you can “build a bridge” that creates trust. When they realize that you actually care about them as a person and aren’t just focused on shoving your worldview down their throat, they are far more apt to listen to you. As the saying goes, “People won’t care what you know until they know you care.”

3. Affirm Truth
I have personally witnessed “Christians” sharing Jesus with the approach that they are right and their listener is wrong. But when your co-worker says things like, “I believe there is a God,” or “Yeah, I believe some things are true in life,” you don’t have to point out how their theology might be lacking. Rather, you can actually affirm these things to further build a bridge of trust.

4. Keep the Dialogue going
I once heard that it takes 21 times for someone to hear the gospel before they actually believe it. I have no idea how someone discovered this statistic, but if it has just an inkling of truth to it, it means that just because you shared Jesus with someone and they didn’t immediately stop to pray some sort of prayer doesn’t mean that their search for Jesus is over. So keep the dialogue going. Stay their friend. Keep asking questions.Hang out and have fun together. And as God creates the opportunities, keep sharing Jesus.

*To give credit where credit is due, these four shifts come from Gary Rohmeyer, President of the MidWest district of Converge.