The Power of Confession in Your Small Group

Our small group is unlike any other group I’ve known. It’s not because we all get along (though we do), nor because we’re like-minded (though we are). And it’s certainly not because we have it all together.

Actually, the fact that we don’t have it all together is the reason I love our small group. Confession marks our time together, and it has changed at least three things: the way we interact, the way we pray, and the way we pursue godliness.

1. Confession changes relationships.

In a small-group setting, walls come down when everyone walks in the light. But this doesn’t just happen. We must choose to set aside our pride and talk openly about sin. Initially this talk feels uncomfortable, but the sooner we confess to one another, the sooner grace-fueled relationships characterize the group.

Honest confession melts away the mirage that certain people are “better Christians.” It enables us to live on the level ground of the cross, rather than in the false worlds of comparison, guilt, pride, and condemnation. Confession—or a lack thereof—also flows from each person’s walk with Christ. If we walk in the light before him, we’ll feel more comfortable walking in the light before others.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Three Ways God Uses the Prayers of His People

Some prayers are long-suffering prayers.

You pray and pray for answers, for God to act, and you wonder if he ever will as the months and years pass with seemingly no change. The chronic condition, the unbelieving friend, the prodigal child—you entrust these to him with patient pleas…and you wait for God to do something.

Other prayers are answered quickly. You identify a need and ask God to meet it, trusting he can – and he does. He acts in a recognizable way, and answers promptly.

Whether your prayer requests have been long in the making, or you’ve identified a fresh need just today, here’s one reality you can cling to: God uses the prayers of his people.

God Uses Earnest Prayer to Effect His Will

Rewind to the days of the early church.

Peter had been arrested and imprisoned during a time when King Herod was laying violent hands on Christians (Acts 12:1-3). The apostle was under intense guard, secured by four squads of soldiers and bound with chains. His situation seemed impossible to escape—

But the church prayed for him.

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (v. 5)

What happens next is astounding. “On that very night” (v. 6), God frees Peter through the intervention of an angel, who causes the chains to fall off his hands. The angel instructs him to follow, leading him through the iron gate, which “opened for them of its own accord” (v. 10), and into the city. Peter thought he was seeing a vision – until he came to his senses: “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me” (v. 11).

God’s Word is clear that Peter’s rescue relates to the church’s prayers. “On that very night” tells us how God responded to the people’s pleas. And we’re told that these pleas were “earnest,” as the church believed God could deliver Peter and asked boldly that he would.  

Believer, in a similar way, God uses your earnest prayers to effect his will. He planned before time began that you would pray at divinely orchestrated moments, that he would hear your pleas and respond in his timing and according to his plans. Whether God answers quickly and obviously, as he did for Peter, or you don’t see his answer in your lifetime, you can trust that he’s at work – even within your own heart as he changes your desires and molds your will to his. Your guarantee that he hears you is Jesus Christ, who gave you entrance to the Father’s presence and his ear when you trusted him to do so.

God uses earnest prayer and effects his will through your petitions. Knowing this, how might you earnestly pray to him today?

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

Six Unique Ways Women Bring Life and Health to the Church

Do you recognize these women?

Sandy loves people. She’s gifted in making someone feel like they’re the only person in the room. Not only does she ask insightful questions and listen well, she remembers conversations and follows up later. Because of her warmth and kindness, women in the church to gravitate toward her.

Joan is a gifted leader. She also has a knack for teaching the Bible to women. Church staff come to her about recommendations for resources and seek her guidance about the direction of women’s ministries. She loves leading Bible studies and small groups, and takes great joy in seeing women grow in knowledge of and love for God’s Word.  

Cynthia’s wheelhouse is hospitality. She isn’t married and doesn’t have kids, yet she’s a spiritual mother to many. There’s rarely an evening during the week when someone from church isn’t spending time at her home. The women know Cynthia’s door is always open, so they take advantage of her standing invitation, gaining wisdom and life skills in the process.

God’s Beautiful Plan for the Church

Who are these women? They’re the women of your local church, designed and gifted by God for specific purposes. They’re the women who, alongside the men, are fulfilling God’s plan for his church:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-14, emphases mine)

Two important truths stand out here about the church:

The highest measure of a church’s life and health is Christlikeness. When we talk about the “life and health” of a church, we aren’t talking about its size, programs, or leadership, at least not in isolation. These may be indicators of a church’s life and health, but not its foundation. Rather, Paul says a healthy church body is unified in the faith and in the knowledge of Christ, both of which cause the church to reflect him in increasing measure – which is its highest goal.

Christlikeness is attained as men and women do the work of ministry. How does God bring about Christlikeness within his church? Partly through the gifts of its congregation. God intends to use sinful, flawed, undeserving people – men and women alike – for “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” All our varied gifts and efforts in serving the church aim toward God’s goal of Christlikeness.

Six Unique Ways Women Bring Life and Health to the Church

Knowing these truths, what are the unique and varied ways women contribute to the life and health of the church? What are some facets of their “work of ministry” that build up the church toward the goal of Christlikeness?

Read the rest of the article at iBelieve.

When a Christian Leader Fails You

Leaders in the church aren’t exempt from sin. No one is. We don’t expect perfect people to lead our congregations, create our resources, and speak into our culture. But we do expect them to uphold the Bible’s authority. We do want them to remain faithful to Christ.

So what are we to do when a respected Christian leader fails the church, in any context? How are we to respond?

Continue reading

9 Ways to Miss the Point of Small Group

Thursday night. Bibles open. Six men from the local church pray together. One of them reads Psalm 31 and applies it to his brother. A strong sense of God-dependence fills the room.

Sunday post-lunch. The church is quiet after a busy morning. Kids play in the next room, while five couples gather to discuss the sermon. They hunger and thirst together for God’s truth.

Small group. Missional community. Home group. Life group. Whatever you call the gathering of an intimate number of believers outside of worship services, the goal is the same: fellowship and encouragement around God’s Word.

9 Ways to Miss the Point of Small Group

Yet we can easily miss this. Despite our best intentions, we get sidetracked and forget the goal. Sometimes, despite this goal, we’d rather pursue what’s easier and more comfortable for people—but this lacks transforming power to draw us nearer to God and each other.

Small group has a point, and we’d do well not to miss it. Here are nine ways this can happen:

Continue reading

Seven Lies You’ve Been Telling Yourself About Church

Church is so boring…

Or is it?

I recently finished the short, but loaded, book How Church Can Change Your Life by pastor and author Josh Moody. In less than 100 pages, Moody responds to ten common questions about church—objections like the above—posed by Christians and non-Christians alike. He covers subjects such as Jesus’ view of the church, the purpose of baptism and communion, and why believers should not be duped into believing they can “be the church” through podcasting sermons and listening to Christian radio, while privately meditating in their pajamas.  

Moody’s book made me think more deeply about common objections I’ve heard from friends, family, and others regarding local churches, along with the lies that fuel these objections. Here are seven lies that you may also have encountered, whether personally or from other people, about church:

Continue reading

Christian blog

Three Ways Churches Can Stop Treating Singles Like a Problem to be Solved

Talking about singles and the church is usually awkward, sometimes controversial, and is frequently an open-ended discussion. In other words, there are thousands of opinions about how best to encourage singles who are actively involved in a local church, but not every opinion is equally helpful.

I wonder if part of the difficulty is because, in some churches, it is perceived that marriage is the chief end of ministry to singles. But according to the Scriptures, the aim of the church is something fundamentally different.

Read with me from Ephesians 4:11-16:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

According to Paul, the church’s primary job is not to create family units through marriage. It is not to solve singleness as if it were some kind of problem. 

So what it the primary aim of the church? READ MORE

[Post Credit: Crosswalk]