Here are the books I read in 2011. I’ve got pictures of the ones I highly recommend.
After You Believe: NT Wright
The Theology of Paul the Apostle: James Dunn
Scandalous: DA Carson
A Peculiar People: Rodney Clapp
The Anti-Christ: Friedrich Nietzsche
Made to Stick: Chip and Dan Heath
Snapped this at Hobby Lobby today. Can’t figure out if the lack of baby Jesus is intentional for Advent, or if this is a Hindu manger scene.
Waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Eugene Peterson
I just received this message from one of my Wednseday night crew. THIS is why I love teaching…
“[My husband] and I just had one of the deepest, well thought out conversations I think we may have ever had in our entire relationship about ….JONAH and the vine. And I have you and the Wed nght bible study to thank for that.”
And that, my friends, is why we do what we do!
A growing small group grows because it’s focused on someone or something other than itself. Even within the group, the individuals are not focused on their own needs being met, but on the needs of others. It grows because it understands that its purpose is not to become ingrown and self-infatuated, but lies in giving itself away, laying its life down for the sake of others.
Self-focused small groups, filled with self-focused people, die slow, painful deaths. Because self-focus is not the point of a small group.
If people attend small groups because they have a need to be part of something “bigger than themselves,” then a small group that only focuses primarily on itself fails to provide for that need, and therefore fails to live up to the purpose of its existence. “People want to know if there is something more – something bigger, something transcendent – and they want to connect to that. When we try to make groups all about our needs, our community, our relationships, they implode.” (Miller and Peppers, Finding the Flow. 25)
This does not mean long-standing or large small groups need to split apart – for the issue is not about time or size. This merely means that if our small groups have become so comfortable and ingrown that an outsider wouldn’t feel welcomed into the “clique”, then we are not fulfilling our purpose.
The purpose of a small group is growth – not merely growth in numbers, but growth in relationships with God. And if God is self-giving, not self-centered, then growth in God is going to happen through the giving of ourselves. As we give ourselves away to others, they give themselves away to us. In this self-giving, all parties are fed and encouraged. There’s nothing wrong with being fed. But you need to feed others as much as they feed you; you need to give yourself away to others as much as they give themselves away to you. And, really, you should find ways to give yourself away to people that can’t give of themselves back to you.
Here are some signs your small group should be pruned for more growth:
- Your group cannot invite new people because it would mess up the group dynamics.
- Your group spends a lot of time and effort keeping things they way they are instead of looking for ways to grow spiritually and serve others.
- Intimacy and vulnerability within the group are difficult, if not impossible, because the group is too focused on self-preservation.
- Service to others has become rare…if not undesirable.
- Service to others has become difficult to schedule due to the size of the group.
”Faith does not deny the reason for anxiety but rejects the rule of anxiety.”
Richard John Neuhaus, God with Us. 32.