Holiday Events In and Around Our City

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Holiday House Tours

Dates: November 22nd-January 5th 

Time: Check website for tour times based on day of the week

Cost: $15 per person

Location: Robert Mills House

Details: See a variety of holiday decorations and experience past traditions at the Robert Mills House and Hampton-Preston Mansion. Admission includes a guided tour of both properties. 

https://www.historiccolumbia.org/events/2019/2019-11/holiday-house-tours-begin 


Lights Before Christmas

Dates: November 23-December 30th (Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, Christmas Day)

Time: 5-9pm

Cost: $12 adults/$10 children (ages 2-12)

Location: Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Details: Check out the nearly one million twinkling lights, decorative images, and Animated Story Tree. Experience the Holly Jolly Christmas Parade. Meet Santa. Enjoy holiday treats around the Jingle Bell Bonfire.  

https://www.riverbanks.org/events/lights-before-christmas 


Hollow Creek Tree Farm (Gilbert)

Dates: November 24th-December 17th 

Time: 9am-5:30pm

Location: Gilbert, SC

Details: Come see over 12 varieties of Christmas tree and pick out the perfect one for your home. Free hot chocolate served daily. Free hay rides on weekends!

https://www.hollowcreektreefarm.com 


Holiday Lights on the River

Dates: November 27th-December 31st 

Time: 6-10pm

Cost: $20 per car

Location: Saluda Shoals 

Details: Experience the magic as Saluda Shoals comes alive in a blaze of more than 1 million sparkling lights. For nominal fees: ride the Saluda Shoals park train, slide on the Winter Wonder tube slide, Stroll the wetland trail and enjoy a laser light show, make a craft, roast marshmallows, visit Santa (December 14-23rd only)  

https://www.icrc.net/event/holiday-lights-river-115 


Winter Wonderland (Lexington)

Dates: November 29th-December 30th 

Time: Check store hours online 

Cost: Free! (drinks and holiday treats available for purchase)

Location: Second Wave Coffee and Books 

Details: Second Wave Coffee and Books is an Arc of the Midlands employment initiative that provides employment opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Set along a creek with plenty of outdoor space, kids and adults alike will enjoy sharing a treat while exploring the Winter Wonderland filled with artificial snow and outdoor games! 

https://www.facebook.com/SecondWaveCoffeeBooks/ 


Rudolph’s Winter Review

Dates: November 30th, December 7th, 14th, 21st 

Cost: $7 per person 

Location: Columbia Marionette Theater 

Details: This brand new variety show features musical numbers and showcases different puppetry styles. 

https://cmtpuppet.org/shows/rudolphs-winter-revue/ 


Snowball Festival Weekend (Lexington)

Dates: December 5th-8th

Cost: Free! 

Location: Downtown Lexington 

  • December 5th: Christmas Craft Fair (4-8pm; Icehouse Amphitheater)

  • December 6th: Tree Lighting & Carnival in the Square (6-8pm)

  • December 7th: Movie at Ice House: Rudolf (6-9pm; Icehouse Amphitheater) 

  • December 8th: Christmas Parade (3pm; Main Street)

Details: Be a part of the official start of the holiday season in the Town of Lexington! Friday night events in the square will include face painting, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday treats, a concert, a caricature artist, and the lighting of the Christmas tree. 

http://www.lexingtonsc.org/community-event/snowball-festival-Tree-Lighting-Movie-Christmas-Parade 


Midtown Milestones Family Night: Christmas Game Night

Date: December 6th 

Time: 6-8pm

Cost: Free!

Location: Midtown Fellowship (1800 Blanding Street)

Details: Come kick of the holiday season and participate in minute-to-win-it style games. This Family Fun night is a great opportunity to invite neighbors and friends! 

https://midtowndowntown.com/events/christmas-game-night 


The Living Christmas Story Drive-Thru Pageant (Irmo)

Dates: December 6th-8th 

Times: 6:30-9pm (cars line up early!) 

Location: Union United Methodist Church 

Details: Drive through a recreated street of ancient Bethlehem in Irmo complete with angels, shepherds, shop keepers, Roman soldiers, and those present at the first Christmas.

http://unionunitedmethodist.org/?fbclid=IwAR3wpDWRHpINqtFIndXZn0d1LjMJ8F1cjgaVoUOdhcFjp_efv_KRPjXBTIs 


A Christmas Story (Lexington)

Dates: December 6-15th 

Cost: $18 adults; $14 youth 

Location: Village Square Theatre 

Details: All the elements from the motion picture are in in this stage production of the beloved cinema classic

http://www.villagesquaretheatre.com/season.html  


Twilight Train (Winnsboro)

Dates: December 6th, 7th, 13th, 14th, 20th, 21st 

Time: 5:30pm

Cost: $20 per person 

Location: South Carolina Railroad Museum 

Details: This night time excursion is a Santa, hot chocolate, and cookie special. Enjoy holiday treats, stories, sing-a-longs, and visits with Santa. Pajamas are encouraged but not required. Tickets went on sale November 1st and fill up fast, so if you’re interested, book now! 

https://www.scrm.org/ride-the-train/ 


Cradle to Cross Race Series

Date: December 7th 

Time: 9:15am

Cost: $10

Location: Union United Methodist Church 

Details: This first race of a 2-part series is a 1-mile race that takes you through a re-created street of ancient Bethlehem in Irmo, SC complete with angels, shepherds, Roman soldiers, and those present at the first Christmas. There will also be a ¼ mile race for children under 5. 

https://runsignup.com/Race/SC/Irmo/CradletoCross 


Carolina Carillon Holiday Parade

Date: December 7th 

Time: 9:45am 

Cost: Free!

Location: Sumter Street toward the Horseshoe and ending on Senate Street 

Details: Grab a spot along the parade route to view the 66th annual parade featuring festive holiday entries from all across the state. 

http://www.carolinacarillon.com 


Backyard Christmas Market (West Columbia)

Date: December 7th 

Time: 9am-3pm

Location: Our Savior Lutheran Church 

Details: What started as a small craft fair in Midtown members Jen and Reese Landers’ backyard has grown into a great opportunity to knock out some holiday shopping and support local artists all selling their handmade goods! There will also be live music throughout the day. 


Midtown Women’s Christmas Tea

Date: December 7th 

Time: 10-11:30am

Cost: Free!

Location: Midtown Fellowship (1800 Blanding Street)

Details: Women’s Tea is an event for women across our family of churches to come together for a morning of tea, brunch, and fellowship. Feel free to invite friends and be ready to meet someone new! Childcare available upon request (RSVP by November 30th)

https://midtowndowntown.com/events/womens-christmas-tea-1 


Story Time with Santa

Date: December 7th 

Time: 10-11:30am or 12-1:30pm

Cost: $6 per person 

Location: Seven Oaks Park  

Details: Participants will listen to Santa read his favorite story while they decorate Christmas cookies, sip hot chocolate, and make a holiday craft. Participants and their families can also shop at Santa’s Market Craft Show before or after the event. 

https://www.icrc.net/event/story-time-santa-0 


The Nutcracker (Lexington)

Date: December 7th 

Time: 3pm, 7:30pm

Location: River Bluff Performing Arts Center 

Cost: $15-$20

Details: Former Principal Ballerina for the Columbia City Ballet and owner of Lexington’s Academy of Youth Ballet, Regina Willoughby, brings the beloved Nutcracker to Lexington for the first time ever. The performance lasts 1.5 hours including a 15-minute intermission. (This cast is made up primarily of children and teens)

https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/34868 


Santa Claus: The Musical

Dates: December 7th, 8th, 14th, 15th 

Cost: $10, Free for children under 3 

Location: Columbia Children’s Theatre 

Details: A hilarious musical adventure to find Santa’s replacement 

https://www.columbiachildrenstheatre.com/santa-claus-the-musical 


Santa Train (Winnsboro)

Dates: December 7th, 14th, 21st

Time: 10am, 11am, 12pm, 2pm, 3pm

Cost: $15 per person (children under 2 are free if they sit on a parent’s lap) 

Location: South Carolina Railroad Museum 

Details: Enjoy the scenery as Santa walks the length of the train visiting with passengers and posing for pictures. 

https://www.scrm.org/ride-the-train/ 


Sounds of Christmas

Dates: December 8th 

Time: 2:30pm, 7pm 

Cost: Free but call to reserve your ticket 

Location: Shandon Baptist 

Details: Ring in the Christmas season with a special musical event featuring a 100+ person choir accompanied by a thirty-piece orchestra. Children are welcome to attend the performance. 

https://shandon.org/event/1655534-2019-12-08-sounds-of-christmas/ 

 

Holly Jolly Hollywood

Dates: December 8th (White Christmas), December 12th (This Christmas), December 15th (It’s a Wonderful Life), December 21st (Home Alone), December 24th (Miracle on 34th Street)

Cost: $11 adults, $5 kids 12 and under 

Location: The Nickelodeon 

Details: The Nick is screening favorite holiday classics alongside new and exciting picks. 

https://nickelodeon.org/series/hjh/ 


PJ’s with Santa

Date: December 9th 

Time: 6pm-8pm

Location: Chick-fil-a Bush River Road

Details: Enjoy dinner, festive fun, and pictures with Santa

https://www.facebook.com/events/764083594025553/ 


Breakfast with Santa:

Date: December 14th 

Time: 8am, 9am, 10am 

Location: Robert Mills House and Gardens

Cost: $20 adult, $10 youth, Free for kids 3 and under 

 Details: Enjoy breakfast with Santa, make holiday crafts, explore the decorated halls of the Hampton-Preston Mansion, and see a Victorian Christmas tree. 

https://www.historiccolumbia.org/events/2019/2019-12/breakfast-santa 


Candlelight Tours and Carriage Rides:

Date: December 14th 

Times: 5:30-9pm 

Cost: $15 adult, $8 youth; carriage ride is additional $10 per person 

Location: Robert Mills House and Gardens

Details: Enjoy live music with the Columbia Choral Society, children’s activities, and hot chocolate while celebrating the holidays with Historic Columbia. Before or after your house tour, take a carriage or wagon ride through the Robert Mills Historic District. Stop by the Gift Shop’s Holiday Open House for refreshments, holiday tunes, and giveaways. Other holiday vendors will be onsite beginning at 4pm

https://www.historiccolumbia.org/events/2019/2019-12/candlelight-tours-carriage-rides 


Holiday Parade of Lights (West Columbia)

Date: December 14th

Time: 7:30pm

Location: 12th Street, Cayce, and West Columbia 

Details: Come grab a viewing spot for the Greater Cayce-West Columbia Holiday Parade of Lights. 

https://www.facebook.com/events/733588447158588/ 


Columbia City Ballet’s Nutcracker

Dates: December 14th, 15th, 21st, 22nd

Time: 3pm, 7:30pm

Location: Koger Center 

Cost: $22-54

Details: Come enjoy Columbia’s longest consecutively running annual arts event. If you attend a matinee performance, you can meet the dancers after the show and take a backstage tour! 

http://columbiacityballet.com/production/nutcracker/ 


Columbia City Ballet’s Nutcracker Tea Party

Dates: December 14th, 15th, 21st

Time: 1:30-2:30pm

Location: Koger Center Ballroom

Cost: $30 per person

Details: This magical afternoon features a sit-down tea, an abundance of treats, children’s crafts, and meet and greets with the cast of the Nutcracker. 

http://columbiacityballet.com/production/nutcracker/ 


Midtown Downtown Christmas Gathering

Date: December 22nd 

Time: 10am

Location: Midtown Fellowship (1800 Blanding Street)

Details: This family-friendly Sunday morning gathering will be a time of celebration and reflection as we conclude our giv series. Starting at 9:30am, there will be treats and activities for everyone to enjoy. 


Midtown Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Date: December 24th 

Time: 7pm

Location: Midtown Fellowship (1800 Blanding Street)

Details: The hour-long service will include singing Christmas songs, reading the story of Jesus’s birth, and lighting candles in celebration of Jesus Christ. Hot chocolate will be served before. Children are encouraged to wear their pajamas. 

https://midtowndowntown.com/events/candlelight-gathering-x59zr 



How to Welcome New People to your Group 

Let’s say someone came to one of your Gatherings. The speaker made an announcement along the lines of, “we believe the church isn’t a once a week service, it’s a group of people who daily live out the gospel in their community. The way we do this at Midtown is through LifeGroups. So sign up for a LifeGroup!” The person accepted the challenge, signed up for a group, and is now placed in yours! So what’s next? Here are a few pointers on how to be welcoming and inviting to your new LifeGroup member.

Steps

  1. Create a welcome committee as a Core Group role. The group leader can then forward new member information to the welcome committee. 

  2. Appropriately make the first contact:

    • Under 35, try text

    • Over 35, call or email

    • Have a script prepared

  3. Plan a one-on-one meet and greet.

    One great way to welcome someone into your life (and LifeGroup) is to go out and grab lunch with them sometime during the week of their first LifeGroup. You can meet with them before their first meeting to highlight what your group does and what their expectations are for a LifeGroup, or after the first LifeGroup meeting once they’ve had a chance to meet you. Either way, the main point is to make them feel welcome and get to know them personally.

  4. Tell your story. 

  5. Get to know them.

    • What are their interests?

    • Do they have previous church experience? 

    • What do they expect from LifeGroup and how interested are they in LifeGroup?

    • Do they have any leadership potential? 

    • What is their spiritual maturity? Are they a Christian?

  6. Pray for them.

  7. For the first interaction with the group, consider the best initial setting: rhythm, gathering, or group time.

    We recommend our LifeGroups having three “places” to hangout each week. And don’t worry; it’s not as much time commitment as you think.

    The first hangout time is your weekly group meeting. The second is at a Sunday gathering. The third is a regular “rhythm” that your LifeGroup has to invite others to. This can be a weekly lunch, happy hour, or a farmer's market. We call this your “Third Place”, and it’s a great and easy way invite people into your LifeGroup without inviting them to your weekly meeting, which can be intimidating.

    For the newest member of your group, your Third Place can be a low pressure, fun place where they can just hang out and get to know everyone a little bit better.

  8. Narrate everything by explaining what is happening, why it is happening, and how they can benefit from what we are doing. In particular, consider generational gaps and potential areas of confusion. 

    It “may” be difficult for some people to talk about themselves amongst ten people they don’t know. To offset this, make sure you narrate throughout the night why you do what you do with every component - Catch Up on Life, Review the Mission, Scripture and Sermon Discussion and Engage the Heart. If you need help narrating, simply read out loud word-for-word the explanation at the top of each section. Along with this, make sure you and the rest of the LifeGroup give new people the gift of going second by being first to confess sin and share what God’s been teaching you. You may even consider telling first time guests that they have the freedom not to share if they’d rather just be a fly on the wall and observe.

  9. Follow up with the new member after the initial hang out.

  10. Communicate with Groups Team if they have landed, ghosted, or left.

Why is it good?

  • We want to welcome new people in because Jesus first welcomed us. We know what it’s like to be new and not know anyone so we want to ease their transition. 

  • Our LifeGroups are different from what most people expect. It is helpful to explain how our groups work so they can have appropriate expectations. 

  • Empowering others in your group helps them to grow and frees you up. 

How to Handle Missing People 

Steps

  1. Set parameters for the definition of “missing.” What are the expectation of attending group time and what are the exceptions? The definition might be different based on various factors like: 

    • How did they get into your group: placed by Group Team, invited by a friend, missional relationship, etc? 

    • How long have they been around? 

    • What stage of life are they in? 

    • What is their church background? 

    • Where are they in the leadership pipeline? 

    • What is their spiritual maturity level? 

  2. Seek to understand why he or she is missing. Engage Core Group in pursuing answers. 

    • Ask what is their understanding/thoughts on commitment to LifeGroup or the church?

    • Spend time outside of group time

    • Remind them that we are less without them

  3. Reach out to a Coach as needed

  4. Appropriately communicate with the group and especially the Core Group. 

  5. Inform him/her of his/her removal from the GroupMe and other communication while assuring him/her will be welcomed back. Narrate that we want to have room for those who want to be involved

  6. Communicate departure with Groups Team (if applicable). Update LifeGroup report 

Why is it good?

  • Build with people who want to build.

  • We have finite time and limited energy.

  • We are unable to force people to commit. We want to pursue those who are in.

  • We need to narrate expectations by utilizing the covenant and frequently discussing it.



How to Handle Tragedy 

Steps

  1. LifeGroup leader reaches out to the LifeGroup, Coach, or pastor as appropriate. If the leader has a tragedy, the Coach may be more involved 

  2. The LifeGroup leader or designated person (Core Group) assesses the need. As always the main care philosophy is employed, “When in doubt, be there and call your coach.”

  3. Gather the group together to pray

  4. Assign a care point person to stay connected to the person(s):

    • Keeping the LifeGroup up-to-date.

    • Communication of needs of those affected. 

    • Weekly contact and appropriate follow-up. 

  5. Assigning the right person to handle logistics:

    • Meal Train

    • Transportation

    • Childcare

    • Funeral arrangements

    • Visits

    • Communication that includes (or not) the person experiencing tragedy

  6. Help the person grieve

    • Connect with others who have gone through a similar experience

    • Set up counseling

  7. Remember the event long-term

    • Set reminders on a calendar (weeks, months, and recurring yearly)

    • Care point person follow up on counseling and care

    • Group send encouragement

    • Encourage the person to process as needed with the group

    • Consider significant holidays that may affect the person

Why is it good?

  • God loves and cares for us, so we get to love and care for others

  • We are the hands and feet of Jesus to people

  • Jesus was acquainted with grief and wants us to step into it with others

How to Lead a Core Group

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Steps

  1. Encourage members to take the 201: LifeGroup Class and become an official Core Group Member. Make specific invitations and narrate its importance for their personal growth and for the health of the group. 

  2. Distribute LifeGroup Roles to all Core Group Members and narrate why you are giving them that role based on personality tests and giftedness. 

  3. Regularly communicate with your Core Group. 

    • Create a separate GroupMe for Core Group members to communicate regularly. 

    • Sync up monthly or at least quarterly to celebrate growth, to evaluate the health of the group, to discuss major issues, to review the covenant, to redistribute roles, to discuss multiplication plans and any next steps for the next 6 months. 

    • Plan a yearly core group retreat to get away with your Core Group. The goal of the retreat should be primarily relational (making memories and group bonding), but also include spiritual development. 

  4. Write, evaluate and rewrite the LifeGroup covenant every 6 months or at least once per year. This is an effort to maintain the right culture and expectations for your group. 

Why is it good?

  • One of the primary roles of the LifeGroup Leader is to develop the Core Group. This is a multiplication of leadership for the growth and health of everyone. 

  • Having a developed Core Group benefits the group and the leader as follows:

    • It enables the LifeGroup Leader to empower others and help them grow as they carry more weight. 

    • Empowering others also lightens the load of leadership as the leader distributes responsibilities. A lighter load helps with the longevity of leadership. 

    • There is increased buy-in from more people in the group and more people are equipped to positively influence the culture and health of the group.

    • A Core Group is the basis for future multiplication because it is the beginning step for developing future leaders.

How to Correct and Confront Individual Sin

Steps

  1. Find Scriptural evidence that directly confronts the behavior, attitude or action. (We want to make sure it is not just a preference issue or different personality)

  2. Pray about the issue.

    Pray about your heart. Pray for their heart Separate your hurt feelings or annoyances and humble yourself.

  3. Involve your Core Group and give your Coach a heads up that you plan to confront the sin.

  4. Set up a time to meet one on one with the person

  5. Prepare some open-ended questions to explore the underlying issues.

  6. Begin the conversation with encouragement, love, and relationship building

    • “I love that you bring __________ to our group”

    • “I have seen God doing __________ in your life”

    • “I appreciate your friendship because __________”

  7. Explain what a blind spot is and how they can be dangerous and that it is good, gracious, and loving to have people point them out

  8. Cite a specific example of the sin in question.

    • Name an explicit event or comment and ask if they remember it.

    • Explain what was perceived and why it is concerning.

    • Share scripture and give them a chance to respond.

    • Ask clarifying questions.

  9. Communicate that you care more about their heart than their actions and that you care for them.

    • If they agree about their sin, discuss what repentance looks like and help them think through their next steps 

    • If they disagree about their sin, reiterate your love and follow up with your Coach about next steps. Continue to pray and reflect

Why is it good?

  • Sin kills us and separates us from God and other people.

  • We have all been separated from God, but He saved us out of the bondage of sin, reconciling us to Himself and freeing us to an abundant life.

  • We are compelled to be ministers of reconciliation, loving others as He has loved us, which includes confronting the sin.

How to Deal with Difficult People that Affect Group Dynamics

Steps

  1. Identify the difficult behavior:

    1. Insecure - does not share due to fear or shame

    2. Oversharers - lacking in self-awareness and limits others participation

    3. Challengers - can dominate and control 

    4. Disengaged - spiritually or mentally apathetic 

    5. Actively sinning/unrepentant

    6. Etc. 

  2. Pray to see your own biases, areas of weakness, and weakness within the group.

  3. Pray for the person. As you continue to pray, the Lord will build your affection for them.

  4. Discuss with some Core Group members.

    • Do they notice the problem and do they have any potential solutions?

    • Who is (are) the best person(s) to meet with the difficult person? 

  5. Prepare for a one-on-one meeting with the person. Anticipate and prepare for resistance and confrontation. Contact Coach if needed.

    • Recognize this is a discipleship opportunity.

    •  Use direct communication to identify the specific behavior and its negative impact on the group.  

    • Redirect and redeem their weaknesses. Meaning, affirm what is good and redirect the good for the benefit of the group. 

  6. Follow up as needed. 

Why is it good?

  • Prayer affirms roles, sets boundaries, surrenders control to God, and builds unity

  • Engaging Core Group guides them towards leadership and knowing how to respond to similar situations in the future. 

  • Showing people where they have a challenge can help it become a strength.

  • Gracious follow-through shows genuine care.

Leveraging LifeGroup Guides for Mission

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Let’s admit it. Talking about “mission” can be intimidating. As soon as it’s brought up, we picture awkward conversations and blank stares.

As followers of Jesus, we want to be faithful witnesses and be normal around other people. Most of us probably wish that conversations centered around Jesus flowed naturally and often. 

But the reality is, you’re getting trained on this every week.

Our LifeGroups Guides, in part, equip you to see Jesus in the ordinary and talk about Him with others in natural, normal conversations.

If talking to non-Christians about Jesus seems unnatural, ask yourself, does talking to your LifeGroup about Jesus feel natural? 

If mission is a struggle for your LifeGroup, consider rethinking how LifeGroup Guides work. These guides are a means to an end for us to be a Jesus-centered family on mission. Let LifeGroup times act be the training ground for your group to improve how you do “mission”.

Consider each part of LifeGroup time:

1 - Catch Up on life

During this time we are training ourselves to grow in our awareness of God’s presence. We want to see reality the way He sees it. Our daily interactions throughout the day aren’t just random happenstance, those are divine appointments. Our day-to-day circumstances aren’t ordinary, those are gifts to thank God for. 

If Catch Up on Life is a struggle for you then consider praying something like this: “God help me see my life with you in mind. Help me to see everything you give as a gift. Help me see people the way you see them.” 

2 - Review the Mission

Who are the people in your life who don’t know Jesus? Are their people in your life who you don’t know if they don’t know Jesus? Consider what next steps look like for you - it may be introducing yourself to a neighbor or coworker for the first time, inviting a new acquaintance to a LifeGroup rhythm, initiating a spiritual conversation, inviting someone over for a meal. Whatever that is, resolve by the power of the Spirit, knowing God is with you. Fill your LifeGroup in on how your plan so they can hold you accountable.

3 - Sermon Discussion

By renewing our minds through Scripture, we are made more and more into the likeness of Jesus. This means more than just gathering information but seeing how the Bible applies in our day-to-day, allowing God to transform us, and talking about it casually and conversationally with the people in your LifeGroup. If you’re able to comfortably and fluently talk about the Bible around Christians, this better prepares you to talk about the Bible around nonChristians.

4 - Engage the Heart

During this portion, we recognize we are the chief of sinners and need God’s grace in our lives first before we can tell others about Him. Engage the Heart trains us to listen, practice empathy, ask follow-up questions, and ultimately tell others why the Gospel is good news for them. Gospel fluency in LifeGroup equips us to be gospel fluent outside of LifeGroup.

  • Why is being on mission a challenge for your group?

  • Each portion of LifeGroup time trains us to be more missional. What’s one portion you can focus on the next time you meet in order to better be on mission?




What is Examen Prayer?

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The examen prayer (Latin for “examination”) is meant to be practiced at the end of each day, looking back and discerning God’s activity with an aim to grow in deeper awareness for the next day. By practicing this regularly we’re able to more quickly see God in the ordinary, live in a posture of godward gratitude, and regularly experience His presence. 

This prayer can be broken down in five steps: 

1. Recognize God’s presence

Hebrews 10:19-21 reminds us that, through Jesus, we have confidence to draw near to Him. In prayer, we actively step into the presence of God not in intimidation or guilt but in relational communication. He delights in spending time with you. Take some time to slow your mind down, let your body relax, and as you step into His presence, ask God to give you clarity and understanding as you review your day.

2. Recall God’s goodness

Walk through your day from morning to evening and, as 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “give thanks in all circumstances.” What did you do today? Who did you talk to? Even in the small things, give thanks - what brought delight to you today? Even if you find it difficult to give thanks, Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us the Lord’s “mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” In light of that, ask the Lord to give you insight on how you can express gratitude in all your circumstances.

3. Review the day

Where did you feel Jesus was present? What did you do today out of reliance on the Spirit? Were there moments today where you especially felt the presence of God? What was that like? How did that happen? Express thankfulness for those moments and ask God to give you more opportunities to experience His presence.

Where did you feel Jesus was absent? What did you do today out of your own power and strength? Were there moments today where God felt distant? What was that like? How did that happen? Scripture reminds us that He is with you always (Matt 2:23, 28:20). Ask God into those moments.

4. Repent

What sin(s) do you need to confess to God?

What are you struggling to trust God with? How can you give God control of it?

Has the Holy Spirit been prompting you to do anything that you’ve been resisting? What step(s) do you need to take to walk in obedience?

5. Resolve

Ask God to give you Spirit-filled guidance and power to be more aware of His presence tomorrow. You may even consider writing down specific next steps as a reminder.

Like other practices, this will be challenging at first. Stick with it. Eventually, this will get easier as you commit to this practice regularly.

  • Which of these steps is the most challenging for you? Why?

  • What do you need to do to incorporate this practice into your life?


Sermon Discussion - What it is and How to Improve It

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God uses His Word to reveal Himself to us, equip us to live the good life He’s designed for us, show us our sin, and strengthen us as we follow Him. We preach the Word on Sundays and apply it as a LifeGroup during Sermon Discussion. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Colossians 1:9-12 and James 1:22-25)

To grow in Sermon Discussion, here are a few tips:

1. Narrate early and often

As a leader, you know why it’s important to talk about Scripture but does your LifeGroup know? Before getting into Sermon Discussion, consider telling upfront what it is, why we do it, and why it’s good for us. (To narrate it, simply read the paragraph in italics underneath the Sermon Discussion heading.) Don’t be afraid to say this every week until people begin speaking up more. After a while, you may even quiz people before getting into the questions and ask, “Why do we do Sermon Discussion every week?”

2. Give the gift of going second

Your answering first helps set the tone for how you want others to answer. Encourage your Core Group prior to LifeGroup night to speak up too - they can help shoulder the weight of the LifeGroup by giving new/quiet people the gift of going second, too.

3. Don’t steal all the time and talking points

While you want to give others the gift of going second, be brief and concise enough to give others time to share. Again, this sets the tone for how you want others to answer. We want to be careful not to share for too long or share everything that can be said about a given question or topic. If this happens, simply narrate to the group next time to be mindful of everyone’s time.

4. Watch out for rabbit trails

This requires a lot of discernment but sometimes people will bring up a topic that doesn’t relate to the LifeGroup Guide specifically. If you think this rabbit trail is beneficial for the group, feel free to explore it. If not, gently steer them back on track by saying, “Ok, let’s get back to this question.”

5. Call on people 

If you feel comfortable with the people in your LifeGroup and can do it in a light-hearted way, call on people who aren’t speaking up or who look zoned out. Perhaps they have something to share and feel intimidated to speak up. Maybe there’s something on their mind and they just need you to snap them out of it so they can pay attention. Some of those questions you can ask as you call on people include:

  • “Hey, ____ what do you think?”

  • “_____, any thoughts?”

  • “_______, how would you answer that?”

  • “____, in light of what they shared, what does the Gospel have to say to that?”

6. Show warmth while others speak, thank them for sharing afterward

Can you imagine how intimidating it would be to bare your soul while people make no eye contact, and then get met with the sound of crickets when you’re done? To save someone from this, when someone speaks make eye contact, nod, smile if appropriate. As soon as someone finishes sharing, at the very least say, “Thanks for sharing.” At most, you may even say a follow-up statement or question to further the conversation.

7. WATCH OUT FOR phones

Before LifeGroup ask people to bring their Bibles and if possible, get someone to print copies the LifeGroup Guides so everyone can be phone-free. Some LifeGroups even put their phones in a pile in the middle of the room to avoid distraction. Maybe bring an extra Bible or two for that person who forgets to bring one. If people need to use their phone to follow along in the LifeGroup Guide or to read from a Bible app that’s fine, just make sure it doesn’t become a disruption.


If after all of this, Sermon Discussion is still an issue, share this resource with your LifeGroup and challenge them to speak up at the next LifeGroup meeting.

  • Out of all these, what’s one thing you can do next time your LifeGroup meets to improve Sermon Discussion?

What is Lectio Divina?

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For the first 1,500 years of church history, lectio divina (Latin for “divine reading”) was the primary spiritual practice people used to be with Jesus. Since most people were illiterate, the reading of Scripture in the church Gathering each week was vital for spiritual growth.

With that in mind, lectio divina is not an exercise in mentally critiquing or exegeting a text rather, this practice exists to further your relationship with Jesus as He invites us into His presence through His Word.

To practice this, walk through the following steps (or movements) in order. You’ll notice this is similar to our how to study the Bible post, with an emphasis on practicing the presence of God.

Relax

This requires a quiet preparation of the heart. Turn off your phone, get away from distraction, slow down, and take a deep breath. We want to unbusy our minds so we can make room to hear the voice of God.

Read (lectio)

Read a Scripture passage slowly. Linger over the words. Read it the same way you would read a letter from a close friend. Pretend the original author is speaking it to you. If it’s a narrative, imagine you’re in the narrative watching this story first-hand. In this step, the goal is not only to see the words, but to feel them.

  • What words caught your attention?

  • What phrases stand out to you?

Reflect (meditatio)

Read the Scripture slowly a second time. Reflect on how the passage/words/phrases might apply to your life. Ask the Spirit for wisdom and discernment.

  • Is it relevant to something that you are going through? 

  • Does it bring to mind a struggle that you have been dealing with? 

  • Do certain people come to mind that God may want you to reach out to or reconcile a relationship with? 

  • Is there a strong sense of a movement or change that needs to happen?  

Respond (oratio)

Read the Scripture a third time. Scripture reminds us that we can approach His presence confidently, so talk to God and let Him what you are feeling.

  • What feelings have the text moved you to? 

  • Where are you resistant or want to push back?

Talk to God about what you’re feeling. If you feel convicted about a poor relationship, go seek reconciliation. If you feel thankful for something, then respond in thankfulness. If you feel specific anxiety about something in your life, present it to the Lord. If you feel convicted about a specific sin, confess that sin to God knowing He is faithful and just to forgive you.

Rest (contemplatio)

After reading, rest and wait in His presence. Allow some time for His Word to sink into your soul. Before you’re done with this practice, you might want to consider writing down what the Lord showed you as a reminder throughout the day.

It’s important to remember the aim of this practice is to just “be” with God. We’re not trying to “get something out of it” so much as we want to simply sit in His presence.

Like other practices, this will seem challenging at first. Stick with it. Eventually, this will get easier as you commit to tending to this practice regularly.

* This resource was adapted from Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun and “Lection Divina” at Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/scripture-engagement/lectio-divina/home

Mind Mapping

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Downloadable/printable version

Oftentimes, it’s easy to approach the Lord in introspective prayer and struggle to put thoughts into words. The mind map is a simple tool to help you with just that.

There’s no “right way” to use this tool; simply look through the categories the mind map lists out and see if it sparks anything going on in your life right now. These categories may even help you think of other categories that aren’t listed on the tool. If that’s the case, write those thoughts down too.

As you finish writing out everything that’s going on in your mind, take this to God in prayer. Remember no matter what you’re going through He’s sovereign, so He can handle whatever it is. At the same time, God is good, so He delights to hear you in prayer.

  • What stood out to you after using this tool?

  • Is there anything going on with that you can be letting others in on?


When Differences Become Divisive

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In 1 Corinthians 3, Christians were arguing and dividing their church over personal preferences. Since there were no other churches in Corinth, when preferences weren’t being met, factions were formed. (To clarify, a “preference” is an opinion on an open-handed issue that is not central to the gospel, examples can include worship or preaching styles. In contrast, “convictions” are close-handed issues of major theological importance, often relating to salvation.)

Two thousand years later, followers of Jesus still  divide over similar issues. And while we don’t create factions within the church, the normative response when preferences aren’t met is to find a church that does. 

So what’s wrong with trying to find a church that most agrees with your preferences? 

The problem is,  when we elevate preferences to a primary level of importance,  we turn into consumers rather than covenant servants - we develop an attitude that says, “I’ll serve you only if you serve me first.” When Western consumerism like this takes hold, we miss out on a crucial opportunity to die to our desires and preferences for the sake of others.

Unity not Uniformity

When it comes to preferences, Jesus doesn’t call for uniformity - where we all agree on everything, from worship style, preaching style, groups style - He calls for unity, where we all agree on our convictions as prescribed in Scripture, (in other words, we want to major on what the Bible majors on.) So rather than leave or grow bitter over preferential differences, our call is to love, serve, and submit to others who think differently than you. 

When this happens, we become an anti-narrative to the “me”-centric culture in our world. We are telling others that Jesus is bigger than our preferences. What Jesus demands of us is bigger and better than our demands. 

Of First Importance

So while we must cling to the non-negotiable truths, (what Paul calls in 1 Corinthians 15:3 of first importance), we need to recognize that many issues are not worth fighting over or leaving. Instead, we should be quick to suspect our motives, quick talk to others with differing perspectives and quick to listen with a posture of humble understanding.

As we grow as a church family despite our differences, we can show the world a community where diversity is embraced without being divisive.

  • Do you have any preferences you are lifting up as first importance?

  • In what ways can you die to self to better love, serve, and submit to others?

How Bible Translations Work

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If you’re new to reading the Bible, a helpful tool is to know how different translations work.

All modern translations are based on the most accessible and earliest biblical manuscripts we have available. As scholars translate, they have an intended audience in mind as they select the right English words to communicate the authors intent. All this to say, Bible translations do not operate like the telephone game - where one person says something who then tells someone else, and so on and so on until the last person says something way off from the original message. Rather, translators want to be faithful to the original text and contextualize to their audience. (To know what manuscripts translators have access to and the audience they’re translating for can be found in the Preface of most major Bible translations.)

Below you’ll find a chart with a brief explanation behind the major Bible translations. To gain a wider understanding of biblical passages, we’d recommend using multiple translations and comparing them. Below you’ll also find a sampling of verses put side-by-side with different translations.

Word for Word - These translations are based on finding a 1-for-1 from the original language to the English. Since biblical languages work differently than modern-day English, these translations can be at times hard to read.


Meaning for Meaning - These translations look to bridge the gap between faithfulness to the exact wording of the original language while also communicating the idea behind the author’s word choice.


Thought for Thought - Rather than word-for-word, these translations will try to communicate the author’s intent behind the original words while still maintaining exegetical faithfulness.

Paraphrase - These translations are not based on the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. Rather, their aim is to be contextual and casual for a specific audience to understand.

Below are samplings of different translations using one translation from each category: word-for-word (NASB), meaning-for-meaning (GW), thought-for-thought (NLT), and paraphrase (The Message).

Psalm 2:7

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

"I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.' "

GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)

I will announce the LORD's decree. He said to me: "You are my Son. Today, I have become your Father."

New Living Translation (NLT)

The king proclaims the LORD's decree: "The LORD said to me, 'You are my son. Today I have become your Father.

The Message

Let me tell you what GOD said next. He said, “You’re my son, and today is your birthday."


Matthew 16:13

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

New Living Translation (NLT)

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The Message

When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?”

 

2 Timothy 3:1-5

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. [2] For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, [4] treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, [5] holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.

GOD'S WORD Translation (GW)

You must understand this: In the last days there will be violent periods of time. [2] People will be selfish and love money. They will brag, be arrogant, and use abusive language. They will curse their parents, show no gratitude, have no respect for what is holy, [3] and lack normal affection for their families. They will refuse to make peace with anyone. They will be slanderous, lack self-control, be brutal, and have no love for what is good. [4] They will be traitors. They will be reckless and conceited. They will love pleasure rather than God. [5] They will appear to have a godly life, but they will not let its power change them. Stay away from such people.

New Living Translation (NLT)

You should also know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. [2] For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. [3] They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control; they will be cruel and have no interest in what is good. [4] They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. [5] They will act as if they are religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. You must stay away from people like that.

The Message

Don't be naive. There are difficult times ahead. [2] As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, [3] dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, [4] treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. [5] They'll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they're animals. Stay clear of these people.

 


Praying Together

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In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes, ‘Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’.

Note, Paul is addressing a church. A group of people. Not just individuals. Looking at 1 Thessalonians again, “(You all) rejoice always, (you all) pray constantly, (you all) give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you (all) in Christ Jesus.

Recently, some members our my LifeGroup read the book Life Together by Deitrich Bonhoeffer.  In this book, he talks about ‘saying our prayers together’ within our community. After reflecting on this truth, our LifeGroup wanted to take action.

So here are some steps we’re currently taking to grow in prayer together:

1 - Schedule times to pray together outside of group time.

We recently started a prayer walk and invited our LifeGroup to come 30 minutes before group time to walk the neighborhood and pray. We pray for:

  • Specific houses and businesses, and the opportunity to build community with them. 

  • Houses for rent/sale. For God to bring the right people into those places. 

  • Relationships between home-owners and college students in the neighborhood

  • For neighbors by name, that they would come to know Jesus

Another way to pray together outside of group time is to create a Google document where people can sign up to pray on specific days for certain topics.

2 - Create more prayer roles within your LifeGroup.

Some groups have roles in LifeGroup for prayer collectors or leading prayer during LifeGroup.  Along with that, there are other ways to incorporate more prayer roles. Consider assigning someone to consistently pray, whether during or outside of group time, for the following:

  • LifeGroup/church leaders  - for their spiritual health, wisdom, and humility as they trust God and lead

  • Proactive Mission partnership - we partner with Epworth Children's Home, so we get to pray for them individually and ask for prayer requests from Student Groups for broader requests. 

  • Reactive Mission - Individuals that your LifeGroup is building with

  • The kids in your LifeGroup - For them to follow Jesus and for parents/LifeGroup to disciple them up

3 - Be consistent no matter what.

 ‘Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.’ Galatians 6:9.  

Keep praying together, even when it's hard and doesn’t go according to plan. It’s easy to have a plan in mind but over time get discouraged with the reality of real life.  This is where we get to persevere. A few reminders for when this happens:

  • Don’t get caught up on how many people are coming, be faithful and celebrate who’s coming

  • Combine prayer with times your LifeGroup is already together (i.e. before group time or rhythms)

  • Share with others in the LifeGroup what you are praying for and how you have seen God be faithful

When we tried our prayer walking for the first time, only three of us could come.  But consistency is key. Since we’ve started doing this, I’ve seen our LifeGroup grow in praying for things instead of just talking about them.  I’ve seen us grow in unity and purpose. This has also been a great way to incorporate LifeGroup members who may not have significant LifeGroup responsibilities just yet. As we pray for each other and our community, we’ve seen the Spirit bring us closer to God and each other.

  • How’s big of a role does prayer take in your LifeGroup?

  • What’s one thing you and your LifeGroup can do to grow in praying together?

Consumer or Committed?

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Scripture reminds us over and over again that life is not primarily about us. Jesus says those who lose their lives will find it (Matt 10:39). A disciple of Jesus is someone who daily picks up their cross (Matt 16:24), constantly dying over their demands and preferences (Phil 2:3) to live a life of love (Gal 5:6)

And yet, living in the secular West, a “me-centric” attitude can still creep into our hearts. We use spiritual language to mask consumerist motives, avoid commitment, breed discontentment, and hold close-handed opinions on how we think a church ought to operate. Because this is the water we swim in, we need to constantly be on the alert and keep watch that we don’t succumb to a me-centered outlook.*

Below are some common consumer phrases to watch out for and how to fight against them.

Concerning Sunday Gatherings: 

  • “I didn’t feel God because of the song choice.”

  • “I don’t like the music style.”

  • “I’m not being fed.”

  • “I’m more mature. I need deeper teaching.”

  • “I don’t love the pastors’ preaching style.”

  • “I just feel like I’m not growing.”

  • “I’ve learned everything I can here.”

When these phrases are being said, we need to step back and ask, what’s the aim of Sunday Gatherings? The Bible tells us that when the church is gathered we’re called to study Scripture together, pray together, give to the mission of the church (Acts 2:42-47), encourage one another (Heb 10:24-25), and sing together (Col 3:16). In other words, the church is not just an event you attend for spiritual goods and services (asking “what can I get out of it”); it’s a spiritual formation tool with an emphasis on God’s people gathered together. 

This means we don’t expect God to radically change us over the course of a few songs and a 40-minute teaching on a Sunday - as though we have a “microwave” faith expecting instant results if under the right conditions. Rather, the biblical picture is we expect God to slowly change us over the course of years and years of weekly teaching and singing. When we gather together our call is to come with this posture of expectation for the Spirit and Word to shape us for the long haul. 

Concerning LifeGroup/relationships

  • “I just wish I had people pouring into me.” 

  • “I’m just too old/young/can’t relate.”

  • “It’s just exhausting hearing everyone’s sin every week.”

  • “I don’t get anything out of it.”

  • “I don’t think people are mature enough for me.”

Again, when these phrases are being said, we need to ask what’s the aim of biblical community? Scripture tells us God’s people are called to follow Jesus together, consistently in each other’s lives, practicing the one anothers. In other words, God’s people are called to be a cruciformed people - modeling Jesus in everything including how we interact with one another. While we may certainly have preferences, we must be careful not to assume a church is more holy or less spiritual just because a personal preference isn’t being met. Preferences (whether met or unmet) are not pre-requisites for obedience. Just because people are not in a similar season of life or aren’t in close enough relational proximity, doesn’t excuse us to be faithful. Now, while it may be more difficult to be in someone’s life who’s in a different season of life or level of spiritual “maturity,” it acts as an opportunity to step out of fear and personal discomfort and choose to step into obedience, entrusting that God is sovereign and has you where you are for such a purpose as this.

In thinking through this, one pastor said, “A mature Christian is easily edified.”**  Why? Because followers of Jesus live open-handedly. They may have preferences but they fall to the wayside because they see life is not about them. They see their relationships are committed, not contractual. They see God at work in everything. They see everyone as Image Bearers of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. They see their sin more clearly than anyone else. They are quick to confess (and pre-confess) sins that want to take a foothold. They are quick to listen and slow to speak. They have a posture of humility and service, looking to help others because they see themselves as chief recipients of God’s grace. 

This is the kind of people Jesus wants to make for Himself to bring Heaven down to Earth - servants who lay down their lives to build His kingdom.

Where have you seen consumerism creep into your heart? Have you said any of those common consumer phrases before?

What’s one thing you can do this week to grow as a committed Jesus-centered servant?

*To be clear, there are legitimate reasons to have discontentment in a church, but those reasons are clearly outlined by Scripture. Such examples can include false teaching (Rev 2:14-16), abusive leadership (1 Tim 3:2-3), no fervor for Jesus (Rev 2:4-5), not zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

**https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/discussion-on-worship-and-music/




Prophet, Priest, King Assessment

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A helpful tool for understanding how God has wired us is the Prophet, Priest, King test. Where Jesus perfectly embodied all three of these, all of us are especially gifted by God in one of these roles for the purpose of serving one another.

Take some time now to fill out the survey. Answer these questions according to who you are, not who you want to be. Choose the answer that is your first instinct, don’t over-analyze. Circle only ONE answer per question. 

1. Are you most frustrated when: 

a. Things are not planned well 

b. Something is not being taught correctly 

c. People are treated poorly 

2. Which best describes you: 

a. Well planned 

b. Knowledgeable 

c. A people person 

3. Are you more likely to be: 

a. Controlling 

b. Harsh

c. Lenient 

4. Do you most naturally lead through: 

a. Delegation 

b. Explanation 

c. Relationships 

5. Are you more likely to see: 

a. What is not working in a person’s way of doing things 

b. What is unbiblical about a person’s way of doing things 

c. If people are being hurt by a person’s way of doing things 

6. Do you evaluate situations by asking what: 

a. Works/doesn’t work 

b. What is right/wrong 

c. What helps/hurts 

7. Would you rather: 

a. Lead a group to accomplish a task 

b. Teach your favorite passage of Scripture 

c. Meet one on one to help someone with a problem 

8. What do you get most excited about: 

a. When things are being run well 

b. The Bible is being taught well 

c. If individual people are being developed well 

9. Would people characterize you as: 

a. Organized 

b. Insightful 

c. Encouraging 

10. People are most likely to say your biggest flaw is: 

a. You are OCD 

b. You are too harsh 

c. You are a pushover 

11. Are you most self-righteous about: 

a. Seeing the big picture 

b. Being accurate 

c. Being well-liked 

12. Which of these would you naturally lean more towards: 

a. Too rigid 

b. Too judgmental 

c. Too timid to confront sin 

13. In your opinion, people: 

a. Are needed to help accomplish things 

b. Need to be taught 

c. Need to be engaged 

14. Do people come to you to: 

a. Help them plan 

b. Help them understand 

c. To have someone identify with them 

15. When you hear a new idea; your first thought is: 

a. How does it work? 

b. Is it true? 

c. How does it affect people? 

16. Would you describe yourself as: 

a. Practical 

b. A visionary 

c. Dedicated 

17. When it comes to people, do you: 

a. Want to tell them what to do 

b. Want to teach them something 

c. Want to protect them 

18. Would your dream job be: 

a. An engineer/manager 

b. A spokesperson/teacher 

c. A social worker/counselor 

19. Are you more: 

a. Directive 

b. Illustrative 

c. Protective 

20. If you are in a big group of people hiking a mountain, do you want to: 

a. Make a plan for hiking the mountain 

b. Communicate the plan to the group 

c. Help make sure everyone makes it to the top 

21. Do you tend to: 

a. Protect the plan 

b. Protect the truth 

c. Protect the people 

22. If you are to assess your intelligence, would you say you have: 

a. Street smarts 

b. Book smarts 

c. People smarts

RESULTS

Once you’ve answered all of these questions, add them up to see what role best suits you. Below is a description of those roles.

a. Prophet

b. King

c. Priest

Prophets

Prophets are concerned about truth first and foremost. Their first question is typically “Is that biblically accurate and in step with the gospel?” They are teachers and preachers.

Potential sins and issues: Arrogance, intellectualism, poor listening skills, overbearing demeanor

Potential way to serve in LifeGroup: Sermon Discussion leader

Kings

Kings are concerned with leadership, details, and systems. Their first question is likely “How will that practically work?” because their mind is always on functionality, order, and effectiveness. They love spreadsheets and to-do lists and plans. They communicate clearly and effectively.

Potential sins and issues: Pragmatism, manipulation, control.

Potential ways to serve in LifeGroup: Rhythm planner, Childcare facilitator, Review the Mission leader

Priests

Priests are especially gifted in caring for people (this is reflected in shepherding language throughout the Bible). Their first question is typically “How will this affect people?” They are good listeners and counselors.

Potential sins and issues: Cowardice, emotionalism, unhealthy concern with how others feel about them.

Potential ways to serve in LifeGroup: Engage the Heart leader, Care Follow-Up leader



How to Study the Bible: Old Testament Narratives

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(The following is a modified version of the How to Study the Bible post.) 

The Bible is a complex collection of literature featuring different genres (poetry, history, parables, apocalyptic literature, wisdom literature, etc) all telling one unified story. Because of this, we need to equip ourselves to discern what genre we’re reading, and how to reflect and respond accordingly. 

Old Testament narratives can be confusing or intimidating whether you’re brand new to the Bible or have been following Jesus for a while. Here are some helpful pointers as you study these Old Testament stories.

1 - Remember the Bible is one unified story

While it’s easy to dismiss parts of the Bible that feel less accessible to us, it’s important to know that the Bible tells us of one grand story. If we miss out on the Old Testament we miss out on the richness of the story. And because the Bible is one grand story, God’s character stays consistent from Old to New Testament - He’s not angry in one and then loving in another. Likewise, Jesus loved the Old Testament and meditated on it daily. To dismiss the Old Testament is to dismiss one of the primary tools Jesus used in His spiritual formation (Luke 2:52, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

2 - Know the difference between descriptive and prescriptive passages

Biblical authors will often communicate historical events as a way to describe what’s going on, not necessarily to commend or condemn those events. This is what’s known as a descriptive passage. 

The question then becomes, what do I do with a descriptive passage? To determine this we look at the surrounding context of the passage and we allow the clearer prescriptive passages to unpack the confusing, descriptive passages.

A couple of helpful resources on this are “Character in Bible Narrative” by The Bible Project and Norman Geisler’s Big Book of Bible Difficulties.

3 - Know the original purpose of the passage

Every book of the Bible was written for a particular people in a particular place. So while the passage is communicating history, there’s also an underlying theology and themes the author wants to communicate to the audience.

Our job is to determine the original meaning of the passage and then apply it to our lives, (known as exegesis.) Conversely, we don’t want to impose our own ideas/cultural interpretations onto a passage and force the passage to mean something it actually doesn’t, (known as eisegesis.) 

The questions we’re looking for are: who’s the author? When was this written? What’s the purpose of the book? What’s the context of when this book was written? (Some helpful resources on this are The ESV Study Bible and The Bible Project.)

4 - Look for examples, whether positive or negative

As you read and reflect on an Old Testament narrative, pay attention to what the characters in the story are thinking/saying/doing. These historical characters are personifying what it looks like to live either in submission or in rebellion to God's will. So our job as the reader is to figure out what we can learn based on what they did (or didn’t do).

At the same time, we don’t sell the text short by only looking for a historical morality lesson. These hundreds of characters are part of a bigger meta-narrative leading us to the main character, which brings us to the last point. 

5 - Ask how it points to Jesus

In Luke 24:27, Jesus tells us that all of the Old Testament points to Him. Jesus is there at the beginning of creation (Gen 1:1, John 1:1), He’s the promised Snake Crusher (Genesis 3:15, 1 John 3:8), He’s from the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:7, Galatians 3:16), He’s from the line of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-16, Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:44). So we want to always make sure to read the Old Testament with a Christo-centric lens, making sure to both see the passage in its original context while also noting how it ultimately culminates in the person and work of Jesus. (A helpful resource on this is the Gospel-Transformation Study Bible.)

Reflection questions to ask:

  • What does this passage reveal to us about people?

    • Does this narrative provide a positive or negative example?

  • What does this passage reveal to us about God?

    • How does this narrative point me to Jesus’/God’s redemptive work in history?

Respond questions to ask:

  • What’s this passage calling me to do today?

    • Is there a negative example to warn me of?

    • Is there a positive example to follow?

    • How does God’s redemptive work in the story move me to follow Him more closely today?

  • What’s this passage calling me to pray for today?

Other helpful resources on studying the Old Testament:

Anthology sermon series | Anthology Leader Resources

“Plot in Biblical Narrative” The Bible Project

“Character in Biblical Narrative” The Bible Project

“Setting in Biblical Narrative” The Bible Project

“Design Patterns in Biblical Narrative” The Bible Project


The STEWARD Finance Tool

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For Christians, stewardship means managing and leveraging our resources to advance Jesus’s kingdom. God desires that we steward well all that He has entrusted to us. This includes our time, talent and treasure. STEWARD helps us consider our treasure. It is about getting financially healthy so that we can live generously. 

S – Start Your Journey to Financial Health (Step 1)

·       Start giving if not currently tithing. - Give to Downtown, Lexington, or Two Notch.

·         Start saving $1,000.

T – Take Ownership (Step 2)

·         Build a budget. You can use the Simple Budget Calculator or the Budget Template tool.

·         Once you’ve established a budget, consider using a money management tool like to following sites/apps to keep track of where your money goes. (Personal Capital, Mint, Acorn, Every Dollar.)

·         Check your credit report.

·         Insure against financial disaster (home/renters, health, life, disability, etc.).

·         Pay off debts (except mortgage). You can use the Debt Snowball tool found here.

E – Expect the Unexpected (Step 3)

·         Save three to six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. 

W – Watch the Clock (Step 4)

·         Invest 15 percent gross income toward retirement.

A – Advance Your Financial Health (Step 5)

·         Increase your giving percentage.

·         Save for college.

·         Identify other 5 to 10-year financial goals (home, car, vacation, etc.).

R – Reside Debt-free (Step 6)

·         Pay off your mortgage.

D – Determine How God Wants to Use Your Financial Health (Step 7)

·         Go where God calls you to go. Give to what and where God calls you to give.

What are your next steps?

What’s your plan for others to hold you accountable?

Why Do We Ask Members to Give 10 Percent?

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In the Old Testament, tithing - the giving of a tenth of what someone owned - was part of God’s 611 commands that His people would follow. This was, in part, to follow the example made by their leaders (Gen 14:19-20, Gen 28:20-22) and to support the ministry of the Levites (Lev 27:30–34, Num 18:21, Num 18:26, Deut 12:5-6). On top of the tithe, the Israelites were also expected to give to religious festivals as a way of acknowledging God’s generosity and abundance (Deut 14:22) as well as to give to anyone in need as an act of worship (Lev 25:35-37, Deut 15:7-8, Deut 14:28-29, Ps 41:1-3, 119:36, Prov 11:24-25, 19:17, 21:13, 22:9). One scholar estimated after tithing, giving to their religious festivals, and giving to those in need, the average Israelite gave upwards of 20%.

Tithing isn’t required for New Testament believers in the same way it was for Old Testament believers since we are no longer under the law, however, the principle of generosity is still in place. Generosity, as in the Old Testament, is seen as an act of worship, to support those in ministry, to fund the ministry of the church, and to give to those in need (Matt 6:19-21, 10:42, Luke 6:37-38, 21:1-4, Acts 20:32-35, 2 Cor 8:12-15, 9:6-8, 1 John 3:16-18, 1 Tim 6:17-19).

While there’s no exact number in the Bible to follow as the Israelites did with the 10% tithe, followers of Jesus are still called to give sacrificially because Jesus sacrificially gave Himself for us.

This is what we’re striving for in our covenant practices - to be a compelling people that look like Jesus in everything we do. So the question becomes: How do we know what that looks like? What steps can we agree to do together to practice obedience? What markers or guidelines can we set in place to help each other look more like Jesus?

For our church, giving 10% is the agreed-upon starting point to gauge our generosity. (We often say that 10% is the floor, not the ceiling.) It’s not required to be a Christian, and we’re not required by any law, but it is one of the many diagnostics we use to help lead one another in being a generous people.

Having this tangible marker for a biblical principle is similar to the other covenant practices we commit to doing together. For example, we want people to be in deeply-connected Jesus-centered relationships; a marker for this is to commit to a LifeGroup. We want people to be sacrificially giving their lives away for Jesus; a marker is to serve on Sundays. You won’t see “get into a LifeGroup” or “sign up for a Sunday role” as a requirement or law for New Testament believers, but they are tangible agreed-upon markers of biblical principles that we are called to obey. Similarly, you won’t see “give 10%” for the New Testament believer, but the principle of generosity is found throughout.

Why do we make this a priority of ours? Jesus puts it bluntly in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In the words of Jesus, following Him requires an aligning of our hearts - and that includes our finances. When we give, we find ourselves literally and spiritually more invested in the things of God than we were before. We are naturally more inclined to care about God’s mission because we are moving our finances that way.

Therefore, we see 10% as the starting point not as “I have to,” but as “I get to.” We get to give back to the mission of God. We get to financially help those in need. We get to create resources for people to be equipped. We get to partner with non-profit organizations all over the city. We get to teach middle and high schoolers about Jesus every week. We get to coach up new parents on how to follow Jesus and love their kids. We get to provide pizza to college students who may not know Jesus. We get to keep the lights on each Sunday so people have a space to gather and worship together. 

Through our committing to give 10%, we get to see our city look more like Heaven each day through our generosity.