2019

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 



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?


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.

Their Story/Your Story/The Story Mission Tool

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Click here to go to a downloadable/printable version of this tool.

Everyone has a story. Past, Present, Future.

Beginning, Middle, End.

We all come from somewhere and we’re all are going somewhere. We’re all dealing with life somewhere in the middle right now. The art of learning someone’s story, and sharing your story are essential to building rich friendships as we live on mission. The following tool is one simple way to go about learning these skills. It provides a series of questions in the framework of Past, Present, Future.

DISCLAIMERS:

  • Don’t think about any of this as a rigid one-size fits all formula, so much as guardrails to help you get started and troubleshoot as you go.

  • This is not intended to be a one-time, one-shot conversation.

  • Learning their story and sharing your story could take weeks, months or an entire season. This tool is intended to be used over time as you get to know someone in the context of a real, mutual, loving relationship.

Start by listing some friends and neighbors who don’t know Jesus. Keep them in mind as you work through the rest of the tool.

PART 1: THE PAST

We all come from somewhere. Somewhere that includes a physical place (or places), a family of origin and a series of personal experiences. Everyone’s past provides the context for their entire story. So getting to know someone requires getting to know their backstory. And inviting someone into your life requires sharing yours.

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PART 2: THE PRESENT

Regardless of our backstories, we all find ourselves right here and now… dealing with life. Some of us are doing that pretty well, others are really struggling. But how they are dealing with life, and how we deal with life give us a lot of opportunities to share the truth and hope of Jesus.

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PART 3: THE FUTURE

In the midst of dealing with our lives, all of us have certain beliefs about what is broken in this world and what would fix it. We all have dreams and hopes about what “the good life” would look like if we ever got there. Tapping into these hopes and dreams helps us get to know people and see places where they have false hopes outside of Jesus.

PART 4: PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

As we get to know their story and share our story, we are always looking for ways we can share Jesus’ story through our story and apply it into their story

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Is your Rhythm Set Up for Mission?

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Outside of regular LifeGroup time, we encourage groups to have a less structured time that can be more natural to invite friends into. This could be anything from a monthly game night, to lunch after Sunday gatherings, to going to a bar for trivia, to playing in a softball league together.

Rhythms help accomplish two purposes. First, they become something everyone in the LifeGroup can do together. Families naturally make memories and do life together. Second, rhythms can act as a front door to people who are brand-new to Jesus or church. In an ever-increasing secular culture, inviting a friend to a Sunday Gathering may seem intimidating, but they’re far more likely to come to a game night or trivia. The good news is, your LifeGroup doesn’t have to choose between doing something together or being missional. Effective rhythms accomplish both.

Use the questions below to evaluate your rhythms and where your LifeGroup can grow.

Are new people coming into your rhythms regularly?

If new people are not coming around to your rhythms try planning rhythms with particular names and faces in mind. What are some activities the people you are building with would enjoy doing? Are your rhythms consistent enough to where you can constantly invite them even if they can’t attend for a week or do? 

Are your rhythms accessible to Non-Christians?

To a new person, a large group of strangers all doing a deep dive into the Bible or a book study might be a tough sell to someone just trying to dip their feet in.  Think about what your LifeGroup does regularly for rhythms and ask, “Would someone who doesn’t know Jesus be comfortable participating with you and your group?” 

Is your LifeGroup equipped for the next steps?

If/when non-Christians come around rhythms, what then? What conversation do you need to have with them? What do those conversations look like? Is everyone in LifeGroup on the same page and equipped to have those conversations even if they’re not the “point person”? Take some time with your LifeGroup to sync up and equip one another. Remember, being on mission is a team sport.

Does the whole group prioritize rhythms?

Rhythm participation can look different for LifeGroups depending on your season of life. But over a long enough period of time, everyone in the LifeGroup should make rhythms a regular part of their life. Check-in with those who haven’t been able to come for a while and make sure they are doing okay. Narrate the importance of rhythms and why it’s good for them to attend. Is there anyway the LifeGroup can help so that they can participate (i.e. help shuttle a child to a baseball game, find childcare for them, look at their schedule and help them budget their time)?

Is your group in a season to invite new people?

While we generally want to always invite new people in, there are times when LifeGroups may not be in an open season to do this. If you think this is your group, ask your LifeGroup leaders, “Are we in a place to be inviting more people in or not?” Some of these factors may be the group is already too large and the priority needs to be caring for one another and begin to discuss multiplying. Perhaps many in the group are experiencing care issues (grief, trauma, etc) and the best thing for the group is to use that time to care for one another for a season. Perhaps your group has flooded with new people and the main priority is to welcome and onboard them. Whatever the case may be, we want to make sure this is an open conversation with LifeGroup so everyone’s on the same page. (Quick plug: consider using the LifeGroup (re)BootCamp if you need to do a culture reset or if your LifeGroup just multiplied.)

If after some reflection, you are wanting to change the way your group plans rhythms, there are some important things to consider. Check-in with your Lifegroup leader or if you are the leader, check in with your group. Ask how they have been feeling about the effectiveness of rhythms and see if they agree. Go back to the basics and remember why we do rhythms and why they are good for us. So feel free to try some new ideas! 

Currently, how effective are you rhythms?

If your rhythms aren’t as effective as they can be, what are some practical next steps?


Understanding Idolatry

In LifeGroups we practice confessing sin to one another as prescribed in James 5:16 and 1 John 1:5-10. One aspect of confessing sin is through the lens of idolatry. While we may not bow down and worship carved statues, idolatry can mean anything that you worship outside of Jesus to find identity and purpose. A modern idol could be romance, a career, a family, or your personal freedom.

To press this further, there’s a difference between “surface idols” and “deep idols.” A surface idol looks at the external motivation while the deep idol refers to the inward motivation - the sin beneath the sin. We want to be a culture that confesses both - surface and deep idols - to see ourselves more clearly and allow for deeper healing to take place.

Surface Idols – The noticeable sin patterns in your life including thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, etc. These are things that give meaning, hope and purpose to your life other than God. This is what people most regularly confess.

Deep Idols – What is your motivation for sin? Why do you run to those specific surface idols? What are you looking for? Four common deep idols: power, approval, comfort, and control

Below is a helpful diagnostic to determine what deep idols are most prevalent in your life.

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Here’s how Jesus speaks into each one of those deep idols. (Also consider using the resource, “Go-to Verses for Gospel Fluency”)

Comfort - Our relationship with Jesus provides never-ending, security, peace, and rest. 

Control - We were never in control anyway, but we serve a God who has sovereign rule over the universe.  In the moment the world looked the most out of control - the death of the Son of God on a cross - God was most in control, working his plan of salvation that he had carried through the ages. 

Approval - We have all the approval we will ever need in Christ. Through Jesus’ work on our behalf we are eternally approved of by the God of all Creation who pours out the love, favor, and acceptance owed to Jesus onto us. 

Power - God has unqualified, limitless power. We no longer have to seek power as we are able to find all the power we’ll ever need in him. We no longer have to exert our will or dominance over others.

What recent surface idols do you need to confess to God and one another?

What deep idol do you see most at work underneath your surface idol(s)? How have you seen that play out?

Go-to Verses for Gospel Fluency

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As a church, we strive to make confession and repentance a regular practice - where the culture of LifeGroup is marked by honesty, vulnerability, and reminding each other of Jesus’ righteousness. Having “Gospel Fluency” is how we remind ourselves of Jesus’ work on our behalf. When we confess sin, we want to be quick to offer one another good news before we offer good advice.

Below are some go-to verses for offering good news to others with a brief explanation of how you might apply these verses to yourself or someone in your LifeGroup.

Matthew 3:16-17

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; [17] and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

When God sees you, He sees the righteousness of His Son Jesus and not your sin.

John 19:28-30

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” [29] A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. [30] When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. 

Jesus has paid for all your sin past, present, future. You’re no longer condemned.

Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

Through Jesus, you don’t need to condemn yourself over your sin.

Ephesians 1:4-7

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, [6] to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. [7] In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace

Before time began, God saw you, loved you and chose you.

Ephesians 2:1-10

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [8] For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, [9] not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

God saved you because of who you believed not because of what you’ve done or will ever do.

2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 

Jesus took on all your sin to give you all His righteousness.

Colossians 1:21-22

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, [22] he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him 

Jesus already makes you holy and is in-process of making your experience this more.

Colossians 2:13-14

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 

All your sin was nailed with Jesus on the Cross.

Titus 3:3-7

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. [4] But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, [5] he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 

Based on what Jesus has done, not anything you do, you are a child of God.

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

Because of what Jesus has done, you can approach God with confidence no matter what.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

God invites you to confess sin often so you can experience more of God’s forgiveness.

1 John 2:1

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. [2] He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 

Jesus is your defender and paid for all your sin.

Which verses stick out most to you? Consider committing those verses to memory.

Who is someone you can “Gospel up” this week in your LifeGroup with one of these verse?

Accountability Questions to Ask Yourself

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Because of Jesus we are fully known and fully loved. Through confessing and repenting of sin both to God and others often, we experience a deeper fellowship with Jesus and one another (1 John 1:6-7).

As a church, we strive to make this a regular practice - where the culture of LifeGroup is marked by honesty, vulnerability, and reminding each other of Jesus’ righteousness.

If you don’t know where to start on confessing sin, take some time to look through the questions below. Mark the ones that initially stand out to you. After reading through the list a couple more times, look at the questions that you marked. Choose from the marked questions 7-8 that most deeply impact you. Then, send those questions to the people in your LifeGroup (of the same gender), asking them to keep you accountable and check-in with you regularly.

1. Did I cover up any sins today so that no one will know and think that everything will be okay?

2. When is the last time I confessed my specific sins to God and to my spouse?

3. Did I imply that my skill or experience was enough to do the task or to engage with people without the Lord’s help?

4. Did I think about another person or images of other people while in the bedroom with my spouse?

5. Am I thinking about sinful actions or replaying evil in my mind today?

6. Did I exaggerate or create fictitious events/stories to make a point, as if trying to help God get His point across by lying?

7. Have I lusted or inappropriately visualized another person in any way that has not been confessed to both God and my spouse?

8. What sin is most likely crouching at my door and desiring to have me next?

9. Am I normally on time to meetings, responding to email or personal commitments?  Or did someone need to remind or prompt me?

10. Define specifically what being ‘Emotionally Compromised’ means to you in a marriage relationship.   Create possible scenarios with people in your life with your spouse where it would be clearly broken.  Do we both have a clear understanding of these boundaries?

11. Did I return calls and emails quickly to show respect?

12. Am I talking and listening to God as I do things?

13. When was the last time I earnestly asked the Holy Spirit to show me my sin so that I could confess and repent of it?

14. Do I prayerfully ask God where my ‘free’ time should go or do I just do what I want without considering God?

15. When was the last time I really worshiped God without being distracted?

16. Am I leading with words only, or are my actions leading along with them?

17. What are my Sabbath beliefs and am I regularly practicing it?

18. Are there any recurring sin struggles in our marriage that I’ve been fearful to tell our LifeGroup?

19. Are there any resentments I have towards the church?

20. Are there any resentments I have towards someone in the church?

21. Are there any resentments I have towards my spouse or other family members?

22. What are some unhealthy things I’ve done in the last 5 years to ‘escape’ from responsibility, fears, or pressure? Have I done any of them recently?

23. Are there any specific people at Midtown that I fear or are intimidated by?

24. Who of the opposite sex have you regularly been in personal contact with? Use your technology to help (phone/PC, emails, chat, message history, game chat lines, meetings of any kind).  Discuss each one with your spouse. Consider giving permission to your spouse and other accountability partners to ask you more specific questions about them.

25. What were the last few things that made me cry? When was that?

26. Have I gotten ‘buzzed’ with alcohol in the past 6 months? Am I fearful of setting boundaries with alcohol, or do I fear missing out?

27. Have I fantasized about another person that you’ve seen, watched or read about that has not been confessed to God and my spouse?

29. Do I have any private email addresses that my spouse doesn’t know about?

30. Could I hand over my phone to my spouse and show them all my browsing history of chats, texts, email, etc. without fear?

31.  How do I practically define gossip when talking to my spouse?  What about when talking to someone other than my spouse?

32. What are the names of non-Christians that I am praying for regularly and actively building with?

33. What kind of things/people restore me? What kind of things/people drain me?

34. At the end of a week, how do I define success?

35. Where are different areas I feel misunderstood or not respected and by whom?

36. How many months has it been since I was away two full nights without kids and without any work responsibilities?

37. If I had an unexpected $10,000, what would I do what with it?

38. What things in the last week helped me spiritually grow the most?

39. Do I ‘hate’ any routine activities that must get done each week or month?

40. What are indicators that my relationship with God is thriving?

41. What are the indicators that my relationship with God is stale or dry?

42. How often do I reflect and talk about the ‘wins’ of what God is doing in my family and church family?

43. What are 2-3 of my top frustrations in the past month?

44. What are 3 things people have done for me over the past few years that truly loved me in a unique way?

45. (Did this list prompt other questions someone might ask me? What were they?)

What are the 7-8 questions that you want your accountability partners/LifeGroup to ask you?

Who will you ask to regularly check-in with you to ask these questions? Schedule those times in your calendar.


Our Preaching Philosophy

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Have you ever heard a good sermon? What about a bad sermon?

Just by answering that question you revealed you have a value system regarding preaching. But where did you get your value system? Is your value system based on Scripture, what people have told you, or your personal preferences?

The bigger questions we need to ask are: What is the point of preaching? Who is preaching primarily for, Christians or non-Christians? Is there a preaching style that the Bible indicates we should follow? 

In Titus 2, Paul unpacks a philosophy of preaching and teaching to pastor Titus. He addresses the content of teaching (v.1), specific application of that teaching (vv.2-10), and the aim of teaching (vv.11-12).

Titus 2:1
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

The content of our teaching is sound doctrine. We want to be faithful to the Bible, making sure we are theologically accurate in how we handle a text.

Titus 2:2-10
Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good,  and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,  and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

Notice in vv.2-10 how practical Paul is. He wants Titus to teach in order to give specific help and instruction for his people.

Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age...

In vv.11-12 Paul says the fuel of teaching is marked by grace—grace that saves and trains us to say no to sin and follow Jesus. Emphasizing grace in our teaching empowers us over time to be a people who are  marked by godliness. This means:

1. Preaching grace does not make sin safe, it makes makes sinners safe. 

The author of Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan, was in prison for preaching the gospel of God’s unmerited grace toward sinners. His opponents argued that when the fear of punishment was removed, people would do whatever they wanted. Bunyan replied, “If people really see that Christ has removed the fear of punishment from them by taking it into himself, they won’t do whatever they want, they’ll do whatever He wants.”

Grace trains and fuels us to holiness which means we bring up Jesus often. The English pastor Charles Spurgeon once said:

“The motto of all true servants of God must be, ‘We preach Christ; and him crucified.’ A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.” 

So in preaching grace, we talk about Christ.

Now this is the theme of sound preaching, not necessarily every single sermon. You can fail to teach the Bible by neglecting to preach Christ crucified but you can also fail to teach the Bible by not being practical and calling people to obedience. All of that depends entirely on the passage of Scripture we’re teaching.

Paul continues:

Titus 2:13-14
...waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

So while grace saves and trains us, according to v.13, grace also helps us persevere. This means by God’s grace, we’re trying to help people make it to heaven. All of our sound doctrine and correct teaching is a means to an end. The end is that Jesus has a people for himself who are zealous for good works. 

2. Preaching is a means to an end.

So if the effect over time is not a people who belong to Jesus eager for good works, then the preaching is not “what accords with sound doctrine.” It’s not good preaching. Preaching is not an end in itself. The goal is to have people eager for good works not pastors with good sermons. If we don’t, then something is wrong. 

Look back at Titus 2:

Titus 2:12
...training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.

“Training” means we are playing the long game and people do not get trained overnight. It’s a long slow process. One sermon is probably not going to shape your life, but a few hundred sermons will. 

We aren’t worried about one sermon being amazing. We are worried about hundreds of sermons having a slow, shaping effect on peoples’ lives 

At the same time, many tend to think “good sermons” are defined by gaining new information and insight but the Bible tends to highlight our need for remembering what we already know. Peter echoes this in 2 Peter 1:

2 Peter 1:12 
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 

Peter reminds them, (even though they already know), of the truth they have in Jesus. But in our consumerist Western mindset it’s too easy to equate new “deep” information as what’s most important in preaching and teaching. In another New Testament letter, Paul expresses the same idea to pastor Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

He says Scripture is profitable—it’s useful and helpful. Our aim in preaching is to be helpful—to help us love God and love our neighbor and to help us become complete, or mature, equipped for every good work.  It’s a means to an end. 

Scripture and God’s Spirit working through Scripture are what provides the help. We don’t just give motivational speeches and opinions when we teach. We teach the Bible because that is what empowers us to live godly lives.

This leads us to the question, do we do expository preaching? Yes, depending on how you define it. Expository technically means to explain and interpret. If it just means unpacking Scripture, drawing out what its meaning, and then how we can live it out, then yes. That’s our game plan. But if by expository you mean preaching should only be line-by-line, verse-by-verse through the Bible...then that’s a preference. Nowhere does the Bible say that’s the rule. Now, is that our preference in preaching? Yes. But it’s a preference. 

We use Scripture to actually teach, reprove, correct and train. This means information and insight alone is insufficient. 

Richard Baxter
God commands us to be as plain as we can, that we may inform the ignorant; and as convincing and serious as we are able, that we may melt and change their hardened hearts. But pride stands by and contradicts all, and produces its toys and silly trifles. It pollutes rather than polishes; and, under pretense of praiseworthy ornaments, dishonors our sermons with childish gauds: as if a prince were to be decked in the habit of a stage-player, or a painted fool. It persuades us to paint the window that it may dim the light of Scripture: and to speak to our people that which they cannot understand...Cannot you ministers speak soberly and moderately?

We want for our words to be understandable. We don’t primarily come up with content for non-Christians, we are mostly talking to Christians because they are who make up the church. We aren’t called to do Sunday evangelism rallies every week. We are called to equip the saints for good works. But we do want for our language to be common and understandable so that it can be helpful for both old and new people at our church.


3. The aim of preaching is dictated by Scripture but the style is not. 

Style is not dictated by Scripture. Some prefer going straight through books of the Bible (and that’s our preference too!) but the Bible doesn't tell us to only teach that way. There is no example in Scripture of a time of teaching where someone did this and/or tells us to teach like this.

Other teachers prefer picking topics and really digging in on what the Bible has to say about that particular topic.

Both are helpful in accomplishing the goal of having a people who belong to Jesus and are zealous for good works. We find that going through books of the Bible helps people learn to read the Bible for themselves and brings up issues we wouldn’t have picked to discuss. We find that picking topics allows us to drill in on specific issues in a way that we would not be able to do if we were also trying to make our way through a book of the Bible that brings up many different issues.

We try to balance both because we preach with the end in mind: a people zealous for good works.

It’s fine to have preferences so long as you don’t moralize yours and try to claim people are wrong for failing to do it your way. The Bible says what the aim is, but it does not say what the style should be. 

Lastly, Paul tells Timothy how he is to teach - 

1 Timothy 4:1
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

He says the same thing to pastor Titus - 

Titus 2:15
Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.

4. Preaching comes with authority

Preaching from the Bible should come with an authority. It is a delegated authority from God anchored to Scripture, but it is an authority. So we call people to repent. We correct. We rebuke. We encourage. We confront misunderstandings. We proclaim the good news as fact because Scripture has inherent power and authority within it.

G.K. Chesterton
What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

So we don’t teach around issues, we speak with confidence. God has spoken so everyone needs to listen. God has spoken so it doesn’t matter what we think. God has spoken so your feelings are not ultimate. We speak with authority as we teach Scripture. 

Our philosophy here also includes how we hear and respond.

James 1:22
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

When we hear God’s word taught and inserted into our lives, we respond. We don’t argue, we don’t dismiss, we don’t defend. Instead we worship, we confess, we repent, we obey. Afterall, God’s love language is obedience (John 14:15).

Pastor and author, Richard Baxter, uses the term “sermon tasters” to describe people who critique the quality of a sermon. Sermon tasters have no eye for their own application and obedience, like people who taste wine but spit it out. Now do we want to grow in our preaching and get feedback? Of course. Do we want to hear from others if they have questions about our teaching that may have not been clear? Absolutely. But our goal is to submit to the authority of God’s word as it’s taught. We’re not here to critique presentation style or nitpick word choices. We’re here to listen from God as He speaks through His word and then do it. 


The One Anothers

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Fifty-nine times in the New Testament we see ‘one another’ statements given to followers of Jesus. When compiled together, its overwhelming to see just how integrated and deeply-connected our lives are supposed to be with each other. Two things we can learn as we look at the “one another” commands:

1. The Christian life isn’t meant to be done alone.

These commands imply relationship. This is radically different from the culture of freedom and autonomy that we’re swimming in. Where our culture values a life centered around “me” - the way of Jesus means dying to self to lift others up. Such meaningful, transformative community only happens via commitment. You will never experience the depth of relationship or the transformative power of God’s Spirit-filled community if you choose to be one foot in and one foot out. It means to look at this group and say, “I’m in no matter what. This group and these people are my priority now. Their needs are my needs.”

2. Life in community is messy

Truly meaningful relationships require sacrifice - time, energy, etc. Oftentimes, people can be hard to love and yet Jesus says it’s absolutely worth it. When we push through the hardships and sacrifices that come with knowing others, we reach an end in ourselves and allow the Spirit to use us. When we are willing to step into the messiness that is community, we show just how amazing the way of Jesus is. 

Just envision how beautiful it would be to see a community practicing these commands regularly:

1. “...Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)

2. “...Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)

3. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)

4. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)

5. “...If you have love for one another...” (John 13:35)

6. “...Love one another...” (John 15:12)

7. “...Love one another” (John 15:17)

8. “Love one another with brotherly affection...” (Romans 12:10)

9. “...Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)

10. “Live in harmony with one another...” (Romans 12:16)

11. “...Love each other...” (Romans 13:8)

12. “...Let us not pass judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)

13. “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you...” (Romans 15:7)

14. “...Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)

15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss...” (Romans 16:16)

16. “...When you come together to eat, wait for one another.” (1 Corinthians 11:33)

17. “...Have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25)

18. “...Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (1 Corinthians 16:20)

19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:12)

20. “...Through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

21. “If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15)

22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:26)

23. “Bear one another’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)

24. “...Bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

25. “Be kind to one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)

26. “...Forgiving one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)

27. “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)

28. “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

29. “...In humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

30. “Do not lie to each other...” (Colossians 3:9)

31. “Bearing with each other...” (Colossians 3:13)

32. “...Forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you...” (Colossians 3:13)

33. “Teaching...[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

34. “...Admonishing one another...” (Colossians 3:16)

35. “...Abound in love for one another and for all...” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

36. “...Love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9)

37. “...Encourage one another...” (1 Thessalonians 4:18)

38. “...Encourage one another...” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

39. “...Build one another up...” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

40. “Exhort one another every day...” (Hebrews 3:13)

41. “...Stir up one another toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

42. “...Encouraging one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)

43. “...Do not speak evil against one another.” (James 4:11)

44. “Do not grumble against one another...” (James 5:9)

45. “Confess your sins to one another...” (James 5:16)

46. “...Pray for one another.” (James 5:16)

47. “...Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

48. “...Have compassion for one another...” (1 Peter 3:8) “

49. “...Loving one another earnestly...” (1 Peter 4:8)

50. “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9)

51. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another...” (1 Peter 4:10)

52. “...Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another...” (1 Peter 5:5)

53. “Greet one another with the kiss of love.” (1 Peter 5:14)

54. “...Love one another.” (1 John 3:11)

55. “...Love one another.” (1 John 3:23)

56. “...Love one another.” (1 John 4:7)

57. “...Love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

58. “...Love one another.” (1 John 4:12)

59. “...Love one another.” (2 John 1:5)


Are you living the Christian life primarily in community? Why or why not?


As you read the “one another” commands, which of these do you need to put into practice this week?

How to Encourage Someone

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“..exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Hebrews 3:13

Biblical encouragement is a command that we see throughout the bible.  Because of sin, life is hard and we can lose sight of our hope and our calling.  We can be quick to forget the promises of God and Satan is committed to seeing that we do.  We are called to encourage others so that we do not grow ‘hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’.

What does encouragement look like?  

  1.  Its different from a compliment

    It’s is not telling someone they throw a great party or that you love their shirt. Compliments are nice, and you should still do that.  But biblical encouragement is meant to push people into a deeper relationship with Jesus. It is meant to remind us of the gospel and the promises of God.  In the midst of trials, It is meant to bring hope where it has been lost. It reminds us of our worth and identity, and it gives us courage to do the things we are called to do.  It lets us know where our giftedness lies and the ways the Lord specifically wants to use us.

  2. Its specific.   

    Telling a pastor ‘I loved your sermon today’ is great, but to take something specific that was said and to tell them how it was impactful to you is likely more meaningful.  Here are some specific ways that you might encourage a person.

    1. “Here is how God has used you…”

    2. “Here is how I see God at work in you…”

    3. “Here is what God has promised you…”

  3. Its meant to be done daily.   

    We don’t save encouragement for a big moment or wait until something truly remarkable has happened in a person’s life.  Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us we are to encourage daily! When we are in community with others, we get the privilege of seeing growth in one another. We see a person’s strengths and gifts that the Lord is using to build up the body.  We know what it’s like for life’s circumstances to get us down and we know the need to be reminded of the good news. And in all this we have the opportunity to lift up a person in the day to day when we can easily lose sight of what we are called to.   

Pray that God can grow us in the discipline of encouragement and that we would desire to build up those around us.  Pray for specific people to encourage in intentional and specific ways. And then just do it! Trust that since we are commanded to encourage, God can and will grow you in this.  It may feel awkward initially but it will become more natural with practice, and then those around you will be more prepared to go live life for the kingdom because of your encouragement.  

What keeps you from encouraging people regularly?

Who’s someone that you can encourage today?

See also: “A Blueprint for Biblical Encouragement” from our Personal Liturgy series