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Category Archives: The Growing Leader

Upcoming Resources

To Connect, Encourage & Resource Small Group Leaders at LifePoint Church – that’s our mission, that’s why we do what we do. It’s about keeping you, all of us, connected to the heart of the church and to one another. It’s that kind of connection that encourages each of us to keep going, to finish the race, to fight the good fight.

Resourceing? Our hope is that the Resources we provide throughout the year will help equip you to do the ministry God has called you to do – to run the race with solid footing, and fight the good fight with heart and passion. We all want to run together, run well and find joy in the race.

This year we are working on several Resources that focus on you, the Small Group Leader, and your personal spiritual growth. The basic premise behind this year’s plan is that we as Leaders must ‘walk the path’ that we hope to see others walk. Put simply, we need to model the path of authentic Christianity, the path of growth and change. Do you want the members of your group to cultivate a healthy prayer life? Begin to internalize and apply God’s Word? Understand what they believe and why? In practical terms, effective ministry happens when we reflect to others what God is doing in our own lives.

In October and November we will begin this year’s Resource journey with a two-part series on Prayer. (‘Part I’ can be downloaded from ‘Resources’ box in the right sidebar.)

Prayer Part I

I have a long-standing somewhat dysfunctional approach to ‘volunteering’ – I don’t like to do it, so when my hand goes up I typically look to God and ask, “why?”

I “volunteered” to write the October Resource (now a two-part series) on ‘prayer’ and I knew immediately why; it was the weakest arrow in my quiver of disciplines. My lack of understanding often led to discouragement in prayer, which led to less time and intentionality in prayer, which in turn seemed to sap my spiritual strength. I knew that my prayer life was the key to a healthy and vibrant relationship with God and mine had been faltering for too long. I had to rediscover prayer.

I’m also an obsessive ‘underliner’ that’s right, I underline, highlight, scribble in… generally ruin my best books, and even some good library books… by accident of course! There are many good, Biblically solid and informative books on the subject of prayer, but I had yet to find one that honestly addressed the most difficult questions on prayer; things like, “does prayer work, does it affect outcomes?” “What about unanswered prayer…?” I had yet to ‘ruin’ a good book on prayer!

In late September on a visit to Portland Oregon, in a small college bookstore, I found yet another book on prayer, a supposed ‘classic.’ First printed in 1931, by Ole Hallesby, Norwegian pastor and seminary professor – not only did the book capture my attention, it captured my mind and my heart. Hallesby honestly and humbly addresses the most difficult concepts related to prayer in a clear and thought-provoking manner. He answered many of my questions and gave me comfort in the ones that cannot be fully answered. My copy is officially ‘ruined’ with massive sections underlined, starred and highlighted along with multiple pages dog-eared both top and bottom!

In this two-part Resource on prayer, I’ve tried to capture some of the foundational elements of Hallesby’s book. It’s nothing earth shattering, in fact it is not ‘new’ per se; Hallesby himself has simply and profoundly highlighted the Bible’s teaching as he understands it.

Adam purchased two copies of Hallesby’s book and those are available for loan in the church library. We have several more copies on hand for purchase ($9) in the event some of you would like to ‘ruin’ your own copy. I’d also encourage you to use Hallesby’s book as a Small Group study – and ‘ruin’ the book together! There’s a study guide in the back of the book.

Paul Anglin

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The Growing Leader – Sacred Pathways

As a community group leader you probably know LifePoint Church’s strategy for producing Christ-like Influencers. You’ve probably heard about Gather-Grow-Serve (GGS) more than you want to. What we leave out of the equation each time we use the GGS phrase is the centerpiece. Really it is the part that holds GGS together. It’s the part of the strategy that brings meaning and sustainability to our Christ walk. It is the hurricane symbol and it represents the personal spiritual disciplines in the Christian life. Without a daily time in God’s Word, prayer and other disciplines, the GGS strategy is a hollow exercise in striving to be better.

As leaders we know that this centerpiece is important, but how do we wrap our arms around something that we all struggle with implementing. I don’t know about you, but my daily activities and priorities leave little room, let alone a strategy, for spending time daily with God. For most of us, it looks something like this – we get up while it’s still dark, open our Bibles and read a passage. We pray or try to, as we fight falling back asleep or the distraction of the crowding daily to-do list that comes crashing in to our minds. Therefore many of us feel like failures. We struggle with and then give-up on something that is so crucial to the success of GGS. What to do!

Have you ever thought it may not be you, but the idea you have in your mind that creates this pressure to follow the prescription described above? Gary Thomas explodes this myth – the ‘only one way to connect with God’ notion, in his book Sacred Pathways. He believes there are nine different ways we connect with God. Now let me make a disclaimer here. He’s not talking about how we come to Christ the first time. This isn’t a salvation issue, it’s a concept of how we are created by God to develop that intimacy with Him that He so desires to have with us. Gary believes that there are nine different pathways or possible connections that God has wired each one of us with so that we can have that unique connection with Him.

Here are the nine pathways:
•    Naturalists – Loving God Outdoors
•    Sensates – Loving God with our Senses
•    Traditionalists – Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
•    Ascetics – Loving God through Solitude and Simplicity
•    Activists – Loving God through Confrontation
•    Caregivers – Loving God by loving others
•    Enthusiasts – Loving God with Celebration and Mystery
•    Contemplatives – Loving God through Adoration
•    Intellectuals – Loving God with the Mind

Some of the pathways are self-explanatory and others need some unpacking before you realize what they actually entail. As one reads through this book another thing happens. You see yourself in several of them. I have found that I do some of my best connecting with God vacuuming our home or going on short-term mission trips (Care-giver). However, my primary pathway is the Contemplative one. I love losing myself in God’s love singing His praises. I usually do this where no one else can hear me (my car). Yet I also love being in the Word every morning so the Intellectual connection is there as well.

Perhaps you’ve been missing your primary connection with God by trying to do the Intellectual thing each morning. Perhaps caring for others, or being in nature (taking a walk on a snowy day, or being in a room filled with plants and trees) is your best way to connect with Him.
These things are too important to ignore. My encouragement to you is to get a copy of Thomas’ book and read it. There are even brief assessments you can take in each chapter to measure how high you score in each pathway. I’ll tell you that the Ascetic pathway is just not me!  Then, talk it over with your community group. You may want to study this book with them. I think it’s worth a look to see if it’s something that will liberate the minds of your group members when it comes to this very important area of our Christian walk – connecting with God.

As Pastor of Ministries at LifePoint Church I cannot tell you all what an enormous role you play in the discipleship and care of our people. We could not do it without your diligent work and leadership in the community group ministry. You are all held in high regard. May God bless you all richly!

Yours in His Service,
Dave Baldwin

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2010 in The Growing Leader

 

The Growing Leader – Vision, Intention & Means

Question: I want to be transformed to look more like Christ, I really do, but it’s so difficult. What’s the key? How can I see change happen in my life and how can I help others through the process?

In his book Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard explains that all effective efforts at personal change, not just Christian spiritual formation,  follow a general pattern: Vision, Intention, Means or VIM [1]. Vision is both first and most important.  It’s seeing things as they can be. It’s understanding that the investment involved in change will yield a far greater reward.  “If the vision is clear and strong, it will very likely pull everything else required along with it” [2].  After vision, there must be intention. It’s more than just a desire or a hope for the change, we must make a choice. Simply wishing something to happen, or even wanting it, is not the same as deciding it. Wishing I could run a marathon is not the same as deciding to go out and train for it. One will prepare me, the other will not. Finally, we must have means for change. These are the actual instruments, tools or strategies that facilitate change.

We saw a fantastic example of VIM in 1991, when we lived in Russia. It was common for us to meet students who spoke excellent English, yet had very little formal training. However, they viewed reading and speaking English as an important key for their success. So much so that they were willing, on their own, to seek opportunities to learn and practice English. They had a vision, that their investment of time and energy in change (learning English) would have a reward far greater than the cost. They also had a clear intention, in that they decided to do whatever it would take to gain the skills required to speak English. They were then creative in seeking means. Sometimes this involved media (TV, movies), books or something else. Once the vision and intention were in place, the means really took care of themselves.

Contrast this with what one finds in the U.S., where it’s been said “Americans’ incompetence in foreign languages is nothing short of scandalous…” [3]. Yet, we have far more resources than they did in Russia at the time. Excellent foreign language instruction is provided, free of charge, in nearly all US High Schools and nearly countless resources are available. So why don’t US students learn foreign languages?  They have not been convinced that time and energy required will yield a greater reward. They do not have a vision for how learning a foreign language will help them in life.

If we really want to change to become more like Christ, and help others do the same, we need to have a vision that the time and energy spent in the process will yield a far greater reward. We must begin with a vision of life in the kingdom of God. This, in fact, is the place where Jesus started (Lk 4:43). For an incredible description of what we can become, I direct you to p. 218 in Willard’s Renovation of the Heart where he describes what it looks like for us to be like Christ. These are, perhaps, the best 2 pages of text that I have read in my entire life. This is because they give me a vision that the time and energy that I invest in change, will yield a far greater reward. If you’re interested, you can read them here:  A Composite Picture of “Children of Light.”

Mark Marten

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[1] Dallas Willard, “Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ,” Navpress, Colorado Springs, 2002, p. 85.

[2] Renovation of the Heart, p. 84

[3] Leon E. Panetta, “Foreign Lanuage Education: If ‘Scandalous in the 20th Century, What Will It Be In the 21st Century?” commenting on the 1979 “Report of the President’s Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2009 in The Growing Leader

 

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The Growing Leader – Transformation… Expect It!

QUESTION: How can I help people in my community group begin to experience spiritual transformation, so they grow to look more like Christ?

I think the beginning of the answer lies in John Ortberg’s book, “The Life You Always Wanted,”  where he describes “Cranky Hank”:

“Hank was a cranky guy. He did not smile easily. He had a knack for discovering islands of bad news in oceans of happiness. He would always find a cloud where others saw a silver lining. He rarely affirmed anyone and his native tongue was complaint… Hank’s joylessness often produced sadness. He could not effectively love his wife or his children or people outside his family. He was easily irritated. Whatever capacity he once might have had for joy or wonder or gratitude atrophied.

Hank was not changing. He was once a cranky young guy, and he grew up to be a cranky old man. But even more troubling than his lack of change was the fact that nobody was surprised by it. It was as if everyone simply expected that his soul would remain withered and sour year after year, decade after decade. No one seemed bothered by the condition. It was not an anomaly that caused head scratching bewilderment. No church consultants were called in. No emergency meetings were held to probe the strange case of this person who followed the church’s general guidelines for spiritual life and yet was non-transformed. So we were not shocked when Hank’s transformation didn’t happen. We would have been surprised if it did!”

Hank’s church expected him to act a certain way. They expected him to attend services, to be in a community group and to serve others. But they never expected that he would change. They never expected that he would grow beyond his crankyness, and that year by year he would grow to look more like Christ.  Is that a trap that we fall into as well? Do we expect people to change? Do we expect to see real and tangible change in our own lives?

One of the most significant things we can do to catalyze transformation, both in ourselves and in others, is simply to expect it!  When we expect transformation, we’ll be looking for it in our own lives, we’ll ask God to help us with it, and we’ll seek ways to help others.  In a practical sense, we’ll talk about it often. We’ll ask each other, and ourselves, questions like these: How are you different now than you were a year ago? What things happened in your life to facilitate the change?  What’s God teaching you lately? How has he been doing this? How has God been involved in your change process? Are there areas where you can identify a need for change?

If we want to see transformation in our own lives, and in the lives of others, we first have to believe that it’s possible, and then we need to expect that it will happen. As we do, we’ll set out on an adventurous collaboration with God as he helps us to, literally, become a new creation.

Mark Marten

 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2009 in The Growing Leader

 

The Growing Leader – It’s All About Transformation

Change is a difficult thing. This is especially true when it’s significant, authentic change in the way we act and behave. Yet God tells us, over and over again, that change is what it’s all about. We’re called a “new creation” (2 Co 5:17) and told to put on the “new self” (Eph 4:24, Col 3:10) or to be “transformed” (Ro 12:2, 2 Co 3:18). In fact, God doesn’t just say that significant character change is possible, it’s what He expects of us.

We call this change “spiritual transformation.” To make things clear, let’s define some words. As I use it here, the word “spiritual” means anything non-physical. This includes things like mind, emotions and will. It’s who we are as people. “Formation” is the process by which we become who we are. It’s the process we’ve gone through our entire lives that’s shaped our character to make us who we are today. Our “character” is our “default state” or what we do when we’re not thinking about it or trying to behave well. So then, spiritual transformation is the process of changing, or re-forming, our character. This is what Paul meant when he said “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Eph 4:23,24 NLT). Spiritual transformation is the process we go through, as we work together with God, to actually become a different kind of person.

What would it be like to be a different kind of person, someone who didn’t have to “try” to be good all the time? Instead, it was just who you were. The good that you did naturally flowed from who you had become. What would it be like if you were able to put aside anger, show love to those who slighted you and deal with difficult situations without anxiety or worry?

Through transformation, we can actually get to the point where we learn to rejoice in suffering (Rom 5:3). Not because suffering is, in itself, good, but because we are so sure of God’s sovereignty, so secure in our knowledge of Him and His care for us, that we understand the challenge is something that will ultimately result in His glory.

When we see such a transformed life it can take our breath away. Dawson Trotman was the founder of the Navigator’s, a Christian group with a profound worldwide influence.  He drowned in 1956 while trying to save another. Chuck Swindoll writes about the scene after Trotman’s death.

“…Eyewitnesses tell of the profound anxiety, the tears, the helpless disbelief in the faces of those who now looked out across the deep blue water. Everyone’s face except one—Lila Trotman, Dawson’s widow. As she suddenly walked upon the scene a close friend shouted, “Oh, Lila … He’s gone. Dawson’s gone!” To that she replied in calm assurance the words of Psalm 115:3: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”   All of the anguish, the sudden loneliness that normally consumes and cripples those who survive did not invade that woman’s heart. Instead, she leaned hard upon her sovereign Lord, who had once again done what He pleased.” [1].

Lila Trotman was able to respond this way only because of spiritual transformation. She had worked with God, throughout her life, to become like Him.

As small group leaders, it’s all about transformation. I suggest you study, even better memorize, the verses in the first paragraph. This will allow you to hold these thoughts in your mind, and to think about them deeply. As you do, you’ll move toward a place where “trying” to live a good life is replaced with “training” to become more like Him.

Mark Marten

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, “Starting Over,”  Multnomah Press, 1977, p. 67

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2009 in The Growing Leader

 

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