Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

10 Things I’ve Done in Ruidoso, NM

December 19, 2009

I’ve been in Ruidoso, New Mexico for 4 months now. This place is incredible. Here’s 10 things I’ve done here in four months that I had not done in the last few years.

1. I’ve seen more deer than at any other time in my life. I live in a nature wonderland.

2. I’ve driven with the windows down in the Jeep more here than in any other place. The weather here is perfect.

3. I’ve taken a day off. Sabbath is easier here.

4. I’ve seen more mountains. The grandeur of God is a wondrous blessing.

5. I’ve preached more. I have my 2010 preaching calendar done.

6. I got to lead FBC in designing and implementing a simple church discipleship process.

7. I’ve started learning how to shoot a bow. I’m going to bag a deer at some point.

8. I’ve eaten lunch at school with my daughter more. I eat with her at least once every two weeks.

9. I’ve watched more Monday Night Football with church members 🙂

10. I’ve drank more Starbucks coffee with my sweet Jeana. Time together is a good things.

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Discussing Doctrine

December 10, 2009

I am convinced that most Christians don’ discuss doctrine and scripture enough. I have a principle I try to remember as I make disciples through teaching and preaching–“If they are not talking about it, how do I know they are getting it.” Discussion is crucial to spiritual growth. The Bereans knew to do it in Acts. They took what they heard home and “checked it out.” Last night in Wednesday Bible Study we had a great discussion on the doctrine of salvation from 1 John 4. It was AWESOME to say the least. We discussed how a person is saved and if a person is saved from many angles. We discussed election and choice from a theocentric view and an anthropocentric view. Last night we “wrestled” with scripture and doctrine. We talked about cults and heresy in the church and parachurch community. What’s my point? Discussing scripture and doctrine is key to spiritual growth. We need to be able to defend our faith. So, get involved in discussions about life and doctrine. Share and defend your faith. Get in a group that builds your faith and “grow.” “Our doctrine of salvation will drive our practice of evangelism.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2009

Most of you know how I am about “community.” The place of confidence in life is community with the Lord and His family, the church. I wan to wish each of you a “Blessed Thanksgiving.” I more good memories than bad of Thanksgivings past. But I always seem to remember that tough things happen on holidays. People are hurting. Others have family who are sick or die. Others have no community and no money. Most of all, many don’t know what real “thanksgiving” is because they have yet to enter a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Be blessed! Know I love each of you.

Best Practices of Sermon Based Small Groups

July 14, 2009

Here’s the second “best practice” of churches that use sermon based small groups.

Relationship Factor Prioritized

Churches that use the SBSG approach make a philosophy shift from prioritizing content to prioritizing relationship building. These churches see discipleship as a process that is not a program. Discipleship is a part of a process of living life close enough to a few other people to make a difference in their lives. In order to properly emphasize the relationship factor, these churches keep the small groups between twelve to fourteen participants. This number allows groups to be large enough to allow some anonymity and small enough to be intimate.

What people need are relationships to go with the content.

Biblical Rationale for Sermon Based Small Groups

June 22, 2009

This is a section in my doctoral dissertation on the biblical proof for the principles or resurfacing a preaching idea in a small group after the message. What do you think?

Extending the Message in Acts

In the early church, the main leader was the pastor. The pastor’s message and ministry were important for the church to accomplish its mission. The pastor, being such a high priority leader, had to live his life above approach. A pastor whose character honored God was respected and heard by his listeners. Christians in the church met in homes for transformational times of discipleship. The last question to consider theologically is what was the method and model of content delivery in the Book of Acts? Is there a correlation between the public messages preached in Acts and what happened after the message in the homes of the Christians in Acts?

The Book of Acts records principles that demonstrate there was a direct link between the public proclamation of the gospel and the personal application in smaller groups after the message. In the Book of Acts proclamation happened in two ways. In the Book of Acts, proclamation was demonstrated through the preaching of the gospel and power healings.

Acts records eight examples of where proclamation took place in a public place or large crowds and then was explained further or applied after the message in a smaller group. Below is a list of the examples. The first list gives direct examples. The second list provides indirect examples. Below both lists is and expanded explanation of the examples. One example in the gospels is provided to show how Jesus used this method at times with his disciples. Another example connects the gospels with Acts.

There are five passages that directly give biblical support for to the use of small groups who studied and applied a previously preached message.

Person Public Proclamation Personal Application

Jesus Luke 8:4-8                        Luke 8:9-15

Parable of the Sower               Parable Explained

Jesus      Matthew 6:33             Acts 1:3-4, 8

Kingdom Assignment                Assignment Explained

Peter      Acts 2:14-36                 Acts 2:37-47

Pentecost Sermon            Response and Application of Sermon

Phili     Acts 8:26-28                 Acts 8:29-40

Ethiopian Reading                     Philip Explains Text, Ethiopian

Scripture After Worship            Saved and Baptized

Paul/Silas   Acts 17:10            Acts 17:11-15

Preaching in Berea                        Examination of Preaching

An examination of the details helps bring the public proclamation and personal application into view more clearly. Jesus spoke the parable of the sower in a crowd of listeners in Luke 8:4-8. He afterward took His followers, the disciples, aside to explain only to them the meaning and application of the parable.

Jesus also spoke the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 in a large crowd. He specifically told His followers to “seek first the kingdom of God…” (Matt 6:33). He often spoke of the kingdom of God in the gospels. After His resurrection, He spent forty days explaining what the kingdom was to the apostles in Acts 1:3-4 and verse 8.

In Acts 2:14-36, Peter preached his first sermon at Pentecost. The purpose of the sermon was evangelistic and the main idea is found in verse 36 conveying the priority that Jesus whom they crucified was both Lord and Christ. After preaching to the crowd, some within the crowd said, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v.37). Peter then, “With many other words…exhorted them…” (v.40). The application of the sermon came when the respondents were baptized and assimilated into the biblical community (Acts 2:32-47).

In Acts 8:26-28, an Ethiopian Eunuch was trying to understand what he heard in the worship service he had just attended. He was pondering Isaiah 53:7-8. His public experience was still influencing him after he left worship. In Acts 8:29-40, God set up a divine appointment for the Eunuch. Philip the evangelist followed God’s leading by going to Gaza to meet with the Eunuch. Upon arrival, Philip explained the text that the Eunuch heard in worship. The Eunuch professed Christ as his Savior and was baptized.

In Acts 17:10-15, there is a record of one of the most direct examples of a sermon idea being studied and applied in a smaller group afterward. In verse 10, Paul and Silas went into a Berean synagogue. Obviously some kind of preaching or teaching happened. After the message given in the synagogue, verse 11 states, “They [the Bereans] received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The results were people professing Christ as Savior. It also caused trouble with those who did not believe. This encounter still mobilized the church to strategize where to make disciples next (v.1-15).

There are four indirect examples of where the principle of small group discipleship is present after a preaching encounter. These examples are not as influential, but are beneficial to the study of small groups and biblical discipleship.

Person Public Proclamation Personal Application

Paul  Acts 13:13-41                                    Acts 13:42-43

Sermon at Antioch Pisidia            Jews and Devout Converts Receive

Explanation of Sermon

Paul   Acts 18:5-6                           Acts 18:7-11

Evangelistic Preaching            Follow up, Discipleship in

In Synagogue  House Next to Synagogue

Apollos  Acts 18:24-26a                        Acts 18:26b-28

Preaching in Ephesus                        Aquilla/Priscilla Explain

More Accurately

Paul  Acts 19:8                                    Acts 19:9-10

Preaching in Synagogue            Application in Hall of Tyrannas

Acts 13:13-41 records a sermon Paul preached at Antioch Pidisia. The purpose of the sermon was to exhort Jews to consider the claims of Christ being the Messiah as true (v.36-41). After the message, the people asked that “these things” (v.42) be proclaimed to them again. Paul and Barnabas spent more time with those who wanted more answers as to what was preached (v.42-43).

In Acts 18:5-6, Paul preached an evangelistic message in a synagogue at Corinth. The message was not well received. Paul left that synagogue saying, “Your blood be on your own heads. I am innocent! From now on I will go to the Gentiles” (v.6). As he left, he went to the home of a man named Titius Justus whose house was next to the synagogue (v.7). Crispus, who heard Paul’s message in the synagogue, became a believer (v.8). Others believed and were baptized (v.8). Paul stayed there for a year and a half developing these new believers.

Acts 18:24a-26a tells of Apollos preaching eloquently in Ephesus. Apollos was a good communicator of the Scriptures. His weakness was that his message was somewhat incomplete because, “…He knew only the baptism of John” (v.25). After the message, Pricilla and Aquilla, having noticed something was missing in his message, took him aside and “…explained to him the way of God more accurately” (v.26).

In Acts 19:8 Paul preached at Ephesus for three months. The content of the message was the kingdom of God. Some at the synagogue became irritated with Paul and his message. Paul left that synagogue only to take some of his disciples with him to the Hall of Tyannas. Paul stayed there two years developing and applying the message of the gospel with the people in the church (v.9-10).

The Book of Acts clearly reveals a pattern of public proclamation that, at times, resurfaces in smaller groups after the message. The proclamation was sometimes preaching and at other times a power healing encounter. The message was extended into peoples’ lives for further explanation and application in various ways. The amount of time the smaller, more personal application took place varied also. Sometimes it was a few days and at other times it was for up to two years. The basic fact is that, at times, a proclamation idea would be the idea that surfaced later for personal discipleship in believers and non-believers lives.

SBC Church Uses Sermon Based Small Groups in Sunday School

May 30, 2009

When I did my research on sermon based small group churches and how they used the approach of resurfacing the sermon in the small group, I found a unique church. Immanuel Baptist Church’s model is below. What do you think of it?

Immanuel Baptist Church

Immanuel Baptist Church (IBC) in Glasgow, Kentucky, uses the SBSG model effectively. Tony Cecil, Senior Pastor leads the church. IBC averages three hundred in worship attendance.[1]  The church uses an on-campus Sunday School model for assimilating members. One exceptional quality about this church is its website. Pastor Cecil’s messages are available online via mp3 download or immediate streaming audio. The SBSG curriculum is available also for learners to download. IBC’s website makes it easy for anyone wanting to stay connected to the pastor’s preaching and their own personal preparation in Bible study. Everything is accessible from the church’s home page.

Pastor Tony Cecil’s responses in his survey are revealing. Pastor Cecil writes the SBSG curriculum at IBC.[2]  The curriculum is entitled “Coordinates.” IBC does not force members to be in a SBSG. Cecil states, “We give our people the option.”[3] Other groups at IBC are only allowed to use previously approved curriculum. Cecil also says the curriculum, “contains substantially more information that I am not able to include in my Sunday morning message.”[4] I confirmed this when I listened to Pastor Cecil’s message online.[5] I read the SBSG lesson[6] and listened to his message afterward. Pastor Cecil’s SBSG curriculum “would better be classified as a more in-depth version”[7] of his message. Cecil’s style of preaching is highly expository and didactic. The sermon I listened to was deductive in form. He does use a “main proposition…[that matches] the main proposition of Coordinates.”[8]

The SBSG curriculum IBC uses is quality. The material looks good. It is appealing to the eye without being too overbearing with graphics. Volume and edition number, and date organizes each lesson. Cecil uses core competencies to help students as a guide to spiritual growth. One of the best features of the curriculum involves the church’s vision statement.[9] It is on every week’s lesson. The vision is also highly visible on the church’s website. The people who use the SBSG curriculum are able to have a sense of connection to the church’s mission in the world through the vision statement.

The curriculum is well written and follows a process. Cecil has good exegesis and references using footnotes. Scripture references are printed in the material. Most of the material is doctrinal at the expense of being practical. When I first read Cecil’s SBSG lesson, I picked up quickly that he was from the reformed tradition. When asked to “describe the process you use in developing your curriculum or questions. What type of questions do you ask? (Knowledge, understanding, application),” here is how Cecil responded:

When I began writing Coordinates (over 2 ½ years ago), I tried to include all three types of questions.  In terms of the knowledge questions, most of what I asked encouraged readers to slow down and observe what the text actually said.  Most questions I asked could be easily answered simply by re-reading the passage.  The “understanding” questions were asked more from a subjective point of view.  For example, “What do you think Paul means . . . .”  Usually after the subjective questions, I answered the question by telling the readers what it was that Paul actually meant.  At the end of the study, I usually asked 3-5 application questions/activities.  These were by far the most difficult to write.  I found many of these in other studies/sermons that I read as I prepared during the week.[10]  

 Cecil’s response reveals he used structure in preparing his material. What I found intriguing was his truthfulness regarding application questions. They were the hardest to produce. Cecil did not state why it was so challenging to produce application questions. I would conclude his approach to preaching might give insight to the challenge. When asked which he focused on more, “knowledge of the passage or application of the passage”[11] Cecil said, “Of course, I try…both. But the majority of my focus surrounds knowledge and understanding. My goal is to correct erroneous thinking surrounding the gospel….”[12] Cecil admitted that he stopped writing and using the discussion questions.[13]

I believe that to be a mistake. Pastor Cecil is a good preacher who provides good doctrine and content. I believe he could have less content in the small groups and could focus on discussion questions alone.

Pastor Cecil and IBC use the SBSG model in a way that most SBSG churches do not. In responding to question seven, “How does this process [SBSG] influence your leadership in equipping small group leaders? What do you see as the small group leader’s function?” he said this:

Our schedule on Sunday mornings is 8:15 Bible Fellowship Groups, 9:30 worship, and 11:00 Bible Fellowship Groups.  All those using Coordinates as their curriculum are in the second hour (11:00 a.m.).  The hope is that people have studied the Coordinates (during the week), heard a message on the passage (9:30 a.m.), and are now ready to interact with the passage as a group.  There is a lot more discussion this way.  At our church we do both Bible Study Fellowships and small groups.  BSFs are lead by teachers.  Small groups are lead by a group leader (not necessarily a teacher).  Small groups, for us anyway, are where our people come together and serve one another through the execution of spiritual gifts.  A BSF is a teaching environment.  I stay in constant contact with the teachers who use Coordinates as their curriculum. I’m aware of any problems they are personally experiencing, and make an effort to equip them on an individual basis.[14] 

 The process for IBC is different because the groups that choose to use SBSG curriculum read the material before the Sunday morning worship experience. Participants then listen to the sermon knowing much of what is coming. Then they discuss the message. Their simple approach is to read it, hear it, and discuss it. Cecil’s approach is to take his members deep with the curriculum before they ever reach the IBC campus.

Pastor Cecil’s leadership with his Bible Study Fellowship leaders is important. He sets the example of modeling the importance of participating in a small group by participating in one himself.[15] He also leads his leaders. He said, “I stay in constant contact with the teachers who use Coordinates as their curriculum. I’m aware of any problems they are personally experiencing, or make an effort to equip them on an individual basis.”[16] As a pastor of a church without a minister of education, Cecil has to lead the Bible Fellowship Leaders so the groups remain healthy. I especially appreciate his mentioning personal involvement with leaders. Cecil also stated leaders will need help in learning how to guide a discussion.[17] At IBC, people immediately go from hearing the sermon to discussing it. This is one reason Cecil says the SBSG model works well with “on campus groups.”[18]

Pastor Cecil sees a great spiritual benefit in using the SBSG model. Pastor Cecil was asked, “How does this process [using the SBSG model] impact the small groups in your church?” Cecil replied, “I’m probably biased, but I see a noticeable difference in the spiritual growth of those who use the process and those who do not…if a person wants to grow spiritually, the process we have developed does a much better job at equipping them than the alternative method that other groups use (study independent from message).”[19] When people participate in the SBSG model, they end up with a “better understanding of the gospel…[and a] greater understanding of the text.”[20] Cecil even provided feedback from a participant in a SBSG. In a letter to Pastor Cecil during pastor appreciation month 2007 a congregant said, “I am finding a total newness in study of the Bible with using Coordinates. You do such a great job typing the subject verses together in a workable learning experience.”[21] Cecil followed up the comment by saying of the man, “He’s doing more than just listening to a message; he’s also studying it himself.”[22]

The SBSG model does have challenges at IBC and for Pastor Cecil. He mentioned three times in the survey that time is a problem for him.[23] Serving a small to medium size church without staff could be a challenge. It is a challenge that can be overcome by good sermon preparation retreats that work months ahead. When asked, “What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn this model?” Cecil was clear. He said, “It’s very difficult to pull off. If you [are] not willing to invest a great deal of time and effort to this task, don’t attempt it.”[24] A second challenge is related to repetition. Cecil says, “Some people hate repetition.”[25] Obviously, some people will not immediately gravitate to the SBSG model.

Pastor Tony Cecil is a scholarly pastor. He knows his business when it comes to the SBSG model. I do believe he points out one of the best results of using the SBSG model. He said the SBSG model allows a pastor “to speak directly to the spiritual needs of the congregation.”[26] Since the pastor’s message is the main message of the church, I tend to agree with Cecil. A pastor should have a venue that speaks into the life of the congregation.

 


[1] Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church: Returning to God’s Process for Making Disciples (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2006), 87.

[2] Tony Cecil, interview by Alan Stoddard, Glasgow, KY, October 7, 2007, question 1.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Tony Cecil, A Glorious Destiny, Immanuel Baptist Church, December 9, 2007, http://www.ibcglasgow.org (accessed September 29, 2008). Go to the “Message Resources” link on the home page.

[6] Tony Cecil, Coordinates: A Glorious Destiny, Immanuel Baptist Church, December 3, 2007, http://www.ibcglasgow.org/ibc/coordinates/120907.pdf (accessed September 29, 2008).

[7] Tony Cecil, interview, question 1.

[8] Ibid.

[9] The church vision statement is “Helping People Become Fully Devoted Followers of Jesus Christ.”

[10] Tony Cecil, interview, question 2.

[11] Ibid., question 3.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., question 7.

[15] Ibid., question 8.

[16] Ibid., question 7.

[17] Ibid., question 12.

[18] Ibid., question 10.

[19] Ibid., question 9.

[20] Ibid., question 4.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., questions 2, 5, and 12.

[24] Ibid., question 12.

[25] Ibid., question 5.

[26] Ibid., question 12.

Rockbridge Seminary: Grow Where You Are Planted

May 12, 2009

The face of seminary training has changed. I got connected with an online seminary a few years ago when a friend of mine started http://www.rockbridgeseminary.org. This is a fully online seminary where students can get quality, relevant equipping that’s affordable and contextual. You don’t have to leave where you serve to get in the educational programs and process. RockbridgeI took the professor orientation and was stunned at the biblical community that was created in our class. I’ve become a social media lover, but the prof class really helped me understand how online learning can actually surpass traditional forms of learning in many ways. 

I’m now leading a course at Rockbridge called, Preaching and Teaching for Life Change.”  We are in week 2 and I’m already excited about what the students are going to learn about communicating the word of God so people will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. If you’re looking to “grow where you’re planted,” then you need to take a look at Rockbridge. They are doing what other seminaries are not doing. The learning environment is streamlined for student learning success, not jumping through hoops with too many assignments that make little difference in the “church of the now.” Now don’t get me wrong. Rockbridge doesn’t give away degrees. This is not online , mail order my degree option. Students are required to do top level work just like any other quality seminary. Rockbridge2

Are you interested in growing? Looking for an alternative to traditional formats for learning? Redeem your time by considering Rockbridge. You won’t be disappointed. And you will be a better disciple and disciple-maker when it’s all said and done.