#sbc2009 Review and Two Post Convention Suggestions

Posted June 27, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: SBC

I’ve attended only 5 SBC events. This was clearly the best one of the five. While there were some really strange motions on Mark Driscoll, and even Danny Akin and Ed Stetzer, the convention was excellent for the following reasons:

1. There were a lot of younger leaders leading and present.

2. The resolution to celebrate the election of President Barack Obama as the first African-American President. From a denomination whose beginning was born out of slavery, this was huge.

3. The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force is in place. The resolution passed and the air of expectation couldn’t have been thicker. I’m excited to be a Southern Baptist. We are a missions driven denomination. When we leave the religious scene, it will be over. Not really, but a lot will be gone.

Problems I had with the #sbc2009 are few but let me point out two that will have to be addressed:

The Race Factor

The GCR Task Force may have been elected too fast. I may be wrong, but there’s not an African-American on the team. Why and how we made that mistake, I don’t have to know. It was probably an oversight. But to not have one on the Task Force is a mistake. African-Americans are one of the fastest growing groups in the SBC. They are the legacy of slaves. We made a commitment to repent in 1995. And I was proud of our convention when she passed the Obama resolution. The resolution was balanced with celebration and affirmation for the President as a man. And it was balanced with a list of what the SBC disagrees with him on. The SBC needs African-Americans. And it’s time to put them up front and to not leave them out. The GCR Task Force is a HUGE move for us.

How can we leave off Black pastors or leaders in our present culture?

I’m sure an African-American will be added to the GCR Task Force. I’ve Twittered Dr. Hunt and Dr. Floyd about the matter. I’m recommending Dr. Hunt switch someone on the Task Force with either, Pastor Fred Luter, Pastor Eric Redmond, or Pastor Dwight McKissic. It’s time to stop pointing fingers in our culture (which is what we’ve been doing for years)  and move to answers. So don’t hear my griping. Hear me giving answers that will help the SBC experience a Great Commission Resurgence. Can you imagine what would happen if many National Baptist Churches joined the SBC?

Second, The Young Leaders Factor

Unless I missed it, there’s not a young leader on the GCR Task Force. I recommend Dr. David Platt be on the team. He obviously made an impact on the convention. Or, I would also suggest Pastor Sam Rainer be on the team. Or another leader. It’s all good. But to not have a young leader on this Task Force will not be as good as if one were on the task force. Our younger leaders are ready to take charge. Let’s give them a shot at it.


Biblical Rationale for Sermon Based Small Groups

Posted June 22, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: Uncategorized

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.

Paul Cho, Larry Osborne, and Sermon Based Small Groups

Posted June 5, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: Sermon-Based Small Groups, Small Groups

What’s a sermon based small group? It’s a group of believers who meet weekly to flesh out the Big Idea of the Sunday morning message. But where did this idea come from? Who is using the sermon based small group model? 

Well, I’ll be posting soon on how the scriptures provide the biblical foundation for sermon based groups. But where did they start in modern culture? Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, Pastor of the Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea used sermon based groups. He didn’t call his groups that. He called them “cell groups.” Nevertheless, he used sermon based groups. These groups were led by women. That was a problem in Korean culture by itself. When starting his cell group ministry, he said:

I could see that she was right (that Cho had to release the women only under his authority to lead), and so that very day I began to write out my sermon notes and distribute them to the cell leaders. I called a meeting of all the leader for every Wednesday, and at the meeting I would distribute the notes and explain them, and tell the women what I wanted them to teach (Cho, Successful Home Cell Groups, 34-35). 

Cho used the lecture lab model as a matter of convenience. I’m not sure how long his church used them. I doubt they were the model they used as a model. In Korea, the church culture was drastically different than the in the West. Cho’s groups were evangelistic groups because of the communal nature of the Korean culture. Larry Osborne has a great chapter in Sticky Church called “Why Cho’s Model Didn’t Work in Your Church?” If you have not read that book, get it asap and read it comparing your disciple making process with the North Coast model. You will be challenged. Larry Osborne is an expert at using sermon based small groups.

How often have you heard a message and thought to yourself, “I wish I could get people to discuss this message so we could internalize it, be motivated in group by it, and actually do what the message challenged us to do?” People are talking about preaching. Why not help them do it in a way that’s not negative, “roast preacher” after the weekend experience? Why not start a few sermon based small groups in your church. Expand your preaching!

Worship Planning and Paricipation

Posted June 4, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: Worship

I love this video and could not resist putting it up at AStodLive. Schweet. What do you think?

WALK with God Today

Posted June 2, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: Walk with God

Here’s notes from my journaling, jotting from my WALK with the Lord this morning. Try the model. You might like it. Devotional Tools

W-Word of God

Gal 1:6-10

A-Attention to Detail

Paul was “astonished” by the thought, fact that some Galatians were turning from the faith to “another gospel; really God Himself. He warns the Galatians that those who preach another gospel are accursed. His bringing the issue up seems to be motivated by God. 

L-Life Application

There will be some in my culture who turn from the gospel. Some will teach another gospel. Christians must not be seduced by  another “better” gospel. They need to know truth and trust it.

K-Keep Close

Pray–“Lord, motivate me to “know” the authentic gospel, not a fake.

Obey–I will take a stand for the gospel in the face of popular cultural gospels.I will seek God’s approval, not man’s.  

SBC Church Uses Sermon Based Small Groups in Sunday School

Posted May 30, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: Uncategorized

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.

Sermon Based Small Groups

Posted May 23, 2009 by pastoralan
Categories: Sermon-Based Small Groups, Small Groups

Well, now  that I’ve finished my doctoral work, it’s time to blog on it some. When I came back from my last residency at Gordon-Conwell, I had no idea what I would write about. I had planned to write on a couple of other possibilities. But, they didn’t work out. I was either going to write on the preaching ministry of EK Bailey, or on the priority of prayer when preaching. For some reason, I got back on the plane without an approved doctoral proposal. SO, on the plane at 30,000 feet the Spirit spoke in a book I was reading: Simple Church by Thom Rainer. In the book, Rainer identified a Southern Baptist Church that used sermon-based small groups in its Sunday School model. It was then that I decided I would do a proposal on researching sermon-based small groups as a valid way to make disciples. 

communityI knew nothing of sermon-based small groups. Serious! Nothing. The topic intrigued me because I not only love hermeneutics and homiletics, but also making disciples. In the end, I learned so much. I became a better disciple and disciple maker. My view of ministry became more focused. I stopped relying on events and programs as the way to hide and not make disciples. I volunteered to teach a Sunday School class, which I didn’t have to do, and started a small group out  of the class. I know for sure I’m making disciples who will in turn be able to make disciples. The journey made me a better leader. 

I’m fully convinced sermon-based small groups are the best way to help believers grow in their faith. This is especially true in our busy, complex culture.

I’m going to begin a series of posts that will explain the journey I took and what I learned in the research. Who did I meet? Where did the sermon-based group start? Who is the Patriarch of the movement? Why are sermon-based groups better than other groups? 

Stay tuned. Let’s take the journey together. Are you making disciples?