Thursday, July 31, 2014
Isolated. Alone. Distanced. Friendless.
We all know at some level the pain of these words and can sense that the epidemic of loneliness and relational distance in our culture is not the way things are supposed to be. Many of us have more acquaintances and fewer true friends than ever before. And thanks to the Fall, distrust and distance come more naturally to us than the vulnerability and intimacy for which we were designed. One of the reasons we recognize this dysfunctional reality is that God created us in his image for community. The Triune God, who from eternity past existed in relationship (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), designed people to work the same way. We were created to know and be known, to serve and be served, to love and be loved.
Because he created us for relationship, this emphasis is part of God’s redemption, too. God doesn’t save us by ourselves; from the beginning he was pursuing a people and calling them into a “church,” a body made up of many parts (I Corinthians 12). Likewise, God doesn’t send us on mission to share the good news with others by ourselves; from the beginning Jesus was sending his followers in pairs to preach the gospel in word and deed (Luke 10:1).
So, relationships are vital – not only for us but also for the advancement of God’s kingdom. God roots us in relationships so that we bear fruit both among ourselves and beyond ourselves. As the roots of our relationships go deeper, the fruit of these relationships in our own lives and the lives of others increases.
That’s true not only in our relationships with other church members but also in our relationships with God and everyone else around us. That’s why at Southwood we say that small groups are about relationships – three key relationships, in fact: relationships with each other, with God, and with our neighbors.
Small groups are not so much a program we want people involved in as they are a way of life for which God designed us. Because we are in the “broken but being restored” stage of God’s work, these three relationships are not always easy and beautiful all the time in every small group. But they are vital to our being the kind of people God has created us to be and the kind of church he has called us to be – one that experiences his grace together and expresses it to everyone. I don’t want our small group leaders to hear these 3 key relationships and think of something canned/contrived to support a ministry; rather, I want us to think of the most natural and beautiful things God created us for that we want to organize into small groups to facilitate! Be reminded as we prepare to launch another year of small groups that what you are investing in is not helping to make some church ministry succeed for its own sake but is actually helping you function as the person and us function as the church that God has created us to be!
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You'll find most of my recommended books available in the Guest Center at Southwood.
You Can Change
How do we mortify sin? How do we address the sin in our lives that reignite like a trick birthday candle we thought we had already blown out of our lives? This is a careful and thoroughly theological book that is hopeful without avoiding honesty. It is practical without being legalistic. It gets to the root of the sinful areas of our lives without offering a prescriptive regimen to hide behind avoiding the grace that has the only true power to teach “us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the 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 wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:11-14
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making
Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp
Small groups would be easy if weren’t for the people in the group! This book will help equip you to see your own sin first and provide the courage and humility to address it in others.
The Heart of a Servant Leader
This is a collection of letters written by Jack Miller to people experiencing real-life concerns and struggles. Through these gracious and honest letters you will learn how to humbly offer to others (and yourself!) hope, repentance, and courage that flows from the truth of the gospel of grace. Though this isn’t a “how to” book full of nifty steps to Your Best Gospel Life Now. It’s a glimpse into the heart of a person who has found food at the Cross, and you watch (and learn) as he humbly points others to the feast.
Comforts From The Cross
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
This 31 day devotional will bring you to the foot of the cross to remember and celebrate the truth of the gospel of grace, and develop skills that will help “inform, free, gladden, and enliven your soul every day.” Becoming proficient in applying the Gospel of grace to our own hearts is a key skill that is well worth our effort to develop.
- Christ PCA - Nashville
Scott Sauls and CPC Staff
Listen to sermons from Senior Pastor Scott Sauls and other CPC pastors at a sister church.
- Lookout Mountain PCA
Joe Novenson and LMPC Staff
Check out sermons by Senior Pastor Joe Novenson and other LMPC pastors at a sister church.
- Steve Brown Etc.
Steve Brown’s unique blend of orthodoxy and controversy, humor and profundity, and a refusal to play religious games will give you permission you have needed to stop being so uptight. And even if it’s for 30 minutes, you just might experience radical freedom, infectious joy and maybe even a bit of surprising faithfulness.
- Tim Chester: reformed spirituality and missional church
Tim has an incredible way of applying the Gospel of grace that is both practical and honest with a consistent skillful affinity to point us to Jesus. He is director of The Porterbrook Institute; a church planter with The Crowded House in Sheffield, UK; and the author of over a dozen books including Total Church and You Can Change.
- Of First Importance
Living Each Day in the Good of The Gospel
Here you will find a growing collection of gospel-centered quotes to help reorient your thoughts toward the splendor and grandeur of the person and work of Jesus.