42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of May 20-27

Chapter thirteen

How do you picture heaven?  What do you think it will be like?

What do you believe about the rewards spoken of in the Bible?

Make a list of the some of the promises of God you hold on to?

If you don’t have many, why not?

Can you be satisfied with God being the one who knows your acts of service, even though nobody else does?

“We see action.  God sees motive.”  Is this good news or bad news for you?

Are you ever motivated by rewards that could come from God?

Are you more motivated by heavenly rewards or temporal rewards?

Do you feel you are being molded into the image of Christ?  How do you know?

Chapter fourteen

Do you believe unselfish living is an “art”?  Why or why not?  

This book was written nearly 40 years ago.  In what ways have you noticed differences between then and now, as you have read through it?

What does it mean to live from “the inside out”?  The author writes that you are a different kind of person, simply because you started and finished reading this book. What do you think he means by that?

Do you do better at “telling” the Gospel or “showing” the Gospel (the story of Jesus)?

Are you motivated by mercy?

In Matthew 25, Jesus says when we serve others, we are serving Him.  What do you think He means by that?

What does it mean to “lose” your life?

What is a bold act of serving you have thought about doing, but said “no” to?  Why?

How could you serve in our church family better?

How could North Point serve better?

 

Advertisements

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of May 13-20.

Chapter ten

What are some of the “perils” of your work?

What are some ways your ego gets over-inflated?

Why do we have such an unwillingness to admit we struggle?

Does God really protect us from bad things?  How?

Serving is often thankless.  How can that lead to bitterness and depression?

Do you still compare yourself to others?  Why?

Why is it so hard to confront the sin of others?  Why is it a cop out to hide behind our own imperfection?

Why is it important to do things for free?

What are the risks in loving and serving?

What is your motive for serving…really?

Chapter eleven

How would you describe yourself?

How would others describe you?

Are you a gentle person?  Why or why not?

Can servanthood be learned?

What does humility actually look like?

Do you receive as graciously as you give?

Why is it important to receive well and let others serve you?

What do we value about servanthood in the church?

How does serving bring joy?

Chapter twelve

What are some examples of suffering for doing right?

What is your response to the stories of “real life” persecution?  (How does it make you feel?)

How does stress affect you?

How did you score on the stress test?  (pgs. 183-185)

What is the purpose in struggle?  

Why doesn’t God eliminate bad things?

Ugh.

frustratedI don’t write as much as I used to, but I still read dozens of blogs every week…for encouragement, as well as staying current with what’s going on in the world.  It’s part of my daily routine.

A lot of what I read has to do with trends in church ministry and organization, written by some of the biggest of the big dogs in church leadership…book authors, consultants, mega pastors, theologians, church growth “experts”, academics.

Anymore, most days I’m growing a little weary of some of the stuff I’m reading.  

Specifically, I’m really getting tired of hearing about what’s wrong with the church I serve.  I’m tired of reading about what needs to get fixed. I’m tired of being told about the five reasons we’re not growing and the seven steps to breaking the 250 barrier and the nine characteristics of successful church leaders.

Unfortunately, these teachings (and so many others like them) assume some things I don’t necessarily believe to be universally true.

They write as if getting bigger is the goal.  I know of no Kingdom-centered person who denies the priority of spreading the message of hope in Jesus to as many people as possible.  I share a common understanding and commitment to introducing Jesus to the nations. However, I just don’t believe following that mandate and growing large churches means the same thing.

They write as if getting bigger is better.  No model of church size, style, organization, or practice is perfect, or even preferable.  Some people are drawn to crowds. Some people are repelled by them. Both of those groups should be affirmed and encouraged.  Sadly, in our modern church world, only one of those groups is treated with dignity and respect. The other is consistently devalued.  Sometimes blatantly.  Sometimes with subtlety.  Sometimes with a condescending “pat on the head”…

They write as if growth can be reduced to a formula.  My master’s degree is in church growth.  I studied under some of the premier teachers of this school of thought and practice.  I was taught the practices of successful, growing churches could be imitated and that, in time, our growth would be also.  Today, this teaching has been re-packaged  and sold at dozens of yearly church leadership conferences around the country (plus cool bands) for a tidy $2k a pop… or marketed online to small church leaders for a mere $249.  Sheesh.  What kind of small church has that kind of dough laying around?  We’ve got toilets to unplug and signs to fix.  I haven’t believed what I was taught about church growth in graduate school for decades.  Don’t tell anybody.

They write as if everybody would want to be part of a megachurch.  The truth is, everybody doesn’t want to be part of a megachurch.  I am part of a church family full of people who prefer to worship, study, and serve in a smaller environment.  Their reasons for being drawn to smaller are as diverse as those who are drawn to large crowds. And their reasons can be just as godly, just as purposeful (or missional, if you’re hip), just as healthy, and just as valid, as reasons that draw others to something big.  Both have equal value. Both are needed. I’m just growing weary of the self-promoting of big, at the expense of the continual disrespecting of smaller, just because big has a larger platform.

They write as if they know my church family.  Even though these writers and promoters and conference creators are really, really smart, they are unfamiliar with the flow and character of my church family.  They don’t know what makes us tick. They don’t fully understand why many tried the megachurch and found it lacking.  It seems like they don’t understand how this can feel like “home” to many.  They make unfounded assumptions that there is something inherently flawed in a smaller church and, therefore, something flawed with somebody who would choose smaller over bigger.  It’s reflected in the way they write and speak. Although I don’t think it reflects their true heart and motive, I’m still offended by their judgment. I feel like I want to take some of them behind the woodshed…

They write as if my leadership giftedness and philosophy of ministry is deficient.  If I would just follow their “best practices”.  If only I would let them identify my leadership weaknesses.  If only I would ruthlessly evaluate my ministry strategy and organizational structure and adopt their recommendations…I, too, could become a large church…or maybe even a megachurch…pastor.  Well, they are making some assumptions about me, about my experience, about my education and preparation for ministry, about my theology, and about my character that are untrue and unfair. I am not deficient.  My worth as a pastor has never been nor will it ever be connected to expansion.

I could probably go on, but I’ll stop.  These are not sour grapes. This is not the rant of a pastor who fell short and is deflecting.  It’s simply my reality. I served for years in the megachurch world. I know it well. I’ve served in the smaller church world for years.  I know it well, also. Both can be unhealthy. Both can be effective. Both can connect with people the other can’t.

It’s time both got equally affirmed.  

There.  I think I feel better now.

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of May 6-13.

Chapter seven

What is the reputation of religious people today?

How do you describe spiritual poverty?

What is the connection between humility and happiness?

How is spiritual helplessness the foundation of a servant heart?

Contrast weakness and gentleness.

How badly do you want righteousness?

What significant difference will the ideas in this chapter have on my life?

Chapter eight

How do you do with hurting people?  Are you drawn or do you run?

Why is mercy rarely demonstrated?

What does it mean to be real?  To be authentic?

What kinds of masks do you wear?

What are some bad habits do you need to break?

Are you at peace with yourself?

Do you build up others?

Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?

Chapter nine

How are you a keeper of the spring?

Do you think things are getting better or getting worse in the world?

How are you living as “salt” in the world?

How are you living as “light” in the world?

Are you different?  Responsible? Influential?

 

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of April 29-May 6.

Chapter Four

What is the connection between forgiveness and servanthood?

What are some of your takeaways from the story of the man who requested to take the punishment of the men who wronged him?

What have you been taught about the “wrath of God”?

How does God forgiving you, make it possible for you to forgive others?

A true servant doesn’t keep score.  Agree or disagree? Why?

What’s the difference between asking for forgiveness and offering your apology?

What’s the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation?

Is there ever a time to stop offering forgiveness?

How is refusing to forgive hypocritical?

Chapter Five

Is it really possible to forget the offense of another?

What’s the difference between forgetting and overlooking?

Are you confident you have not yet arrived?

Have you forgotten what is behind?

Are you actively moving on to what is ahead?

Is there someone or something you are refusing to forget?  What is the cost?

Are you a victim of self-pity?  What is the cost?

Chapter six

Have you ever been a victim of wrong or unhealthy teaching in a church or small group?

How has your thinking been molded or “squeezed” by the world’s way of thinking?

What are some walls or fortresses that have changed in the ways you think?

Are you ever guilty of blaming others or justifying your actions?  What has been the fallout?

What does it mean (practically) to take every thought captive?

What does it mean for Jesus Christ to take charge of our minds?

Do you find your mind being renewed these days?  How? In what ways?

How are you experiencing the power of God in your life?  What evidence do you see?

What masks of hypocrisy are you wearing?  What kind of help do you need to take them off?

Strength

BodybuildingAs I read about the lives and impact of great men and women throughout the ages, especially great leaders, one of the characteristics they share is the ability to stay focused on the goal…to strip away the things that keep them from achieving their dreams (and the vision of the organization they lead) and forge ahead with single mindedness.

The Apostle Paul apparently lived this kind of life.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1

I’ll let you in on one of my struggles: I have always been told that great leaders, in order to achieve great outcomes, must make difficult decisions where relationships… sometimes significant relationships…are the casualties.

This is obvious in the corporate world. CEO’s are hired for their ability to make strong and swift assessments and are rewarded for their resolve and determination to be decisive when it comes to the success of the organization.

A company that exceeds expectations and rises above the riff raff of mediocrity almost always points to leadership that has had to come in and make the “tough decisions”.

In my experience, that means people are often hurt, relationships are severed, dreams can be squashed, and friendships are sent packing…all for the good of the corporation.

Don’t judge me.  Yet, anyway.

I understand the need. Baseball coaches have to cut players that are not good enough and replace them with better ones if they want to win. Businesses must get rid of poor producers and raise up more successful sales people if they want to turn a profit. Bosses need to be bosses…and employees need to know that their jobs are never safe, just because their superiors are “nice people”.  I get it.  I really do.

But what’s supposed to happen in the church? What are we to do when the workers are late or sloppy or ineffective or careless or thoughtless or inconsiderate or unconcerned?

What are we to do when the product we present is second-rate, simply because people aren’t stepping up to help? What if the ministry we perform is substandard or even harmful to the mission? What if there is disagreement with the direction of the organization or a challenge to the leadership position?

What if, in our effort to fix the problem, people get hurt and relationships get torn and friendships get shattered? What if, in spite of our best effort, decisions result in people moving on…empty, disillusioned, angry, or hurt?

Apparently, a strong leader says there is always acceptable collateral damage, as long as the greater good has been served.  

Yeesh.  I’m definitely not feeling particularly strong these days.  I guess I’ll go to the gym tomorrow.

42 Days…study questions

42 Days Announce Slide(For those of you outside my church family, here’s a note of explanation:  We are currently doing men’s groups called 42 Days.  It’s a six-week commitment of meeting together, daily Bible reading, and reading a book.  During this time of 42 Days, we are reading an old classic, Improving Your Serve, by Chuck Swindoll.  I will be posting our weekly study questions here on my blog.  Feel free to buy the book and study along with us!)

Reading assignment and questions for week of April 22-29.

Chapter 2

Re-read the story on page 16.  How have you been guilty of buying $3 worth of God?

What were/are your dreams for success?

Read 1 Peter 5:5-7.  Who are the people you respect and turn to for wisdom?  How do you struggle with humility? What are some things you worry about?

What’s the difference between self-esteem and selfishness?

What do you learn about yourself from the story of Adam and Eve?

Page 22.  How are you guilty of being dogmatic?  Judging? Argumentative? Stubborn?

How do you define unselfishness?

On page 27, four characteristics are contrasted.  Evaluate yourself on all four (getter/giver…grudge holder/forgiver…scorekeeper/forgetter…superstar/servant)

Chapter 3

On pages 29-30, Swindoll lists a number of different philosophies.  Which of those philosophies have influenced the way you live your life the most?

Do you truly care for people around you?  How do they know it?

Do you struggle with competitive tendencies?  In what ways?

Which of the passages on pages 31 and 32 challenge your thinking the most?  Why?

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 again.

How do you feel about the command to give and serve anonymously?

Are you a generous person?  In what ways? If not, why not?

Do you generally serve and give without being asked?  What needs to change?

What is your faith “costing” you?

Are you really serious about being a follower of Jesus?  What is holding you back?