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Aligning Your Church and Planning for Small Group Study

We recently held the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” In the first webinar, “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” author of the Christian Life Trilogy, The Rev. Charlie Holt discussed the importance of aligning a whole church with small group Bible study and how to plan for a small group campaign. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

What do we mean by alignment?

A church-wide study, bringing into union all the different ministries and life of the church. The Crucified Life, The Resurrected Life and The Spirit-Filled Life are written to correlate with the Lenten Season, which is before Easter Day, then Easter Season, and then after Pentecost Day, which is 50 days after Easter.

Why is alignment important?

If we do this study in alignment with the regular pattern of the Christian year, it makes tremendous sense to the people who are going through the study. Allowing for deeper exploration and discussion of themes touched on in large group gatherings. Also, by following the Christian year, there is an opportunity for the whole congregation to work through the heart of the Gospel together at the heart of the Church year.

small group Bible study

3 Steps to Building Our Community

Obtaining 100% congregational involvement and building small groups require planning. Now is the time to begin planning for a Lenten campaign and study! Think about this in three ways:

1.       Build Your Leadership Team

Build the team that would focus on doing The Christian Life Trilogy as a church-wide study. Set your goals and make your plans.

2.       Recruit Small Group Hosts and Facilitators – H. O. S. T.

Use this acronym when deciding the right hosts and facilitators to recruit for your small groups:

Heart for other people

Open your home

Serve something simple

Tell a few friends!

3.       Invite Small Group Members

Have the hosts encourage and invite friends from the different parts of their life to join the small group discipleship. Remember that everyone already has small groups in their lives, people with whom they would like to spend more time and become greater disciples of the Lord.

Small Group Bible StudyYour Launch Timeline

Follow this timeline to plan your campaign. This is the optimum timeline to organize and plan for a launch date on Forgiveness Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.

Leadership Team: November – December

Build your leadership team, and have meetings with this team. Make sure your leadership team is your “A-Team.” If you are working toward 100% congregational involvement, put your best people on this projects. The leadership team should be very involved and invested in the life of the church, and a voice of the church.

  • Senior Pastor/Leadership Onboarding
    • Campaign Director
    • Prayer team coordinator
    • Small Group team coordinator
    • Communications team coordinator
  • Set God-sized Goals and Plan
Small Group Hosts: December – January

One thing you can do is use Christmas Eve to recruit hosts and members. Promote your small groups while you promote your Christmas Eve service. This is the perfect time to give people a next step in growing their relationship with God. This will help grow your church’s membership involvement throughout the year.

  • Order Curriculum
  • Sneak Peek for Existing Hosts
Small Group Members: January – February

Having a connection event to help small group hosts to recruit their small group participants. This gives your whole church an opportunity to participate without leaving anyone out.

  • Build Anticipation Christmas Eve!
  • Connection Event
LAUNCH DATE:

Forgiveness Sunday, February 11, 2018

 

Creating Your Goal and Making it Exponential!

small group Bible study

As a leadership team, setting goals are important to get 100% involvement. When you are considering how many small group hosts you need, be sure to consider the number of groups you will need. Start by considering how many people come to church on a Sunday. If you have 100 people on average for weekend attendance, divide that by 10 people in each small group, and you would need to have 10 small groups with 10 group hosts. Even for small churches it is very accessible when you look at it this way.

Experienced in small group ministry and instructing how to create successful small group ministries, Rick Warren says, “You can structure for control or for growth but you can’t do both.” One reason people don’t like to use small group campaigns is because they fear the loss of control. They want to manage the environment by keeping things at the church location and having one teacher. Doing small groups you lose this ability to control by inviting lots of people to get involved. You don’t know where those small groups are going to be, but the more people that get involved, the more growth you will see. Making small groups worth the loss of control.

small group Bible study

Pastor or Priest Engagement

If you are going to have a church-wide campaign, it is critically important to receive the support of the senior pastor, priest, or rector of the church. If you need help with getting your pastor interested in small group Bible study, Rev. Holt is happy to help. Please feel free to reach out to him, and he will work with you and your pastor to discuss engagement. Contact Rev. Holt Here.

What is your pastor interested in?

Having a hard time getting your pastor onboard for your envisioned campaign? Sometimes there are barriers. When you are casting vision to your pastor, think about the things they are interested in.

  • Increased connection (Pastoral/Fellowship need)
  • Increased spiritual growth (Discipleship need)
  • Increased attendance (Worship need)
  • Increased serving (Ministry need)
  • Increased giving (Stewardship need)

All are results of SMALL GROUPS!

How Do I Reach My God-Sized Goal?

  • Plan a Launch: Crucified Life in Lent 2018
  • Recruit Your Campaign Team – NOW
  • Set Your Goal – with your leadership team
  • Recruit your Small Group Hosts – Dec/Jan
  • Connect Your Congregation into Groups – Jan/Feb
  • Coach Your Hosts for Success – Ongoing

If you would like to join in our next webinar of the series, to pose your questions and receive feedback, register here:
small group Bible study webinar series

Remember we want to help you strive in your study of the Lord. Bible Study Media is here to guide you to a successful church-wide campaign. If you have any questions or concerns about getting your small group campaign off the ground, please reach out to us. Learn more about the themes of study in The Christian Life Trilogy from our recent post: The Things of First Importance.

small group Bible study

The Things of First Importance

We recently held the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” The first webinar is titled, “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” In the webinar, The Rev. Charlie Holt, author of the Christian Life Trilogy, discussed the importance of small group Bible study and how The Christian Life Trilogy will aid in transformation, growth and friendship. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

small group Bible study

The things of first importance are the foundation of The Christian Life Trilogy, following the Heart of the Gospel. Paul tells us that the most important news is the death of Jesus Christ and His rising to new life. The pattern of the Christian life is one of dying to self with Jesus, in order that we might be raised by him and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Christian Life Trilogy is a transformational process focusing on the things of most importance.

The Heart of the Gospel:
  • Jesus Crucified
  • Jesus Resurrected
  • Jesus Ascension and Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Small Group Bible Study

The Crucified Life

Luke 9:23

small group Bible study

Our call to discipleship is to walk the way of the Cross, which means dying to self. This is the place it must begin, as dark as it might seem. You cannot be reborn until you have taken up the cross and died to self with Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” We resist change, because it involves losing something, but change also brings growth and new beginning. “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort,” Dr. Brené Brown says. “You cannot have both.” The Christian life is not going to be a comfortable life, it will involve change and aspects of ourselves that will be lost. But we will work to become the new thing that God would have us to become.

7 Words from the Cross

The seven last words of Jesus are the process that leads us to surrendering our lives to Jesus. Through the seven weeks of The Crucified Life you will better understand this process. Beginning with forgiveness, we will study through salvation, the relationships we all have, the distress of temptations of our flesh nature, with abandonment we think about external problems, challenges and suffering in life. Ultimately, we move to a place where we are working toward surrendering our lives to God, leading to the finish line of triumph.

Forgiveness
Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Salvation
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
Relationship
Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
Distress
I thirst.
Abandonment
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Reunion
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.
Triumph
It is finished.

 

The Resurrected Life

Revelation 21:5

small group Bible study

The other side of transformation is the Lord making all things new. The Risen Lord can make all things new once we have surrendered our lives to God, as he did for us. To surrender, we must overcome our worldly doubts and fears. We must let go and allow God to lead us in this new life.

Making All Things New

What becomes new with the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? He wants to give us a new life, a new temple, a new body, a new covenant, a new creation, a new day. We experience these themes as we work through the scripture study each week. Gaining understanding of what becomes new and how this newness applies to our lives as we follow Jesus in The Resurrected Life.

All Things New
Overcome Doubt and Fear
New Life
Letting Go and Letting God
New Temple
Inviting God’s Presence
New Body
Manifesting Jesus
New Covenant
Experiencing Resurrection Power
New Creation
Stewarding the Good News
New Day
Living in the “Now” but “Not Yet”

 

The Spirit-Filled Life

Ephesians 3:14-19

small group Bible study

All the Fullness of God

Ultimately, the plan of God is that we might be filled with the fullness of God through the Holy Spirit. So, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? This begins with the baptism through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, after which we are adopted as children of God. The Holy Spirit works in our lives and our hearts to transform us internally, like a butterfly from a caterpillar. Manifesting the fruit of God through love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. The Holy Spirit equips us with the gifts we use in the service of God’s kingdom. The Spirit of God empowers us to do amazing things, with more power than we have on our own. And through this learning and growth we become God’s anointed Christian people.

We have had over 200 congregations in 8 different countries go through these studies. One thing we hear the most is that The Spirit-Filled Life is their favorite study, of course it is! This is the study in which we are fully engaging in the Christian Life and closest to the fullness of God. But you cannot get to The Spirit-Filled Life unless you walk the way of the cross and experience that ever important death of self.

Baptized
The Outpouring of the Spirit
Adopted
The Calling of the Spirit
Transformed
The Fruit of the Spirit
Equipped
The Gift of the Spirit
Empowered
The Work of the Spirit
Anointed
The Mission of the Spirit

If you want to be part of the upcoming webinars of this series, please register here:


small group Bible study webinar series

Now that you have learned more about the themes of The Christian Life Trilogy, try a free sample to get a taste of the transformation. If you haven’t already, check out our recent post about small group study in early Christianity and the benefits of developing small groups: here. Next, we will go over the importance of church-wide study and how to plan your small group campaign. If you have more questions about The Christian Life Trilogy, please get in touch.

small group Bible study

 

Small Group Bible Study and It’s Importance in Early Christianity and Today

Last week began the first webinar of this season’s series, “The Keys to a Successful Small Group Campaign.” Author of the Christian Life Trilogy, The Rev. Charlie Holt discussed “What is a Christian Life Trilogy Campaign & What Does Small Group Bible Study Look Like?” In the webinar Rev. Holt talked about the importance of small group Bible study throughout scripture and early Christianity, and how it helps us further our transformation. To check out the video of the webinar, click here!

Acts 2:42-47

Acts 2:42-47

These were the practices of the early Christians, the people who had just devoted their lives to Jesus. As a new church they were committed to:

  • Spending time together, devoting themselves the apostles’ teaching in the study of the scriptures.
  • Fellowship, gathering together.
  • Breaking bread together, meeting in each other’s homes to share in communion.
  • Prayer!

Small Group Bible Study

A main observance in the early church was to congregate in the temple courts and then gather in small groups, in homes to continue in the fellowship of the Lord. Early Christians used these small group gatherings to praise God and enjoy each other’s presence. A critical component since the beginning of the founding of the church. And as they did that, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved!”

We all have a small group!

We all have a small group

Friends, Family, Fellowship, Fun, and Firm!

Who are people you would love to spend a little more time with, in your home, reflecting on the Christian Faith and Christian Life and do life together with. Maybe you could list out the people you would like to bring together. We all have people we would like to know better, and spend more time with. Gathering to study scripture is a great way to deepen relationships with each other and God. You might be surprised how much a small group can build into a great bond.

Story of Mary and Martha

Open your home to Jesus and Small Group Bible Study

Martha opened her home to Jesus, in the same way we would open our homes to a small group Bible study. Martha was frustrated with her sister, Mary, because she wasn’t helping her to prepare. However, Mary was focusing the thing we should all focus on in small group study, listening to and learning from the Lord. We can get wrapped up in the details and preparations, becoming distracted from our discipleship. We think we must entertain the people we wish to gather with, this can be discouraging and cause us to refuse to open our homes.  You need not “entertain,” for everyone who has joined you wants to learn more from the scriptures, grow through discussion, and spend time together. If you get too distracted, it will take away from the growth you and your group can achieve together. Remember to keep things simple, prepare lightly, and focus on the fellowship and study. When Rev. Holt and his wife host small group studies, they will often present water and maybe a simple tray of cheese and crackers. This is all you need to prepare your home for a wonderful study among people who share the same love for Christ.

The Great Commision

Matthew 28:18-20

Make disciples of all nations

Jesus tells us to make disciples of all nations, which is part of the reason it is so important to have small group study. This is the way Jesus built his following, he gathered a group of 12 people, spent time with them, did life with them, and over time they were able to learn and grow through him. He invites us to use the same model. And as we do this, He promises to be with us, always.

Why We Need Small Groups

Creating small groups, outside of large group gatherings, helps to build discipleship and greater connection with the Body of Christ. Small groups lead to intimate discussion and deeper fellowship, as we get to know one another. As a church gets bigger, you must get small. Meeting in homes is a great way to do that!

What is the Benefit of Small Group Bible Study?

transformational small group Bible study

Small groups lead to transformation. Building intimate friendships, learning about faith, becoming a people of prayer and study, and connecting to God.

  • Increased participation and connection with one another.
  • Increase in spiritual growth. Friendships grow as we begin to speak love and truths to one another.
  • Increase attendance. You start to look forward to worshipping in a large group, even more, with the friends you’ve made in a small group.
  • Increase in serving. Small groups create an outlet for ministry, planning and serving the community together.
  • Increase in giving. Teaches us how to be unselfish people, leading to a more generous life modeled through transformation with the help of your small group friendships.

If you want to be involved in the next webinar of the series, register here

small group Bible study webinar series

We will be following this blog with two new updates related to the webinar. Next we will cover “The Things of First Importance,” this will go into further detail about the themes of The Christian Life Trilogy and the transformation brought on by the in-depth study. Followed by “Aligning Your Church and Planning for Small Group Study,” where we will help you understand the importance of aligning the study of your church and how to organize your small group campaign in time for the Lenten Season. If you have more questions about the benefits and purpose of small group Bible study, please reach out to us.

Learn more about small group campaigns

The Spirit-Filled Life Daily Devotional

We at Bible Study Media want you to experience the glory of the Holy Spirit. Reverend Charlie Holt created the The Spirit-Filled Life to invite others to come under the Kingdom of God by first being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. During this six-week study, you will explore how God’s will for you is to baptize, adopt, transform, equip, empower, and anoint you by, with, in, and through the Holy Spirit.

Read the first day’s study of The Spirit-Filled Life and remember: When God calls us to wait and simply trust without knowing what’s next, prayer is always a good choice. So devote yourself to prayer; pray for patience and wait upon to Lord.

Excerpt from Day 1 Devotional
Setting the Stage

READ ACTS 1:12-26

Have you received your gift yet?

That may sound like copy from an infomercial, but I’m actually talking about something very real and very important—the gift Jesus Christ promised His followers. You will remember that after Jesus rose from the grave, He astonished His disciples by appearing to them over a period of forty days in various places. Then, on the fortieth day, He assembled His disciples atop the Mount of Olives and instructed them to go to Jerusalem and wait. What were they were supposed to wait for? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit!

As Jesus explained to them, “…John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).

But before we talk about the Spirit’s momentous arrival on the Day of Pentecost, I want to set the stage for you.

The first time we read about baptism in the New Testament is actually when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist (“John, the Baptizer”) before He began His earthly ministry. At this moment, when Jesus was talking with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, He was assuring them that they, too, would be baptized, only with the Holy Spirit.

The disciples responded to Jesus’ words with a question, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

At first, this question seems rather “off-topic,” no? In one sense, it definitely was. But in another, it was perfectly natural. Jesus had just proven Himself the Son of God by rising from the dead. The disciples were excited. Jesus was back, alive! But no sooner was He back than He was talking about going away again. They were not so excited about this. And they were confused.

If Jesus really was planning to leave again, they wanted to know one important thing first: Did He plan to reunite the kingdom of Israel before He went? Would He restore their nation to the center of world power and domination as they’d been hoping? Jesus answered this way:

“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed
by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:7-8

Imagine the bewilderment of the disciples! Jesus refused to tell them anything about restoring the kingdom to Israel. Instead, He uttered some mysterious words about being baptized by the Spirit. Then He promptly disappeared into the clouds. “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

To add to the confusion, two men dressed in white appeared beside the disciples and asked, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Wow. That’s a lot to take in. So, what did the disciples do?

They returned to Jerusalem. Makes sense. They went back to their base, and to where Jesus had directed them to go. What did they do when they got there? “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

So far, so good. The disciples obeyed Jesus by going back to Jerusalem and devoting themselves to prayer. When God calls us to wait and simply trust without knowing what’s next, prayer is always a good choice.

But then, all that waiting and praying started to get old. Sound familiar? Peter—the disciple known for his impetuous spirit—wanted to do something, not just sit around and pray. What did Peter suggest?

Well, you will remember that the disciples were now down to eleven after the suicide of Judas. Don’t we need twelve? thought Peter. So he convinced the others that they needed to replace Judas and fill the empty spot.

They found some good men, cast some lots, and came up with Matthias as the “replacement” disciple. Now, here’s a question: When did Jesus ask the disciples to replace Judas?

He didn’t.

I think the reason this story of Matthias is included in Scripture is to caution us about taking things into our own hands when the Lord’s timing seems a bit slow for us. We rush ahead instead of waiting on God’s guidance and provision. You see, there actually was a replacement disciple—but it wasn’t Matthias.

Interestingly, we never hear of Matthias again in the Scriptures. Who do we read about instead, throughout the entire book of Acts? Who became the famous apostle who wrote much of the rest of the New Testament? The Apostle Paul. Isn’t that interesting? The disciples used a game of luck, casting lots to choose Matthias, when God had somebody waiting in the wings, soon to be called through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we jump into a decision when the answer is soon to be presented to us. I’ve done that many times. Have you? We try to solve our own problems when the Lord has a solution, and if we just wait a little bit longer, we will discover it!

The Spirit-Filled Life

Quiz: Are You Cut Out To Be a Small Group Host?

One of the top comments Church Leaders hear when encouraging church members to be small group leaders is: “Are you sure I’m who you want? I don’t think I’d be good at this at all.” The answer lies within the results of this simple quiz you can take (or send to your parishioners) to help potential Small Group Leaders discern if they’d be successful in the role.

So… are you cut out to be a Small Group host? Take this quiz to find out:

  1. Do you care about others?
  2. Do you have/know of a space where a group of people could meet in front of a television?
  3. Do you have access to water and snacks?
  4. Can you turn on a DVD player and press ‘play’?

If you answered “yes” to these questions… then you meet the four HOST qualifications:

H – Heart for others
O – Open your home
S – Serve basic refreshments
T – Turn on your DVD player

Many potential hosts are concerned about the things that Martha would’ve been concerned about in Luke 1o:

“My home isn’t tidy enough!”
“I’ll need to make a big meal for everyone!”
“I won’t have enough help!”

Jesus answers all of those fears: My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her(Luke 10:41-42, NLT).

As a Small Group Host, your ultimate job is the same as the one the Lord designed for both Mary and Martha: humbly provide a place for all (yourself included) to sit at the feet of Jesus in a spirit of worship and learning.

If you’re still not sure, consider this: Jesus entered the world in a barn. He sat upon a donkey as He entered Jerusalem. He always valued relational communion with God and community over pomp and grandeur. Why should your Small Group be any different?

Knowing all this, here’s your Pop Quiz Bonus Question: Is He calling you?

If you’ve decided to host a Small Group, but aren’t sure where to go next, check out our library of Small Group Leader Webinars, or see if The Christian Life Trilogy might be the perfect study to begin with your Small Group!

Small Group Host Webinar Series

Whether you’ve been a Small Group Leader for years or are still considering whether or not hosting a Small Group is right for you, our Webinar Series on hosting small groups will have something that will make you look at the role in a new way. Below, find links to summaries and videos of all the webinars we conducted last year in order to help hosts and leaders make the most of their groups.

Topic 1: Why are Small Groups Important? How Can I be a Great Leader?

Topic 2: Growing Your Small Group

Topic 3: 8 Goals to Increase the Effectiveness of Your Small Group

Topic 4: 5 Key Elements of a Healthy Small Group

Topic 5: Top 5 Small Group Challenges (And How to Solve Them)

Topic 6: Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Group Into Many

What’s next? 
Looking for a study to keep your group members engaged? The Christian Life Trilogy has 20 weeks of consecutive studies and Small Group material to help members connect with each other and grow deeper in relationship with the Lord. 

How An All-Inclusive Study Benefits Your Church

It happens in every church—different ministries send members in different directions over time. While the youth may have one focus during Sunday school and another on Wednesday evenings, the adults could be deep in a sermon series as well as their own small group studies throughout the week. On the surface, we accept that this is “just the way it is” …but what if the routine was disrupted? An all-inclusive church-wide study might be just how God plans to bring your congregation closer together—here’s how:

1. It helps the congregation focus.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12

As members of the Body of Christ, we’re all pulled in different directions, as our God-given gifts lead us. It’s wonderful, but just as we each need to allow our physical bodies to come to complete peace and healing from time to time, the Body of Christ needs to do the same. An all-inclusive church-wide study provides just such an opportunity—each spiritual gift can have a place in the planning and execution of the study, but each member of a church ought to participate, as well, providing a spiritually reviving experience for the entire church family.

2. It brings the entire church into a discussion of faith.

Cross-generational spiritual conversation is often lost in today’s culture. The advent of technology has been a blessing (providing the ability to reading the Bible from an app and then sharing the Word with thousands of people across social media channels), but it’s also led to a tendency to draw inward instead of connecting with those (physically) around us. This phenomenon isn’t isolated to younger generations, either—we all feel the pull of the smartphone glow from time to time—but an all-inclusive church-wide study helps to provide the foundation for intergenerational reconnection. The opportunity for children and adults to study the same topics (at levels that match their maturity) is one that fosters discussion, bonding, and spiritual growth among the entire Body of Christ.

3. It concentrates energy and time around key learnings.

While there is a time for multiple studies to take place within a church, a continuous segmentation can lead to a church body that is not fully connected or focused. Multiple competing efforts can diffuse enthusiasm (instead of inspiring it). An all-inclusive church-wide study provides an opportunity for the entire congregation to be on the same page and can lead to more overall support, participation, and excitement for the study.

See how you can engage your entire church with an all-inclusive study today–preview The Crucified Life and The Cross Walk to learn how they can be the right fit for your congregation!

How To: Plan an Impactful Church-Wide Study for Fall

There’s something about the blistering heat of mid-summer that makes me think about planning for autumn. Stay with me, here: I step outside into what I can only describe as “sunburn as I walk to the car” weather and yearn for the crispness of fall, which makes me think about my church’s vision for the back-to-school season.

This reminds me that now is the ideal time to plan an impactful church-wide study to bring your congregation renewal and growth for the fall. I’ve seen the effect a powerful study can have on a church during the transitional time between summer breaks and the winter holidays—here’s how you can use this time to prepare for a successful Autumn Church-Wide Study:

1. Have a vision.
How do you want to implement the study? Do you have small groups that need to be rallied after a summer off? Do you want to begin a small group ministry with this study as the catalyst? (If so, check out our Small Group Ministry Resources.) Do you want to invite the communities surrounding the church to join in the study? Having answers to those questions will help you create your big-picture vision for the next few months.

2. Build a team.
Once you have your vision, consider the church members who will be the best leaders to make the vision bear fruit. These may not always be your “go-to” leaders. If you want different results than those of previous church ventures, a different team may be what you need. Be judicious and prayerful in your choices.

3. Set the goals and objectives with your team.
Once you have the team God designates for you, share your vision with them together. Begin to brainstorm on the goals that, when met, will result in the vision being fulfilled. Make a step-by-step plan to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Develop a leadership structure to mobilize the entire congregation.
Each member of your team should create their own team to mobilize and involve your church members. These tend to be the most necessary teams to create a strong, successful church-wide fall study: Prayer team, Communication Team, Small Group Coaching Team, Administration Team, and a Worship Planning Team.

5. Give yourself time to mobilize the congregation.
There’s a reason why you want to begin NOW, instead of in a few weeks. It takes time to build the right team, plan your strategy, and mobilize the congregation. An ideal timeline looks something like this:

  • 8-10 weeks out build the leadership team
  • 6-8 weeks out recruit your small group hosts and leaders
  • 2-4 weeks out recruit participants.

But even if you don’t have this much time, start NOW for the groups you want to launch at the end of September. The Spirit-Filled Life is the ideal Autumn Church-Wide Studypreview a sample today, or order your Campaign Kit to get your study off the ground!

The Power of Alignment: Preparing for an Unforgettable Lent

This blog series explores the impact and long-term growth your church can experience through an intentionally aligned, church-wide small group study. Today’s post focuses on the impact of aligning every part of a church’s Lenten programming to engage a congregation in every way. This is the first post from the series: The Power of Alignment in Your Church.

The goal of alignment is simple: engage a flock of growing parishioners to do more than just attend services, instead energizing the church through their deepening spiritual passion and unity. By aligning your congregation with Individual, Group, and Service participation, you encourage different levels of connection that lead your church closer to the throne of Grace.

But what, exactly, does that alignment look like? Here’s a sample of a Day in the Life of an aligned church:

Daily Devotion: If each member is reading The Crucified Life as a personal daily devotional, they’re already engaging on a personal level with the idea of picking up their Cross and following Christ. Here’s an example: Day 8 of The Crucified Life

Small Groups: Each weekly meeting of a Small Group will act as a hub for discussion and engagement regarding the daily devotions. As the small groups are meeting, God will be doing amazing work in the lives of the members of your congregation; that work must find expression and manifest corporately in word and sacrament, in spirit and truth. Ultimately, this campaign is about transitioning people–getting them connected to God through connection with each other. This transition is accomplished through the use of small groups following the model of Acts 2:46-47:

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Youth Engagement: This plan is one that engages every member of your congregation, including young people. With The Cross Walk, the youth of your church can connect with their family members and friends as they, too, learn to walk in the way of the Cross with lessons that mirror the adult ministry. Take a look at the second week’s lessons to see the similarities across the board with the other content: Week 2 of The Cross Walk.

Weekend Services: The worship services during the campaign are powerful times that can harmonize the many elements of the campign and underscore the curriculum in a memorable manner. Through the use of several tools designed specifically for The Crucified Life campaign, your services will become the time when the power of alignment is on full display, synthesizing the entire campaign for your congregation.

Beginning or Improving Your Small Group Ministry: Catalyze a Movement

In addition to discipleship and personal life transformation, launching a small group movement can build an increased sense of community among your congregation. Starting a small group movement can jump-start the sense of connection between church members. As a result, you can more effectively reach your community through the now deeper-connected members of your church. We recommend the following progression for accomplishing just that:

1. First, connect your church members to small groups. Launching new groups and connecting your church members to these small groups is a high priority. One way to get more new groups to begin meeting is through a campaign–aligning a church-wide curriculum with the weekly sermons and encouraging participation in the study. The alignment provides incentive for the congregation to study the Senior Pastor’s message more fully in their small groups and Sunday School classes. It provides an opportunity for the Senior Pastor to ask for people to host a new small group or lead a Sunday School class so that everyone can get connected. New group hosts and leaders can attract unconnected people they already know to be a part of their group–their family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others they meet on occasion.

2. Second, connect church attendees to small groups. Here, church attendees who are unconnected to others in the church can get connected. New group hosts and Sunday School leaders are recruited from the church membership to form new groups that will include people who respond to the “ask” during the weekly sermon–the “ask” for who would like to be part of a Small Group. Members of existing small groups can launch their own group for the Christian Life Trilogy.

3. Finally, connect your small groups to the community. New groups and current groups are encouraged to reach out to people outside the church in their neighborhoods, workplaces, etc. that they may or may not know well. New small group hosts are encouraged to hold a social event with a few family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or other to pray about who they can ask to join their group, making lists, writing postcards, or calling with a personal invitation to join the group.

Ready to take the next step and lead your small group movement to the foot of the cross? Join thousands of others in picking up your cross and following Jesus into a Resurrected and Spirit-Filled life  with the Christian Life Trilogy. Order your Campaign Kit today or click the link below to read an excerpt!

Preview the Christian Life Trilogy!

Living Hope

It is the prayer of everyone at Bible Study Media that relationships are reconciled and hearts return to the foot of the Cross in the post-election season. In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing thoughts and devotions that we pray will facilitate that goal. Today’s devotion on hope and the purpose of moments of refining is from week two of The Resurrected Life.

In exploring our new life in Christ, we have looked at the future reality of our glorious Resurrection, one whose wonder we cannot even begin to fathom. We do not know exactly what we shall be, but we know that God is faithful to bring it to pass, and we look forward to that day.

Next we looked at the fact that our new life in Jesus isn’t just futuristic. Just as it did for Lazarus, our Resurrected Life begins now.

So, let’s put these two aspect together in what the Apostle Peter calls “a living hope.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NRSV)

Peter described both the future and the present reality of the Resurrection in our lives. Presently, we have been given a “new birth” into a “living hope.” When we are born again in Jesus Christ, a new life begins immediately. It manifests itself in what Peter calls the “genuineness of faith” (I Peter 1:7). This means that, though we do not right now see Jesus in the flesh, we love Him and trust Him, and are filled with joy because of His future promise of an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

So the present new birth and the future inheritance join hands to create in us a “living hope“–a hope that is alive every day and motivates us to seek Him, to love Him, and to live for His kingdom because we are sure of our glorious future. Of course, because we live in a fallen world, the present reality of the Resurrected Life will not be one free of suffering or trials; rather it will manifest itself in the midst of trials. Sufferings and trials form a crucible of refining and testing.

One of the ways to improve gold is to put it through a burning process in which impurities and dross are burned off, leaving only precious metal. Peter compare the trials that we go through in this life to the refining process of precious metal–the metal of our faith. That which is not of eternity will be burned out of our lives. What will be left is genuine faith, shown by its steadfastness and by the love and joy that come by virtue of it.

The apostles considered all of their trials as occasions to rejoice because they knew that such trials would make them more ready to step into their inheritance of Resurrection with the Lord. The trials were occasions to show forth their devotion and love for Jesus and to strengthen their resolve to follow Him no matter what hardships they encountered.

The apostle James says:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4

Between the time that we are born again into the Resurrected Life and the day of the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promises at the end of the age, we are in a period of testing and refining. The trials, sufferings, and tribulations of this present age work as catalysts to stimulate new growth and to help form the Resurrected Life in us. Jesus also calls this process pruning. In gardening, whenever a healthy plant is pruned, it produces new growth and more fruit.

You may be going through a pruning process in your life right now, feeling the pain of the old being cut off so that new growth and fruit can form. these times can be excruciatingly difficult and extremely painful. Yet the promise of God, as Peter wrote, is that you “are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

If you are in Christ and connected to His Resurrected Life, you will be protected through this season of testing and pruning. Fear not! Instead, persevere in trust, faith, and love, looking forward to the glory that awaits you–your “living hope.”

Ready for more? Get your copy of The Resurrected Life today!

Small Groups and Casting Vision

God is at work around our country through the small group movement, sending a wave of spiritual renewal to the local church. He is using Small Group Ministry to grow His people and equip them to do the work of the kingdom both within the church and in the world around us.

The key to all of this is vision casting. Almost every church wants to grow in numbers and reach out to its community. Vision casting is explaining the dream of Jesus Christ, that every sheep would have a shepherd, meaning that every believer would be connected to another so that the Body of Christ can fulfill its purpose.

Vision casting is also giving your church body easy tools by which they can accomplish this. A Small Group Ministry campaign can do all of this at once. Additionally, such a campaign has some amazing fringe benefits, like growth in church attendance and giving, as well as building an effective network through which the Senior Pastor and staff can communicated to their church body.

These fringe benefits help reluctant pastors, staff, and leadership see the value and purpose of being a church of small groups, not a church with small groups.

Ready to take the next step and align your congregation so that each member can fulfill their role within the body of Christ toward a common goal of furthering the Kingdom? Get your Christian Life Trilogy Campaign Kit today and start planning!

Bury the Hatchet

It is the prayer of everyone at Bible Study Media that relationships are reconciled and hearts return to the foot of the Cross in the post-election season. In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing thoughts and devotions that we pray will facilitate that goal. Today’s devotion on reconciliation is an excerpt from week three of The Cruficied Life

We’ve all heard of the famous Hatfields and McCoys, the iconic feuding families of West Virginia and Kentucky. Consider that almost every war on this planet ultimately goes back to identity found in family of origin. For example, the clash between the Muslim Arabs and the Jewish people goes back to their ancestors, Ishmael and Isaac. The fighting in Ireland between Roman Catholics and Protestants stems more directly from tribal and family feuds than anything pertaining to the Christian faith.

When humans go to war, it is often because they find their identities in their natural families or human ancestry. Family divides people into factions and parties. The worst factions of any on earth are factions in and among families.

Blood is thicker than anything else, and bad blood is more dangerous than anything else. It is what often separates Caucasians from African-Americans, Greeks from Turks, Jews from non-Jews, and fuels countless other divisions around the world.

God is calling believers to be one family under one head, to share one Lord, one baptism, one Spirit. To fulfill that call, we must die, in a sense, to our families of origin and to our “tribes,” so that we can be raised up into the restored family of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now, those are strong words. Here is an interesting phrase we sometimes use: “Bury the hatchet.” The origin of the phrase is uniquely American; it is derived from the Native Americans. When a tribe would come to a point of declaring peace with another tribe, they would literally dig a hole and bury their weapons of war in the ground, thus burying the bloody hatchet for the cause of peace.

Listen to how Paul describes a similar feat accomplished on the cross:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. Ephesians 2:13-16

Now, Paul was originally speaking of Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles). God’s plan is not that there should be separate Jewish and Gentile tribes divided by ethnicities and patrimonies, but that there should be one new man from the two, in Jesus Christ, where the dividing wall of hostility is abolished in His flesh. The two sides bury the bloody hatchet at the foot of the cross–creating peace between them.

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:17-18

When Jesus said to John and to Mary, “Woman, behold your son…behold your mother,” Jesus began an incredible peace process between all families, tribes, and nations by starting this new family of God. In Jesus, people are united by common faith and spiritual adoption rather than by blood. John writes of this new family: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

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You can sample more of The Crucified Life today–click here for a free preview!

A Hope and a Future in the Christian Life

It is the prayer of everyone at Bible Study Media that relationships are reconciled and hearts return to the foot of the Cross in the post-election season. In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing thoughts and devotions that we pray will facilitate that goal. Today’s post is written by the author of the Christian Life Trilogy, Rev. Charlie Holt.

Several weeks ago, our church read an excerpt from Jeremiah’s letter from God to the exiled Israelites in Babylon. It struck me as I was hearing Jeremiah’s words read out loud that they were just as prescient for our day as they were then.

A People Deaf to Warnings

In 597 BC, the Babylonian armies invaded Israel and the Judah and eventually conquered the capital city of the Jewish people in 586 BC. The Fall of Jerusalem to Babylon is one of the great tragedies of the Bible. For, the walls and buildings of the city of Jerusalem was literally disassembled and the Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed to its foundations.  Many people were deported into exile, including the entire royal court.

All of the destruction and deportation was anticipated and foretold through the writings and preaching of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was not a particularly popular person in his day with the ruling class. Truth tellers are often difficult to hear.

False prophets rose up. Prior to the exile, they preached a message of denial. After the exile, they preached a “quick fix” approach, promising the exile would be a short few years, and that God would restore things back to the “good ole’ days” quickly. The truth was more severe.

The problems with the nation were deep and they went all the way to the top. Corruption existed at the highest levels—with the king’s themselves, Ahab and Zedekiah. These men would ultimately be judged by God unto death for their spiritual adultery with foreign powers and gods, for their rebellion against God’s commands and for their lies.

Hope, But Not False Hope

One of the most cherished parts of Jeremiah’s writings are his promises of hope to the people of God in the midst of their exile. As severe and devastating the Babylonian exile was, it was not the end of the story. All hope was not lost. However, such hope should not be falsely understood; restoration would not come quickly. There would be no quick fix. The exiled Jews in Babylon needed to take a long, multigenerational view. It would take 70 long years to turn things around and for Israel to be ready to return to Jerusalem. Here is a portion of God’s letter to the exiles. It said:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

The letter encourages the people that they need to take a long view. It is critically important that they live and even thrive in the midst of the exile. In other words, it was incumbent upon them to thrive even though the culture around them was foreign to them—not their home. They should even seek the welfare of the city in which they live so that they can thrive for the long term with the city’s good favor.

Restoration would come eventually. God promised to give them “a hope and a future”, to prosper them with good plans. But, it would take a good long while to see such blessing. By adopting a long view mindset, the Israelites would stay strong for the long haul and stay faithful to God for generations.

Our Day…

The writers of the New Testament considered the secular Roman Empire in which they lived a type of Babylon. The church is the exiled people of God. Peter called the church in the world, “scattered exiles” (1 Peter 1:1). This world is not our home. Even though we are citizens of the United States from an earthly perspective, our true and lasting citizenship is in heaven in a city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).  We are destined for the New Jerusalem and the heavenly city prepared for the new earth after the consummation of all things. In the meantime, what are the faithful people of God to do?

Some false voices suggest that the problems are not that severe. That one day soon, we can get things turned around. Beloved, if the election of 2016 has taught us anything, I hope that we have learned that there is not a messianic presidential figure in the offing who will lead the United States of America back to the promised land that it once was.

The faithful need to be disillusioned with the pundits and the politicians who preach a message of false hope and quick fix. The problems that this nation has are deep and intractable. The truth is that it will take generations for this nation to be restored. They will not be solved in the short run with government solutions. On the contrary, national restoration of the United States will come from many generations of faithful consistent witness to the Christian life, as well as discipleship by the church.

If the Foundations Be Destroyed…

In Psalm 11, David asks: “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” There are times when it seems as if the very ground underneath our feet is coming out from under us. This political season may have shaken our confidence in the very institutions which we rely on for stability. However, David knows that if your trust is not in earthly foundations but in the Lord’s sovereign rule, all is secure.

The Lord is in his holy temple;
the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
The Lord tests the righteous,
but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.

God remains firmly in control of all events happening in the United States of America. He is sovereign over all. So what will the righteous do?

Go on Being Righteous.

No matter how bleak the circumstances are in this land of exile, our hopeful confidence is ultimately not in the government of the United States of America or its elected leaders. As beautiful and wonderful as our nation is, God has truly shed his grace on thee, our hope and help is in the promised restoration that will only come by the sovereign hand of God and in his sovereign timing.

In the meantime, we take the long view. We go on being righteous, in season or out of season. We proclaim the good news. We plant and build churches, we do good deeds that build up the kingdom of God. We build houses and raise families. We study the scriptures together in community, and we seek the things of first importance, Jesus Christ and him crucified and raised.

The Lord is in his Holy Temple and he calls us to live and thrive in the midst of exile. We should always seek the welfare of the nation and cities in which we live as that will be for our welfare and blessing. By getting involved in the affairs of our community and being the salt and light of Jesus Christ, we manifest the kingdom of God on earth as in heaven. Elections do matter, and we are called to engage in the affairs of our communities and nation so that the place where we live will be strong and good.

But for God’s sake take the long view, do not be discouraged or lose hope by the affairs of this world. We will remain in exile a good long while. As the Lord promised the people of God of old, his words continue to ring true:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

National Reflections

It is the prayer of everyone at Bible Study Media that relationships are reconciled and hearts return to the foot of the Cross in the post-election season. In the coming days and weeks, we will be sharing thoughts and devotions that we pray will facilitate that goal. Today’s post was originally written by the author of the Christian Life Trilogy, Rev. Charlie Holt, on July 4, 2014.

As I consider the state of both the Church and the United States of America, I see that there will be no quick fixes or short term solutions to address the besetting challenges. It will take a group of dedicated people who will understand the opportunities for God’s vision and persistently pursue a more faithful, hopeful and free future.

The first step is to pray about what that desired future might look like. Does the Lord desire the reformation and renewal of the Church and the nation? Perhaps….let us pray so.

So many have surrendered the church and nation as a lost cause. Read the book 1776 by David McCullough and you will learn that General Washington and the Continental Army spent most of that year on their heels in retreat. In Christmas of 1776, hope was growing cold. In that moment, Thomas Paine spoke to the heart of the courageous and the freedom loving:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Thomas Payne, The American Crisis, December 23, 1776”

God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. Many in Jesus’ time thought that they had rightly diagnosed the problems of their day, and in doing so their solutions were not God’s solution. God’s way is one of costly sacrifice–Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Our battle is not fought against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6), and so the weapons for the battle will be deeply spiritual in nature requiring spiritual aid. Jesus re-framed the battle lines away from the human vs. human fights of his day to reveal the true battle as between Satan and the spiritual forces of evil vs. himself and the Holy Spirit of God. Matt 12:28 Jesus says, “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

The critical next step becomes making sure that we are on the side of Jesus Christ in addressing the Goliath challenges that face us in our day. When we join the Lord in his battle, then we tap into the power promised in Acts 1 to be poured out on the Church at Pentecost (see Acts 2).

What do we need to be doing now to move forward toward God’s desired future? Taking inventory of my life…I have 29 more years until I hit mandatory retirement as a priest. If the Lord wills, I am willing to faithfully labor for Him in whatever ministry context he places me–to do whatever needs to be done for the long term future of His kingdom. Some have more time, some have less time. No one of us truly knows the number of our days. The key for all of us is that we make the most of our days now, for the sake of not only the salvation of our souls, but for the sake of our children and grandchildren.

May those of us who serve Jesus through the ministry of the Church and on behalf of the vision of freedom, work together intentionally for the long haul–“a long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson).  The range of our missionary field is multi-generational and not “my-generational”. Our understanding should discern both the nature of the root challenge and the mighty strength of God for those who believe.  As Jesus promised in Acts 1, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the Earth.” Jesus will use us to the praise his name.

This blog originally appeared on July 4, 2014 on www.revcharlieholt.com.

The Power of Alignment in Your Church

This blog series explores the impact and long-term growth your church can experience through an intentionally aligned, church-wide small group study. Today’s post focuses on the three ways the power of alignment will influence your congregation’s participation and experience.

Coordinating and aligning the elements of the Christian Life Trilogy will impact and produce the kind of spiritual growth that will move your congregation from spectators to active participators in the Body of Christ. Imagine for a moment the impact on your church if every person lived in alignment with God’s will in the areas of serving, growing, and even giving. What if your congregation–leadership to occasional worshipper–lived in powerful community with their small group or Sunday School class? What is, as groups, people began to experience the power of God in their lives as an entire congregation? By making the most of the following three campaign components, you will see the power of God working in your church. These components build from micro to macro, from a narrow scope to the broadest.

1. Individual Participation

This is the real heart of the campaign, and it is the element that will produce the greatest spiritual growth among the members of your congregation. The goal is to get people to read a daily devotional and reflect on God’s Word and consider His will for their lives daily throughout the bampign. By participating in this campaign, each person will be challenged to grow spiritually and experience God’s plan for living a transformed life.

2. Group Participation

A powerful element of the campign is getting people to explore and experience God’s will and their Christian faith in true biblical community. We provide you with curriculum to be used in small groups or Sunday School classes for adults. Individuals bonded to a smaller community of believers within your congregation will enjoy the benefits of sharing life, spiritual growth, and accountability for that growth. These small group experiences are vital to ensuring the greatest personal spiritual growth as well as a commitment to ongoing growth as a community within your congregation.

3. Service Participation

The services that take place during The Christian Life Trilogy journey include Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. These services offer opportunities for the Senior Pastor and worship planning team to further explore the lessons of the small group curriculum for your congregation.

Are you ready to see how the power of alignment can provide an opportunity to experience God moving in your church? Preview The Christian Life Trilogy or Get your Campaign Kit today and start being intentional in seeking God’s will in 2017 and beyond!

Guarding the Faith

“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” – 1 Timothy 6:20-21

 

Paul’s final charge to Timothy is to “guard the deposit entrusted to you” (6:20). As a minister of the Gospel, Timothy is being sent into a battle on the front lines for the very Gospel itself. He needs strong encouragement to see the importance of the task and ministry with which he has been entrusted.

The need for Paul’s letter was occasioned for two main reasons: geography and time. First, Paul was simply not able to be in more than one place at a time. The delegation of leadership to others was an essential task for Paul if there was to be a geographically broad gospel movement. As Paul traveled on his missionary journeys moving from region to region, city to city, town to town, many new congregations were planted. New leadership had to be developed in each region, city, and town. Coordination and support of those various congregations also became mission-critical for the gospel.

The second issue was related to time. Paul was always keenly aware that his days of “fruitful ministry” were numbered. The issue of succession was critically important to Paul as he empowered Timothy to lead and then to identify and empower more leaders for the churches.

In this way, we see the first examples of succession and delegation at work in the church in the personal and pastoral relationship between Timothy and Paul. For Paul, the issue is not merely the passing of a torch humanly speaking, but for him it was critically important that the content and character of the gospel be guarded in order that it may be passed on faithfully to the next generation of leaders.

As each generation considers its own faith, it must also keep in mind the needs of the next generation of believers. We are given a sacred trust in the gospel of Jesus Christ, guarding the faith carefully so that it can be passed on.

In what ways are you delegating, passing on, and guarding the faith which has been entrusted to you?

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This post originally appeared on The Bible Challenge.

What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series on the basic tenets of The Christian Life Trilogy for those who wonder about, or want to share information about the Trilogy with their friends, neighbors, or church leaders. See part one here: What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 1)

The first series of the trilogy, The Crucified Life, begins the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and calls the corporate body back to the central purpose of Lent, to pick up our cross and follow Jesus as His disciples. The teaching and reflections invite us into the daily process of dying to self in order that we might fellowship in His sufferings of Good Friday and thereby attain the joy of Easter–unity with the Christ in His glorious resurrection.

But our new life doesn’t end there. In many churches, Easter Day is a glorious celebration of worship; yet mysteriously the church goes right back to the normal routine just as things are about to get exciting! Easter is meant to be more than one day–it is meant to be an entire season of hope and renewal. That’s why the second book in the series, The Resurrected Life, explores how everything changes in the light of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus says, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The activating and energizing power behind both the Crucified and Resurrected Life is the Holy Spirit of God. The Spirit-Filled Life, the third in The Christian Life Trilogy, explores the activity of the Holy Spirit calling us to Christ, gifting us for service, and pouring out the love of God in our hearts that we might carry that love to the world. Discover what it means to “walk in the Spirit” on a daily basis.

Our hope and prayer for you and your congregation is that these materials would be used by God to bring the life of Christ to your church in an exciting new way. As you gather in small groups and in corporate worship, may the dynamism of the living God stir your hearts with His truth, fill you with hope, and equip you with power. We invite you on this unique walk through the Christian journey, from Crucified to Resurrected to Spirit-Filled Life!

Take the first step and preview the Trilogy today.

 

What is the Christian Life Trilogy, Anyway? (part 1)

This post is the first in a two-part series on the basic tenets of The Christian Life Trilogy for those who wonder about, or want to share information about the Trilogy with their friends, neighbors, or church leaders. 

The ebb and flow of the Christian life is a rhythm of God’s people moving back and forth from small group gatherings of fellowship, prayer, and study to larger group gatherings of corporate worship and celebration. All of the great missionary expansions of the Gospel involved just such movement–from small groups of Christians meeting together for mutual support, learning, and prayer to the larger corporate gatherings of praise and exhortation. Consider the example of the early church, recorded in Acts 2:42-47:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Notice the spiritual and numberical growth the early church experienced as a result of their mutual support and devotion. When Christians share their lives together with one another, the Lord Jesus manifests His presence among them–God is glorified.

In many ways, the small group meeting and the large gatherings on Sunday are interdependent, mutually beneficial to one another. The small group held in isolation from larger corporate worship can become isolated, unholy in its pursuits, and misguided by personalities and the whims of a few. In the same way, the large group gathering gains its passion and dynamism from the energy, accountability, and love fueled by small groups.

Bring the two together in a congregation and the Lord will add day by day those who are being saved–new life, new creation!

The Christian Life Trilogy seeks to foster the small group life of a congregation, but always with the aim and end of gathering the whole family back together in larger corporate worship and celebration. In this way, the series hopes to encourage a return to the things of first importance in the church–communal life and the heart of the message of the Church: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. Therefore, we undertake this journey, following His command together to “remember His death, proclaim His resurrection, and await His coming in glory.”

The structure of the series reflects the pattern and heart of the Christian life. Every year, we calendar our lives around Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost, recognizing that Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension form the heart of Christian belief and reveal the heartbeat of God for the people of God.

Preview the Christian Life Trilogy today!

Read Part 2 here.

 

The Christian Life Trilogy author Rev. Charlie Holt with Charisma Magazine

See what The Christian Life Trilogy author Rev. Charlie Holt had to say about the series in a radio/podcast interview with Charisma Magazine!

 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Church-Wide Impact

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

I really hope you’ve gotten a better sense of how you want to implement The Christian Life Trilogy for your own congregation this Lent! The last video in this series is quite possibly the most impactful:

Ready to take your next steps? Order your Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Training Hosts

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

After you find your hosts, they need some support before they step out as leaders on their leg of the campaign! This video is all about getting them ready:

We have amazing resources to pass along to your hosts, as well, from our Small Group Host Webinar Series.

A reminder: it’s definitely helpful to have The Christian Life Trilogy campaign materials in hand as you prepare. You can order a Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Plan The Campaign

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

Once you have the leadership team God ordains, it’s time to plan out the campaign! Here’s how you and your team can begin to plan and prepare for a Lenten study series that is unforgettable:

A reminder: it’s definitely helpful to have The Christian Life Trilogy campaign materials in hand as you prepare. You can order a Church-Wide Study Campaign Kit right here! It’s worth it to start planning today. To see the rest of the videos in this training series, click on the links below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Recruit Hosts

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous post in the series below the video.

Are these videos fanning a flame in you to make the most of the season of Lent? Next up, author and pastor Rev. Charlie Holt shares how to spark that same desire in others as you find hosts for your small groups:

If you’re feeling less-than-confident about this step, take a look at some of our Small Group resources! 

Implement a Small Group Study on The Christian Life – Build a Team

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous posts in the series below the video.

Are you ready to grow your congregation in size and Spirit? The next step is to build a strong team. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, explains how:

See the other training videos in the series below:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement a Small Group Study on Christian Life – Exponential Thinking

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series!  See the previous post in the series below the video.

You’ve made the choice to align your vision with the heart of the Lord for your church. Where do you go from here? Do you “go big?” See how to take the next step into exponential thinking in the next piece of this series:

Ready to take the next step? See where we’ve been and where to go from here with all the videos in this series:

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

Implement A Small Group Study On Christian Life – First Things First

The biggest hurdle in implementing a church-wide study of any kind is figuring out where to begin. Rev. Charlie Holt, author of The Christian Life Trilogy, has the answers and will be sharing them over the course of this 7-part series! 

Learn how to energize your congregation and leverage their spiritual gifts for a church-wide study that is life-changing and faith-affirming!

What do you think? Have anything to add? Tell us in the Comments!

To see the rest of the series, check out the links below!

Episode 1: Focus on Things of First Importance

Episode 2: Exponential Thinking

Episode 3: Building a Team

Episode 4: Plan Your Campaign

Episode 5: How to Recruit Hosts

Episode 6: Host Training Session

Episode 7: The Value of a Church-Wide Campaign 

 

What Are Christians To Do?

Like many of you, I am deeply grieved by the continuing tension in our nation—shootings involving police and race in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, protests around the country, and more violence targeting the police in Dallas and other areas. All of this follows the recent mass shooting in my own city of Orlando. What is happening to our nation, and what are we as Christians to do?

A Christian citizen of the United States can’t help but feel discouraged.

The Scriptures describe how, in the last days, there will be an unholy trinity that takes the form of a seductive harlot, a politically appealing anti-Christ, and a violent beast. Throughout the history of the church, people have believed these three entities to be manifest in various people and movements. What is important is, until Jesus returns, there will be an ever-present manifestation of evil in various worldly forms. Behind all of it is the evil one himself, Satan. I believe our country is being stirred up by this evil one.

We know from Scripture that these sinister powers and principalities cause tremendous distress for the people of God and the people of the world. We also know that they are defeated foes! The promise of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that the days of evil are numbered. They will come to an end.

In the meantime, what are the people of God to do?

The answer is simple: Go on being faithful—endure. Do not allow intimidation, discouragement, despair, or weariness to keep you from maintaining a vigilant zeal in the Lord. The Gospel of Jesus remains this world’s only hope. We are the stewards of that message of eternal life and peace.

Now, more than ever, the people of our nation are open to solutions other than the ones the world has to offer. Let us be diligent and sober-minded in prayer. Be quick to give a reason for the hope that you have in Jesus. Enlist in the fight with the weapons of the Spirit. Pray for our nation. Repent of your own sin and anger.

The founders of the United States knew that for freedom to flourish in this government they devised for us, two other pillars also were necessary: virtue and faith. These three “goods” are interrelated and interdependent. All three are under assault today from every side. We need to rekindle them.

We rekindle faith and virtue by standing firm in the Gospel. The only thing that will reconcile the divisions in our nation is the Gospel of peace. There is no black or white, male or female, nor any other political or human division at the foot of the Cross. Jesus died for sinners, all of us. Faith in that radical grace has the power to dissolve anger, heal hurts, forgive wrongs, purify sin, and reconcile enemies. When faith and virtue are rekindled, real freedom for all can thrive.

We need spiritual renewal, revival, and reform in the United States of America. Pray for it. Work for it. Yearn for it. The work that we are doing as the body of Christ is mission critical. Commit yourself to standing strong as a representative of Christ’s freedom, virtue, and faith, no matter what the enemy does in this world.

4 Ways to Use the Summer Slowdown to Your Advantage!

Not five minutes ago I heard from yet another Pastor: “It is impossible to get ahold of people or work with them during the summer!” We’ve all been on both sides of the issue: either our summers are filled with activities and we can’t find a spare moment to respond to an email or return a phone call, or we’re sitting patiently behind a screen, hoping that an empty inbox will suddenly fill with responses we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for.

Church leaders tend to be in the latter category during the summer months, and it offers a unique opportunity to prepare for the year ahead. Here are some of the best things that one can to do set your church up for success as the summer winds down and your congregation blasts into autumn full steam ahead:

  1. Plan for the next school year calendar.
    Sit down with your Education Directors to brainstorm and think through a plan for the Fall. How can you use the back-to-school season to increase numbers—are your youth programs encouraging students to bring new friends and their families? Consider and plan to create some ideal solutions that will help you leverage Christmas and the New Year to accelerate into the spring (Lent and Easter Seasons). Does your attendance tend to wax or wane during those months? How can you plan ahead to keep numbers steadily increasing this season?
  1. Plan for your autumn church-wide study.
    The fall is an ideal time to do a church-wide program, as well. To implement a program with success, you have to plan now. Begin thinking about strategy and budget, and create a leadership team. Build the overall launch team over the course of the summer and start to build a communication plan toward a fall launch. The Spirit-Filled Life is a perfect fall church-wide study!
  1. Minister to your key leaders.
    You’re probably not the only leader in your church experiencing a Summer Slowdown. Now is the perfect time to schedule some one-on-ones with your leadership team. Take stock of what is working, what isn’t, and what you both want to work on for the next year. Set goals, strategize, and give them time to feel valued and refreshed.
  1. Schedule in some fun!
    Have a social event to strengthen your leadership team. The summer shouldn’t simply be a time for planning and introspection. Be sure that everyone relaxes a bit before you all go back to work in the fall.

How are you using the Summer Slowdown to your advantage? Tell us in the comments!

Divide to Multiply: How to Turn One Powerful Small Group Into Many

The Kingdom of God spreads through multiplication, and it is effective to be intentional about using your small group ministry to multiply the power of God to build His Kingdom. When you have a powerful small group that is changing lives and impacting people, it may be a good idea to consider splitting the group into two (or more) groups in order to multiply that effect. This goes against the nature of many people, who think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but we urge you to consider this concept.

Positives and Negatives

There are some really powerful reasons to consider dividing up groups:

  • More groups are available to members of the community or church.
  • It helps to develop new leaders, who might not have otherwise had the courage or opportunity to step up.
  • It keeps groups small, which is best for the sense of closeness and community (8-12 people is ideal) – more than that, it’s time to divide.
  • It helps to guard against exclusivity. A group that is together for a long time without bringing in new members can become inward-focused and self-centered, rather than outwardly focused on building the Kingdom.
  • New friends and new relationships are built.
  • Personal growth is enhanced. When we get settled into a long-time group, we often find ourselves in a comfort zone and not challenged to grow. Being willing to sacrifice comfort and accept new challenges will enhance our opportunities to grow.
  • New enthusiasm is introduced. People who are beginning something new often have a fresh enthusiasm that long-timers have forgotten. Bringing in new people can keep your mindset open and fresh.
  • It’s a new opportunity to reach people who desperately want/need a group. There might be people in your church/community who are in deep need of a Christian community who just need an opportunity to join a group of people who will encourage their faith.
  • It’s biblical! Christ Himself used this model with His disciples. They moved from disciples to apostles, who grew their own ministries and spread His Kingdom all across the world!

It’s also important for leaders to be aware of potential negatives to splitting. There will be resistance from members who are happy and comfortable in the current small group. Some very entrenched groups might resent being forced to change, so a leader has to be prayerful and wise about how hard to push the group to split. New groups will very likely not be as good as the old group was, at least in the beginning. Members have to be prepared for there to be a transition period that might be difficult or uncomfortable.

How to Successfully Divide and Multiply

Once you decide to move forward with splitting a group, here are the steps for making it as successful as possible.

  1. Cast the vision early – it’s important to affect the larger body of Christ.
  2. Select an apprentice or two and give them opportunity to grow as a leader. Encourage them to be preparing to start their own group. Start them small with simple tasks and then grow their responsibilities as they’re ready.
  3. If possible, pre-determine the mission of the NEW group and talk through it with existing group members. This may uncover some common denominators among existing group members that a new group can be based on – a shared experience or goal rather than just location or life stage.
  4. Ask for volunteers to serve as host early on – either occasionally or on a regular basis. This will expose people to various leadership tasks and help build confidence in their ability to lead.
  5. Determine who will go where. Create 2 groups out of the current members – some staying and some members going with the new leader. Alternatively, the existing leaders can leave to start a brand new group and put a new leader in place, or several groups can break off and all begin new groups. These conversations can be awkward and result in hurt feelings. Encourage everyone to be open and honest, be filled with grace, and remember that the purpose is to build the Kingdom.
  6. Count down. Don’t wait until the last minute – encourage group members to pray about the possibilities. It also gives members time to embrace the idea of dividing as you are likely to have push back on this concept.
  7. Celebrate the new groups and keep casting the vision!

Making the Decision to Divide

How does a group leader know when it’s time to divide and multiply? It may be time to divide when:

  • You sense there is a leader in the making
  • Discussion with your members sounds positive
  • You have prayed about it and feel that it’s time to move ahead
  • Your group has been together more than 18 months

Timing is everything. Don’t divide in the Spring. Stay together through the Summer; share some great memories and divide in the Fall.

Conclusion

The ultimate goal of small groups is enabling life change through discipleship in community. After a group finds success and does well, it’s time to start thinking about how to expand the group’s impact. One powerful way to do that is to break up the group. That might sound counter-intuitive, but dividing a group can make room for more people to join, be affected, and multiply the number of lives changed. Dividing to multiply may not make sense in math class, but it’s magic in small group ministry. Boldly move forward and see how God will multiply your groups for His Kingdom!

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Watch a 50-minute recorded webinar presenting this material:

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