ReGroup 106: Make Disciples

Go and make disciples.

Simple, direct and to the point.

You would think that Christians would know Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. Why is it then that many of our actions as a class or small group do not reflect this purpose?

I believe that the church’s best strategy to make disciples is through small groups (special note to my friend Brian Haynes, Senior Pastor at Bay Area Church in South Houston, who says, “the best discipleship strategy is in the home”).

For those of us who are the church, we are to make disciples everywhere we go. It just makes sense that we would provide the environment where that can happen best (i.e. the small group).

I believe that every effective, disciple-making small group needs four priorities. Some of those we will be better at than others, but our attention and our focus must always return to these four things.

  • Share the gospel with the lost.
  • Develop biblical community.
  • Help people to grow spiritually.
  • Equip people to live missionally.

The ReGroup strategy is built off of this one purpose and four priorities. You can help your class or group to “ReGroup” around this core message and these objectives.

For more information about the ReGroup strategy and events and resources, go to LouisianaBaptists.org/ReGroup.

Good News: You’ve Been Heard

Dear Friends,

The Executive Board of the Louisiana Baptist Convention has completed its action on the referred motion from the 2016 LBC Annual Meeting concerning the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC (see here for review of the issue and the Executive Board’s determination). As you may have read in the Baptist Message, a letter was sent to the ERLC thanking them for accepting responsibility (see ERLC response here) for the unrest that was occurring among Southern Baptists. The letter, further, encourages a renewed effort at working together cooperatively.

I want to thank the Executive Board and its leaders for taking this issue seriously and recommending a unifying resolution of the matter. The Board was careful to acknowledge the offenses registered by many of you and not gloss over them. But it also sought to accept the apologies made by the ERLC and pray for better performance in the future. I hope you will find this to be a helpful determination and an appropriate balance between accountability and forbearance.

I also want to thank Louisiana Baptists for praying for us and for generously supporting our shared ministries in spite of controversies that occur from time to time. We cannot effectively advance the gospel without you. We are always glad to hear from you.

ReGroup 105: In The Beginning…

History is one of those things that we are destined to repeat if we don’t learn from it. Sunday School is and has always been about God’s people connecting with one another, engaging in God’s Word and making a difference in the community.

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” John 13:34 (HCSB)

God commands us to love one another. You don’t have to like each other but you do have to love one another.

I have experienced Sunday School classes and churches who don’t love each other very much.

Think about this, do you “feel” loved by the people in your Sunday School Class or Small Group? There are lots of variables that contribute to how we “feel” about each other, but use these words to help measure that love.

  • Do you trust them?
  • Are they genuinely interested in your well-being?
  • Do you feel like you “fit” into the group?
  • Do you “feel” comfortable enough to share personal issues or concerns with your group?

Love is best illustrated by unselfish desires and actions.

On the other hand, how do others in your class or small group “feel”? Do they “feel” loved by others and by you? Face it, you don’t control the actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes of others; but you do control yours. Are your actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes loving towards others?

The core element to “making disciples” in your small group or Sunday School class is loving relationships.

Sometimes it is easier to teach through loving others in your actions, choices, behaviors and attitudes than it is to just tell them that you love them. On the other hand, it doesn’t hurt for them to hear it from you every once in a while too.

Tell the people in your class or group that you love them today. Send a text, write an email, call them, send them a card, or talk to them when you see them at church or around town. Let them know you love them. Better than that, show them. Be an example of loving others just as Jesus has commanded.

What a history lesson it will be if you and your class or group were known for how much you loved one another.

ReGroup 104: Three Ways to Create a Better Biblical Community for Your Group

In your opinion, how many times a month does a person have to attend to stay connected to your group? What happens when they attend less often? Is it possible to attend regularly and still not be connected?

Great questions, huh! Listen, you don’t control the behavior, opinions, attitudes or actions of others. But you do control what you do and how you lead your group to stay connected to God and one another.

People are fickle. I think you would be a better steward of your ministry as the leader of your small group or Sunday School class, if you focused more on what God expects from you and less on what others expect from you.

Here are three things you can do to create a better biblical community for your group.

  1. Encourage them to read their Bible daily. What does that have to do with creating biblical community? Simply put, the more a person loves God, the better they are able to love others. You can’t spend time alone with God and not fall deeply and intimately in love with Him. Love God, love others. It just happens.
  2. Spend time together outside of the weekly group meeting time. Once a month, once a quarter or as often as you can, plan a time of fellowship, bible study, or ministry together. Even if you can’t get everyone there, plan something – DO something.
    Relationships happen because you spend time together.
    If you enjoy a two-hour Bible study on your favorite topic – do that. If you enjoy just spending time together, eating food and letting the kids play – do that. If you would rather do a ministry project together like, habitat for humanity, yard care for an elderly person, food kitchen service, or thousands of other ideas for projects, just do it together.
  3. Stay in contact. Real needs are not discovered in your weekly bible study. They are discovered during those one-on-one or three/four people groups. Pray for one another. Laugh together (i.e. “Hey I heard this great joke the other day”). Invite them to join you with on a personal project. Call, email, text, visit, and so much more.

Community happens when we are intentional about making it happen. Be a catalyst.

Georgia Barnette is at Work!

(Posted May 8, 2017)

Our Louisiana Baptists State Missions Offering, the Georgia Barnette Offering, is a great spark for missions all over Louisiana. In 2016, we receive $1.58 million for the offering and this money is already at work across our state in 2017. Here’s some of the current expenditures:

  • $15k in scholarships for ministerial students.
  • $20k to help new churches and missions centers with equipment needs.
  • $159k in church planting and compassion ministry funding for over 100 projects currently in years 1-3.
  • $34k in funding for the Mission Builder program providing construction resources churches across Louisiana.
  • $18k for church planting networking and training for non-english language groups in Louisiana.
  • $8k for African-American church planting development.
  • $6k for Men’s, Women’s, and Kids Missions training and networking.
  • $90k for special evangelism projects including Prison outreach and Block Party and Event support
  • $85k for Collegiate Ministry, including the brand new BCM at Southern University in Baton Rouge.
  • $30k for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Extension at Angola State Penitentiary.
  • $9k for ESL (English as a Second Language), Multi-housing, and Chaplaincy training and projects across Louisiana.
  • $7k for Disaster Relief Training and Projects
  • $150k for the Here For You Media campaign.

Still around $927k to be distributed over the next 8 months! It’s always a lot of fun to watch the Georgia Barnette offering at work! Find out more about the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering at GeorgiaBarnette.org. Promotional material for the 2017 Offering will be available in July. Watch for opportunities to give through your church this Fall. Let’s be faithful to provide this spark for missions in Louisiana!

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How to Disciple Families

While it may be tempting to step aside from parenting and avoid conflict, the Brian Haynes encourages parents to do the hard things. The ultimate goal is to pass on a legacy of faith in God and strengthen the family relationship. Brian Haynes combines practical guidance and solid biblical truth to help parents who are navigating a challenging season of parenting. We know that we should make disciples, but how do we really do that in the context of family.

Session 1: An overview of how to begin teaching parenting and living in a biblical paradigm.

Session 2: Seven Milestones that should be recognized and celebrated in every home.

3151 Challenge

Here’s an idea that actually worked! Recently I completed an interim pastor position at a church averaging about seventy-five in Sunday School. I presented to the church the 3151 Challenge. The challenge was for each member, during a one month period, to:

3> Pray for THREE lost friends;

1> Learn ONE Gospel presentation;

5> Invite FIVE people to your group;

1> Share the Gospel with ONE person.

Each Sunday School teacher was asked to help me promote the challenge during the month of February. I made the 3151 cards available to everyone (see resources below) and used the sermon time to preach/teach through the emphasis.

The THREE stands for three lost friends or relatives that you would pray for. There are seven biblical ways provided to pray for lost people: that God would convict them of their sin and lostness; for God to open their eyes and see Christ as Lord and Savior; to draw them to Christ through the Holy Spirit; tear down any strongholds that are keeping them from being saved; make their hearts receptive to the Gospel; move them to repentance and saving faith; and to help them be fruitful witnesses.

The first ONE was to learn a gospel presentation. The Roman Road is briefly described in the card resource. I also found using a tract like Billy Graham’s “Steps to Peace with God,” was helpful. I provided everyone present that morning in worship a copy of the tract and walked them through it, encouraging them with ways they can use it to sow the seeds of the gospel, as they go through their day.

The FIVE was to challenge every Sunday School member to invite five people to their class over the month of February. Teachers can prepare the class ahead of time that guests will be in their class over the next few weeks. Extra chairs, Sunday School books, etc. need to be made available.

The final ONE challenges class members to share the gospel with one person during the month. I helped the church know how to briefly share their testimony, one or two sentences for each of the following: what my life was like before I met Christ; how I came to know Christ; and what my life was like now that Christ is my Lord and Savior.

The resources below also have posters that can be printed for each class listing their goals for each challenge. Think about it, what if 75 Sunday School members in your church prayed for THREE lost friends? That would be 225 lost people being prayed for throughout the month! What might God do through your church if 75 people learn ONE gospel presentation! What if 75 Sunday School members each invited FIVE people to their class, that’s 375 people invited to your Sunday School! And, what if 75 people in your church shared the gospel with ONE person?

The 3151 Challenge helped this church (and their interim pastor) get excited about the Sunday School doing what the Sunday School already should be doing: reaching, teaching, and ministering to people in Jesus’ Name!

3151 Resources

 

8 More Reasons to Give

1. It’s A MIRACLE

When you open yourself up to giving through the tithe you get a glimpse into the supernatural. Ask a tither if supernatural provision has ever happened in their years of giving and inevitable the answer is, “Yes.”

2. It’s a FAITH BUILDER

Tithing strengthens your faith muscles. Once you begin to trust your money to God, you’ll find that it’s easier  to trust Him with everything else in your life.

3. It’s a JOY

There’s a deep feeling of bliss that comes from giving with no regard for receiving. Givers are the happiest people on the face of the earth.

4. It’s UNIFYING

Tithing believers are believers that say to God and their church family, “I’m all in.” Tithing husbands and wives are saying to each other, “There’s something a whole lot bigger going on in our marriage than just us.”

5. It’s CONTAGIOUS

Once tithers experience God in giving, they want to share with others about the grace and provision God has provided. As we share the joy of giving, others are inspired to give.

6. It’s TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

Yup, it’s the most minor benefit. But it’s a benefit!

7. It’s A GREED SLAYER

One of the most debilitating characteristics of unhappy people is greed and it spills over into every area of our lives. Unfortunately, greed can go viral – but so can generosity.

8. IT’S BIBLICAL

Last, but not least, give because it’s a Biblical principle and promise. “’Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,’ says the Lord of Hosts. ‘See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.’” Malachi 3:10

Silent Saturday

It’s what’s commonly referred to as “Holy Week,” the week leading up the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. We just celebrated Palm Sunday and later this week is Maundy Thursday, which gives way to Good Friday, and last, but certainly not least, is Easter Sunday.

In the midst of this busy, significant week, let me suggest a new day for you and I living on this side of the resurrection – Silent Saturday. Allow me to elaborate …

Two thousand years ago the events leading up to what we now call Easter were a whirlwind – to say the least. And things certainly didn’t turn out the way those early Christ-followers envisioned. So there they were, after a bizarre week that began with a celebration and ended with a crucifixion. It was Saturday. The crowds gone. Their minds and hearts numb. And they were not sure what would come next.

Now, on this side of history, we know what’s next – but they didn’t.

Our lives are often the same way – crazy busy – and sometimes bizarre. Our smartphones light up with one notification after another. Great anticipation is often replaced by great disappointment in our careers, in our relationships and even with God.

And then comes Saturday.

Friday was like nothing we’ve ever experienced and the promise of Sunday hasn’t arrived.

So this Saturday, take a moment and be silent. Ask God to calm your heart, your mind and your spirit. Be honest – tell Him that things are not working out like you thought they would. Let Him know you have questions, doubts, and even fears.

But during your talk with God, be sure and include the words of Jesus when He said “not my will but your will be done.”

Then – be silent. Be still. Ask God to give you ears to hear what the Spirit will say.

After a turbulent Friday and before Sunday arrives, Silent Saturday can remind you of who He is and prepare you to receive the power and the promise of Easter Sunday.

All About Sunday School

Sometimes the best thing you can do is put something on the calendar! This may be true in regard to achieving a goal like getting in shape physically or registering for a 5k fun run in your town. I believe it’s also true when it comes to your church’s Sunday School.

One of the good things about Sunday School is that it meets every week, every Sunday of the year. But one of the bad things about Sunday School is that it meets every week, every Sunday of the year! It’s easy for a church to just keep doing the same thing Sunday after Sunday and never taking time to evaluate and refocus the church’s Bible study ministry.

I believe the purposes of Sunday School are to reach people, to teach people, and to minister to people – all in Jesus’ name. In Matthew 9:35, we read where “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” I see here Jesus reaching through His preaching, teaching in the synagogues, and healing and ministering to the sick.

If a church wants its Sunday School to do more than it’s currently doing, there has to be a plan. You have to have a strategy; doing the same thing Sunday after Sunday expecting a different outcome just will not happen.

What about putting some things on the calendar – one event each month – to help your Sunday School fulfill its purpose? For example:

January – Offer a training event for your leaders to kick-off the new year or begin Pastor’s Sunday School class to reach adults who aren’t attending a class.

February – Plan a church-wide outreach/in-reach night.

March – Host a Vacation Bible School planning team meeting or a block party.

April – Invite prospects and inactive members to Easter services.

May – Plan a neighborhood prayer walk and flyer distribution for VBS, invite inactive members and prospects to a baby dedication, or give ladies a free book/gift.

June – Host Vacation Bible School – that means all hands on deck! VBS is a church-wide event. Don’t forget to follow-up with prospects and decisions.

July – Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up with your VBS prospects. Prayer walk your local schools.

August – Bring your pre-teens to PreTeen Invasion. Sunday School workers can attend ReGroup, a training conference.

September – Plan a new Sunday School year workers’ appreciation banquet or plan a church-wide outreach/in-reach event.

October – Schedule a High Attendance Day in Sunday School and plan to contact everybody in every Sunday School class.

November – Bring teenagers to the Youth Evangelism Celebration (YEC).

December – Invite prospects and inactive members to all special Christmas services and activities.

You can download a free resource, 3-Purposes of Sunday School – a brochure that describes these ideas more fully. This brochure and many more are available here.

Do you want your Sunday School to grow again? To reach, teach, and minister to people in Jesus’ name? Then pray for God’s direction as you make the three purposes a priority by scheduling events that focus your Sunday School on these purposes.