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Temple Courts and House to House

“Temple courts and house to house.”  Ever used that line to connect small group ministry to the very beginning of the Church?  You know you have.  That phrase is probably top 5 in the all time most popular ways to describe the importance of small group ministry.

The line is a kind of paraphrase from right here in Acts 2:42-47:

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 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, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Temple courts and house to house.

Ever wonder how that actually happened?  The house to house part?  Remember, at the end of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 we’re told that “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day (Acts 2:41).”

Ever wonder how they made house to house work with 3,000 people?  Who led?  How’d they choose leaders?  Had they gone through a leader training program?  Did they have a coach?  What did they do without a DVD player or study guides?  Whose homes did they meet in?  Did they rotate homes?  Who brought the chips and dip?

There’s a lot to wonder about.  And right at the heart is the question, “Who led?”

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that ordinary people led and God used them in an extraordinary way.  They weren’t trained and they didn’t have curriculum but look at what happened!  Amazing?  Maybe.  Mostly it’s a God thing.

New DVD-Driven study from John Ortberg: Who Is This Man?

I heard John Ortberg give a talk based on this topic at this years Leadership Summit. His opening lines guaranteed that this study was coming and that it would be an important addition to the library of great studies with cross-cultural topics.

In his talk, Ortberg said, “Forget religion.  Forget what you might think of claims of his divinity. Consider him just as a person who was born, lived, died. Look honestly and without prejudice at his impact on the world…you have to ask, who was this man?”

Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus has a very simple premise.  Whatever people think about Jesus being the Son of God…people everywhere readily acknowledge that they admire his teachings.

In Who Is This Man?, Ortberg shows how Jesus’ influence has swept over history, bringing his inspiration to the evolution of art, science, government, medicine, and education. And how his vision for us to lead lives of dignity, compassion, forgiveness, and hope continues to inspire and challenge humanity today.

The five DVD sessions run 17 to 22 minutes.  Well paced and featuring Ortberg, the video is very engaging.  Whether you’re very familiar with Jesus and his life or you’re discovering who he was for the first time, you’ll find yourself listening with anticipation.  Truthfully, I heard some things I’d never heard before.

The study guide includes a listening guide to help you follow along with the video teaching.  You’ll also find a set of very good discussion questions, exercises that will help bring truth to life, and a personal study section to be completed in between sessions.

Although a leader’s guide is not included, Who Is This Man? is a fairly straightforward study.  Easy-to-follow directions precede every section and should make facilitating doable for most leaders.

If you’re looking for a study that will appeal to members and neighbors alike…you need to take a look at Who Is this Man?  I think lots of churches will make this study part of their recommended list.  I loved it and I’m pretty sure you will too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, Zondervan is a frequent sponsor of MarkHowellLive. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Win 2 Registrations to the RightNow Conference!

Looking for inspiration and training?  Join 3000 pastors and small group leaders for the RightNow Conference.  Featuring inspiring speakers like Dave Ramsey, Jen Hatmaker, J.D. Greear, and Matt Carter, RightNow has also become known as one of the best training opportunities in the country.

When: November 7th to 9th, 2012

Where: Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas.

The best part?  I have two registrations that I’m giving away!  It’s a $500 value!

You must do TWO (2) things.  And you MUST DO BOTH to win.

  1. Use the comment section to tell me why you’d like to win.  You can comment right here.
  2. Tweet or Facebook the following line: “RT @MarkCHowell: Win 2 Free Registrations to RightNow, a $500 value  http://bit.ly/RpZrK4”

The contest ends on Wednesday, October 10th, at noon (PT).  Thanks for playing!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, RightNow.org is a sponsor of this site. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dilbert on Persistence

Ever find yourself here?

Deep Roots and Wide Reaches

If you’ve been along for much of the journey here, you know we talk a lot about reaching way beyond crowd’s edge and far into the community.  And probably, if you’ve been influenced much by that vision, you’ve had to defend the practice of making it possible for ordinary people to lead groups.

I have no doubt that you’ve had intense discussions with the proponents of a high bar of leadership and you’ve fought back the little mobs willing to settle for predictable and verifiable and safe while a generation drowns in a vast ocean bereft of lifeboats.

I want to thank you for joining me in this passion to connect people.  I really mean that.  My dream, my mission is to connect as many as possible, to pull as many as possible from the wreckage.  I feel like you are with me in this.

I heard Andy Stanley talk about Deep and Wide about a month ago.  I knew immediately that we’d be talking a lot about this book over the coming months.  See if this quote helps you see the relevance too:

I’m sure that somewhere in the world there is an actual “fountain flowing deep and wide.”  But that has nothing to do with why I chose the title.  By the time you finish the book, I hope you will be as convinced as I am that healthy local churches can be, and should be, both deep and wide.  It’s not either/or.  It’s both/and.  Local churches should be characterized by deep roots and wide reaches (p. 18).

Deep and wide.  I long for that, too.  I probably would have called it Wide and Deep…

Want to come along?  You can pick up a copy right here.

What do you think?  Want to argue? I’d love to know what you think. You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Top 10 Posts of September, 2012

Miss a day or two?  Here are my top 10 posts of September, 2012.  There were visitors from 69 countries in September.  Welcome Namibia and Zimbabwe!

  1. New from Beth Moore: The Law of Love: Lessons from the Pages of Deuteronomy (August, 2012)
  2. How to Launch Groups Using a Small Group Connection (May, 2008)
  3. Disciples Are Rarely Made in Rows (September, 2012)
  4. Shallow Small Groups: A Video that Sets Up the Value of Authentic Community (September, 2012)
  5. How to Make the HOST Ask: The 2012 Version (August, 2012)
  6. 5 Keys to Sustaining New Groups (October, 2008)
  7. Take a Look at LifeChurch.TV’s Free Small Group Resources (September, 2012)
  8. Top 10 Things I Need to Know about Discipleship (September, 2012)
  9. How to Choose a Small Group System or Strategy (October, 2009)
  10. Need a Funny Video to Promote Small Groups? Check Out the Bible Study (August, 2012)

New from Matt Chandler: Creature of the Word

Had a chance this weekend to dig into Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson and Eric Geiger.  Intrigued by the title, my first thought when I picked up the book was, “What does creature of the word mean?”  Turns out it originated in an important understanding from Martin Luther that “the Church did not form the gospel but was formed (and must be continually formed) by the gospel (p. 15).”  Once I caught that significance, it became a must read.

There’s so much being written and communicated about the gospel that its meaning and power could be in danger of being lost in the static!  Creature of the Word should help by offering some important clarification along with an extensive look in part one “at what the gospel does to the heart of people, their relationships and how they understand their position and purpose (p. 21).”  Part two wrestles with “what a Jesus-centered culture looks like, how it is formed and sustained.”

I really like the way Creature of the Word is organized.  Supported every step of the way with extensive scripture references, the authors keep the content clearly focused.  Part one provides an excellent examination of Jesus-centered worship, community, service, and multiplication (or evangelism).  Again, the combination of scriptural meatiness and illustrations that grab your attention make this a very readable, very valuable work that will end up a resource for lots of pastors and teachers.

Continuing in part two to wrestle with important concepts like the creation of a Jesus-centered culture and preaching a gospel-centered message; the gospel-centered importance of ministry to children and teens, as well as gospel-centered leadership.  I found no surprises in the chapter on contexualization.  On the flip side, the chapter on Jesus-centered ministry took Creature of the Word into some very challenging aspects of ministry in the 21st century.

Creature of the Word ought to be on your radar.  Wherever you imagine your church to sit on the theological landscape, this is a book that will challenge your thinking and provide plenty to chew on.  My copy is pretty marked up and I bet yours will be too!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, LifeWay has retained my services and I am under contract with LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Win 2 Free Registrations to Re:Group: North Point’s First-Ever Small Groups Conference

The contest is closed. I’ve notified the winner. Stay tuned for my next contest, coming soon.

Join Andy Stanley and the North Point Groups team for Re:Group, their first-ever small groups conference!  November 12th to 14th at North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia.

You’ll be inspired and equipped with the nuts and bolts of building a small group culture for adults.  And they’ll do it in typical North Point fashion with main sessions, numerous breakouts, time for interaction, a few surprises, their most recent learnings–and lots of fun.

I’ve got 2 FREE registrations to give away! It’s a $500 value!

You must do TWO (2) things.  And you have to do both to win.

  1. Use the comment section to tell me why you’d like to win.  You can comment right here.
  2. Tweet or Facebook the following line: “RT @MarkCHowell: Win 2 Free Registrations to Re:Group, a $500 value  http://bit.ly/StZzLf

The contest ends on Wednesday, October 3rd, at noon (PT).  Thanks for playing!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. In addition, LifeWay has retained my services and I am under contract with LifeWay. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Beware of the Lure of the Status Quo

Think what you’re offering just needs tweaking? What if it turned out that one new product (or service) would have a dramatic impact? What if that innovative experiment opened a window that made two or three more new products possible…and led to an exponential impact?

The chart represents Apple’s revenue and profit over time.  It just shows from 1985 to 2009, but it clearly illustrates what I want you to see.

Know what happened in 2003?  The introduction of iTunes.  The iPod was introduced in October of 2001 and when paired with iTunes…well, you can see for yourself what happened.

The launch of the iPhone in January of 2007 catapulted Apple’s revenue and profit and the introduction of the iPad escalated it even further.

The chart makes it easy to see.

But just think if in 2001 the status quo had won?  What if the board of directors had said, “No…looks interesting, but we’re a computer company.”  Hard to imagine?

What if you said, “No…this host idea might work at Saddleback, but we need to stick to our knitting.”

Or how about this, “We’re known as a Sunday School church.  It’s working for the 60% of our adults who come.  How can we get the other 40% to come?  And maybe even the other 38,000 adults within 20 minutes of our campus?”

One more?  How about this, “We already have a daytime and an evening on-campus study for women.  Why complicate things by starting off-campus women’s groups?”

What do you think?  Have a question?  Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

Quotebook: Arriving at the Preferred Future

I love a great quote.  And one of my favorite lines concerns what for me is an essential idea.  Arriving at the preferred future.

A couple years ago I was listening to an Andy Stanley talk about the principle of the path.  So good.  The line I’ll never forget happened when he said:

Path, not intent, determines destination.

Think about it.  No matter your dreams, your vision, your hopes or your good intentions…the path you’re on absolutely determines the destination.

He told a great story about a time in his youth when he was careening down what he and Louis Giglio believed to be the quickest way to get home, only to be flagged down by a speeding car trying to get their attention.  Only when they stopped to see what the other driver was trying to tell them did they realize that the bridge ahead was under construction.

Their best intentions–get home on time–would not matter.  The path they were on didn’t lead to the preferred destination.

Forget about your dreams, your vision, your hopes, your intentions.  Does the path you’re on actually lead to where you’d like to go?

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