Monday, February 19

Larry Crabb Conference @ Kentwood Community Church

I wasn't able to make it to the Larry Crabb Small Groups Conference at Kentwood Community Church this past Saturday. However, Allen Wright was there, thought it was an excellent day, so I asked him if he wouldn't mind giving us a summary. Here is his summary: (thanks Al!!)

Dr. Crabb defined spiritual transformation in the context of small groups as a mystery that happens when, "what is most alive in you comes out of you and comes into me so that what is most alive in me gets stirred up." We literally pour into each other when real transformation takes place in the setting of a small group. We have to get beyond what Dr. Crabb called "cosmetic change" or "good enough Christianity" to real change.

The first session was entitled "Freedom: What should we do?"
How can we relate to each other in a way that non-Christians can't? His answer was that we can admit what is ugliest about us and expect to hear a lone song based on forgiveness not tolerance. (Zephaniah 3:1,2 - ugliness, Zephaniah 3:17 - love song) In this session Dr. Crabb addressed the difference between vulnerability and authenticity. Vulnerability can be self-obsession, telling our stories to pull others in, "sharing" with a goal in mind (attention, sympathy). Authenticity is knowing where I am going in my journey, but not demanding anything, not holding it against you if you back away, not entitlement, but mercy. An authentic relationship would allow for curiosity not just empathy. It would allow a person to take a genuine interest in the discipleship and maturity of the other.

The second session was entitled "Fullness: What are we after?"
Colossians 2:10 says we "have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." Are we after the blessings of heaven now or are we after the fullness of Christ? He contends that many Christians will and do trade our first priority (Christ) for seconds (not bad things, just not first) our marriage, good kids, health, nice home, etc.

He said, "A small group will be spiritually forming to the degree that the battle raging in every human soul is entered, seen and touched. The effect of entering, seeing, and touching the battle is to create space in the soul that only God can fill. That space will be experienced as profound emptiness and God will fill it in this life with hope, not satisfaction. Fullness of hope now; fullness of satisfaction later.

Being crushed and empty is a gift that makes space for God to do His thing." Dr. Crabb says that as long as we are here on earth, we should be longing for home and the hope of heaven is sometimes the only hope we can give people. We may not be able to give them satisfaction here and now. We try and decorate our lives to get ready for home with seconds (marriage, kids, etc.), but it really doesn't work. We can't measure the rightness of what we are doing by how everyone feels. You won't truly get built up without being crushed. The narrow road crushes the demanding spirit and releases our thirst for God.

The Flesh vs. the Spirit – The Real Battle

Flesh – taught by experiences in this world that is ruled by the devil.
- False definitions of LIFE and DEATH that create demands.


Spirit – taught by God’s WORD through God’s SPIRIT among GOD’s people.
- true definitions of LIFE and DEATH that stir DESIRE.

What definitions are our lives being shaped by?

The third session was entitled “Formation: How does it happen?”
The ASCENT to God begins with a DESCENT into self – Calvin
- Transformation depends on my sin meeting grace. My spirit of entitlement (I do so many good things, my life should work out like I want, shaking our fist at God when things don’t turn out like we want) The mystery of this transformation cannot be replaced by the management of my life. There is no secret formula, just my sinfulness meeting the grace of God.

Crabb puts this into 3 experiences.
1. The ECCLESIASTES experience: the beginnings of emptiness, the stripping away of our idolataries, taking away the consuming pleasure of second things
2. The JOB experience: the beginnings of brokenness, Satan’s theory with Job was that all Job wanted was God’s blessings. Do we really want God or just his blessings?
3. The SONG OF SONGS experience: the beginnings of hope, when we are fully seen and fully wanted.

The BATTLE will be fought till death

A VISION of what another will become releases spiritual energy! What vision do I have for others in my small group, myself, my family? Imagine the power that will come when we start to see people this way!

FREEDOM: looking bad in the presence of love based on forgiveness, not tolerance.
FULLNESS: the hope of satisfaction now, the experience of satisfaction forever.
FORMATION: seeing yourself, fighting the battle, moving toward the vision.

Dr. Crabb’s ministry website is

Thursday, February 15

More from the Great Lakes

Ada Bible Church is a large church in the West Michigan area that is a regular contributor to the Great Lakes Small Groups Network. Their Small Groups Pastor shared their version of small group curriculum that is a follow up to the Sunday morning message.

It's a printed resource titled: abclinks, connecting personal and small group studies with this week's sermon.

Features: This week's core belief, how to use abclinks, a summary of the theme and study, time and place (biblical context), storyline (biblical context), scripture, today's prayer, an outline for a bible study, helps for small group discussion (warm up, dive in, take action).

In order to make a resource like this happen, the small groups department needs to know the Pastor's sermon text and direction 6 weeks in advance. As the date approaches they continue to tweak the information as the message takes shape with the Pastor. Copies of abclinks are available in the lobby after the service. Individuals and small groups are encouraged to grab a copy on their way out and continue to study the theme and text during the week.

Wednesday, February 14

Great Lakes Small Groups Network

A couple of weeks ago Allen Wright and I travelled over to Kentwood, Michigan to attend the "Great Lakes Small Groups Network". I've blogged about the network before but here is the nutshell again in case this is the first you've heard of it: Small Groups and Discipleship Pastors, meet every 6-8 weeks, 2-3 people present new ideas they are implementing, share resource ideas, small group discussion around your tables, everyone kicks in $5 for lunch, you leave with two or three things that you can try or at least add to your small group reference file. It's a great idea and one that I encourage you to try in your area.

Oh yeah, those who are also working with Assimilation meet an hour early just to discuss retention.

So what did I learn??
Bill Layle, Pastor of Discipleship, Kentwood Community Church (Wesleyan, 2500 avg attendance) shared with us their "Small Group Curriculum Schedule". One of the things that smaller churches need to understand is that many of the best ideas by the largest churches are simple and inexpensive. This is a prime example of that.

The curriculum schedule is two 81/2 x 11 full color spreadsheets covering a 28 week period. There are three main areas to the spreadsheet indicated by three different colors. (I told you it was simple :-> ) The categories: 1. All groups study the same curriculum; 2. Group choice with a recommendation provided; 3. Purposeful change of pace. Example: Jan 7 - Feb 11 SG Recommendation - "Take It To the Limit" 6 Week DVD

When all groups are studying the same curriculum it usually means that they are studying something that is directly connected to the weekend sermon series, like "Just Walk Across the Room". I think they find that when they recommend a series, most groups go with it rather than trying to hunt down something different. "Purposeful change of pace" can be anything from 1-3 weeks where they encourage their groups to host a neighborhood party, serve, or just take a week off.

In two pages a group leader can see exactly where the program is heading over the next few months. Sweet!

Thursday, February 1

Larry Crabb @ Kentwood

A couple years back I heard Larry Crabb speak at the Willow Creek Small Groups Conference. His topic was, "Spiritual Formation through Small Groups". Hands down the best talk I have ever heard on small groups. If you can find a CD of that talk, order it!

Kentwood Community Church is having Larry in for a Small Group Conference:

Walking the Narrow Road Together
A Realistic Look at Small Groups
Saturday, February 17, 2007
8:30 - 3:00


Kory Pence delivered an excellent study at our staff devotional time yesterday. Kory was inspired by a sermon he had heard Bud Bence preach at College Wesleyan this past Sunday.

Kory spoke of "Waymarkers", things to mark and guide us on our icon to direct a specific course of action.

1. Holy Times: Rare or regimented times that help one (or several people) to distinguish not what is good and bad but what is good and better.

2. Holy Places: "thin places" where earth and God's kingdom come closer. Those times when you feel you could reach out and touch God.

3. Holy Objects: Often common things that point to a deeper reality of God.

Lead your small group through this! It's excellent.