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Why spiritual disciplines?

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul. It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling, and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all. This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new, ‘renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…’ (Colossians 3:10)”

-Dallas Willard, The Great Omission, p. 151-2

Book recommendations from New Life’s pastoral team

December 28, 2009 3 comments

Reading is a rich form of discipleship. Reading a book means getting the author’s distilled best thoughts and ideas. But choosing good books–like choosing good mentors–can be challenging. To help you choose good books, I’ve compiled a list from our New Life pastoral team.

Here are some of the books we’ve read and recommend from this past year:

Personal/spiritual growth:

  • The Great Omission by Dallas Willard (insightful book on spiritual formation and discipleship)
  • The Flip Side by Flip Flippen (identifies personal constraints and how to establish a plan to overcome them. Great for personal growth)
  • Secrets to Spiritual Power by Watchman Nee (full of spiritual insights and practical pastoral concepts. best to read as a devotional supplement.)
  • A Contrarian’s Guide to Spirituality by Larry Osborne
  • A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller (such a valuable enjoyable read, powerful on story and life-vision, a book to hang ideas on, recommended by several pastors)
  • His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley  (A classic. Written in 1986 but updated a couple of times. Great practical insights into the differing needs of men and women as it relates to marriage.)
  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung (great book on discerning the will of God and making decisions, strong theology written with great humor and practicality)
  • The Coffeehouse Gospel by Matthew Turner (sharing faith in a relaxed, engaging way.)
  • Crazy Love by Francis Chan

Mission/church history/theology:

Culture/history/science:

Church leadership:

  • Church Unique by Will Mancini (great for vision, strategy, and clarity of mission)
  • Beyond Megachurch Myths by Thumma & Travis  (describes common characteristics of churches that have over 2000 in attendance. Debunks some of the myths about these churches.)
  • Reclaiming our Prodigal Sons & Daughters by Larson & Bendtro (a moving book about the lives of urban youth)
  • Deep Church by James Belcher (book of the year on several lists, insight on being a life-giving, historically rooted church.  mediates the emerging/traditional church conversation well)
  • Heralds of God by James S. Stewart (timeless, spiritually rich book on preaching)
  • Sticky Church by Larry Osborne (useful for honing church follow up & small group systems. recommended by multiple pastors.)

Fiction:

Business/Leadership:

A magic number for growth

December 7, 2009 4 comments

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Convinced that growth happens through close, long-term, Christ-centered relationships, we have added into our leadership environment micro-groups of 3 that meet weekly to encourage, pray for and challenge each other to stay white hot for the Gospel.  We call these micro-groups “prayer cords” or “triads”.  We operate them in our pastoral team and among our location leaders at New Life Lakeview & Lincoln Park.

When we meet in our triads/prayer cords, we spend some time sharing about our lives and we also ask each other questions like:

  • What are you doing right now that is keeping your heart near to God?
  • How are you doing in keeping your sexual desires only for your wife?
  • When was your last date?  When is your next date?
  • Are you keeping boundaries on your ministry work so that you have time given to your family?
  • Are you shutting off the blackberry and engaging with your kids?
  • What Scripture will you be spending time in next week?

And then we pray for each other.  Its a simple and powerful formula for growing together.

It was great this past week to have the men in my men’s fraternity group initiate this same kind of group with each other without being prompted by me.  Intuitively, they realize that 3 are stronger than one.  They want to grow together.

Here’s the thing: anyone with a little initiative, desire and courage to be possibly told “no thanks”, can form a micro-group like this.  In my experience one person tends to initiate but everyone benefits and everyone grows.

All a micro-group needs to start and be sustained is:

  • 3 willing and available members (men with men, women with women)
  • consistent time together (ideal: weekly)
  • honesty/transparency
  • safety/confidentiality
  • a growth/grace/Gospel focus

I’m a part of two of these micro-groups.  I guess I need growth help that much.  Are you a part of a micro-group like this?  What are your best practices?  Please share.