It’s Time to Take a Break (Part 3)

Taking a break from leading your small group may be one of the most important leadership decisions you ever make for the group. Admittedly, a leader’s personality contributes greatly to the overall dynamic of a small group. The members look to the leader to help navigate through the dynamics of the relational cycle, to cast vision, lead discussions, and facilitate conflict resolution. All these things are part of your job as a leader but the group must never get to the place where the health and fruitfulness of the group is determined solely upon the skills and personality of the small group leader.

When a group first launches the dynamic is fragile. In our training manual, we call that “chaos community”. This usually lasts about 2 or 3 months. During this time the leader is the glue. Once the relationships in the group begin to solidify, a leader’s goal should be to give enough of the responsibilities away to the members so that the group could be self-sustaining. In the next issue of Lifelines, we will make some suggestions on how to move your group to becoming self-sustaining.

Today’s take away:

  1. Determine whether or not your group is self-sustaining or if the group relies solely upon your own personality and skills as a leader.
  2. Think about how this break might be an opportunity to make progress towards that goal of having a self-sustaining group.

By the way, if you’ve decided to be a part of the 3-week Spring break beginning March 27th at 3:30PM:

  1. Have you decided what the group will do during the break? (We gave you three options in the previous Lifelines)
  2. Have you discussed this with the group?
  3. If the options you’ve chosen requires planning, have you appointed a point person to handle the task(s) during the 3 week break? (If you do not already have an apprentice.)

It’s Time to Take a Break (Part 2)

As we prepare you for a three-week “Spring” break we wanted to answer two more important questions: “What will my small group do during this three week break?” and “What will the midsized community for leaders look like?”

What will my small group do during this three-week break? The following are three options:

  1. Your group does not formally meet while you attend the midsize community Bible study for three weeks.
  2. Your apprentice leads the group while you attend the midsize community Bible study for three weeks.
  3. Your group meets in a format that doesn’t require your leadership such as a prayer and praise night; a night of service; a movie night, etc.

What will the midsized leader’s community look like?

  1. The leader’s midsized community Bible study will meet from 3:30-5:00 PM on Sunday 3/27, 4/3, and 4/10.
  2. It will be an interactive time where we will work through the book of Philemon in order to understand the meaning of the text and how to apply it.
  3. As we study Philemon we will discuss practical tips for your leadership in terms of studying the Bible, preparing a lesson and facilitating good discussions in your small group.
  4. We will have times of prayer and fellowship together.

Can’t wait to take a break with you!

It's Time to Take a Break

At the All-Leader Meeting we announced 3 scheduled breaks over the next year for leaders to be refreshed in the context of community with other leaders. We’ll be filling you in on the details of those breaks through Lifelines in the coming weeks but first we want to answer two questions that many of you may be asking: Is it ok to take a break? Why do I need one?

Q: Is it ok to take a break?
A: Yes! If Jesus Christ upholds the universe by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3), I think that includes your small group J . This break is a chance for you to trust that God is in control and that your group will be fine if you are not there for 3 weeks. In fact, I would pray that God would be merciful to allow these breaks to be one of the most meaningful and fruitful times your group will have this year.

Q: Why do I need a break?
A: Because you are human! We all need to have breaks where we can be refreshed and encouraged by other leaders. Breaks in seminary helped me get through the rigorous schedule during the semester. If I knew that spring break was coming soon it helped me know how to budget my energy. Without a break in sight, leaders are more likely to feel overwhelmed and experience some level of burn out.

These breaks will be an exercise in faith and humility and will benefit both you personally as well as your small group.

Romans 8:31-39

Imagine standing in front of a crowd of Christ followers and speaking the words of Romans 8. As you talk about how the “Spirit of life” has freed us from the power and penalty of sin (verses 1-13), what are you feeling? Are you happy? Sad? Surprised? Fearful? What do you feel as you speak the words of verses 14-17 about our adoption as sons and daughters of God? What about as you speak the words dealing with suffering and hope in verses 18-30?

As we move into our final study in Romans, verses 31-39, it is time to recall all that the Holy Spirit through Paul has communicated to us. From “no condemnation” (8:1) to “no separation” (8:39), Romans 8 is a call to cling to the work of the Holy Spirit in assuring the believer of his rock-solid security in Christ. As Paul approaches the climax of describing this assurance, I sense in Paul an enthusiasm, a zeal, a thrill, an elation that is beyond our human words to describe.

“What then shall we say to these things,” Paul asks – think of this question as the first century equivalent of “So What?” Paul’s “So what” is, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” to which Paul obviously intends an answer, “Nobody.” So we could paraphrase, “If God is for us, nobody can be against us.”

Paul then proceeds to give support for this assertion that, “If God is for us, nobody can be against us.”

  • First, Paul points to the deepest support that God is “for us” – namely, that God gave his own Son for us. Paul is not introducing something new here, because he previously made this point in Romans 5:8-9.
  • Second, Paul points to the assurance that “God’s elect,” or those that God called (verses 28-30), are guaranteed glorification in the final judgment.
  • Third, Paul reiterates that through Christ all things work together for good. After listing several types of hardship, Paul writes that “we are more than conquerors.” A conqueror is one who overcomes opposition, yet as believers, we “more than overcome,” because, for us, “all things work together for good.”
  • Finally, Paul presents a personal testimony — “I am sure,” he writes. What a remarkable testimony from a man who has endured so much hardship! (Read, for example, 2 Corinthians 11:26-27 and 12:10.)

Discussion Questions

1. How would you describe the tone of Romans 8:31-39? What are some examples in your life, or that you have seen in others, where that emotion has been on display?
2. Read Romans 5:1-11. How does that passage compare to Romans 8:31-39?
3. Paul makes it a point to support his assertion using theology as well as personal experience. What is your experience regarding “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord?” In hindsight, how do you see God at work through your suffering and hardships? Be specific.
4. If you had to describe “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” to another person, how would you describe it?

William Cowper

romans

And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23

We hope you have benefited from our series on Romans chapter 8 the last few weeks, “the great 8,” as some have called it. In chapters 5-8 Paul has been speaking about how the Holy Spirit brings freedom and life to all believers in Christ. Above is one of the verses that Nate dealt with last week at Frontline and the word that pops out at me as I read it is, groan. The kind of groaning Paul refers to here, “takes place by reason of a state of oppression which causes suffering and from which there is the desire to be free” (TDNT, P. 1076). Though we have been set free from the penalty of sin (8:1) as well as sins power (6:2) we are not yet free from the presence of sin or the effects of sins curse in a broken world.

Throughout Church history there have been many men and women who have endured tremendous suffering even in the midst of carrying on tremendous ministry for the sake of Christ and his Church. William Cowper is a name that probably most of us are not familiar with. He was an 18th century poet and hymn writer, who also suffered from debilitating depression and despairs for the majority of his life, and at times was suicidal. In the spring of 1763, Cowper was sitting on a bench on the grounds of the insane asylum; he picked up a bible (as someone had placed on the bench, knowing he would find it) and read Romans 3:25. Here is what happened in Cowper’s own words: “Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel.”

While William Cowper received the hope of the gospel that day, his groaning would remain for the rest of his life on earth. Somehow, by God’s marvelous grace, even in the midst of the darkness of his own battle with depression and despair, he knew that the sovereign God was good and that He was working out his own purposes in and through the unbearable suffering that Cowper lived with. Below are the words to a hymn/poem that Cowper wrote concerning suffering and the sovereignty of God. I encourage you to read slowly and think upon these words, even commit them to memory as my wife and I have. They will enlarge your vision of God and help you suffer well when you feel the groaning within your own spirit.

In the mercy of the gospel,
Will

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purpose will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.