Tag Archives: family gatherings

A New Surreality (…That Was My Dad.)

Mom & Dad R.

On Wednesday of this last week, my Dad had replacement knee surgery. By Saturday at 3 o’clock in the morning he was gone. Just that suddenly. Just that unexpected. He came home from the hospital on Friday morning and that night a blood clot took his life.

My mom showed up at my doorstep with a next door neighbor friend at 2:45 a.m. pounding on our door. When I opened it, the first words out of her mouth, in between uncontrollable sobs, were, “You’re dad just passed away tonight.”

Surreal is the only word that comes to mind; and even that is woefully inadequate. That was my Dad. He was fine. Healthy, other than hobbling up and down the stairs on ruined knees from a high school and college career as a baseball pitcher on top of decades of golf rounds. We had beers. We swapped stories. We bitched about the government. We compared notes on novels we’d read and TV shows we watched.

And now he’s, what? Just…gone? But…that was my dad. Continue reading A New Surreality (…That Was My Dad.)

Having a DiscipleShift

discipleshiftAs some of you may know, I attend and volunteer at our church here in Post Falls, Idaho, called Real Life Ministries pastored by Jim Putman.  Recently, I attended a lunchtime meeting as part of Real Life Ministries conference series called DiscipleShift.  The overriding theme of both Discipleshift and the mission statement of RLM is this: Making disciples who make disciples.

What does that mean to you?

Given the sheer number of pastors, staff and volunteers who attended the DiscipleShift conference (held monthly: information here), it depends on who you ask.  And just as importantly it seems, it depends on where they’re from.

Ask a church pastor from Oregon and he’ll tell you that it’s important for the church to live out the intentionality and focus of small groups; for the church to expand beyond its four walls, embracing the Acts 2 mentality of “devote[ing] themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  Adding to their numbers through pouring the Word into each other, as well as the fruits of the Spirit; raising up disciples who can then branch off into their own groups to then repeat the process.

Ask a church pastor from Africa and he’ll tell you of the great thirst for the Word in his country.  Furthermore, he adds, teaching people about the importance of small groups is surprisingly unnecessary because that is simply how church is done throughout the towns and villages of his community.  “Every day is church day,” he says with a broad smile, “we just get to meet together on Sunday’s.” Continue reading Having a DiscipleShift

Home Group Leadership . . . What Could Possibly Go Wrong!

At Real Life Ministries here in North Idaho, we’re what you’d call a “disciple-making” church.  Our mission statement reads, “Reaching the world for Jesus, one person at a time.”  Our role is focused around “disciples who make disciples”.  And, though we have upwards of five services a weekend, our primary focus on the discipleship process lies within the home group setting.

We’ve got a great couple who lead our particular Wednesday night home group.  We’ve also been blessed with an amazing, rotating cast of several couples and singles who participate.  And then you have my wife and me.  We’re what you’d call the “apprentice” couple: we are the ones being directly discipled by the leadership.  We will occasionally co-lead, and we’re being groomed to branch our group at some time in the future to facilitate a group of our own.

And that thought scares the bejeebers out of me!

If it were as simple as presenting curriculum given to us by the church, following along with the sermon series of the lead pastor . . . well, that would be one thing.  But have you seen what home group leaders actually DO??

Leadership requires a certain level of responsibility.  They don’t show up late.  In fact, they’re often early in order to help the host home set up for the group.  They help set up the chairs, make the coffee, hand out the curriculum.  And speaking of curriculum; they don’t simply read up on the material the afternoon of the meeting day, they actually study, sketch out the lessons, and prepare appropriate questions for the peculiar personalities within their group.

Leadership requires a certain level of emotional commitment.  They’re invested.  They actually care.  About us.  About you.  About your teenage son that refuses to take off the earbuds and engage with the rest of the family.  About the spiritual well-being of your alcoholic father.  About your Aunt Edna’s goiter that they swear they prayed for last week.  Even about your cat Mrs. Flufferknickers and that mysterious bald patch on her tummy where she’s overgrooming herself due to stress caused by that ugly tomcat that moved in next door.

Leadership requires a certain level of time commitment.  In addition to the actual reading and prep time involved with the curriculum; and lifting up the prayer requests for Dad, Aunt Edna and Mrs. Flufferknickers; they take the time to meet with people from the group outside of the confines of the host home: for coffee, lunch and, most importantly, conversation and the all-important answer to that universal ice-breaker, “How ya doin’?”

Leadership requires a certain level of “thick skin”.  We started too late.  We started too early.  We go too deep in the Word.  The discussions are too shallow.  We follow too many rabbit trails.  Conversations never go to the heart; it’s almost like we stick to a script.  They never serve good coffee.  All they ever offer us is coffee.  Some people talk too much.  Some people never participate.  “I can’t believe he said that!”  “I can’t believe he didn’t say anything!”

Leadership requires a certain awareness of spiritual attack.  Everything from sicknesses to job losses; internal tensions within the group; external influences that take precedence or shift focus; the difficulty in diving into, or staying in, the Word; burned dinners and dead batteries just before you leave; family fights on the way; all random, all out of the blue, and all keeping members, and leaders, away from gathering in the Name.

Leadership requires a certain level of privacy.  Leadership implies a certain level of responsibility and trust.  People are trusting leaders with their spiritual growth and well-being.  Therefore, people will trust leaders with many aspects of their personal lives, struggles, addictions and weaknesses that other group members may not know of, want to know, or need to know.  It comes with the territory.  It comes with the role.

Leadership requires a certain level of discretion.  Unless you yourself are a leader, you may not be aware of any of these other responsibilities and commitments.  These obligations, both big and small, that the leader of your home group defers to on a daily basis.  And, that’s okay; you’re not supposed to.  As much as their human/emotional/worldly side wants to, leaders won’t boast, won’t whine, won’t brag and won’t grumble.

And that’s what scares me.  I am Romans 7:19 to a fault. (For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. )  Still, when the time comes, I will graciously receive my role in spiritual leadership, because I know that somewhere there’s someone just like me that’s looking for that person just like them—warts and all—to look up to; to see the perfect imperfection and see what Christ can do with it anyway.  After all . . .

Leadership requires a great deal of submissiveness:

Romans 7: 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it . . . 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Proverbs 3: Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.

As does participation by all group members . . .

Hebrews 13: 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.