Currently, our world is facing two pandemics. The first is a health pandemic. COVID-19 is sweeping across countries and leaving a tragic trail of sickness and fatalities. Even for those who don’t know anyone who has caught the virus, this pandemic is greatly impacting their lives. This virus has changed everything about our day-to-day as we all do our part to stop the spread of the virus. These drastic, but necessary, measures are helping slow the health pandemic, but unfortunately are also causing a second one.
The COVID-19 outbreak is not just impacting people’s physical health, but their emotional health also. It not only causes fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, but it can trigger anxiety, fear, helplessness, and deep sadness. Where many are directly impacted by the health pandemic, everyone is impacted by this emotional pandemic.
The constant communication about COVID-19’s impact on the news and our social media is causing anxiety and fear. Social distancing and shelter-at-home laws are causing loneliness. And the indefinite timestamp on this new normal is leaving many feeling overwhelmed and depressed. From parents who are balancing working from home and homeschooling their kids to employees who have been let go, everyone is feeling this emotional pressure.
Unlike the virus, the existence of emotions isn’t bad. The problem is not that we have moments of anxiety and fear. The problem is when we don’t respond well and the emotions become uncomfortable. It’s when we no longer are in control of our emotions, but they are in control of us.
Much like the virus has the potential to overwhelm our hospital’s capacity if we don’t take steps to flatten the curve, our emotions can overwhelm us if we don’t flatten the emotional curve caused by irrational beliefs. Taking a similar approach to the health pandemic, we must take proactive healthy steps and we must catch the problem early.
No matter what life stage or context I am in…ambition is there. Whether I am playing a sport, working a side-hustle, or leading a church…ambition is there. Whether I sit in my room alone with my thoughts or I am brainstorming in a conference room with others…ambition is there. Whether I am spending a Saturday with my family at home or sitting in an office on Monday-Friday…ambition is there.
Dave Harvey describes ambition as chasing glory (Rescuing Ambition, 20). We all, to some extent, are chasing glory. This is because God has designed us this way and he commends the pursuit of glory (Romans 2:6-8). The question is whose glory are you chasing?
This question has rattled me as a young pastor because despite what may have an outward appearance of working for God’s glory, there are many days my motivation is more focused on making my name great. On my good days, I truly am striving to do great things for God, but on my bad days, I am doing great things for me under the name of God.
Early in ministry, I thought that I had an ambition problem and that I needed to suffocate this inner-drive. But over the last decade, I have come to realize that God loves my ambition…he hates my arrogance. My ambition is a gift from Him. The problem is that I have corrupted this gift by chasing my own glory, not His.
When this light bulb went off, my perspective and prayers changed. God doesn’t want to remove my ambition but redeem it. I don’t need to deny it but direct it.
Over the last decade, directing my ambition towards God and not myself has been an ongoing battle that I have to regularly ask for God’s forgiveness and help. Nearly every day, I ask myself one of the following three questions to assess if my ambition is selfish or Godly.
If you have been in a D-Group before, you know how impactful H.E.A.R. Journal discussion can be. It’s powerful to hear everyone share what God showed them through His Word and see them respond to those insights with steps of obedience. As 3-5 people share their H.E.A.R. Journals each week, the different passages and perspectives highlight the many beautiful facets of God’s Word. When the H.E.A.R. method works, it often creates the most meaningful moments in our D-Group.
But, let’s be honest, we have all been there. You go to share H.E.A.R. Journals and discussion falls flat. One person didn’t do a H.E.A.R. Journal; another person goes off on some rabbit trail about his boss. The third member shares some incredibly detailed breakdown of why the dimensions of the tabernacle are so important and the last guy gives a cop-out application response like, “I just need to trust Jesus.”
Your conversation finishes and there were no sparks, no “AHA” moments, no confession and repentance, and no real steps of obedience. The H.E.A.R. Journal discussion comes and goes and you as the leader are left wondering where the issue is: with the process, with the people, or with you?
Take comfort in that everyone has had the experience above. Here is a simple framework that will help you facilitate better H.E.A.R. Journal discussion.
A month ago, Sophie and I shared the news that I accepted a job as the D-Groups Pastor at Long Hollow Church and joined the Training Team with Replicate Ministries. This decision has been the hardest decision of our lives as we uproot from a place we love and move away from friends, family, and a church that means the world to us. (We share our gratitude and love for The Chapel in this video.) Along with the sadness of leaving, we are excited and honored to serve at Long Hollow and start this new adventure in the Nashville area.
The transition process has been difficult, but sweet. I greatly underestimated the breadth and depth of emotions that come with transitioning from a place you love so deeply. I have felt excitement, sadness, peace, turmoil, curiosity, cynicism, courage, fear, and much more. Through all of the pain and celebration, God has lovingly given me three lessons that I am reminding myself of daily.
Have you ever been in a small group discussion that you wish you weren’t? One of the members monopolizes the time by answering and responding to every person. Another person thinks he is Mr. Fix-It as he gives the whole group unsolicited advice on how to fix everybody’s issues but his. Another member has a special ability to casually bring up every hot button issue and leave everyone cringing. And then, of course, you have the person who derails every conversation by throwing into the discussion a “theological grenade” like, “What’s everybody’s thoughts on predestination and free will?”
If you have been a part of a small group for more than a couple of weeks, you most likely have experienced an awkward group discussion. Though we cannot prevent every awkward moment from happening (see why here!), we do want to have a healthy discussion that benefits all its members. We want to provide a safe and authentic place where people can be real and honest and truly encounter Jesus Christ. Here are guidelines that you can give to help foster an environment where this can happen.
This section focuses on the WHO: Our Roles. Instead of sending out one individual or a couple, we would rather start a Community Group as a team. This allows for there to be shared responsibility of the group which helps each individual to have nights where he or she can receive, not just give.
Also, Community Groups are not a group of people with a gifted leader, but a leader with a group of gifted people. We want to create opportunities for people to use their gifts to contribute to the group. However big or small the contribution may be, we want people to not just think about what can I receive from the group, but what can I give.
Below are four different roles that we recommend for our groups. This is not an exact science, but an art. Certain individuals may lead in two roles or multiple people may help facilitate the discussion weekly. We just don’t want one person doing all four roles.
Despite having the last name Green, I did not inherit a green thumb. If a plant needs any maintenance, you can guarantee that I will be replacing a dead plant with a more low maintenance one in the coming months. With that said, I do understand the most basic responsibility of gardening: water the plant.
In our front yard, we have two hydrangeas. Without rain, these plants quickly go from big leaves and pretty blossoms to withered and droopy. To revive these plants, you don’t need to address the withered leaves or the dying blossoms but instead, address the roots. By simply watering the roots, the plant perks up and the once withered leaves become full. The principle is simple. If you want the plant to bear fruit, you have to take care of the roots.
Focusing first on the roots, not the fruit is the most basic agricultural principle. In the Christian life, it’s just as essential, but often we are not trained as a farmer to start at the roots. Much like a plant, when we feel that our leaves are withering or that we are not producing fruit, we need to first inspect our roots.
At The Chapel, we define our Community Groups as life-changing communities where you can belong, believe, and become. This statement doesn’t just function as our definition, but as our strategy.
Belong: Provide a place where you can meet Jesus in a group where you are welcomed and accepted.
Believe: Provide a place where you can know Jesus through His Word and His people.
Become: Provide a place where you can follow Jesus as you become who God designed you to be.
The three B’s are placed in an intentional progressive order. Today, as more people are looking for a safe, non-judgmental place where they can investigate their faith, belonging precedes belief and belief precedes becoming. Secondly, the statement mirrors our mission statement: To Help People Meet, Know, and Follow Jesus. Each “B” focuses on providing the environment that will help bring about a specific aspect of their relationship with Jesus. Below we unpack each one of these.
In the previous posts, we have discussed the WHY and WHAT behind our Community Groups. Before we get into the specifics of hosting a group and the strategy, let’s first look at the vision for our Community Groups. What are we hoping God will do through our groups over the next decade?
At The Chapel, we have a 10-year GroupLife vision where we are praying and planning for a D-group in Every Community Group and A Community Group in Every Neighborhood. Below is a map that illustrates this statement.
This is a bold vision that is driven by the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. We will reach our city and help people meet Jesus through saturating the city of Baton Rouge with Community Groups that provide a welcoming environment for all people to join. Additionally, as these people meet Jesus in Community Groups, we want to help them know and follow Jesus in the context of D-Groups. As our neighbors, coworkers, and classmates meet, know, and follow Jesus, we will send out laborers to the campus, the city, and the world.