Monday, October 26, 2015

Jesus-Looking Community: The Goal of Every Church & Small Group

When Jesus came 2000 years ago, he did not just offer a message of salvation that resulted in a different belief structure. He offered a different way of life—called the kingdom of God—that included a different kind of vision for community. The Jesus-looking kingdom was not something anyone would have expected. No one—this cannot be reiterated enough—no one could have pre- dicted that God’s way would look like self-sacrificial love hanging on a cross. The king the nation of Israel expected was not supposed to die.

The Israelites of the first century expected a normal king—their word for this was “Messiah,” which is christos in the Greek New estament—but that’s not what they got. And most did not see what was going on. John put it this way: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:9-11). They did not have ears to hear Jesus and his way.

The people of Israel had a different imagination for the kind of kingdom God would bring and this included a specific vision for community. Four popular versions of community of the time illustrate this point:

A realistic vision for the kingdom:  This was the strategy of the Sadducees and the Herodians. These two groups, each in their own way, asked, “What is possible within the circumstances at hand?” Since the Romans were in charge, they tried to make the best of things and work within the rules of the power brokers.

A radical vision for the kingdom: The Zealots took this approach. They sought to establish Israel by meeting the violence of the Romans with equivalent violence. They were training to drive out the Romans with power.
An exclusive vision for the kingdom: A group called the Essenses adopted this strategy. They withdrew to the desert to escape the pollution of the culture so they could set up the new kingdom of God in pure form. 

An ideal vision for the kingdom: The Pharisees followed this pattern. While they lived among the populace, they established an ideal way of doing “church” that separated themselves from the culture at large. Their goal was to find the right way to serve God so that others would join them and thereby usher in the kingdom of God.
Jesus vision did not fit any of these paradigms and, as a result, most people did not see or hear what Jesus was up to. He created a kingdom of God movement by establishing a Jesus-looking community that stood in contrast to the popular versions of community at the time. 

Often our small group visions fall short of Jesus-looking community in similar ways.

Realistic community. Instead of starting with God’s dream to redeem all things, we start with the realities we face in life. Since we are busy, overwhelmed and underresourced, we look at how we can lead groups in a way that does not infringe too much on group members. We lower expectations to something like “attend the meeting.”

Radical community.  With these group leaders there is no room for compromise. They call Christians to step out and go above and beyond, to sacrifice to extremes. Activism, mission and outreach consume small groups that take this approach. Zealous progress toward passionate Christianity and getting something done for the kingdom is the focus. The focus too often lies so much on the action or the mission that these groups end up doing violence to others and themselves. They rally around the cause, but in doing so they miss the way of Jesus.

Exclusive community.  The most common form this takes is called “Bible study.” We get together to talk about the information of the Bible and learn some very good facts about the Bible. Insider information shaped by insider language creates a group that has little to do with normal life outside the group, and new people are welcome only if they speak our language.

Idealistic community. Idealism causes us to find the “right” way of doing church and small groups. We assume that if we unlock this right way, we will unlock the life of God in our midst. Usually this involves arguments about the way the early church operated and how to follow that biblical approach. Here’s the problem: through the years there have been so many “right” interpretations of the way New Testament house churches operated that any claim to rightness can be countered endlessly. We just don’t have enough detailed explanation about first-century house churches to define an ideal New Testament model.
Jesus offers us something that we all want, but we cannot produce. We can produce the four visions of community listed above. But only the life of Christ through the power of the Spirit can generate Jesus-looking community. 

We enter into this life by embracing the three rhythms of Jesus-looking life together.
  • Communion with God.
  • Relating well to one another. 
  • Engagement with our world. 

Discipleship or spiritual information is simply learning to do these three things with one another. 

The truth of the matter is that this is really not that complex. There is no secret path to lead your group into Jesus-looking community. It's really about making the space in our life together so that the Spirit can teach us an alternative pattern of Jesus-looking spiritual formation. We want some kind of plan or program that will produce this kind of life. But it just does not exist. The Spirit does not work that way. 

However there are some things we can do in order to make this kind of space for the Spirit to work in our groups or in our relationships: 
  1. Work with people who are expressing a desire for more than just attending a small group meeting. A sign that the Spirit is working in people is found when people are stirred up and dissatisfied with mediocrity. You cannot force this or will your group into this kind of life. Pray for the Spirit to raise up a hunger. 
  2. Enter into conversations over meals—food really helps create an environment to talk about what the Spirit is doing—with those who want more. Ask questions of one another and see where the conversations lead. I offer some questions around Jesus-looking community in my book Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus (pages 56-62). 
  3. Experiment with some communal spiritual practices that will shape a different way of being in community with one another. I offer some examples in my book Missional Small Groups. You cannot program Jesus-looking community. You discover it. 
Just as Jesus led his followers down an alternative path that no one expected, the Spirit of Jesus wants to do the same today. In fact this is already happening. The question for us is: Are we making space in our personal lives and in our life together—whether in our groups, with our families or in our friendships—to hear what the Spirit is saying. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

8 Practices of Great Small Group Leaders

Most of the time, when we think leading a small group or a missional community, we think in terms of techniques. We live in a world driven by techniques. If you have a problem, someone out there has a solution they’re willing to sell you. If you follow their secret knowledge, then you’ll get different results. If you want to make money, there’s a plan for that. If you want to be happy, then follow the steps some expert outlines for you.

This technique mindset works like this: if you want to experience x, then follow the a + b + c formula. For group leadership, these techniques usually sound something like the following:
  • Four steps to leading a great small group discussion 
  • Three keys to building community 
  • Seven ways to pray for your group members 
  • Six rules for leading worship in groups 
  • Five ways to reach the community with the gospel 
  • How to ask great questions that generate discussion 
  • How to contact group members between meetings 
  • A surefire strategy for developing a new leader
While there is a place for group leadership techniques—I’ve written and continue to write in that vein—it’s just not enough. I would argue it’s not even the place to start when it comes to great group experiences. Most of the things that lead groups into great experiences do not depend on our ability to do a technique properly. While how-to training is a good thing, real breakthroughs in people’s lives almost always call for something other than techniques.

Let me be clear: a technique without God's presence and love is only a man-made step around a never-ending loop of having to find the next technique. But there is an alternative.

What's the Alternative?
To find an alternative, we must think briefly about the end or the goal of our group experience. The end we envision for our small groups will dictate the kinds of practices we adopt as leaders. Over the years there have been many different “ends” offered for small groups or missional communities. They include things like evangelism, discipleship, getting people connected, Bible study, multiplication of groups, or creating a Jesus movement. Those with the goal of evangelistic growth will focus on practices to reach the lost. Those that seek Bible study will spend great effort honing their Bible study skills. And if these are the "end" of your group, you can find a technique that will get you there. Just search the web and find a resource.

Over the years I’ve wondered if the apostle Paul might write something like this today: “If my group reaches lost people and grows but there is no love, we are only a growing shell of emptiness. If my group raises up new leaders and multiplies but there is no love, we are only multiplying a form of spiritual cancer. If my group gets serious about discipleship and dives deep into the Word but there is no love, we are puffed up hoarders of information. If my group serves and goes forth on mission but there is no love, we are like a chicken with its head cut off. If my group gets lots of people in my church connected but there is no love, we are no better than a salesperson who sells products for a living.”

While the "ends" often promoted are good, they are secondary. They are not the ultimate end that God has in mind. I would like to suggest that the ultimate end is to lead others in "the way of Jesus." With this end in mind, we are simply talking about becoming the kind of leaders who live in the love of God demonstrated on the cross, allowing God’s love to move through us. The end is God’s love, and since God loves the world (John 3:16), we are simply joining him in the continuing work of the Spirit to love the world with crosslike love. Therefore, we need leadership practices that will align us with how God’s Spirit is moving. We are creating environments in our groups so that people can grow in this crosslike love. This is the end. This is the goal.

I wish someone had sat me down and pumped into my head this one truth about training leaders to love before they started giving me lessons on the technical aspects of leading groups. If someone had done that—or if I had listened if someone did say it to me—it would have spared me a lot of stress. Instead of struggling to figure out what I was doing wrong in my implementation of leadership techniques, I would have known the limitations of those techniques. This is not to belittle the technical side of group leadership. We just need to recognize its proper place.

Only love can beget love. And only the love of God can give a technique any value.

Of course, no one starts out with the ability to love like Jesus. We need practices that equip and guide us along the way. Over the years I’ve observed that those who grow in crosslike love engage in a common set of practices. They include:
  • Practice 1: Hear the rhythms of the Jesus way 
  • Practice 2: Gather in the presence 
  • Practice 3: Lead collaboratively 
  • Practice 4: Be yourself 
  • Practice 5: Hang out 
  • Practice 6: Make a difference 
  • Practice 7: Fight well 
  • Practice 8: Point the way to the cross 
This is not meant to be a list of things we do, a list that replaces other lists that describe what small groups leaders do. These practices do not work when we treat them in an “a + b + c = great leader- ship” way. When we do this, we turn the way of Jesus into something we produce. The way of Jesus is already happening in the world. These practices are meant to help us step on to the way and participate in what God is doing in our world.
These eight practices are not developed in a linear fashion. They act like spokes on a wheel moving us forward. None of them comes before the others. Nor do we outgrow any of them. We never master them, as they are practices of a lifetime. In the early stages of our leadership development, the wheel may be small and move slowly. 

At times the spokes may be uneven so we move forward in a clunky manner. But as we follow Jesus and allow the Spirit to shape us, our ability to participate with God and walk with Jesus on his way expands. Our job is to put ourselves in a place where the Spirit of God can shape us in these practices.

This is the focus of my book Leading Small Groups in The Way of Jesus. Over the next few weeks, I will briefly introduce each of these eight practices. 


—Adapted from Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus, Pages 29-45

Monday, August 31, 2015

Only God Reveals God's Mission

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” —Hebrews 1:3

God is only known by us if God himself reveals himself to us. I do not have the ability to see God rightly from within the way that I see the world. Left to myself, I am stuck in a closed loop, like a race car perpetually racing around the same track. Every new thought, every new perception is simply an incremental advance upon what is already known.

In other words, when it comes to God and my understanding of God, my "looped" way limits, dulls and even prevents me from seeing what God is really like. Therefore I project my experience in my loop of life upon God. I cannot not do this.

This has in fact shaped much of the history of various conceptions of god. We need not go beyond Greek mythology to see how the gods were projections from life that we can experience on earth onto the life that could not be experienced. The experience of earth was cast upon the experience of heaven, just in a supposedly perfected way. If life experienced in a human culture deems power to be of utmost importance, then god is a perfection or ultimate expression of that power. And if the ultimate power in the land looks like a violent monarch who gets his way by inflicting fear, then ultimate power of the universe is simply a perfected version of such a monarch.

This approach to understanding God has continued in many different streams of thought, even within Christianity. We could talk in terms of systematic theology, but I'd like to explore this in terms of our spiritual theology. We read the Bible and see that God is called Father. For some this is a good thing because they have or had good, faithful fathers. For many others, however, this is a hopeless expression. The name Father does not stir up positive images. Their experience here on earth has looped them into a perpetually limited understanding of what it means for God to be Father.

Only if God redefines Father according to the way that the Father is Father can we understand who God the Father is. Only if God breaks into our loop from the outside can we see God for who God is. This applies to both those with good earthly fathers and those with horrible father experiences. God's Fatherhood is analogous to faithful fatherhood in this life, but it is as different as life on the moon would be from life on earth.

Only when something outside this closed loop of earth enters into that loop and introduces a new way can we catch a glimpse of God's way of being God.

When we dive into the truth that only God can reveal God—as the Church Father, Hilary put it, "God cannot be apprehended except through himself"—then we see that we are not left to ourselves to figure out who God is. Jesus broke into our looped way of thinking about God to set us on a new course. As the "exact representation of [God's] being," we must allow the image of Jesus to be burned into our imaginations.

This applies to God's mission and our participation in God's mission as much as anything else. We are not left to ourselves to figure out God's mission in the world. 

The work of the mission of Jesus was a revelation that broke into the looped life of this world. Jesus broke into the Jewish world of messianic expectations. The Christ was the Jewish Messiah, the one who would deliver the Jews from foreign oppression by driving out the Romans, rebuild Jerusalem to it's royal glory and restore the majesty of the Temple. In other words, the Messiah would be the greatest of all rulers in the world as defined by worldly rulers.

But that's not the way God entered into the loop. God came in weakness, as a servant of all servants, revealing true power, demonstrating the surprising impact of love, and turning the world up on its end.

The way that God works in the world can only be revealed by God. The work of God today does not, cannot and must not diverge from the way of the work of Jesus.

God defines what the work of God looks like. The work of God today does not, cannot and must diverge from the way of the work of Jesus looked two thousand years ago. It's far too easy for us to say that God worked through Jesus in that way then but he is leading us to do the work of God in a different way now.

The work of Jesus then is a marker, a paradigm definer, of what the mission of God looks like today. Left to ourselves we will project out good ideas of mission upon what we think God wants us to do. We will try to do God's mission within the loop of our life experience. 

I want to explore this more. I just wonder how much of the conversation about the mission of the church has been shaped by this looped life experience. How much are we "doing" mission without God revealing his mission? 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reading the Bible as If God Is Working

“[W]e preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” —1 Corinthians 1:23 CEB

The Bible is the most unique book ever written. The reasons for this are many, but the fact that it claims to be the word of God and that the central figure claimed to be God, but that God was killed on the cross makes this the most unusual kind of story ever. As Paul wrote, it is foolishness and a scandal. This one attribute, the reality that God died on a cross, while the most shocking claim in history, reveals a God that is at work in this world in ways that we cannot predict or control. It reveals truth that comes to us from God, not something that we could ever drum up. This foolish truth of the Bible must cause us to ask: What kind of book is this?

Of course, we often read the Bible by domesticating it. The truth of the Bible is so beyond what we expect that we try to fit its message into already conceived notions. We read it to confirm what we already believe. Like a dog chasing its tail, we find passages that reinforce what we already think is true. For instance, for years I assumed that almost every passage pointed to a call to conversion, to an invitation to unbelievers to become believers. Later I realized that the only reason I assumed this is because this was the way that sermons were crafted in my tradition. The sermons were preached to lead to a call to conversion.

With this mindset, once one is converted then the point of biblical truth is to retell that truth so that others can get converted. Since the converted are supposedly on the inside of the truth, the insiders are tempted to feel like they have control of Biblical truth. The foolish scandal is not for me; it's for others.

As a result, we read the Bible as if God is not working in the text.

But to say that God is at work in the Bible, that we should read the Bible as if God is at work in the world, is to say something that's devoid of meaning. It's something to which we too often agree with too quickly. Familiarity has bred banality. Of course God is speaking and working through the Bible, we silently ponder.

But God is working, by the Spirit, through the grand story of the Bible. And as soon as we lose the ability to be shocked by the scandal and the foolishness of this story, we lose touch with the God of this story.

This is not a story that reinforces my already entrenched beliefs. This is the story of God that comes from outside of me, outside of my experiences, outside of our established preconceived notions to reveal God and God's ways. The only way to know God is for God to pull back on the curtains. Our kind of thinking would never come up with the God revealed in the Bible. Who would ever create a story with a God who dies on a cross, rises and then ascends? And then he leaves behind a group of followers who are told to mimic this cross-like life.

This is foolishness. This is scandalous. 

The story of God does not fit, and until we are shocked by this story—again and again—then we are stuck trying to domestic God into what we think God should be. We are mired in our own thoughts about God, self and this world. This is the reason why the story must be repeated.

God is at work in this world, but the work of God never looks like something we would come up with. The way of God is a revelation, something that comes from outside of us. This story reveals a God who washes feet and invites the rest of to join him in washing the feet of others. This story reveals a God who invites the first to be last. This story challenges us to take up our cross and follow Jesus. This story invites us to believe a foolish scandal. 

There God is at work.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Praying as If God Is Working

When I was in high school, our church youth group would sit every week and talk about the Bible. It was a small church and usually we only had four or five people in our youth meetings. At the end of our discussions our youth pastor would ask something like: What does this mean for your life?

I distinctly remember one night when we all responded with "Pray and read the Bible." But in my mind I thought, "We always say that. Is that all there is?"

I've come to see that there is nothing beyond prayer.

At the same time, I've also realized that that everything lies beyond prayer.

Communion with God is the ultimate of life. It's the reason that God created. We were made for communion. Our lives are true to the extent that we live in unity with God.

Our lives are out of sorts to the degree that we are not living in communion with God. Prayer makes or breaks our souls.

However, there is far more than prayer. Prayer itself is not the goal, the end game. God is the goal. Living in the love who God is the aim. Prayer I can do. Prayer I can make happen. That is, I can do the kind of prayer where I feel like I've done my spiritual duty for the day after I say Amen and get back the rest of life. This is the kind of prayer which I have come to call "Praying as if God is not at work."

In this kind of prayer, I feel the need to rise up to some kind of spiritual level where God is. If I follow the right plan, if I work at it hard enough, if I pray long enough, if ..., if ..., if... Then I will rise to the realm of God's life and I will see God work.

It's as if we are trying to twist God's arm to do something. And if God does not do it, then we need to look for a different "If ..." formulas that supposedly will unlock God's work in the world.

And there are a ton of different "ifs" out there on the market. I've prayed through ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), through the Lord's Prayer, through the Tabernacle. I've written my prayers. I've done lectio divina. I've practiced the presence. And I've done the Jesus prayer. Then there is fasting, enduring prayer, praying out loud, praying in tongues, and praying the promises of God. And of course there was the ever popular "prayer of Jabez." All of these can be helpful, but if they are used as an "if ..." in order to get God to do something, then we miss the point.

We pray as if God is not working, as if God's work starts with us. Prayer, then becomes a means for us to rise to a spiritual plain, to enter into the realm where God is at work. It's as if we look at this world as less than real, as less than the place where God works and our job is to find that real space of God.

Then prayer becomes a way that we try to transform ourselves so that we can do spiritual things.

But the surprising revelation of God, the Incarnation, reveals that God comes to us. We don't go to God. Jesus came and "pitched a tent" in the midst of the real world (John 1:14 MSG). He did not create a formula to help us rise above the world. He entered the world and established the mess of this world as the realm in which God works.

Prayer is not a means for us to somehow rise up a spiritual latter to unlock spiritual secrets. Prayer is a way of communing with the God who is already present with us, already working all around us.

God initiates the conversation in prayer. We don't. God leads the conversation. We don't. Jesus is the great high priest before the Father, offering continual intercession on our behalf (Heb 9). the Spirit prays through us in our weakness (Rom 8:26).

God comes and meets us right where we are and he takes our weak, feeble, honest prayers and redeems them. God works with reality, not with our religious wishdreams and formulas.

God is working right where we are. That's where prayer is prayer.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Where is God at Work?

Jesus replied, "My Father is still working, and I am working too." John 5:17

God is already at work. He has been working while I have slept. While I rest, God loves. God loves and works in love in order to restore all of creation. God is moving in love to offer love. Today begins with the love of God which has been at work and continues to work. 

It does not begin with me.

God's mission flows out of God's being. God does love because God is love. God's actions align with God's being. God's being is love. God's actions are love. And this love looks like Jesus hanging on the cross. God works in the world with cruciform love.

God's mission in the world does not begin with me or with the church. How could anything like cruciform love begin with me? I would never opt for that. I would never have enough wisdom or creativity to love people like that.

God's mission of cruciform love begins, continues and ends with the love and work of God. To fail to see this lowers the mission of God to what I can produce. And since I can save no one or no thing, then what good would it be to root the mission in my efforts. I have nothing to offer the world. 

At the same time, I have so much to offer the world. I have the meaning of the world within me. It's in me but it's not of me. I'm defined by this meaning, but this meaning is not mine. It's fully in me, but it's far beyond me. I chose what to do with this it, but I don't control it.

The meaning of God, and life and my life, is not a list of facts that I can describe, even though there are facts about this meaning. This meaning is woven into me, remaking me, forming me. It's not about me, but I'm more fully involved in this than anything else. I'm not the center of it, but I a wrapped up in it so much that my center becomes re-centered.

This is the mystery of love.

This is the mystery of the cross.

This is the mystery of God. Beyond me. Beyond the world. But fully in me, fully in the world. And turning everything around.
God is at work in the world, and because I'm in God through Christ by the Spirit then I'm also in the work of God. I do not produce this work. I do not make this work happen. I do not produce the results that God wants. I might be involved in "small acts with great love." I might be working to make a difference. I might be doing something worthy of headlines (most likely not) or I might might be doing a lot of small things that no one will notice (this is almost every day), but either way, the work I do is wrapped up in the life of God.

God loves. God works are love. And I'm in this love and work. Today in my connecting with my wife, Shawna. In my time with the kids. In my "work" activities. In conversations with neighbors, clients, friends, and parents at soccer games. Through our meals, in our dialogue, and as we do what we do. Even in online conversations. 

Where we are, there God is. God loves. The cross is at work in love. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Foundation for Training Small Group Leaders

Over the years, there have been a myriad of programs, books, and seminars on small group leadership. Most of them focus on practical techniques for how to do small groups in the “right” way. They address questions like: 
  • How to lead a group discussion.
  • How to facilitate an icebreaker.
  • How to grow your group?
  • How to lead worship in the group? 
While understanding these techniques of group leadership is important, I found that doing these techniques well does not make for great groups. At best, you will get good group meetings.

Leading a group by following the right techniques is a bit like trying to love your spouse because you follow a set of rules for a good marriage. It will leave you wondering why it's not working when you are doing what all the books tell you to do.

The foundation for leading a group well lies in the end that you imagine. If all you want is a good group meeting, then follow the techniques. But if you want a group that “lives in love,” that lives out what Paul instructs “And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col 3:14), then we need something more. We need practices or a “way” that lines up with this “end.”

The leadership practices that we adopt will possess within them the seed or DNA of the end that is envisioned. The end we envision for our small groups will dictate the kinds of practices we adopt as leaders. Over the years there have been many different “ends” offered for small groups or missional communities. They include things like evangelism, discipleship, getting people connected, Bible study, multiplication of groups, or creating a Jesus movement. Those with the goal of evangelistic growth will focus on practices to reach the lost. Those that seek Bible study will spend great effort honing their Bible study skills.

I’ve wondered if the apostle Paul might write something like this today: “If my group reaches lost people and grows but there is no love, we are only a growing shell of emptiness. If my group raises up new leaders and multiplies but there is no love, we are only multiplying a form of spiritual cancer. If my group gets serious about discipleship and dives deep into the Word but there is no love, we are puffed up hoarders of information. If my group serves and goes forth on mission but there is no love, we are like a chicken with its head cut off. If my group gets lots of people in my church connected but there is no love, we are no better than a salesperson who sells products for a living.”

Our actions, our goals, our vision and even our results matter little if we don’t have love, because love defines the way of Jesus.

The way of Jesus defines the nature of our practices. The practices are shaped by the essence of who God is and, as 1 John 4:8 states, “God is love.” Love is at the core of God’s being.

We lead out of love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Therefore, love of others is an overflow of our love received from God. I don’t mean this in abstract terms, as in when we make orthodox statements regarding how much Jesus demonstrated his love for us on the cross. I’m referring to the experience of God’s love. Love is not love if it’s abstract. Love is about encounter. We are relational only be- cause we have experienced God’s relational love for us. Too often we forget this. We focus so much on the lists of things a Christian should and should not do that we fail to see that we love only be- cause we have first experienced God’s love.

We need to fill the word love with God’s way of love if we are going to receive and experience the kind of love that God is. God gets to define the way that he loves. We don’t. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). The way of Jesus is the way of love demonstrated on the cross. The practices of Jesus’ way will be practices that train us to “take up [our] cross daily and follow [him]” (Luke 9:23).

Think of how this contrasts with our normal patterns of relating. Our world most often trains us in practices where we value ourselves at the expense of others. Sadly, this way of the world has crept into the church and formed the way we lead. The way of Jesus love turns this around: we value others at expense to ourselves.

When we talk about leading in the way of Jesus, we are simply talking about becoming the kind of leaders who live in the love of God demonstrated on the cross, allowing God’s love to move through us. The end is God’s love, and since God loves the world (John 3:16), we are simply joining him in the continuing work of the Spirit to love the world with crosslike love. We need leadership practices that will align us with how God’s Spirit is moving. We are creating environments in our groups so that people can grow in this crosslike love. This is the end. This is the goal.

So if you want to train leaders in your church, begin with this foundation. No! Don’t just begin with this foundation. Weave this truth, this way, through all of your training. If any of our training or leadership practices are not permeated with the law of love, then they must be tossed aside. It doesn’t matter if people like it. It doesn’t matter if it works. We cannot keep doing it even if our groups are growing.

Our measurement of the kind of leadership we need is not whether it produces results. Our measurement must always be whether or not it trains our leaders to live in love, to lead in love, the kind of love demonstrated by the cross of Christ.

—Adapted from Leading Small Groups in the Way of Jesus, pages 39-44