February 19, 2018
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

Slow Down to Meet God

In my reading of late I keep bumping into a surprising principle. It is the Do Not Hurry principle. I first heard it in John Ortberg’s book, Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. Recounting his own spiritual growth, guided by his friend, Dallas Willard, he points out the way in deepening one’s walk with the Lord. Ortberg explains that Willard taught him to rest. Ortberg started his ministry in a frenetic pace that he could not maintain. Willard told him that hurry is the enemy of one’s spiritual development. We seldom successfully grow rapidly. God’s work in us is a slow and deep work.

Right where you are, in moments both ordinary and extraordinary, you and Jesus can live attentive to each other. Whatever your work, it can be done in Jesus, with Jesus, and for Jesus. -Alicia Britt Chole Click To Tweet

I started reflecting on that. I realized that the Bible is full of examples of slow.

  • Enoch walked with God. “Walk” is a metaphor for living. Enoch was not running through life with God. He walked with God.
  • Elijah raced away from Jezebel for his life. When the exhaustion of his hurry caught up with him, God ministered slowly to him in revealing Himself to Elijah and giving him a new direction for his life.
  • The psalmist underscored a life without hurry. Psalm 62:5 is a good example. “Wait” is used 22 times in my ESV in Psalms. “Wait” is used 12 times in Job, a book about waiting. Can you think of a slower time than “wait” time?
  • Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the son God promised them.
  • The Israelites waited 40 years in the wilderness and later waited 70 years in Babylonian exile.
  • Jesus waited 30 years before beginning his preaching ministry.
  • Peter waited some excruciating days between his denial of Jesus and that happy reunion of a fish breakfast in Galilee.
  • The disciples waited 40 days between Jesus’ ascension and the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
  • Paul waited 3 days in blind darkness to understand what Jesus meant when He confronted Paul on the road to Damascus.

In Alicia Britt Chole’s book, The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure from Fast Faith, the author teaches us that there are three certainties that underlie a life that walks deeply with God:

  1. Moment-by-moment nearness with God can be a reality for all sincere followers of Jesus regardless of personality or position in life.
  2. Though such intimacy with God is attainable, it is not accidental. Sustained nearness is the cultivated fruit of intentionality.
  3. Spiritual intentionality connects us with God and with what He sees, celebrates, and weeps over.

How are you walking slowly with God? How are you breaking the frenetic pace of life long enough to meet with God? Knowing God will come about as we intentionally cultivate our relationship with Him.

Two years ago, the idea of providing retreats so believers could put the brakes on, slow down, and listen to God came to us. Out of that idea, Deepen Retreats was born. Two more retreats are coming soon. The retreats are hosted at Camp Siloam in northwest Arkansas. These retreats are limited to only 50 participants. Here are the details:

Deepen Men’s Retreat

When: 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 16th through 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 18th
Cost: Before March 1st: $149     After March 1st: $169     Payment is required at registration. If you cancel, all but $50 is refundable ($70 if you opted for a family cabin).
Registration Deadline: Monday, March 12th

Online Registration Link: https://www.campsiloam.com/Archive/2018/Deepen/?Event=Men

 

Deepen Women’s Retreat

When: 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 23rd through 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 25th
Cost: Before March 8th: $149     After March 8th: $169     Payment is required at registration. If you cancel, all but $50 is refundable ($70 if you opted for a family cabin).
Registration Deadline: Monday, March 19th

Online Registration Link: https://www.campsiloam.com/Archive/2018/Deepen/?Event=Women

I hope you will consider slowing down and listen to the Lord at a Deepen Retreat. If you have questions about the retreat content or agenda, please contact us. If you have questions about registration or lodging, please contact Camp Siloam.

Scripture: Read Psalm 38:15. If you were waiting on the Lord to bring an answer to a need you have, what might His answer look like?

Dig Deeper:  Read The Sacred Slow: A Holy Departure from Fast Faith by Alicia Britt Cole.

Now It’s Your Turn: How would you describe your walk with the Lord, slow or fast? What does that mean to you? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

 

February 15, 2018
by Walter Norvell
2 Comments

The Best Discipleship Manual

This week a post at knowableword.com pointed readers to another post by Joe Tyrpak at LogosTalk. Tyrpak makes a wonderful point and a strong reminder that the Bible is our best manual for making disciples. In fact, he gives a plan for using Matthew as a discipleship course.

If you want to personally train someone else in Christianity, what discipleship curriculum is at the top of your list? I urge you to consider a resource you already own: the Gospel According to Matthew.” – Joe Tyrpak Click To Tweet

I frequently get asked to recommend discipleship materials. I have a few I recommend. But, we must never forget that the best manual for discipleship is the Bible.

When I was a child, my mother chided me for stacking other books on top of my Bible. She said this showed disrespect for the Bible. I think that was largely superstition. But, when I watch small groups struggling to find study material, I am concerned that from a discipleship point-of-view, they are stacking less important material on top of the most important material for making disciples: the Bible.

Discipleship and Bible study materials are so helpful. We often need these to help us study and use the Bible as our chief discipleship manual. But, sometimes, we put those materials above the Bible in the way we use them.

I think the concept of the Bible as our best manual for disciple-making works out in a number of ways.

  • Every time our small group meets for study, we primarily study the Bible, even when we use other materials to help us.
  • When we do mentoring or one-on-one disciple-making, we make use of our Bibles more than any other resource.
  • When our small groups meet, attenders are encouraged to use a Bible, not just read the verses out of the Bible study guide. Familiarity with that guide will be useless if it does not translate into familiarity with the Bible. Open Bibles together even if that means turn on your Bible on your device.
  • When we choose new Bible study or disciple-making resources, ask an important question: Does this material lead us into the study of our Bibles or does it stop short with only encouraging us to keep reading the material alone?
  • When your small group members are in opportunities to witness or discuss the Bible with unbelievers, can they open a Bible and engage in meaningful discussion of it?
  • When I lead small groups or one-on-one discipleship meetings, am I sending a clear message that the Bible is our textbook, even when we use other material to help us? Put that teacher’s guide away. Don’t read from it to your group. Let them see you using a real Bible.

The Bible is the Word of God. For over two millennia, countless faithful believers have studied it and given us worthwhile resources to aid our Bible study. Let’s not just talk about the study of our Bibles. Let’s study our Bibles.

Just a reminder here. Our next Deepen Retreats are quickly approaching. Both will be hosted by Camp Siloam at Siloam Springs, AR. Both are limited to only 50 participants each.

Deepen Men’s Retreat

When: 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 16th through 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 18th
Cost: Before March 1st: $149     After March 1st: $169     Payment is required at registration. If you cancel, all but $50 is refundable ($70 if you opted for a family cabin).
Registration Deadline: Monday, March 12th

Online Registration Link: https://www.campsiloam.com/Archive/2018/Deepen/?Event=Men

 

Deepen Women’s Retreat

When: 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 23rd through 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 25th
Cost: Before March 8th: $149     After March 8th: $169     Payment is required at registration. If you cancel, all but $50 is refundable ($70 if you opted for a family cabin).
Registration Deadline: Monday, March 19th

Online Registration Link: https://www.campsiloam.com/Archive/2018/Deepen/?Event=Women

Scripture: Read Luke 8:11-15. This is Jesus’ interpretation of the Parable of the Seeds. What importance do these verses place on the Word of God?

Dig Deeper: Read Leading Life-Changing Small Groups by Bill Donahue.   

Now It’s Your Turn: How does the central position of the Bible in Christian teaching help you select materials for your small group studies?  Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

February 12, 2018
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

Balancing Solitude and Community

With our Deepen Retreats approaching, I have been thinking about our two approaches on the retreats: silence with solitude and community in small groups. Silence with solitude helps us focus on God with less distractions. Small groups let us experience community where fellow believers share grace and life with us. Both are necessary.

Being alone with God and being among others with God is an important balance we need in our lives. Click To Tweet

A life of only solitude and silence is the life of a hermit. Solitude and silence will help us pray for community, but community helps us know what to pray. What we learn in solitude and silence with the Lord is diminished if we do not have community with which to share it.

 

At Deepen Retreats we attempt this balance. We start community in small groups at the very beginning of the retreat. Then we move to silence. We spread out in the space. We turn off distracting voices; from others, from our phones, and from inside our own heads. We tune into the Lord with guided study and reflection. Then we break the silence. We come back to our small groups and talk about what we have learned and what we heard from the Lord during our silence. Though we still have time for personal study time, sharing in community becomes central.

I think we see this pattern several times in the Bible. Moses had both solitude and community. Elijah fled from Jezebel into solitude but after God met him, God sent him back to the prophets and particularly to Elisha. Apparently, John the Baptizer experienced both solitude and community. Certainly, Jesus experienced both multiple times in his ministry.

How is your balance between solitude and silence and being in community (expressed in small group)? A Deepen retreat will help you learn more about this balance and help you achieve this balance back home.

The Deepen Men’s Retreat will be March 16-18. You will find information and registration at this link. The Deepen Women’s Retreat will be March 23-25. This link takes you to the women’s information and registration. Both retreats will be hosted at beautiful Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, AR. Participation is limited to only 50 in each retreat. Please follow the links and register quickly as space will fill up. This retreat will challenge you and bless you. You will return home with a plan you created to help you deepen your walk with the Lord. Our lives here can be deep beyond measure.

While we are talking about small groups, here are some blogs I have recently found that you might find helpful as you lead your small group:

Scripture: Read Matthew 14:22-33. What do you learn about community and solitude in this passage?

Dig Deeper: Read Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton.

Now It’s Your Turn: How do you understand the relationship between community and solitude? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

February 8, 2018
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

What Is a Deep Life?

By now you know that we are looking forward to two Deepen Retreats in March. These retreats are part of our Deepen Ministry Retreats, Inc., a ministry using retreats to help believers walk more deeply with the Lord. I make a lot of the word “deep” in our retreats. Sometimes deep means a distance or measurement (1 Kings 6:3). Deep can refer to mysterious regions out of human sight (Exodus 15:8). Job thought of the deep things of God, that knowledge only God has and the ways only God understands (Job 11:17). Deep can suggest God’s power and strength (Ps. 42:7). Psalm 80:9 uses deep to tell of the place where strong roots develop. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes stated that he would find wisdom, but it was “deep, very deep (Ecc. 7:24).” Daniel knew that God revealed “deep and hidden things (Dan. 2:22). I think a life, lived unto the Lord, can be a deep life.

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. (Ps. 42:7 ESV) Click To Tweet

So, what is a deep life?

To me, a deep life is a righteous life, a wise life, a life of meaning, and a life of intention.

It is a life lived on purpose.

It is a life of challenge, but a life of faith that seeks understanding.

It is a life of knowing God and encouraging others to know God.

It is a life concerned with eternal things while skillfully dealing with temporary things.

It is a life focused on the ultimately real.

Those living the deep life love God’s Word and obey it because one’s greatest happiness comes from obedience to God.

It is a conscious life, an aware life, a life of being present.

A deep life is the life of a craftsman who skillfully crafts his life and the lives of others for the glory of God and God’s greatest good.

A deep life is valuable and desirable because:

  • It is a Godward life or a life lived in the key of God.
  • It is a Scripturally-saturated life – a life that hears and obeys God.
  • The deep life is a blessed life – far beyond happiness.
  • It is a skillful life – able to live a life of beauty and usefulness.
  • It is a life that creates heritage for others. We busy ourselves by trying to amass an inheritance for our children which will only be spent with little meaning. A heritage gives meaning to our children.
  • The deep life is a peaceful life even amid change, conflict, and chaos.
  • The deep life is a life of wisdom.
  • It is a life of living God’s purpose.
  • The deep life is a life of meaning.
  • The deep life is a life of connection with God, with family, with church, with friends, with those who are in need and with those who can influence us for godliness.

The preceding is a small exert from one of the sessions in our Deep Retreat, “The Value of a Deep Life.” The Deepen Retreats are an opportunity to explore the meaning of a deep life lived with God. Every participant spends 24 hours in silence and then processes that experience in a small group. Each leaves the retreat with their own, original plan for going deeper with the Lord.

The coming Deepen Retreats will be at beautiful Camp Siloam near Siloam Springs, AR.

  • Deepen Men’s Retreat, March 16-18. Registration details here.
  • Deepen Women’s Retreat, March 22-25. Registration details here.

These links give you all the information you need about what to bring, what to leave at home, a textbook you will need, and the costs. The retreats are each limited to 50 people each. Register soon to take advantage of an early bird discount. Each retreat has a final deadline for registration. Go look at the sites and make your plans to attend a Deepen Retreat.

Scripture: Read Colossians 2:6-7. What connections do you see between this concept of “deep” and being rooted?

Dig Deeper: Read The Spiritual Life: Undeniable Ways to Conquer the Flesh and Grow in Christ by Andrew Murray.

Now It’s Your Turn: What does going deep with the Lord mean to you? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

small groups, small group leadership, small group leaders, Bible study groups, Sunday School, deep deepen, Deepen Retreats

February 5, 2018
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

Discover Silence at a Deepen Retreat

I teach a course on Christian disciplines for B. H. Carroll Theological Institute. I have taught the course for a number of years now. I had an interest in the disciplines prior to teaching this course but being responsible to teach the topic held me to a new level of accountability. I started studying the topic more. I have read Richard Foster, Don Whitney, Dallas Willard, Adele Calhoun, Ruth Haley Barton, David Mathis and others. Spiritual disciplines are habits that help us listen to God and be available to Him. We are all familiar with disciplines like Bible reading, prayer, Bible study, or worship. But what I discovered was that all these disciplines needed another discipline.

Have you ever had the problem of being interrupted as you tried to concentrate on reading the Bible? Have you ever had your praying interrupted by all the thoughts swirling in your mind? Does your smartphone, on you all the time, vibrate when you are in worship? Does it seem that you struggle to hear God because of all the noise in your life?

The discipline that supports all these disciplines and more is the spiritual discipline of silence. We practice silence as we move away, for a time, from the noise of the world. We shut off the electronics and turn off our phones. We even move away from people for short periods, so we can focus on God instead of the things that can distract us from listening to God. Susannah Wesley, even as a pastor’s wife and raising 19 people, would practice silence, if nothing more than sitting in her kitchen with her apron over her head. She trained her children to know that when they saw their mother under her apron, she was talking to God and did not want to be disturbed.

Every hour, 913,242,000 texts are sent worldwide. Does it seem like most are coming to you? We need some silence in all this static so we can listen to God. Click To Tweet

We live in such a noisy world that we struggle to hear from God. We read our Bibles but with little reflection or meditation because the interrupting noise and voices drown out His still small voice. We need some silence our lives.

Silence is a challenging discipline because we do not like silence. Silence reminds us of our weaknesses. Silence points us to God, which truthfully, we are not usually eager to see. And, the noise of this world is a tool the evil one can use to keep us from listening to God and meditating on His Word. He is always present with us, but the noise blinds us to Him. The discipline of silence requires, . . . well, discipline.

Start the discipline of silence very slowly. I began with just a few minutes each day. As I got comfortable with it, I began stretching that a bit. Now, I enjoy about 45 minutes each morning. I pray and read my Bible as an act of listening. Then I sit still. I ask the Lord to help me be aware of His presence. I ponder Him. I clear my mind so the voice I hear is His.

I would encourage you to start the practice of silence slowly. I don’t get a booming voice ever. Neither will you. But I become increasing aware of God’s gently suggestions and nudging. I grow aware of His presence.

Then I also try to observe some longer periods of time in silence. Like a couple of years ago, I spent a day on a personal retreat. I went alone. I turned off my phone. I did not play music. I just took my Bible and some writing supplies to record what God was saying. I left that day with a life plan, looking toward the future life that I think God let me glimpse and a life God wants me to live. Last fall, on a trip to speak in a conference, I spent six hours on Petit Jean Mountain, sitting a picnic table, life plan spread before me and God. I asked for new direction. With my Bible, I put together what I sensed through the weeks prior was God’s promptings to adjust that plan and move in some new directions. On a weekly basis I try to observe a brief time with that life plan, asking God, “Lord, what is next?”

That’s how Deepen Retreats was born a couple of years ago. I think God prompted me to create a series of retreats where a small group of people can spend time in silence and then discuss in groups what God is doing in their lives. The first Deepen Retreat confirmed for us that people not only needed this silence and group time, but they wanted it. Every person left that retreat with a plan they felt God had given them that would lead them into a deeper relationship with Him. These lives we lead now can be deep beyond measure.

 

 

Now two more Deepen Retreats are planned. Both will be hosted at beautiful Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, AR. The men’s retreat will be March 16-18. The women’s retreat will be March 23-26. I am leading the men’s retreat. A great leadership team has been assembled to lead the women’s retreat. Tonya Bolton, registrar at Williams Baptist University and the founder/leader of the Moms & More ministry to women, will be the teacher for the retreat. Lea Andra Foster, a pastor’s wife and math instructor for high school and college will guide the worship. Mary Norvell will be there to host and facilitate. I am really thankful for these ladies joining in the vision of Deepen Retreats. What a great team!

You can learn more about these Deepen Retreats online. You can take this link to Camp Siloam’s web page. Click on “Retreats” at the top and then select the men’s or women’s retreat from the drop-down menu. There you will find information about the retreats and a link to register. Right now, we have an early bird rate to help you save a few dollars. But, register soon; each retreat is limited to only 50 participants. Camp Siloam has been known for outstanding youth and children’s camps during the summer and now we are partnering together to offer these retreats.

Build some silence into your life so you can discern God’s voice amid all the noise around us. Consider joining us and experience more about silence at an upcoming Deepen Retreat.

Scripture: Read Psalm 62:1. What is the role of silence when we wait to hear from God?

Dig Deeper: Read Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun.  

Now It’s Your Turn: How do you find the time and silence in your life to listen to God? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

February 1, 2018
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

Come to Deepen

What is your plan to grow in Christ? Are you intentionally taking steps to deepen your spiritual life? Are you just hoping that going to church every week and reading your Bible will be enough to help you be established in the faith and bear fruit?

Two years ago, we began to think about how we could teach others to live a deep life in Jesus Christ. From that praying and talking, we developed Deepen Retreats, Inc. Our goal is to aid believers in deepening their relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ and living out faithful discipleship in every area of their lives.

Our retreats have two important features. Every retreat starts with twenty-four hours of silence. We put away our phones and voluntarily go silent so we can concentrate on God’s Word and what it is saying to us. Then we process the time of silence in small groups, supporting and encouraging one another. Every participant takes home his or her personally designed plan to help each grow deeper in his or her spiritual life. I have heard from the last retreat participants and those plans are still working.

My retreat gave me the time and place to remove all the noise and simply focus on the presence and direction of God. – Chase Crawford, Minister of Youth, FBC, Pocahontas, AR Click To Tweet

At the close of our first retreat, participants told us about their experiences:

Steven Wood (husband, father, and volunteer): I came to Deepen Retreat anxious because I didn’t know what to expect. Now I am intimidated to go back home. God cleansed my heart and soul through this retreat. Now I am expected to go back home in the middle of the “busy.” I did not know just how road-blocked I was with God until I came to this retreat. Through the silence and seclusion, God pointed out things that I need to do differently so this roadblock could be removed.

Ricky McCord (Employee, Colorado Christian University): Silence and solitude are so essential for growing closer to Christ, yet we forget them so often in many church and discipleship settings. The Deepen Retreats allow me to stop the busyness of life, seek God in stillness, and find Him eagerly waiting.

Two Deepen Basic Retreats are coming. Both will be hosted at Camp Siloam in Siloam Springs, AR.

  •  Deepen Basic Retreat for Men, March 16-18.  I will be teaching this retreat. More information and the registration link can be found here.      
  • Deepen Basic Retreat for Women, March 23-25. Our Deepen Women’s Team of Tonya Bolton, Lea Andra Foster, and Mary Norvell will be leading this retreat. More information and the registration link can be found here.

Both retreats have an early registration fee of $149.00 and regular registration fee of $169.00. Each retreat is limited to only 50 participants. We limit attendance so our retreats are small and personal. There is also some choice in room accommodations, so register early for more choice and lower costs.

This women’s retreat is our first for ladies. The leadership team is thoroughly qualified. Tonya Bolton, our teacher, is the registrar at Williams Baptist University. She founded and leads the Moms & More women’s ministry. Lea Andra Foster teaches high school and college math courses. She is married to a bi-vocational pastor and leads worship at their church. Mary Norvell, who works with Williams Baptist University freshmen and their parents, will be hosting and coordinating this retreat.  

I hope you will prayerfully consider attending our retreat. Even as a retreat leader, this retreat challenges me to live more deeply with the Lord. If you cannot attend, please tell others about our retreats. Pass on this post by liking it and sharing with your social media friends.

Lastly, pray for our retreats. One day, we hope to hold multiple retreats throughout the year. And, Deepen Retreat II on prayer is already taking shape.

Scripture: Read 1 Kings 19:1-18. After his victory over the prophets of Baal, Elijah fled from the threats of Jezebel. But God called him to retreat with Him and gain a new perspective on Who God is. What do you think Elijah learned?

Dig Deeper: Adele Calhoun says, “Retreats are specific and regular times apart for quietly listening to God and delighting in his company. Retreats remove us from the daily battle into times of refreshing, retooling, renewing and unwinding.” Read Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun.

Now It’s Your Turn: What would a retreat with the Lord mean to you? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

January 29, 2018
by Walter Norvell
0 comments

Skills for Small Group Leaders: Be Hospitable

Mary and I have found a wonderful retreat center at the Cove. That’s shorthand for the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove, Asheville, NC. We have had the opportunity to attend Bible conferences there a couple of times. The conferences have been very good. Great speakers on timely topics. You sure can’t beat the scenery, located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. But, what sets the Cove apart is their hospitality. Everything there is designed to make guests welcome and comfortable. The fellowship in the dining room is wonderful, centered around huge round tables with food fit for kings. It isn’t “camp” food; it is pretty close to five-star dining. At every building there is a host or hostess who checks on you, offers to help you and encourages your spiritual growth while you are on the grounds. The Cove feels like home to us. Interested? Check out their website here.

My point here is not to promote the Cove (although you ought to go sometime). My point is hospitality. Small group leaders should develop skills in hospitality and help group members to do the same.

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 ESV Click To Tweet

My ESV Bible has seven uses of our word “hospitality.” One use is to describe someone who displayed hospitality (Acts 28:7). Three of the uses were written to young pastors, urging them to practice hospitality and look for potential leaders who practice hospitality (1 Tim. 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8). There are obvious connections to small group leaders who often function as pastors to their groups. Three other verses are commands to practice hospitality (Rom. 12:13; Heb. 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9). Again, these commands are to disciples, so they apply to us as well. I think while all of us are commanded to show hospitality, some are particularly gifted at it. Many Christian writers today also recognize hospitality as a spiritual discipline. I have read that our word hospitality comes from two concepts in the NT; “love” and “strangers.” In the strictest sense of the word, hospitality is showing love to strangers. But, hospitality should also be practiced among the family of God.

For small groups that meet in homes, hospitality is a given. Homes are opened up to guests and food is shared. Sounds like hospitality to me. If your group is a more traditional Sunday School group, you might wonder where hospitality fits in. Hospitality is about opening homes and sharing food but providing a warm and sincere welcome is also a part of hospitality. Helping a guest feel valuable, comfort, and welcomed is a bedrock idea for building community in groups. Every group, on the church campus or off the church campus, will benefit and grow in fellowship as hospitality is practiced.

How?

  • Find times to share food with your group. You might get to set the example at first, but everyone in the group can help with food.
  • Plan fellowship times. Kick back and party together in Christian fellowship.
  • Extend warm welcomes to everyone. Using nametags often helps newcomers feel welcome.
  • Invite group members to take turns playing host and hostess. They can be the ones who introduce the guests to everyone in the group, help newcomers find their way around the building, and initiate relationship building.
  • If you have a traditional Sunday morning group, develop a plan that lets you or someone in your group invite guests out to Sunday lunch after church. Some will not accept the invitation, but I think making that invitation and following through speaks volumes to our Sunday morning Bible study guests.
  • Follow up with contacts to guests. Guests will gauge that a group is open to them and thinks them valuable if a group member makes a contact with them in at least 24 hours.
  • Look for other opportunities to be hospitable: after funerals, during crises, during times of sickness or other reversals, and during times of celebration like birthdays, anniversaries, and births of children.

When we practice hospitality, we welcome people into our groups, our homes, and our hearts. We act out the ways we have available to us that mimic the welcome Jesus provides us when we come into His family. Treat every opportunity for hospitality as an opportunity for kingdom building and as a time to be blessed in sharing God’s blessings in our lives.

Scripture: Read Titus 1:8 to see what Paul taught Titus about hospitality. How are you growing in hospitality and the other traits listed there?

Dig Deeper: Read Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adela Ahlberg Calhoun to learn more about practicing hospitality as a discipline.

Now It’s Your Turn: How does your group practice hospitality?  Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

January 25, 2018
by Walter Norvell
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Coming Soon: Deepen Retreats

This week as I heard a presentation about Gen Z teens, I heard over and over: Gen Z are connected but alone. They are connected in every imaginable way, yet they report they feel isolated and lonely. They can connect in virtual relationships, but they struggle with real world relationships. They struggle understanding God, but their lives are so driven by smartphone beeps and tones, they have little time for anyone, much less God.

As I reflected on this development in a new generation, I think we are all like Gen Z teenagers. Our electronics set the pace for our lives. We connect on social media and yet we are less social than ever. We crave God’s company, but our lives are so crowded and noisy, we cannot hear His voice.

About two years ago we came upon an idea for a ministry we have since started. Mary and I founded Deepen Retreats. Deepen Retreats seek to aid believers in deepening their relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ and living out faithful discipleship in every area of their lives. Our time can be deep beyond measure. A life without bounds, deep in Jesus, is waiting for us all.

Our time here can be deep beyond measure. Consider attending a Deepen Retreat. Click To Tweet

The three unique features mark all Deepen Retreats. The retreats are limited to only fifty participants per retreat. The retreat combines significant time in small groups and significant time in silence and solitude. This event is not a conference or a clinic. It is truly a retreat, withdrawing from the world to hear God speak and enable us to meaningfully and obediently re-enter the world to love God and serve others. Every retreat begins with small groups. Then the groups disperse so we can spend twenty-four hours in silence and solitude. Across this time of silence, we experience teaching about principles that help us experience a deep life with God. Lectures in the retreat include:

  • Why It All Begins with Confession
  • Hearing the Voice of the Lord
  • Making My Plan
  • The Danger of Distractions
  • The Value of a Deep Life
  • Putting Your Plan to Work

In addition, each retreat has two unique worship experiences. After the time of silence, we return to the community of small groups to process what God has said to us and encourage one another to obey. Every participant will leave the retreat with his or her own spiritual growth plan.

Two Deepen Retreats will be forming soon. Both will be hosted at beautiful Camp Siloam Springs near Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Men’s Deepen Retreat will be Friday, March 16, through Sunday, March18. The Women’s Deepen Retreat will be Friday, March 23 through Sunday, March 25. As soon as we have all the online registration information available, we will pass along those links. Mark your calendars now.

My own pastor, Jacob Guenrich, First Baptist Church, Walnut Ridge, said of this retreat: “Spending twenty-four hours in silence provided me the space I needed to bring myself before God so I could hear His voice and experience His presence. Anyone who wants to take the time to examine their spiritual life and grow deeper in their walk with Christ should benefit greatly from this retreat.”

Scripture: Read Colossians 2:6-7. How can you move from simply having received Christ to walking in Him?

Dig Deeper: Read Practice the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.   

Now It’s Your Turn: If you were invited to a retreat about growing deeper with God, would you go? Why? Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

January 22, 2018
by Walter Norvell
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Stories that Bless

My blog is behind schedule today because the flu found me over the weekend. I will break our series temporarily until I am functioning well again.

Just before I got sick, I have listened to a Renovare podcast of Nate Foster interviewing Marti Ensign. Marti has served on the Renovare Ministry Team. She and her husband were medical missionaries in Burundi, Africa. Marti became of close friend of Corrie Ten Boom. She relates several experiences with Corrie and discusses the impact of Corrie’s life. The podcast was a blessing to hear. You can find it here.

As you listen, you become aware of the wonderful story-telling skill that Marti has. As I have often pointed out, story-telling is a great skill for anyone leading Bible study. At the end of the podcast I discovered that Renovare has a series of Marti’s stories posted in a separate location here. I listened from bed, downed with a fever, but even then I found these stories delightful. I kept calling Mary in saying, “You have got to hear this one!” over and over. I think you will love hearing these stories. They are all short in length but long in meaning. They will make you laugh and they might bring a tear. You will enjoy them. In fact, gather the kids around, turn off the TV, and listen as a family. You will gain a whole new perspective about missions and the lives of missionaries.

So, enjoy this great resource. We will be back to our regular posts in a few days.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

January 18, 2018
by Walter Norvell
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Skills for Small Group Leaders: Gather Resource

As we have been considering skills useful to small group leaders, I thought about the need for small group leaders to be resourceful. There are many ways in which we can be resourceful small group leaders, but today I want to think about gathering resources that will help you guide Bible study.

My dad used to tell me, “You can do anything when you have the right tools.” The same is true as we study to lead our small groups. Click To Tweet

When it comes to preparing a lesson for a small group, a few resources go a long way. Here are some ideas I have found very useful.

  1. Get a good translation of the Bible and study from it. You might want to choose a Christian Standard Bible, an English Standard Bible, a New International Version, or a New American Revised Standard.
  2. Get two or three other translations to study. Other translations help us see nuisances in translation. In fact, I think you can easily (and at no expense) find other versions with resources such as the YouVersion app or the Bible Gateway website. Bible Gateway allows you to open several translations side-by-side for comparison.
  3. Get a good Bible dictionary. You can access Bible dictionaries online, but I enjoy having print copies. I like the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary. However, there are many good ones out there so shop around.
  4. A Bible commentary is helpful. Full sets are expensive so I only buy a volume as I need it, slowly building a collection. There are one volume commentaries but they tend to be “commentary lite”, not much depth or information. I think one of the best Bible commentary resources is online: Bob Utley’s Free Bible Commentary. Did I say it is free? Dr. Utley’s work is outstanding! You will be hard pressed to find something better. I am also partial to the Life Application Commentary series. I think of myself as a layman in teaching the Bible, and this one is written for the layman. I have caught all my volumes on sale in the digital format.
  5. A Bible atlas helps you understand the geography and culture of Bible times and lands. I love the Holman Bible Atlas.
  6. Also, if your church is using a printed curriculum, get those resources and use them. Most of the time, the products I use are very good.

My father was right. If you have the right tools, you can do just about anything. That applies to studying and teaching the Bible. You don’t have to talk the whole time in small group, but being well-prepared will help you lead effective, life-changing Bible studies with your group.

Scripture: Read Acts 17:11-12. What was the result of the Bereans earnest Bible study? Why?

Dig Deeper: Click on any hyperlinked resources above and learn more about them.

Now It’s Your Turn: What resources do you use as you prepare to lead your small group?  Please share your ideas so we can all grow together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.