What is this Love Relationship?

The second reality in Experiencing God is that God pursues a continual love relationship with you that is real and personal. The pastor asked a difficult question in staff meeting this week. “How does it make you feel to have God pursue you in this love relationship?”

Different people will respond differently for a variety of reasons:

  1. Introverts vs. Extroverts
  2. Feelers vs. Thinkers
  3. Men vs. Women
  4. Adult vs. Child
  5. Depending on a person’s love language

Extroverts will tend to enjoy relationships in the “getting together” and conversation, whereas an introvert recharges in peace/solitude rather than surrounded by people. So, when God pursues the introvert, there may be a sense of “stalking” when one needs space. Love is there, but it can get crowded at times.

Feelers experience the emotion and warmth of the relationship, whereas a thinker knows one is loved outside of a feeling. Experiencing love is not based on how one feels but the truth and fact that one is loved (likely based upon one’s particular love language).

Men know what it is like to love another man like a brother, but the language of Jesus (another guy) pursuing us in a love relationship is fairly uncomfortable, whereas there is a trend for single women to view their relationship with Christ as “dating” him, being quite secure in their singleness. For men, the fact that believers (the church) are the bride of Christ doesn’t bring a comfortable image although we understand the concept.

Adults and children understand love quite differently in the fact that most kids accept and give love based upon the fact and reality that they are loved (by parents and others, unconditionally), whereas adults know what it is like to pursue and be pursued by a potential mate (and have people put conditions on their love).

Then there is the interesting fact about one’s love language. These love languages are:

The 5 Love Languages

To put this simply, in order to FEEL loved, a person must receive love based upon their own personal love language. If your language is receiving gifts and your mate is giving you quality time, you will not FEEL loved and your mate will not understand why. It is also interesting that we will often GIVE love the way we would like to RECEIVE love. Learn more about the 5 Love Languages, and actually take an inventory to discover YOUR love language. It is important to know this information because your primary goal in a relationship is to understand THE OTHER PERSON’S love language… and speak it to them, as uncomfortable as it may seem to you.

So, what does this have to do with God? Imagine if God pursues a love relationship the same way for every person. Some will feel God’s love while others won’t. As a male, introvert whose love language is acts of service, I feel loved by God in the fact that Christ died for me (Romans 5:8) and promised never to leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). I don’t prefer the “love relationship” language, or the image of Jesus wrapping his arms of love around me, or the language and imagery of the consummation of the church when the Bridegroom returns.

So, the pastor’s question is a good one: how do YOU feel loved by God or how do YOU feel about God pursuing you with a love relationship?

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Barriers to Small Group Growth

I always am on the lookout for teaching points regarding small groups, and here is solid wisdom from Rick Warren:

Did you know that you get a new skeleton every seven years? Your bone marrow is constantly creating new bone, and you’re sloughing off old cells so that your skeleton can grow with your body. For our church to keep growing, our structure also has to change constantly.

The only purpose of restructuring is to prepare a church for growth and to break through barriers. About 95 percent of all the churches in the world stop growing before they get to 300 people because they are structured to be at a size less than 300. It’s not the problem of the pastor or the people; it’s a problem of the structure.

We often ask the wrong question. The wrong question is, “What will help my church grow?” The right question is, “What is keeping my church from growing?” Growth is natural. All living things naturally grow. I don’t have to command my kids to grow; they just do it, if they’re healthy. If our church is healthy, then it is going to automatically grow.

A church becomes healthy by removing the barriers and balancing the purposes. There are 10 common barriers that keep our church from growing. The first six are:

Members won’t bring their friends to church: You can’t grow a church without guests. One of the reasons Christians won’t bring their friends to church is that they’re embarrassed or they think, “This is a church that meets my needs, but it’s not geared for my friend, an unbeliever, to understand it.” You have to create a service that is understandable but not watered-down.

People fear that growth will ruin the fellowship: Many churches say they are a loving church, but what they mean is that they are good at loving each other and not unbelievers. When members love their fellowship so much that they don’t want anyone new, then they’re not going to bring friends. The average member of a church knows 67 people, whether you have 67 people at your church or 6,000. If you only want to have a church of people you know, you’re only going to have about 67 people. The antidote to this barrier is affinity groups. The church must grow larger and smaller at the same time — larger through worship (weekend services) and smaller through fellowship (small groups).

Churches are driven by tradition rather than the purposes of God: Tradition is a good thing — as long as it works. Never confuse the message with the methods. The message must never change, but the methods have to change. If you don’t change methods from generation to generation, you are being unfaithful.

One of the most expensive and difficult things to do is keep a corpse from stinking. If there are programs in our church that died a long time ago; we need to give them a decent burial. Periodically, we should go through everything we’re doing and ask, “Should I reaffirm it, refine it, or do I need to replace it?” The hardest thing to give up is what worked before, but sometimes you have to stop it before it starts declining.

Churches are trying to appeal to everybody: Our church cannot be all things to all people. The moment we choose a style of music, we are going to turn someone off. We need to know whom our church can best reach in your community. Define that group of people, and then go after them.

Churches are program-oriented rather than process-oriented: A lot of churches think the goal is to keep the saints busy, and people are just worn out. Programs and events should not drive the church; they should fulfill the purposes. Where do we want to take our people in the next 10 years? Where do we want them to be different? Set a goal by determining your role — what God has called you to do. Once you know that, then you decide what programs best accomplish that goal.

Churches focus on meetings rather than ministry: When the number one qualifier in our church is attendance, then we are facing this barrier. It’s not all about the weekend; the weekend is simply the funnel by which you start the discipleship process. If Christianity is a life and not a religion, then it should focus on where we live our lives — at home, work, etc., and not at church. When we focus on meetings, we’re building a group of spectators. We don’t need more meetings; we need to meet more needs. You do that by turning every member into a minister.

[ Here is a full PDF handout with all 10 barriers with application ]

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Being a Missional Class

Allen Taylor mentions that while our Sunday School classes are great places to catch up with friends each week, there is a greater purpose:

Sunday School leaders believe that Sunday School is about Bible study and fellowship. While this is true, it is shortsighted. Sunday School is a great place to visit friends and socialize with those who share a similar worldview that is Bible based. It is also a place where the saints of God are mobilized to carry out the commission of Christ.

You see, Sunday School is social and relational, but she is also missional! We must embrace evangelism if we are to be a Great Commission Sunday School, and we must accept the responsibility of ministering to people’s needs. We often relegate Sunday School to Bible study and fellowship because that is mostly what takes place in the classroom on Sunday morning. Evangelism and ministry are often overlooked because they function outside of the Sunday morning classroom.

We naturally gravitate toward that which is easier and more convenient. We naturally drift away from that which takes more effort and labor.

Let’s remember that we have a purpose in meeting together each week. So, just what is that purpose?

In my book The Six Core Values of Sunday School, I state,”My philosophy of a Sunday School class is: The class is a miniature congregation, and the teacher is a miniature pastor.” That being the case, a “miniature pastor” must meet criteria that exceed just having a pulse. We must have godly, committed people leading and shepherding our classes.

When you drive the success of Sunday School down to the lowest common denominator, you find it one class at a time. A Sunday School organization is only as good as the contribution of each individual class.

When we take that one step further, we find that the success of the class is the teacher. Therefore, we need teachers who will toe the leadership line if we are to have a healthy, growing Sunday School ministry.

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Characteristics of a NT Church

This is teaching from Rick Warren. As always, how do we see King’s Grant measuring up to this standard?

If you want your church to have the impact of the early church, the book of Acts shows us eight essential characteristics we need in our congregations:

Supernatural power (Acts 2:3-4): We don’t just talk about God; we experience Him. This is what makes the church different from every other organization on the planet. We have the Holy Spirit. God promised His Spirit to help His church.

Use everybody’s language (Acts 2:4): This passage isn’t about speaking in tongues. It’s about the gospel being communicated in real languages. People actually heard the early Christians speak in their own languages — whether that was Farsi, Swahili, German, Greek, or whatever. God says from the very first day of the church that the Good News is for everyone. It’s not just for Jews. It’s amazing grace for every race. But the power of Acts isn’t just about the language of your country of origin. It’s also about languages spoken only in particular subcultures — like mothers of preschoolers or people into hip-hop or accountants or truck drivers. God says in His church, everyone’s language gets used. Are you helping your people use their “language” to reach people with the Good News?

Use everyone’s gifts (Acts 2:14, 16, 19, 21): In New Testament times, there weren’t spectators in the Church. There were only contributors; 100 percent participation. Not everyone is called to be a pastor, but everyone is called to serve God. If you want your church to have the impact of the early Church, get everyone involved in the ministry of your church. Make it clear to everyone in the church that passivity isn’t an option. If they want to just sit around and soak up the service of others, let them find another church.

Offer life-changing truth (Acts 2:22-40): The early Church didn’t offer pop psychology, polite moralisms, or nice-sounding inspiration. We must always offer the truth of the gospel. God’s Word has the power to change lives. No other message changes lives like the Good News. No other message changes a guy from a wife-beater to being a loving, responsible husband. It’s when the truth of God’s Word gets into us that we change.

In Acts 2, Peter gives the very first Christian sermon, quoting the Old Testament book of Joel. Peter shares the Gospel in this message. Acts 2 says that the early church devoted itself to the “apostles’ teaching” – the Bible. God’s Word gave the early church power.

Provide loving support (Acts 2:42): The first church loved and cared for one another. The Bible says in Acts 2:42, “They took part in the fellowship, sharing in the fellowship meals and in praying together.” One translation says, “They were like family to each other.” The church isn’t a business. It’s not an organization. It’s not a social club. It’s a family. For our churches to experience the power of the early Church, we’ve got to become the family that they were.

Enjoy joyful worship (Acts 2:46): When the early Church gathered, they celebrated, “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” We must understand and teach that worship is a celebration. It’s a festival, not a funeral. It’s the party for the kingdom of God. When worship is joyful, people want to be there because people are looking for joy. Do you think if our churches were full of glad hearts, joyful words, and hopeful lives, we’d attract other unbelievers? Sure they would.

Make generous sacrifices (Acts 2:44-45): The Bible teaches us to make generous sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. The Christians during the Roman Empire were the most generous people in the empire. In fact, they were famous for their generosity. They literally shared everything, with one another and the poor. The Bible says the early church “shared everything they had … .” That’s a church worth dying for; which is exactly what first-century Christians did. They’d rather die with gladiators and lions in the Coliseum than renounce their faith and their brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Create exponential growth (Acts 2:47): When our churches demonstrate the first seven characteristics of the early Church, growth is automatic. People may have looked at the first Christians as weird, but they liked what they were doing. They saw their love for one another, the miracles that took place in their midst, and the joy that was in their lives, and they wanted what the Christians had.

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Authentic Christian Community

The final chapter in the book of Acts brings Paul to Rome (Acts 28:14), it was probably the early spring of AD 61. Some brethren heard they were coming (Acts 28:15) and they came to visit Paul from as far away as the Market of Appius (43 miles away) and the Three Inns (or Taverns – 33 miles away). Paul had planned for some time to make it to Rome but with all that had happened to him along the way, he had been prevented (Romans 1:13). It is important to note that these were not old friends of Paul, but just fellow believers in Christ.

Rome was like nothing he had experienced before, likely a million citizens in his day; and the same number of slaves. As he approached the city, he may have been overwhelmed by the vast number of people. I remember the first Memorial Day weekend I spent living at the oceanfront. The beach was literally blanket to blanket with tourists and locals. My heart was overwhelmed at the vast numbers of people, most of whom probably had no relationship with Jesus. I was reminded of Jesus’ words as he looked over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37).

Paul had experience authentic Christian community, sort of a brotherhood. It is not masculine terminology as we use it today, but for those who shared koinonia, true community and the sharing a common life. How important are the brethren to Paul?

The Bible refers to a natural sibling of Paul only once (Acts 23:16) and a few other relatives (Romans 16:7, 11-12) yet there are at least 99 times in his letters that he refers to fellow believers as brothers. He uses the Greek word, adelphos. It came to designate a fellowship of care equivalent to a community of life.

Paul’s need is not unique. People are desperate for a sense of community, a place where “everybody knows your name.” We want to feel like we belong there. As Skip preached this past Sunday, the community of faith is so important in one’s spiritual life; we can’t do it alone (see the video below). Many people may believe in Christ as Savior but never get involved in a community of faith. What’s up with that? As Paul writes to the Romans, there are three things worth noting about Christian fellowship or community: constant prayer, Paul’s sense of obligation to other believers, and his strong commitment to equality.

  1. Paul believed in the power of prayer (Romans 1:9-10): remembering them in his prayers at all times. In many other letters we read the same things. Paul sought their best and asked God for big things, probably because Paul knew God had big things to give.
  2. Paul believed that part of his calling was to share his gifts and faith with other Christians (Romans 1:11-12): He was looking out for others. The church is a unit, a body, made up of many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12), so it is important to recognize how we are connected, and we need each other.
  3. Paul had a desire for all people to come to faith in Christ (Romans 1:14, 15, 16): no matter their background. Sometimes we struggle with equity, because prejudice (by race, gender, status) is an ugly snake that rises within a community. We tend to be selective on who we allow close to us.

Application: How are you when it comes to prayer? Do you regularly pray throughout the day? For decisions? For your witness to others? For integrity? For your marriage? How about praying WITH your wife? Do you intercede for lost people around you? For your children? For your neighbors? Prayer strengthens relationship.

When it comes to being a part of the community of faith, do you tend to ride like the Lone Ranger? Are you more like Superman or Batman? The difference you may ask? Superman is always alone, there was none like him, he had no superhero partner. Batman had a buddy, a partner in fighting crime. What part of the body of Christ are you? How are you serving God and others? What are your gifts and talents that can be used for the kingdom of God? Do you have a sense of obligation when it comes to other people and their spiritual growth?

When it comes to equity, are there hidden prejudices about which you are ashamed? Do you look at race, gender or economic status before you open yourself to people? Do you really believe that people without Christ are lost and in need of a Savior? Seek forgiveness for past attitudes and open yourself to the authentic community that comes from the brothers and sisters in Christ.

Being a part of a Christian community helps us to grow into the people of God he desires for us to become. The believers from the Market at Appius and the Three Inns may not have known Paul personally, but they had a common bound and offered encouragement to a man on a mission. He was encouraged by strangers that were a part of the community of faith. Their faces were unfamiliar but each one had been washed in the blood of Christ.

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The Christian Life is to be Shared

I love the stories found in the book of Nehemiah. He was a brilliant example of leadership, devotion, prayer and faith. In the midst of difficult times he was able to motivate people in the direction that led to peace, strength and security. After inspecting the situation and seeing the city of Jerusalem in ruins, Nehemiah addressed the people:

But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” (Nehemiah 2:17)

Did you notice the words we and us in this verse? In order to motivate the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah had to personally identify with their problem, their need, and their future. It was no longer their problem;  Nehemiah saw the broken wall as our problem. Imagine the kind of response Nehemiah would have received if he had said, “You folks have gotten yourselves into a bad mess. You know what you need to do? You need to rebuild that wall. If you need me, I’ll be in my office. After all, I wasn’t part of the problem. You people will have to get busy and do the work. Let me know how it turns out.”

Identifying with the problem encourages motivation.

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler at the height of the auto giant’s problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler’s union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler’s best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The plan worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain. He identified with the workers. He was saying, “We are in this together, and together we can make it through.” He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader is in with them, together they can move a mountain or, in Nehemiah’s case, rebuild a wall.

So Nehemiah did it right. Did you know the meaning of his name? Nehemiah means, “Yah (or God) comforts or encourages.” I see that the best leaders are not the ones who tell others what they need to do for the leader, but are able to inspire others to get done what is best for the people.

Not everyone was happy. Trouble arose from without and from within. Sanballat and his friends tried to stop the work, but without success (Nehemiah 4:1, 2, 7, 8, 16, 17, 20). Trouble from within was economic. Building the walls caused a labor shortage; farms were mortgaged, and high rates of interest were charged (Nehemiah 5:2, 3, 4, 5). Nehemiah said, “The thing you are doing is not good” (Nehemiah 5:9). He corrected the problem and even gave financial aid to those in need (Nehemiah 5:10, 11, 12, 1518, 19). Again Sanballat and other non-Jews made several attempts to lure Nehemiah away from the job and shut it down, but they failed (Nehemiah 6:2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14). Nehemiah proved to be a person of strong will and unusual boldness. “So the wall was finished… in fifty and two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).

Application: In what ways can you identify with the people you lead? How can you say to them, “We are in this together?” Have you come to terms that not everyone will be happy and excited about your leadership? But notice that Nehemiah remained connected to God in the midst of trouble (Nehemiah 1:5-7, 8-11, 2:4, 4:4-5, 9, 15, 6:9, 12). He was a man of prayer and faith. The Christian life is to be shared, all of us are in this together. Leaders and followers are in this together. That is what the Bible calls koinonia, which is fellowship, or sharing a common life.

I like the model of leadership that Ken Blanchard has promoted all over the country, the Lead Like Jesus model, he says, “Great leaders lead like Jesus.” The essence of this style of leadership is servanthood; we are to be servant-leaders. I will be leading a small group on this in the spring of 2011.

Leadership is an influence process – any time you influence the thinking, behavior or development of another person, you are demonstrating leadership behavior. So if you are a parent, CEO, pastor, Sunday School leader, electrician, accountant, then you are a leader and following the greatest leadership role model only makes sense. We should desire to be a Jesus-like leader, where God is glorified, people are served, and organizations are more effective in impacting the world for the Kingdom of God.

Commercial: Over the next eight weeks, Skip and I will facilitate a John Maxwell video series called, “Developing the Leader Within You.” It is designed for all of us to become the leader that God intends for his children. We all have influence over others at some point throughout the day, let’s become the best leaders we can be. Click Here to get more information.

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The Biblical Basis of Supervision

Following up on the States of Supervision, my friend Glenn Prescott developed this study as an example of Jesus modeling the different states of supervision.

Jesus was intent on equipping men and women to make a significant impact throughout the world they were called to touch.

  1. Structure provided the foundation out of which all ministry would grow.
  2. Cooperation provided the understanding that ministry was conducted within the boundaries of the community of faith.
  3. Fellowship provided the understanding that ministry was nourished in the depth of a personal relationship with the Master.
  4. Partnership provided the understanding that ministry should be taken to the next level and that there would be no limitations on what could be accomplished.

Jesus provided the biblical basis of supervision as He poured His life into the lives of His disciples. As supervisors, we should pour our lives into those we are privileged to serve.

(Focal passage: Luke 9:1-6, 10, Other passages: Mark 6:6-13, 30-32, Matthew 10)

1. Structure – equipped, authorized, sent out – Luke 9:1-5 (also see Matthew 10)

  1. Calling – Jesus called – they accepted (Luke 9:1)
  2. Gifting – Jesus gave – they received (Luke 9:1)
  3. Commissioning – Jesus sent – they went (Luke 9:2)
  4. Instructing – Jesus told – they listened (Luke 9:3)

2. Cooperation – teamwork, united ministry, sent out by 2’s – Matthew 11:1, Mark 6:6-13

  1. Working on a team
  2. Working with direction
  3. Working with a partner
  4. Working under authority

3. Fellowship – report, spend time together, rest – Luke 9:6, 10, Mark 6:30

  1. Disciples worked – Jesus blessed (Luke 9:6)
  2. Disciples returned – Jesus received (Luke 9:10)
  3. Disciples reported – Jesus cared (Luke 9:10 and Mark 6:30)
  4. Disciples and Jesus withdrew – They rested and refueled (Luke 9:10 and Mark 6:31-32)

4. Partnership – evaluate, results, go on their own, duplicate – Luke 9:1, 10

  1. What did I do?
  2. How did I do?
  3. What did I learn from this experience?
  4. What do I do to take this to the next level?
  5. Where do I go from here?
  6. What do I do to encourage others to follow (not just you)?

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The States of Supervision

The states of supervision describe the development and quality of working relationships between the supervisor and the supervisee.

The States of Supervision

People in working relationships pass through four states in this order: structure, cooperation, fellowship and partnership. They cannot decide arbitrarily to start out in the second, third, or fourth state. They must begin in the first state. A person cannot set dates to be at certain states, but can recognize a move from one state into another. The states are not absolute but are mixed so that after leaving state one, a person may revert to it (consciously or unconsciously) from time to time. People who are conscious of the states can move through them more quickly than they might do otherwise.

The states are bound by task/personhood. For example, in state three, the fellowship state, supervision focuses on personhood. In this state, personhood, not tasks, is the primary concern.

Many supervisory relationships stop prematurely in one of the first three states. People may find a particular state productive and refuse to change patterns, or they may find one especially comfortable. Each state matches the experience, history or natural inclination of the supervisor. It may take diligence for the supervisor and supervisee to move through the states appropriately. A problem may develop when people have an idealized concept of states. They may see supervision as what they experienced in their families or in an earlier vocation. They may idealize the supervisory relationship as being non egalitarian or autocratic. The supervisory relationship is never egalitarian, because the supervisor is always held accountable for the supervisee and must, in turn, hold the person accountable. However, since there are various levels of non egalitarianism, it does not have to result in an autocratic style.

The Structure State:
This is a task/task state, which has high structure. It is characterized by the supervisor outlining responsibilities, resources, and methods for doing the work. It is a “tell” state in which the supervisor tells the person about the tasks. Getting locked into this state is tempting when it is productive. However, if the person is to mature in the work and demonstrate initiative, supervision must move out of the structure state. This state is good for a beginning, or short term (a week or so), responsibility or for a person who is not ready to function independently. If the person is capable of growth and responsibility and the task is ongoing, the work relationship should grow beyond the structure state.

The Cooperation State:
This is a task/personhood state, where the supervisor moves from telling in the structure state to asking in the cooperation state. It is a “sell” state where the supervisor must determine if the supervisee is buying into the system and if he/she understands his/her role. In this state, the supervisor begins to take the personhood of the supervisee into consideration. By this time, the person has learned about the structure and the responsibilities and has demonstrated commitment to the work. The cooperation state allows him/her to take more direct responsibility.

The Fellowship State:
This state is bound by personhood/personhood. Leaving the cooperation state for the fellowship state may be difficult because the fellowship state is very person oriented with a tendency toward intimacy, and intimacy may be especially difficult when it is part of supervisory relationships. This is the “jell” state where the relationship between the supervisor and supervisee really starts to come together. The fellowship state may be the idealized state that many ministers envision about any relationship. The fellowship state is a productive time of planning and evaluating tasks. Only when the choice has to be made between person and task will there be an impediment to the task.

The Partnership State:
The partnership state goes back to personhood/tasks. This is not regression, nor is it the same as the previous task/personhood state. Because the person has been highlighted in the fellowship state, there is increased respect for and trust of the person when entering the partnership state. This is the “swell” state where this trust translates into increased responsibility for the supervisee. The partnership state is not the cooperation state revisited. In the partnership state, the supervisor makes the person a partner in the project, not simply someone who cooperates. The new partnership state makes the person a partner who has a voice in decisions and has greater ownership of plans and actions. Sometimes supervisors in the fellowship state fear moving into the partnership state because they must give away some control.

Using the States to Supervise:
When a new person arrives, begin the structure state with the highest structure you will ever need. This is an opportunity to help the person define roles and responsibilities. It is unrealistic to expect the person to begin in any other state. When a friend becomes your assigned supervisee, you can still have a close personal relationship, but you should define your supervisory relationship carefully. A problem develops with the states of supervision when the supervisor has several supervisees. Because of different levels of maturity, training and previous relationships, they may move through the states at varying paces. New supervisees will take more time to move than supervisees with tenure.

A person in an early state of supervision who does not understand the dynamics of the states may think the supervisor is playing favorites or may feel inadequate. When supervisees interact with each other, they can take into account the states of supervision and help new people move through the states. A situation or a crisis may necessitate moving back into an earlier state, even to the structure state. When the crisis is over the supervisory relationship can return to its previous state.

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Intimacy with God

Christians talk about the presence of God, and I suppose it sounds rather odd to those who are not followers of Jesus. When we talk about Jesus being alive today, and that He walks with me and He talks with me, it’s the realization that we do not go through this life alone. It is an understanding of Christianity is all about, the resurrection and the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the life of a believer. God really does walk with us through the dark valleys of life. For many believers, getting closer to God is a heartfelt desire and worthwhile goal, but how can we draw nearer to God?

Quotes:

During those times you sit in the presence of God and your heart sighs for him, what is it you are sighing for? Understand that your sighing originated in his heart. — Graham Cooke

It is when we notice the dirt, that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of his presence. — C. S. Lewis

Whenever we move into a new spiritual dimension of our calling and ministry, we must take the time to upgrade our relationship with God. — Graham Cooke

Top 10 Ways to Draw Closer to God:

  1. Each morning when you wake up, start thanking God for the new day.
  2. Sing or say words that tell God how big and beautiful He is.
  3. Take one whole day to just be with God; to journal, pray and listen.
  4. Read books that draw you closer to God and enlarge your view of Him.
  5. Practice sitting quietly with your mind clear and free of other thoughts, to listen.
  6. Memorize a new verse each week from God’s own writings.
  7. Pray the Bible; let its truths examine you and lead you to the Truth.
  8. Carry on a conversation with God throughout the day.
  9. Let Jesus carry your heavy thoughts, complex issues and unsolvable problems.
  10. Learn God’s love language called “pursuit” (Jeremiah 29:13)

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Church and Community

People today need a place to belong before they come to believe. The church is the body of Christ gathered for worship, fellowship, discipleship and missions. We grow in Christ together, not separated from one another. Many believers would like to recapture what the early church experienced, but how? It takes being real, and vulnerable, taking off the mask and connecting to another person at a meaningful level. This sounds very risky; are you willing to take the risk?

Quotes:

A striking feature of worship in the Bible is that people gathered in what we would call “holy expectancy.” They believed that they would actually hear the voice of God. It was not surprising to them that the building in which they met shook with the power of God. — Richard Foster

Rather than growing bigger churches, we should be concerned with growing bigger Christians. — Rich Mullins

In the essentials-unity; in the non-essentials-freedom; in all things-love. — John Wesley

Top 10 Ways to Build Community:

  1. Use self-disclosure to get real.
  2. Listen more than you talk.
  3. Ask good questions to uncover meaning.
  4. Have fun! Don’t make everything overtly spiritual.
  5. Use your spiritual gifts to encourage others.
  6. Balance activity inward, outward and upward.
  7. Serve those outside your community as a community.
  8. Share the significant issues of your past.
  9. Probe one another’s dreams for the future.
  10. Love one another practically and consistently.

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