The Golden Circle

June 28th, 2012 by Dan Mancini

We love this TED talk by author Simon Sinek (Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action). But, then again, we think we have a pretty compelling “why”:

Life is better connected.

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The Next Right Thing

June 26th, 2012 by Dan Mancini

Jeff Henderson, pastor at Gwinnett Church, just finished a great message series called Climate Change. Its premise was that we all have an emotional climate and that climate dictates the forecast of our relationships.

In Part 4 of the series, Jeff talked about how life’s tough circumstances can rob us of hope. “When our dreams meet reality,” he said, “choose hope.” God is in the business of building hope in our lives, but we have to trust him—especially when life doesn’t make a lot of sense. The way we do that is to simply choose to do the next right thing. Let God take care of the big picture.

I lived this out for five years doing contract work as a technical writer. The work was fun at first, but as I entered my late 30s, I started asking the kinds of questions people at that age typically ask:

“Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

“Where is my life going?”

“Is this it for me?”

Reading the Bible and praying assured me of God’s greatness, but it didn’t provide answers to those questions. I didn’t know—had no way of knowing—that God was preparing me for ministry. He was building an odd collection of skills in me that he planned to use in very specific ways. More important, he was using my uncertainty to grow my trust in him.

God didn’t opt to let me in on his plan (he rarely does). My only options were to spin into some crazy mid-life crisis or to trust him by doing the next right thing. So I took the jobs he provided, thanked him that I was employed when so many others weren’t, and did my work with every bit of skill and creativity I could muster…even when I was bored doing it.

And that made all the difference.

Have you ever done time in a “next right thing” period of life? Are you there now? What do you do to maintain (and grow) your trust in God when circumstances are trying to steal your hope?

Looking Good

June 21st, 2012 by Mike Davis

As you may have noticed Groups is getting a “visual update”… but why the change?

Community: Within Reach

June 19th, 2012 by Dan Mancini

We’re in the process of rewriting the starter study used by new Community Groups during the eight-week starter period. We’ve been working on it since September of last year, so we’re looking forward to getting it out there for Community Groups to use.

One of the things we’re really excited about is how the new study will use dynamic (and entertaining) video components. We thought you might enjoy a sneak peek. Here’s a brief creative piece that’ll be included in the study:

Community: Starting Well is scheduled to make its debut at GroupLink in August.

This Blog Is For You

June 13th, 2012 by Bill Willits

This blog is for you. Not just this post. This whole site. You’re the ones who make it possible for our church to create community for tens of thousands of people every week. You open your homes and your hearts. You carve out space in your calendar and your life. Not because you’ve got nothing else to do but because—like us—you’re deeply passionate about what happens when people gather in a circle, discuss principles from God’s word, invite the Holy Spirit to be present, and share life together.

We started this blog because the way you serve is critically important but it isn’t always easy. Occasionally, you may feel like you’re on an island, in the dark, or out of gas. Some days, you need a fresh idea. Other times, you could really use a shot in the arm, a reminder that leading a group is worth it. So, on this blog, you can expect to consistently run into four things:

We’re setting out to empty our cups of experience gained from nearly 20 years of creating community. We certainly haven’t learned it all but we have learned a lot and what we’ve learned, we want to share. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s that to grow spiritually, you must be connected relationally. So, thank you for making meaningful connection a reality for so many. We couldn’t do this without you.

Community Changes Lives

June 13th, 2012 by Dan Mancini

Baptisms are my favorite part of Sunday services. They’re a great reminder of how the communities we create really do change lives.

People mention their Community Groups all the time in their baptism videos, but Tony Strickland’s baptism on February 19 of this year is a great reminder of how community can help transform a faith that’s just limping along into a real relationship with Jesus. The video’s pretty funny too. Check it out:

Tony Strickland- 021912 from NP Baptism on Vimeo.

Maintaining Momentum in the Summertime

June 8th, 2012 by John Ott

Summer has a way of being both hectic and a refreshing change of pace. Any change in the rhythms of life can have a ripple effect on the momentum of your group. We asked four Groups Directors to share some best practices for maintaining momentum in the summertime. Each answer is less than 30 seconds long and offers a valuable insight you can use this week.

The first is from Matt Driggers:

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Jesus’ Invitation

June 7th, 2012 by Bill Willits

Did you know that the Bible records a time when Jesus prayed for us? It’s true. John 17:20b–21 tells us:

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Jesus’ prayer was that all his followers would experience the kind of meaningful relationships with one another that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit experience together—that qualities like mutual encouragement, support, love, deference, and honor would characterize our relationships with one another just as they do the Trinity.

That was Jesus’ prayer and that is his dream. How’s that for amazing grace?

As important as it is for each follower of Christ to give and experience this unique kind of relational life, the benefits go beyond ourselves. They influence a watching world. Notice Jesus’ concluding words in verse 21: “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

Do you feel the weight of the statement? The credibility of Jesus’ life and message in the eyes of the unbelievers depends on the way we, as his followers, relate to one another. It’s as if Jesus is saying that unbelievers are just waiting to believe, but the question is, Will they see us relating in a magnetic, irresistible way that reflects the love of our Savior? That’s a huge question.

Consider these earlier words from Jesus in John 13:34–35:

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Do you see how high the stakes are? We can’t settle for anything less than Jesus’ dream for community—authentic, life-changing community. The credibility of the gospel is at stake.

In The Mark of the Christian, Francis Schaeffer put it this way: “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful—Christian community is the final apologetic.