Category: Community

The Circle of Friends

Everyone’s alike. We all get along. We “click.” Yes, but click on what? Get along where? What’s often passed off as community is really nothing more than a circle of friends. The “circle of friends” is an insular, self-affirming circle of homogeneity. You share the same income, values, and jokes. You like the same restaurants, have some history, laugh together, and may be the most dangerous influence on one another.

Media critic and documentarian Adam Curtis has suggested that since the explosion of information and celebrity culture, we now determine reality based on our own experiences with our circle of friends.* Our peers now possess more authority than government, history, reason, or God. For example, what you do on the weekends, with your time, where you buy your house, and how your spend your money, may be primarily the result of friendship influences not deep values.

Your views on sexuality, politics, church, and God are easily shaped by little finite people and their opinions of you more than a transcendent, good, holy Authority and what he thinks of you in Christ. You may consume questionable amounts or kinds of media, or refuse to sacrifice your time and money for others, insist on isolating yourself from ‘sinners’, or rarely talk about the deep truths of the Bible because, well, your circle of Christian friends has settled for less.

Those who encircle Jesus are just the opposite: living under God’s great and gracious authority, working hard to live like Jesus, to love those who are different and hard, seeking deep joy and genuine laughter with those who stir up belief in the gospel, who promote joy in God, enjoyment of his creation, and service to others. Are you part of the Jesus circle, the countercultural community? Or are you caught in the circle of friends?

*Thanks for Mark Sayers for drawing my attention to Curtis’ work. This post is an excerpt from the sermon “Come After Me”

How We Develop Elders

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is discovering men whom God has called into ministry and developing them into godly shepherds and missional leaders. Currently, we are training three elder candidates and two church planting residents. What a privilege! As we develop elders, we don’t look for strong business or cultural leaders and them knight them for church leadership. Rather, we look for men who are already shepherding others through missional communities and invite them to join an elder development process (See Diagram). Some of these men are strong business leaders and some are not. We want eldering men for our elder candidates.

Elder Development Process

The Elder Development Process begins with inquiry and aspiration and ends in assessment and appointment. Here is an Overview of our Elder Process. Once the candidates have been approved for training, we begin the phase of Preparation. In this phase, we place a strong emphasis on character, spending 2-4 months on character assessment, spiritual development plans, transparency, spousal partnership, and resolve.

Character, Doctrine, & Skill

The three areas we are developing are character, doctrine and skill. Through three overlapping and self-nurturing phases, we move towards godly, experienced, qualified leadership.

Phase 1: Biblical Understanding & Character

  • Transparent conversations about doctrinal, character, and skill weaknesses. Talk through growth plans for each candidate. Gospel-Centered Elder Study Guide, written by Bob Thune has been a helpful tool.
  • Make sure candidates are currently serving and sharing what they are learning in some capacity. Coaching and skill development in counseling
  • Biblical Eldership – Readings and socractic discussions on the nature and responsibilities of eldership. Exposure to elder meetings

Phase 2: Doctrine (courses offered in our semi-formal City Seminary)

  • Christ-centered Interpretation
  • Systematic Theology
  • Cultural Apologetics

Phase 2: Pastoral Skill

  • Gospel-Centered Discipleship
  • Gospel Counseling 

 

Free Download – Our Missional Community Primer

Over the past five years we’ve trained, failed, and multiplied a lot of missional communities. Several years ago we moved to a more formal training (and re-training) process to set and reset the identity and commitments for each missional community. We found this is important because it’s human nature to drift from your values and commitments.

A group may start off with bold aims for engaging non-Christians with gospel hope, showing mercy to their city, and being a “family”  not meeting. When we set out with these aims, we’re driving upstream, against our self-centered, cliquish cultural current. However, everyone experiences mission and community drift. In order to remain focused and stay behind Jesus, not cultural currents, we need reminders, guides, and communally formed commitments. This is why we created a Missional Community Primer.

  • Every missional community goes through the Primer at the beginning of the year.
  • The process is very conversational, with the aim of applying our core values into clear, firm commitments
  • We conclude the process by drawing up a Missional Commitment that everyone agrees on
  • We occasionally pull it out through the year to celebrate, repent, or redirect.

Feel free to check it out, copy it, download it, improve upon it, or whatever you like (just include a link back or footnote for folks to find it).

 

What Parenting Method is Best? (Pt 1)

Every new mom or dad feels the daunting nature of the task—parenting. Questions fill your mind. Am I ready? What makes for a good dad or mom? How should we discipline? What kind of schedule should we follow? Is a schedule important? How do you raise an eternal soul? Nervous and excited, I piled up the books! I read everything on parenting from Psychology to Theology to Methodology. I also met with fathers whom I respected and asked them lots of questions on how to be a good dad. I even formed a group of other soon-to-be dads, so we could get together to pray for our kids and encourage one another.

There’s nothing like becoming a parent to freak you out. Expecting mothers freak out too. They get so freaked out, they devour blogs, join mom groups, buy lots of baby stuff they think their baby can’t live without. When we had our first child, we received a wet wipe warmer, seriously. All of a sudden all your conversations bend towards being a mom, raising kids, pregnancy. It’s easy for a lot of other stuff to get pushed out. Then there’s the birthing and parenting methods. In America, we get obsessed about this. We gravitate to books like What To Expect When you Are Expecting because we have to know what to expect! I wonder where faith is in all of this preparation?

Raising Kids is Hard & Great

I’m a seventeen-year-old parent (if you add my kids ages up), and I still don’t know what to expect. New stages bring new challenges. Diapers, potty training, schooling, friends, birds and the bees, puberty, culture, college, marriage, and so on. Working through education for our kids is one thing, but once they are in school its a whole different thing. Parenting can be daunting. Children require constant attention, even when they sleep! We watch them breathe at 2am. And even when they are not around, they are still in our thoughts. And for some reason they like doing the opposite of what we ask them to do! Raising kids is demanding, but it also delightful.

I love being a father. We get to experience unprecedented joy as we watch our children grow, change, eat, walk, talk, learn, sing, play, pray, and laugh. You get to roll around with them on the floor, and marvel at what they say. This week we were at the breakfast table and Owen just whipped out the Pledge of Allegiance, reciting it from memory. Ellie put on a black, curly, Halloween fro and, holding up her finger, said: “Don’t laugh!”.

6 Parenting Methods 

What methods do you follow? Some of us go for touchy-feely (Brazelton). Others lean into attachment parenting (Sears). You like the family bed. Others of you are freaked out by the idea of a family bed, so you schedule every second of your child’s life and then do it “God’s Way” (Ezzo) meanwhile abandoning worship, community, and mission (incredibly formative things for the soul). Or there’s Parenting by the Book (John Rosemond), who apparently figured out exactly how to raise children according to the Bible. It’s funny. In the midst of eternity, we clamor for temporal methods. Anxious about the safety, performance, health, and future of our children, we put faith in our methods, not in Christ.

Secular parents are realizing the futility of method-driven parenting. As a result, confessional parenting has become popular. Confessional parenting allows imperfect parents to be imperfect. Moms can confess to their various parental “sins” online, like faking an illness just to get some time alone. The problem with confessional parenting, is that while it might remove your guilt, it doesn’t raise your children.

Enter Slow Parenting, pretty popular in Austin. Slow Parenting replaces the experts, who told us what a good parent worries about, with experts who now tell us that a good parent doesn’t worry so much. Chill out. Take is easy. Don’t run your kids or yourself all over town to make sure they are in the right activities. Family, Family. Family. Do I detect a idol?

Attachment parenting, scheduled parenting, Christian parenting, and Slow parenting. We soothe our anxieties by staying up with the latest research and banking on our methods. But as a recent article in Time tells us, parents are wearing thin. Discouragement sets in. There’s a word for this. It’s called “nurture shock”, what happens when the mythical fountain of parenting knowledge fails us. We become over-informed, unsatisfied, anxious parents. Placing our faith in methods will drive us crazy, and kids don’t do so well with crazy parents.

3 Shortcomings of Method-Driven Parenting

In his foundational work God, Marriage, and Family, Andreas Kostenberger lists several shortcomings of methods-centered parenting:

1.     Method driven parenting focuses on practices not the person.

2.     It provides parents with a false sense of confidence.

3.     It is not sensitive enough to the uniqueness of each child.

I’m growing up with my kids, and I’m learning that that’s okay. God designed it like that, probably because he knows our kids need parents of faith more than parents of methods. Most parenting books miss the most important part of our children–their souls. Overwhelmed with the ordinary struggles, we can easily jettison eternity and latch onto the best crutch we can find, our parenting methods. If we keep a nap schedule, give them organic food, make sure they are having a “well-rounded” childhood (=putting your kids in everything imaginable and neglecting the most important things), then we can be confident. Maybe this methodology thing is more about us being confident and less about our kids being parented well. We can be so focused on finding the right parenting “method” or “educational philosophy” that we miss the most important part of parenting.

In the next post, we will consider a child-centered approach alongside gospel-centered parenting.