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Monday, February 14, 2011

What To Do With Conviction

Recently, our Crazy Love book study processed a chapter on "lukewarm" faith. This challenging chapter provoked an array of responses, and so I sent this message to our table leaders as a way to encourage and give perspective.

Perhaps if you are in the study, or reading some challenging material on your own, you will find helpful insight in these words:

Hello folks-

I hope your day is going well. I imagine that last night’s discussion around our tables was a real mix of thoughts and emotions. Chapter 4 on lukewarm Christianity was a challenging one, and brought about the full range of emotions from, “Let’s sell it all and give everything to Jesus” to “This doesn’t really apply to us.” I am guessing that for even many of us, we struggled with conviction and frustration as we read. We wondered if we could apply this material, let alone know how to lead a group through it. I have not been reading ahead, so as to go through the experience with all of you. My reaction to chapter 4 was feeling like I need to read this over and over until God has had time to apply it all to my life.

My guess is that Crazy Love will get harder before it gets easier. That it will get more challenging before it gets simpler. With that in mind, I wanted to write and give you some advice and direction for working with your groups. This may get lengthy, but I believe that thinking through these topics will help you in your group. So please take some time to read and consider these ideas.

1. Everyone processes at a different speed. Some will read challenging material and be ready to make immediate change. (We call these early adopters) Others need more time. Or more proof. Or more convincing. (We call these late adopters) Our temptation can be to assume that early adopters are more spiritual, and those that are moving slowly are less spiritual. But this may not be the case. Even when someone expresses a more negative or conservative reaction, we need to see that it may be their way of processing this challenging material. Give them a little space to push back, but continue to encourage and point to Christ.

2. Disagree with Chan, Okay. Disagree with God, not so okay. There will undoubtedly be times in every book where we disagree with the author, their perspective, or their method of application. That’s fine. Francis Chan is human, and as leaders we don’t have to stick up for him. BUT, much of what Chan says is Biblically rooted, with Scripture right there for us to read. Be alert to whether or not someone is disagreeing with Chan or with Scripture (God). When you find they are actually disagreeing with God, then it is appropriate to find gentle ways to direct people to Biblical truth. When they disagree with Chan, let it go. But keep the focus on what God, the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, is calling us to do.

3. Decision-making is best when we own it. In other words, we can’t force people to live more godly lives- it has to come from them. After reading material like chapter 4, especially as leaders, we can want everyone to make similar decisions about entertainment, standards of living, church involvement, etc. It seems so obvious to us! But if we make the choice for them, it won’t last or stick. Our goal as we lead is to keep elevating godly truth and pray that the light will penetrate the darkness- even when the darkness sits in our own souls.

4. Push yourself and the group towards application. This is the kind of material that is easy to talk about, in a sense. We have lots of ideas and lots to share. But the rubber meets the road when we ask questions like, “what are you going to do?” And sometimes we don’t know! But the key is that we stay open and humble to God, realizing that the whole point of this study is to make us more like Jesus. Talking rarely makes me more like Jesus- I have to do something. Make sure you take enough time in your group to let people process what they think they should actually DO. Will it be easy or clear? Rarely- but it is this kind of wrestling that brings transformation.

5. Celebrate any and all success, no matter how small. After chapter 4, we might feel like if we do anything less than sell our homes to go live with the poor, we have come up short. With this attitude, we devalue other significant choices we, and others at our table, might be making. If someone comes back next week and tells a story about giving away $20 they normal wouldn’t (or even $5), GET EXCITED! Realize that God can be just as involved in the small choices as in the big ones, and we want to highlight every step people take towards whole-hearted living. We don’t have to be content to stay there, but we must encourage progress.

These are just a couple of ideas to help you facilitate good conversation. And as the challenging material keeps coming, stay open to what God wants to do. He may not always do it in the way we expect, but I believe He is doing huge things.

May you be willing to sit with tough questions on your journey today-

Nick

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