Archives For Fellowship

These articles are written to encourage and equip you and your people to connect authentically with God’s people.

Topics include: Small groups, relationships, conflict resolution, etc.

What Made Jesus Mad?

There’s a bumper sticker that sarcastically cries, “Lord, save us from your followers.” Think about this. Jesus could have had the same sticker. “YHWH, save me from your followers.”  Of course, no one saved him. They killed him.

They didn’t like Jesus for many reasons, but, for sure, one was that he was always mad at them. Jesus’ anger was always directed at the religious people of his day. Well, usually the leaders of the religious people. If I put that into perspective, that would be the category I’m in today, so that caused me to take a serious look at what made Jesus mad. He was mad at the people who supposedly speak for God. He was angry because they were blocking the little people: children, non-Jews, women, tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners. Access denied.

It’s very easy for the current church of Jesus to fall into the same bad behavior that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and religious teachers exhibited back in his day. The problem is that we have less excuse for blocking access to the love of the Father because we are supposed to be learning from the…

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Build Health into Your CR Small Groups

One of the reasons Celebrate Recovery® exists is to help people develop deep, meaningful relationships. If we could change our lives on our own—without the help of God and other people—none of us would have any problems!

Celebrate Recovery is structured around small groups to help people find healing in the context of authentic community. To strengthen the small group component of your ministry, consider the following nine building blocks:

1. Frequency: A healthy small group doesn’t just meet every once in a while. Your people need to make group attendance a habit. You don’t do habits occasionally, you do them frequently. That’s why you must emphasize consistent attendance in your recovery groups.

2. Authenticity: Many people who attend CR understand the importance of being real. Accountability is only as healthy as it is honest. A small group is characterized by authenticity when people admit their weaknesses, share their struggles, and acknowledge their failures. This isn’t easy! Most of our relationships are superficial; to change lives, this can’t be the case for your small groups.

3. Mutuality: In a healthy small group, everyone is committed to one another’s growth….

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Make the Time With Your Kids Count

When we think about stewardship, we tend to focus on certain areas more than others. If you’ve been around church for long, you’ve probably heard a sermon describing how everything you have—including your money, your time, and your talents—is a gift God gives that you need to manage well.

But for those of us who are parents, there’s something even more important we must steward well: our relationship with our children.

God gives us a brief window to train our children and prepare them to make a difference in the world. Yes, if you’re a parent, you’ll help guide them for the rest of your life, but you have a unique opportunity to influence their lives during their childhood and adolescence.

Every parent has four main responsibilities to their kids as they guide them:

  1. Prepare your kids to face all seasons of life.
  2. Protect your kids in storms.
  3. Play with your kids for fun.
  4. Point your kids to God.

If you’re a parent, nothing you’ll do in this life will be more important than fulfilling these responsibilities to your kids. But how do you do that in a way…

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The Kind of Godly Man Your Church Needs

As Father’s Day rolls around this month, you’ll have the attention of men in your community in ways you might not have for the rest of the year. I encourage you to use this opportunity. The mission of your church depends upon it.

Your ability to engage the mission of God in your community is tied to awakening the men in your church. So, what are the characteristics of a faithful man of God, the kind you need to build a community revival?

Take a look at an often overlooked passage from Philippians 2. As Paul writes about Timothy and Epaphroditus, he tells us the characteristics found in a man of God.

He tells us:

1. A faithful man of God cares about others.

Paul describes Timothy like this: “I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:20-21 NIV). Timothy was unselfish in that he put Paul’s needs before his own. We live in a world where movies, songs, TV shows, advertisements, video games—they teach that it’s all…

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3 Keys to Getting Healthy

Everything you have is a gift from God.

Most of us are accustomed to looking at our money, our talents, and our time as a gift. However, stewardship is so much more. God wants us to manage every aspect of our lives in a way that will maximize our influence.

That includes how we take care of our bodies. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to my health for years. But I had an epiphany a few years ago: I realized my health could limit my ministry, and I needed the energy to do what God was calling me to do.

God had given me a vision for the PEACE Plan, to mobilize my church and churches around the world to lean on God’s power to tackle some of the biggest global challenges. At Saddleback, we were making plans to engage churches worldwide to plant churches that promote reconciliation, equip servant leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.

It was a tall order!

To fulfill what God had called me to do, I was going to need more energy and had to make the most of the…

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How to Grow and Serve Effectively According to Timothy and Paul

As leaders we cannot successfully walk through ministry alone. We must be connected to people who are ahead of us in the journey, people who are right behind us, and people who are walking alongside us.

Paul described this kind of multigenerational mentoring relationship in 2 Timothy 2:2: “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others” (NLT).

Paul and Timothy modeled three kinds of relationships all Christian leaders need in order to grow and serve effectively. Their relationship showed us that:

We need a spiritual father.

Paul calls Timothy “my true son in the faith” in 1 Timothy 1:2 (NLT). We first meet Timothy in Acts 16 when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He stops in Lystra to pick up the young disciple who accompanies him, assists him, and serves as a sort of apprentice under him. Paul becomes a spiritual father to Timothy.

My heart hurts as I see the number of young pastors and leaders who…

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5 Tools to Help People Grow Spiritually

All living things grow. It’s evidence of life. If a child doesn’t grow to physical maturity, that’s a tragedy.

And if people in our congregations don’t grow spiritually, that’s a tragedy, too.

Many churches focus on getting people in the doors and maybe making a salvation decision. But that’s only a small part of our responsibility.

Jesus gives us another example. During his ministry, he started by urging people to “come and see.” And they did! People began to follow him. But then Jesus slowly turned up the heat. He began adding qualifiers, statements that start with “You’re my disciple if”:

  • You love one another (John 13:35)
  • You abide in his Word (John 8:31)
  • You deny yourself (Matthew 16:24)
  • You make Jesus your prime allegiance (Luke 14:26)

Eventually, Jesus took it a step further and said that a person had to “come and die” (Luke 14:27) to be a disciple.

But Jesus didn’t start with “come and die.” He moved people slowly from “come and see” to “come and die.”

That’s what discipleship is all about. And I learned early in my ministry at Saddleback that I couldn’t grow the church….

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Four Ways Every Youth Pastor Can Bring Out the Best in Students

The first job I ever had in a church was as a youth pastor. When I took the position, I knew nothing about youth ministry. Honestly, I was as green as they come.

I’ll never forget the church’s pastor, W.C. Bryant, pulling me into his office after he hired me. We couldn’t have looked more different. He was in a three-piece suit. I was in jeans and a t-shirt. But W.C. looked me right in the eyes and said, “Rick, if I didn’t trust you, I wouldn’t hire you. If I didn’t trust you, you wouldn’t be on this staff. The very fact that you’re here means that I do trust you. So go for it. Do whatever it takes to reach kids for Christ.”

And that’s what I did. After he showed that kind of trust for me, I went all out engaging our community’s youth with the Gospel. We reached hundreds of teenagers for Christ. That experience profoundly changed the course of my future ministry. I learned lessons that would eventually help me found and lead Saddleback Church. I’ve taught…

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4 Ways to Involve Your Small Groups in the Great Commission

If you want your church to balance God’s purposes and grow in a healthy way, your small groups must lead the way.

It goes like this: You’re only as healthy as the cells in your body. It’s a basic truth of human health. If your cells are sick, your body will be sick, too.

The same is true in churches. Your church will only be as healthy as the cells within it.

And your small groups are those cells. They help build God’s purposes into every heart, every group, and every ministry.

In Acts 2, we read about the first small groups in the early church. The Bible says:

    • They grew spiritually (v. 42)
    • They ministered to one another (v. 45)
    • They fellowshipped (v. 46)
    • They worshiped (v. 47)
    • They evangelized the spiritually lost (v. 47)

Unfortunately, many small groups today just focus on one or two purposes. Often, it’s fellowship or discipleship (or both). Maybe they’ll add some worship songs at the beginning of the meeting time. They might even be…

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11 Simple Strategies for Helping Guests Feel Welcome

When I think back to some of the factors that have helped Saddleback grow through the years, one of the most important has also been one of the most overlooked.

If you want people to show up, you must be nice to people.

Sounds simple, right? It really shouldn’t surprise anyone. But even though most churches say they’re friendly, some of them really just mean their members are friendly to people they already know. They’re friendly to people who look like them and act like them.

And that doesn’t guarantee they’re friendly to guests.

You must be intentional in your friendliness. You don’t overcome unfriendliness by accident. You need to build friendliness into your worship service.

That’s why, early on at Saddleback, I instituted the three-minute rule. Guests are usually among the first to leave at the end of a worship service. Longtime members stay the longest. I’d tell my longtime members to find someone who looks like a guest (they are usually easy to spot) and talk with the person right after the service. I’d encourage them to spend some time getting to know these guests and making…

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Breaking the Chains of Hopelessness

The first time Rick publicly prayed at a weekend church service for people living with a mental illness, his words were simple. He asked God to bring comfort and strength to anyone living with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or any other mental illness. He asked God to reassure them that their pain and suffering mattered to God and to their brothers and sisters, and to remind them that as a church family, we would do all we could to offer support to them and their families.

The response from the congregation was astonishing. As he stood on the patio following the services, dozens of men and women who were living with a mental illness, or who loved someone living with a mental illness, lined up to give him a hug and to thank him for bringing their struggle into the light. Many spoke through their tears about the deep gratitude they felt to hear mental illness mentioned from the pulpit in such a loving and positive way. “I’ve kept my illness a secret at church,” several said. “I didn’t know it was okay to talk about it.”

That simple,…

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