Podcast: #36 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat driveway tears, changing careers, and Jon’s all-consuming-anger-spilling-forth-from-the-stresses of a COVID year!

Topics Discussed: 

  • Let’s get some sun
  • Meeting people in the flesh
  • Heading to the beach
  • Disc Golf…again
  • What would you do…?
  • Missing the sounds of the home
  • Accomplishing stuff
  • Angry drivers
  • What have we actually learnt about ourselves?
  • Growing in godliness

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Exploring The Habits of The Christian Life: Listening To Sermons

There is much on the Interwebs that speaks of how best to listen to sermons, even books have been written on the topic. However, as I work my way through the book Habits of Grace by David Mathis I am struck by the simplicity and meaning in listening to a sermon.

When we think of listening often we imagine ourselves not talking, and that’s about it. But, of course, listening requires more of us than simply shutting our mouths. It requires intentionality in actually hearing what someone is saying to us. It means we need to stop and focus, it means we need to take the time to hear someone out before chiming in with our own thoughts on the conversation at hand.

In a section on listening Mathis speaks of the grace that comes when we take time to actually listen to a sermon. The preaching of the Word is God speaking to his particular people in a particular location, and so listening is an important skill in this instance. But the symbolism of this act of listening is deeper than perhaps we’ve thought of before.

While preaching can get a bad rap, it is one of the ongoing activities of the Christian faith where God speaks to us through another human. And while the rest of our week may be filled with different activities, conversations about faith even, there comes a time where the faithful gather and seek to listen together to God’s Word. There are plenty of hours in the week to do other things that pertain to our life and faith, but for 30 minutes a week Christians gather to close their mouths and listen to the preaching of the Bible. This is fascinating act, a symbolic act, by believers around the world as they seek to encounter Jesus more deeply and in a powerful way. And even then, many are restless and sleepy for those 30 minutes too.

The other aspect to this is the fact that it is Christians gathered together. There is a corporate and communal aspect to the worship of God in church each week. It is not an individualistic activity, despite people not knowing one-another too deeply at times. It is the Christian community of a particular location getting together to hear from God together. Another sign of the unity that comes through Christ. And as Mathis writes,

“But preaching is not just about Jesus; it is his way of being personally present with his church. Good preaching brings the church into an encounter with her Groom by the Holy Spirit. As Jason Meyer writes, “The ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word. In faithful Christian preaching, we not only hear about Jesus, but we meet him.”

As Calvin once wrote about the purpose of preaching, “…to offer and set forth Christ to us, and in him the treasures of heavenly grace.”

While we may find preaching tedious at times I appreciate the fact that God has set this as one of the ways he gives us grace. In all our other activities of faith, particularly on a Sunday morning, there is the giving and receiving of grace to God. Through songs, through prayers, through communion even, we are often speaking to God as well as hearing from him. Through the preaching of his word we actually take the time to be still and quiet before him, solely receiving from him.

I wonder if this affects our thinking about the sermon for this weekend? 

Published: The Stories Behind The Stories

The surface level small talk and the triviality of much of life, thanks to social media and the busyness of life, makes it hard to take time and listen to others. Recently I’ve been pondering this, particularly after observing the way people around me use social media and their devices. My ponderings made it into an article, which was then published on TGCA.

“Often it takes something significant to disrupt our regular practices and habits. The other week I had two funerals to attend. If there is ever something that will disrupt us, get us looking up and out from ourselves, then memorial services for the dead are the way to do it. For there in front of us is the reality of life and death. There before us is the end. And reflecting on the end can jolt us back into what really is reality.

Our social media stories give us a picture of a life in front of us. And however momentary this picture is, it depicts a false reality. For behind that picture is a person, and in that person is a heart, and in that heart is the desire of things greater than can be captured by a phone.”

You can read the whole thing here.

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You can read more of my recent publications here.

10 Tips For Leading Discussion Groups

I don’t particularly like leading youth leader meetings where all we do is plan the coming term. To me, there needs to be something of substance in the meeting, something that can help us get better at what we do. At our most recent meeting I collected some thoughts around what makes for facilitating a good discussion group. Here are the 10 tips I came up with, ‘geniusly’ framed as an acrostic poem.

10 Tips For Leading Discussion Groups

1. Develop Rapport

Quickly introduce yourself and gather everyone in. The best way to get people comfortable is asking them how they are, what they thought of the talk in general, and sharing something you found useful.

2. Intentionally Listen

You’re not there to simply tell others in the group your wisdom, you’re there to hear them share. When someone is speaking listen to what they’re saying and ask them follow up questions.

3. Show Jesus

Our topics and points in our talks should be centred on Jesus. Therefore, it would make sense for our discussion time to also include pointing to Jesus. This could be through mentioning another related Bible passage, or reflecting on how knowing Jesus has impacted you.

4. Comfortable Silences

We’re working with teenagers. There’s going to be awkward silences. Get comfortable with them. But, during this time always be thinking about another way you could ask the question or ask someone specifically in the group to share.

5. Understand It’s A Growth Process

Our discussion groups are a place, we hope, where people will learn and grow. But, realise it won’t all happen on one night. The ongoing nature of these groups, and the culture we foster in them, helps facilitate growth and maturity in life and faith.

6. Share Your Stories And Heart

Those in your group are wanting to know your perspective or your experience. As leaders we have a great opportunity to share something of ourselves. If you can think of an example of how the topic for discussion is something you’ve wrestled with before then share it.

7. Simple Questions

Ask simple and clear questions. Avoid confusing questions that are long and have different aspects to them.

8. Involve Everyone

Notice who is and isn’t talking. When asking a question sometimes it is good to ask someone specifically to share.

9. Opportunity To Challenge

We have an opportunity to challenge the thinking and behaviours of those in our groups. Don’t shy away from the challenging question. Even the simple question ‘Why?’ can do the trick.

10. No Wrong Answers

People should feel comfortable enough to share without being ridiculed or laughed at. Through your facilitation those in the group can sense whether it is safe for them to share. When someone does share we want to affirm them and thank them for sharing, even if we believe what they have said isn’t quite right.

Would you add anything? (But realise, that if you do add anything you’ll ruin a beautifully constructed acrostic!)