Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored

1Apr/120

Small Group Leadership – Class Materials

"We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, and optional addition to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament: it denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health, and central to the Church’s true life…The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship." ~ J.I. Packer

"It is both foolish and wicked to suppose that we will make much progress in sanctification if we isolate ourselves from the visible church. Indeed, it is commonplace to hear people declare that they don’t need to unite with a church to be a Christian. They claim that their devotion is personal and private, not institutional or corporate. This is not the testimony of the great saints of history, it is the confession of fools." ~ R.C. Sproul

I have a passion to equip and encourage small group leadership in the church.

It seems that every church I hear about has adopted a small group strategy--so there are a lot of people doing small groups--but I fear that most of them are not doing small groups WELL. Small groups can be a bad strategy if they are not done well. Think about it for a moment, and I'm sure you will agree. Most people don't leave the church because of the sermons, the worship, or the children's program...they leave the church because someone hurt them, violated their trust, or even "stabbed them in the back." And where does that hurt come from? Not from Sunday morning, but from small group environments.

In response to the need of churches everywhere, I took last summer to refine a lot of my thoughts on group leadership, to read some more books on the subject, and to package a class into notes and a PowerPoint presentation. This past Saturday, I taught the class through DTS's Lay Institute for the second time. Now that these notes have been tested and received a good response, I want to pass them along to you as well. PLEASE--use these! I don't want credit or fame, I just want to build up the body of Christ...and I hope you find these notes to be a key resource in your own life and ministry, to that end.

Let me leave you with one other quote that I believe sums up my thoughts on Small Groups.

There is no passage in the Bible that says, ‘You must have a small group for people to grow in their faith.’ Instead, what is in the Bible is an understanding, from beginning to end, that people need an authentic, intimate community in which to grow.

Click here for the Word Document of the notes

Click here for the PDF version of the notes

Click here for the Power Point Presentation

1Apr/110

My Church is moving into the city of Dallas!

Prestonwood Baptist Church announced this week that it plans to purchase an existing church campus inside the city of Dallas and open it as a third church campus this fall. Am I excited? YES!!! And here’s why planting a new campus is good for us…

“There are two reasons to plant a new campus: Reaching Unreached People for Christ and Mobilizing Existing Church Members in Ministry” ~ Jack Graham, Pastor

Our campus in Plano is filling up, opening a new campus in Dallas will free up seats in that location as well—challenging all our members to get out into their communities and reach people who need to come to church. It’s a good challenge when 2,000 of your members live closer to the new campus than the current one—hopefully that means we’ll have a lot of people inviting coworkers and neighbors that otherwise wouldn’t make the long drive.

Closer means more people in ministry too. Stacy and I love our church, but we have a hard time making the drive to Plano during the week to serve. We serve instead at ministries at school and here in our local area. We’re excited about having a campus close enough to minister at more often, and a lot of open needs that our members can help fill. We’re never closer to God than when we get the opportunity to serve others!

Aren’t there enough churches in Dallas? “How many ants does it take to eat an elephant?” Keep in mind that Prestonwood does not want anyone to join us from other churches…our goal is to fill our seats with unchurched people…and there are too many unchurched people in any area of Dallas for one church to reach. We are working with the other churches to reach people—we believe that more churches means synergy in their efforts, and a more fruitful harvest for all.

Reaching the lost means reaching the nations AND reaching our neighbors. A Dallas campus gives us an opportunity to fund more than our own comforts. We get to focus our expenses on greater evangelism locally.

Next stop, an area of greater need: South Dallas. Keep us in your prayers.

Our Movement seems good to the Holy Spirit and also to us. We have had a heart to do more in the city of Dallas for a while. Many members have had this in their prayers for a long time. Hundreds drove past the building to look and pray. We’re leaping at the opportunity. Why? God has placed it on our hearts. The desire to minister is definitely the predominant motivation here. We are not primarily motivated by a desire to expand, look bigger, or get more tithers—although these things are certainly attractive and exciting to some of us.

Our opportunity to buy this building is a win-win situation that the Holy Spirit seems to have driven to us. The church that owns it currently is not fading away—the building has become a financial burden to them, and they want to move somewhere else. We didn’t find the building, and we didn’t offer them pennies on the dollar for it. We are sending them away with the money they need to start afresh, and we are getting a facility that fits our needs for a third campus.

The church’s location will be off Hillcrest Rd, just south of the LBJ/635 Loop in North Dallas.

Pastor Graham’s announcement is here if you would like to watch.

24Feb/110

A Life-Changing, Paradigm-Shifting Book

It is not often that I read a book that radically changes my perception of my future career, my concept of what a church is, and my perception of the education I am receiving now. But I find myself a changed man—and I find myself in possession of a book that I MUST READ AGAIN in order to understand its implications for my life.

The book is called Church Planting Movements by David Garrison.

David is a long-term missionary who has coordinated the efforts of fellow missionaries through the largest mission board in the U.S. – the International Mission Board.

He writes this book to share the information they have collected about the churches that are multiplying and reaching entire people groups with the gospel. This is NOT a book about planting a church: it is a book about planting churches that plant other churches, that plant other churches, and plant other churches…until they reach everyone in their culture…and that’s REALLY EXCITING to me. If I help plant a church in the future, I certainly want it to reach more and more and more people until it can say that everyone in its culture has heard the gospel.

Beyond that premise, this book has taught me a lot about the proper and improper way to do church. Theologians, missionaries and missions agencies are often the greatest hindrance to churches that multiply—and even if I don’t work to plant a church, I certainly don’t want to hinder the evangelistic growth of one with my work as part of it. Importantly in this respect, it reminds me that the leaders of the church are typically the people who are willing to accept the largest commitment to discipleship, not the seminary students I am in class with. They are not any more prepared to lead than small group leaders when they begin—they are simply willing to grow through mentorship with an existing pastor and grow into leadership. 

It has also taught me that the New Testament style church still exists today: casting out demons, healing people, seeing visions, meeting in homes, sharing all their possessions together, etc.

If you want to know what missions is really all about, please, please read this book. Nothing could better shape your perception of what needs to be done across the world today.

Buy it at the IMB website here.

19Mar/090

Online Social Networking Part 2: Meetups…

If you have a desire to meet and be used as a witness to non-Christians, then you MUST have a look at this powerful networking tool. It's one of the biggest evangelism fields I know of. Think about it: a listing of local groups that meet for the specific purpose of discussion. Search by interest, search by zipcode. Join a discussion of travelers or photographers or atheists.

A common statistic in evangelistic conversations today is the Christian's isolation from the non-believing world. I believe this is a technological blessing that helps earnest people to stretch their social network for the sake of the gospel How many secular social gatherings do you find yourselves in?

Have a look at the local networks in the top 20 results from my area, then think about surfing www.meetup.com for yourself and getting involved in a local discussion or two.

16Feb/090

The Next Generation

Craig Groeschel has an excellent post on the next generation today, and some of the differences that set them apart from our generation, at the Lifechurch blog here.

  • Their world is smaller and perspective is broader
  • They have a wider definition of "friends"
  • They're more experiential
  • Most have been under-challenged
  • Their world is grey
  • They are searching for a cause

I would add:

  • They collect information (and read more information) than any other previous generation. See John Dyer's comparision here.
  • They are less relationally-skilled than previous generation: due to less face-to-face interaction, and lower rates of stable family environments.

I personally find the next generation an exciting group of people to reach. My perspective realizes the potential it has for communication and coordinating efforts across the entire globe. I think we simply need to train and equip them to lead their peers. My suggestion, besides being aware of these differences, is to make sure we enable them to reach their full potential. What do you think???