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Honesty

January 14, 2009 2 comments

Continuing with our series on the chapter “Velcroed for Growth” from the book Contrarians Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne…

The third accelerator Osborne refers to when discussing the purpose of small groups is honesty. Osborne writes,

If I want to grow spiritually, I must be honest enough to let people in on the issues I’m facing and the reality behind the image I portray. I also need friends who are honest enough to tell me the truth—even when I don’t want to know it, or it hurts to hear. (p. 67)

He goes on to say this type of honesty is hard to come by. Of the three accelerators, it’s my opinion that this is by far the hardest to accomplish.

The kind of honesty we need is the kind we can only get from close and transparent relationships. We need brothers and sisters in Christ who know us well enough ask those difficult questions; the things other people may find offensive. We need brothers and sisters that love us enough to be honest.

Typically, we don’t find these kind of relationships in a once a week visit to church. When we see people in church, the common greeting is “How are you?” Our typical response is “I’m good!” Is that the honest truth? Perhaps. When we ask others how they are doing, do we really want to know or are we just being sociable? I would venture to say most of the time we are just being sociable. In a public setting where we see people only occasionally, this is appropriate. But if we are serious about our spiritual growth, we need more than just casual relationships. We need relationships with people we can be honest with.

We find this kind of relationship in small groups. Over time, people in a small group come to know each other intimately. They develop close and transparent relationships; one in which people have trust and love for each other. In these relationships, people really do want to know how the people in their group are doing. In order for us to have this type of relationship, we must be vulnerable and transparent; and in this world, that goes against the norm. Paul teaches, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Romans 12:2 (English Standard Version). There comes a time when we need to ignore what the world thinks and focus on what God thinks.

Honesty is not easy; it means being vulnerable and transparent. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what we need to continue to grow spiritually.

Next time, I’ll wrap up this look at “Velcroed for Growth.” Until then…

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The Upside of Peer Pressure

January 12, 2009 Leave a comment

Continuing with our series on the chapter “Velcroed for Growth” from the book Contrarians Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne…

The second accelerator Osborne refers to when discussing the purpose of small groups is peer pressure. Osborne says close and transparent relationships allow peer pressure to be used as a positive force in developing spirituality (p. 65). He cites Hebrews as an example of positive peer pressure:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (English Standard Version)

By continually meeting together, we develop close and transparent relationships and encourage each other to grow spiritually.

Parents understand the concept of positive peer pressure. We constantly keep an eye on the friends our kids hang out with. We drive them back and forth to youth group so they will be with other Christian kids. We talk to their teachers and coaches to see what kind of people they are. We have their friends over for dinner so we can get to know them. We do all these things so we know the type of influence their friends have on their life. We want them to have positive peer pressure. If we do this for our kids, shouldn’t we do this for ourselves?

Have you ever hung out with someone from Georgia? It doesn’t take long before you begin speaking with a southern accent and drinking sweetened ice tea. I have friends and family in Texas, and if I spend any time with them I begin speaking in a Texas drawl and rooting for the Cowboys. Y’all know what I mean. It rubs off.

Peer pressure works the same way. When we hang around people who are strong in their faith and character, it rubs off on us. Osborne writes, “The best way to produce [a long-term, life changing] kind of spirituality is to hang around those who are already experiencing it” (p. 67). The more we hang around with spiritually strong Christians, the stronger we become.

In small groups we hang around people who encourage us to love one another and to do good works. In small groups we develop close and transparent relationships with other believers. In other words, small groups create the positive peer pressure we need to be spiritually strong.

Next I’ll reflect on the accelerator honesty. Until then… Y’all be good now, ya hear?

The Velcroing Power of a Small Group

January 11, 2009 1 comment

Continuing with our series on the chapter “Velcroed for Growth” from the book Contrarians Guide to Knowing God: Spirituality for the Rest of Us by Larry Osborne… The first accelerator Osborne refers to when discussing the purpose of small groups is connectedness. According to Osborne,

“The primary reason to be in a small group setting is not to learn more biblical information. It’s not to develop great friends. It’s not even accountability. It’s connectedness. Belonging to a small group, small church, or any other form of close and transparent relationships velcroes me to the people and information I’ll need when a need to grow or need to know crisis shows up.” (p. 64)

A friend of mine used to say, “Now don’t hear what I didn’t say.” In other words, Osborne is not saying Bible studies, friendships, and accountability are not important aspects of small groups. What he is saying is connectedness is the primary reason to be in a small group. The other things are secondary. I would go further in saying the other aspects are results of being connected. Bible studies are always more affective when we know the people we are studying with. We feel comfortable asking questions or sharing ideas. Real friendship only comes from being connected. True accountability only comes from real connections. How many of us can say that we have connections like this?

Keeping with the focus of Osborne’s book, the people in our small group are the ones we should turn to when in need. They should know us well enough to know when something is bothering us. “When we’re in a place where relationships are genuine and transparent, there’ll always be someone ready to give us what we need.” Whether it is a shoulder to cry on, or words of wisdom, people we are truly connected to will be there to help.

Over the past couple of years, I was so busy with my career that I lost the connections I had with a core group of men. I was trying to do too much, and it consumed me to the point that I no longer had time for friends. Last August something happened that made me reevaluate my life, and I made a decision to make some changes. Making these changes provided me the opportunity to renew connections with my friends. It will take time to reestablish these connections, and some may be lost forever; but I know God will bring people into my life that I need. I just have to be sure to develop and nurture my relationships so there will be true connectedness. And through these connections I will once again have the spiritual growth, friendships, and accountability that God desires us all to have.

Next I’ll reflect on the accelerator peer pressure.