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New Ebook from Ben Reed

November 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Recently my friend Ben Reed released a short book on small groups called “The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint”.  Ben is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN area. He’s been a good friend and has challenged my thinking. I had the chance to ask him a few questions about the book, and below are his answers.  You can get it on Amazon here

Who is the primary audience for the book?

The primary audience for my book is the person who wants to help his/her small group grow, and help people take steps of faith. I think small group leaders, small group pastors, lead pastors, education directors, and small group coaches would benefit from it.
But it would also be a resource that a potential leader/apprentice could read and (hopefully) find helpful.

If you had to sum up the book in 2 sentences, what would they be?

Healthy, biblical, authentic community has significantly marked my faith journey to the point that I want to help create pockets of these communities everywhere. And I don’t want to just help create them…I want them to be sustained for the long haul, creating disciples that create disciples.

With respect to the volumes of small group literature available, what makes this book unique?

This book is intended to be read by a wider audience than just guys and gals who live and breathe small group life. I’ve kept it intentionally short…it’s just 70 pages…so that it can be consumed in shorter periods of time, and the principles I discuss more quickly implemented. 

I’ve written from my experience of leading at the small group level and at the ministry-wide church level. I’ve seen small groups thrive…and wither. Through sharing my story, I hope to propel the former in cities around the world.

I loved the simple statement “party monthly” as a small group.  What helped you form that idea?

We have rhythms in so many others of life. At work. At home. With our hobbies. With our free time. Rhythms are the result of well-worn disciplines.

So I like to help groups start off developing a rhythm that promotes growth. 

We gather weekly and party monthly.  Because, well, for one, Jesus followers tend to be pretty boring people. Which is not reflective of the beautiful God we serve! I love what the Psalmist says:

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,    and our tongue with shouts of joy;then they said among the nations,    “The Lord has done great things for them.”3 The Lord has done great things for us;    we are glad. – Psalm 126:2-3

When our mouths are filled with laughter, others are convinced that God has done great things among us. And the flip-side must also be true. If our mouths aren’t filled with laughter, people become convinced that the God we serve isn’t good. That he doesn’t take delight in loving is people. That the God we proclaim as King is ultimately boring, and eternity will be a dull, lifeless “existence.” That’s not the story I want to tell.

So “partying monthly” is a vital rhythm of small group life.I’m an advocate for missional communities.  

What do you wish you had included in the book?

Actually, there was a lot I wish I included. Which is why I wrote the bonus section. Just head over to SmallGroupBluePrint.com, and fill out the form, and we’ll send it on over to you. I’ve included some small group sign-up cards you can customize, the sermon-based curriculum that we use (that is also customizable), and some extra stuff that I didn’t have room for in the book.  I’m excited to be giving that stuff away!

If you have any questions for Ben, he’ll be tracking them in the comments!

As you begin to explore the world of missional church and missional communities, you can encounter an overwhelming number of resources. I have spent a good deal of time reading through much of the literature available, and I thought it would be beneficial to provide some short commentary on many of the works available. I’ll cover a few different categories:

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Missional Practices

Missional practices focus primarily on what missional churches and communities do, rather than ideas that drive them. There aren’t a ton of resources available, but I’ve found the following to be quite helpful.

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Launching Missional Communities by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom

Mike and Alex do a good job of providing a tangible plan for implementing missional communities and answering a host of practical questions. My particular definition of missional community would differ from theirs, as they tend to focus on the group size of 30 to 50, but there are still a number of helpful practicals within this resource. It occasionally tends toward being overly prescriptive, but then again they are as convinced about their methodology as I am, so I guess I can cut them some slack!

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Search and Rescue by Neil Cole

In this book, Neil highlights the ideas of Life Transformation Groups, and how they play a role in cultivating disciples who make disciples. We adapted his methodology to form our own version of LTGs, but this is a great introduction that is thoroughly practical.

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Church Planting Movements by David Garrison

My friend Stew gave me this book before I ever knew what a missional community was, and it really opened my eyes to how Christianity was spreading throughout the world. More specifically, this book looks at church planting and disciple making movements, and distills the fundamental practices that are universal to each movement. The two most important takeaways for me from this book were the centrality of prayer and the abundance of evangelism that is present in every movement of the gospel.

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There are plenty more resources that I could mention in this series, but I’m sure you’ve got plenty to read by now. I always love recommendations for books, so feel free to put your favorites in the comments!

As you begin to explore the world of missional church and missional communities, you can encounter an overwhelming number of resources. I have spent a good deal of time reading through much of the literature available, and I thought it would be beneficial to provide some short commentary on many of the works available. I’ll cover a few different categories:

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Missional Philosophy

Missional philosophy books, in my opinion, spend more of their time working from a perspective of culture and ideas that the church must grapple with. It’s different from Missional Theology, in that the predominant focus is not necessarily on biblical exegesis, but biblical application.

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The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch

This book is a difficult read, but it is chock full of great ideas and thought-provoking insights. I love that Alan thoroughly interweaves several different disciplines and examples into this book, and provides a thoroughly comprehensive overview of the core components of movement. In particular, the ideas of Communitas, Apostolic Environments, and Organic Systems are very challenging for a pragmatic, linear thinker like myself.

Perhaps the most important part of what Alan does in this work is reimagine leadership and give permission and framework for some unique ways of thinking about the church.

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To Change the World by James Davison Hunter

I’m not sure this would ever be classified by anyone in the “missional” stream of thought, but I would contend that it absolutely ought to be. Hunter provides a thorough sociological understanding of how societal change actually takes place, critiques the predominant, inadequate forms of culture change in the church today, and then provides a compelling case for what he calls “Faithful Presence”. This book provides a healthy counterbalance to the ideas driving much of the movement literature today, and was helpful for me to think critically about equipping the saints in the church to make disciples and engage culture.

This book can be difficult reading as well, but it is well worth the effort for the insight that Hunter provides.

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Above All Earthly Pow’rs by David Wells

In this work, David Wells presents a compelling Christology in contrast to the consumeristic post-modernism pervasive in our culture and churches today. I commend this book both for its beautiful prose and the depth of insight into the gospel, the church, and the world we live in today. Perhaps the single largest contribution to my practice of ministry comes from his insight into consumerism, and the inability of the idea of seeker church to disciple away from it. Our churches must have a theological response to discipleship in a consumer culture, and a practical infrastructure that does not succumb to consumer tendencies.

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On the Verge by Alan Hirsch and Dave Ferguson

I think I might have a man crush on Alan Hirsch, but it is because he is so darned thought provoking. On the Verge can be a tad cumbersome to read because it flips back and forth between Alan and Dave’s voices, but there is a really thorough understanding of organizational leadership and organization dynamics from a missional perspective within this book.

The particular grid that was most helpful was the concept of “Paradigm, Ethos, Practices”, which helped our team work through an understanding of our missional community roadmap.

As you begin to explore the world of missional church and missional communities, you can encounter an overwhelming number of resources. I have spent a good deal of time reading through much of the literature available, and I thought it would be beneficial to provide some short commentary on many of the works available. I’ll cover a few different categories:

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Missional Theology

Missional Theology can be a broad based term. For my purposes, I am going to focus on works that primarily focus on biblical foundations for the mission of the church.

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The Mission of God by Christopher Wright

This book provides a framework for considering the narrative of Scripture through God’s redemptive plan throughout history – a missional perspective on the Scripture. I was first exposed to Wright’s ideas through Perspectives, and have found his work to be very helpful and thought-provoking. This book expanded my vision for God’s redemptive work, and forced me to think globally and holistically.

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What is the Mission of the Church? by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert

If Wright’s book focuses on God’s grand redemptive plan, this book laser-focuses on the mission of the church, specifically to make disciples and fulfill the Great Commission. I highly encourage you to read this in tandem with other works, as it a response to some helpful and some unhelpful discussion regarding the gospel of the kingdom in theological circles.

This book was incredibly helpful to define the primary purpose of the missional church as disciple-making, and more specifically a robust theological framework for the church’s role in making disciples.

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The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

Perhaps no other book has so profoundly affected my ministry as this one. This is a biblical overview of the ministry of Jesus, and his methodology of making disciples. In my personal discipleship, I follow this method as closely as I can, and it has yielded great fruit in making disciples and developing leaders for the mission.

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What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert

I love the simple framework that Greg provides for understanding the historical gospel of Jesus Christ:

  • God as creator and perfect in all His attributes
  • Man as created in God’s image, yet has rebelled against the sovereign God
  • Christ as the God-Man, who obeyed perfectly the law of God, died a substitutionary death on the cross, and was resurrected in victory over sin, Satan and death
  • Response as repentance from sin and faith in the message of the gospel

This book provides a simple theology and framework for the gospel of Christ, and it belongs squarely in the theology of mission!

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Some people would probably balk at the choices I put in this category, but I would say that much of the popular works that people would consider theology belong more in a category I would call philosophy – how biblical truth is applied in context. I’ll hit that category up next!

As you begin to explore the world of missional church and missional communities, you can encounter an overwhelming number of resources. I have spent a good deal of time reading through much of the literature available, and I thought it would be beneficial to provide some short commentary on many of the works available. I’ll cover a few different categories:

—–

Missional Communities

Missional community books spend most of their time locating the mission of the church into the context of smaller communities of faith (as opposed to the larger church corporate). All of these resources have contributed to my understanding of how Missional Communities work.

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Total Church by Steve Timmis and Tim Chester

Perhaps more than any book I have read, Total Church shaped my paradigm for an integrated approach to gospel-centered community on mission. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are all incredibly thoughtful and helpful in thinking theologically about community, and reorienting life together around mission. Chapter 8 was also incredibly challenging on practically thinking through community as the primary context for counseling.

I would say this book is primarily theological and philosophical in nature, but it gives some great categories to think through, and it’s an accessible read for most people.

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The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay

The Tangible Kingdom is the discovery of missional community in story form. Hugh is a natural evangelist, and this book puts missional community into inspiring stories and a simple philosophy. This book and the TK Primer were particularly helpful in thinking through how to love those “across the street”.

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Missional Communities by Reggie McNeal

In this book, Reggie provides an introductory look into a handful of churches and movements who are leading the way in the practice of missional communities. I’m a little biased because he graciously included The Austin Stone in his survey, but this work is a good snapshot of some different streams of thinking and practice that are continuing to drive the conversation about missional community forward.

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Organic Church by Neil Cole

Although I don’t agree with everything that Neil wrote in this book, I will say that there are few written works that will challenge your convictions and practices like this one. Perhaps the single most challenging part of this book is considering the actual reproducibility of much of our church life. I personally was challenged to consider how to create simple, reproducible and transferrable practices for missional communities that could be applied in a wide variety of contexts.

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If you were to read the books above, you’d have a pretty good introduction into the missional conversation specifically as it applies to missional community. I’d also strongly suggest you check out resources at Verge Network, as they aggregate a bunch of great content around the subject!