books christianity

New Ebook from Ben Reed

StartingSmall Cover

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, 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!

austin stone christianity church missional

Churches Planting Churches


This Sunday, The Austin Stone joined with many other Acts 29 Network churches to preach to our congregations about church planting and support the mission to make disciples and plant healthy churches.

I continue to be grateful for the Lord’s grace in my life to participate in church planting.  As we prayed for our entire church to engage in the Great Commission, two of my friends and their church plants came to mind:

Would you join me in praying for these men, their families, and their core teams as they seek to make disciples in their cities?

Additionally, I will be launching a two year residency for aspiring pastors and church planters in this coming year (see below for an overview).  Would you join me in praying for this cohort of men and their families in the coming year?

Pastoral and Church Planting Residency at The Austin Stone – PDF

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can be involved in church planting, let me know and I can help you plug in!

christianity leadership

Called | JD Greear

I loved JD Greear‘s thoughts on calling as they are seeking to plant 1000 churches in 40 years.  Below is the excerpt:

First, calling is not:

* Necessarily a Burning Bush/Damascus Road/Warm Fuzzy experience. We all want the Mark Driscoll, “God told me to marry Grace, plant churches, and train men” kind of experience, and that happens sometimes. But the “burning bush” experience is not how most of God’s servants are called–either in the Bible or in church history. Charles Spurgeon was clear he never got anything like that. I didn’t either. The only bushes that have ever spoke to me were the ones at Southpoint that have the music coming out of them.

* A special instruction to live missionally. Radical commitment to the Great Commission and radical sacrifice on its behalf are not the special assignment of a chosen few, but a mandate for all. Sometimes I think we have invented this whole language of calling to mask the fact that 90% of church-going Christians aren’t living missionally.

* An excuse to passively wait for God rather than actively pursue ministry. Most of God’s miracles in the Bible happened not because someone did what He told them to do, but because they saw an opportunity to advance the Kingdom of God and they asked God to help them.

Rather, calling is:

* A church-recognized combination of your God-given abilities, giftings and experiences with opportunities God gives you. Ability + Affinity + Need = Calling (usually speaking).

via What it means to be called//SENDRDU.

I really like that he emphasizes the communal, church-centric view of calling, as it highlights the difference of our tendency today toward an individualized “calling gnosticism” – an individual hears directly from God, without any confirmation from Scripture or community, and chases a calling to seminary or some institution outside their primary fellowship.  My story of “calling” to vocational ministry happened because my church leaders recognized my giftings, and because I found a passion in ministry and there was an opportunity for it in our local body.

This definition of calling highlights two very important things: the church AND the individual.  First the church must have a passion for helping people identify their abilities and gifts, and provide opportunities to exercise them in ministry. Secondly, the individual needs to have some requisite skill and a passion for the ministry, not simply a general inkling that they may want to do it.

That’s not to say God doesn’t operate in the directed calling of an individual, I just don’t think it is normative for believers.  We know God’s calling through His Word, the community of believers, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.


christianity discipleship leadership

Discipleship and Ministry

I’ve been spending some time lately reflecting on my ministry and the coming season.  As my role has continued to change and our church has continued to grow, the pressures have changed and my time is increasingly spoken for. In addition, it seems like there is always a person or a task that needs immediate attention.

The ministry of Jesus and Paul have been speaking wisdom to me lately in the difference between discipleship and ministry.  Although both men spent copious amounts of time ministering to both the masses and individuals alike, they never departed from a focused investment in a small group of men.  I am noticing in myself the ease with which I get lost in ministry–the crowds crowd out my discipleship.

The conclusion for me has been, at bare minimum, I need to be investing in a small group of people on a weekly basis, and inviting those individuals more frequently into my life and  ministry.  The commitment to discipling a group, and not simply leading several ministries, provides for me accountability, as well as a continued perspective to the challenges our body faces in pursuing the vision God has given us.

God’s word to me has been this: don’t let ministry replace discipleship–it’s the road to failure.


Rubik’s Cube and Vacation

Last summer I learned to solve the Rubik’s Cube.  This summer, I am aiming to learn how to solve it in under a minute and a half, as well as solving it in as few moves as possible.

Should be a fun vacation.

I’ll be reposting some material over the next two weeks, so I hope you enjoy some greatest hits while I’m out of town!