February 24, 2007

new small group

Posted in church, small groups at 5:32 pm by weiszguy

I recently joined a new small group for men at our church. The primary goal is groom in ourselves the kind of qualities that make good elders. We hope to achieve this goal by two main means: reading copious amounts of scripture, and holding each other accountable for godly living.

Believing that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful…”, we are going to pour large amounts of it into our heads. In the two weeks until our next meeting, for example, we’ll each read the book of Matthew twice. The emphasis here is not to meditate for long periods on a single verse or sentence, but to have in our minds a large store of scripture on which to call when necessary.

In order to hold each other accountable, we are each going to answer, out loud, several questions at each meeting. The questions are too numerous to enumerate in their entirety, but here are a couple examples:

  • Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate sexual thoughts about another this week?
  • Have you lacked integrity in your financial dealings or coveted something that does not belong to you?
  • Have you given in to an addictive behavior this past week? Explain.
  • Have you secretly wished for another’s misfortune?

I expect this small group to be a painful, but beneficial, period of growth. I expect to draw closer to God, and to better understand my fellow would-be elders.

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2 Comments »

  1. Will said,

    That’s a fantastic group idea. In Buddhism, it is said you must both study and apply the studies — they are both wings, and with only one of either two you’ll fly around in circles.

    I think studying scripture, followed by group meetings, discussion, and accountability is very brave and perhaps extremely beneficial.

    One quick note: I have had life-changing results living my life with a vow book. It’s a book that has a new behavior or religious tenet on each day’s page. I wear a vibrating timer that goes off every two hours. So, when I can, I open the dook whenever it’s time and make a quick plus/minus inventory of my behaviors since the last entry. nothing fancy, bad handwriting no problem. Main thing is to note what you’ve done positive and negative. For example,

    +stepped over ant to not kill it
    -looked at barista’s breasts
    +working hard
    -silently judged co-worker in meeting

    And so on. Also, with the habit of a vow book, I have a place to write all the major activities done with family, movies watched, and books read. At the end of the year I can make an inventory list of these items and double-check what I’ve been putting into my brain.

    The main idea of the vow book is just to raise one’s own awareness of one’s own behavior. It’s a circle model used by many treatment programs actually. You imagine the worst form of a given behavior as the center of a circle, with less severe forms of behavior forming concentric rings moving outward. So, for example, let’s take lust or covetousness:

    Having sex with another person (center)

    Touching another person sexually

    Flirting with another person intentionally

    Imagining sexual interaction with someone

    Looking at person with lust

    Watching vapid sexual content in movies, t.v., or reading in magazines or books.

    So, you see that the behavior becomes more “innocent” or “understandable” as the circles get larger and move away from the center of the circle.

    The basic idea is that instead of trying to solve the entire problem at one go, you choose the outermost circle that you think you can be successful at, and work with that.

    So, for example, if you can be mindful of the vapid sexual material you may be consuming in your entertainment choices, you can work on that item. And the idea is, if you can protect an outer circle very well, that will prevent your exhibiting any behavior in one of the inner circles. If you are working on not staring at the pretty/handsome bank teller you see every week, it’s not likely that you’ll indulge in pornography or an affair.

    It’s lame exposition of the concept, but maybe it’s enough to be useful to someone and you might look up this idea from a better source.

    At any rate, I hope the group goes really well and I hope to see blog entries about the journey!

  2. weiszguy said,

    A vow book. What in interesting idea; it’s new to me. It would have enormous potential, similar to shining a giant spotlight into your soul.

    I think in a Christian context, though, it would be applied a little differently than in Buddhist context. In Christianity, there is a continual push to get to know God better and allow him to work on the rougher aspects of your life. But there is not a set of scales, so to speak, on which the bad things you do must be outweighed by the good things you do. In fact, the central message of Christianity is that, apart from God, it impossible to improve the conditions of our souls – or, at least, to improve them enough to get to heaven. At the end of the day, we’re all horrible sinners in need of a savior.

    That said, I think a vow book, as you have described it, would be a very useful tool for cultivating positive qualities in a life. Keep talking, and you’ll probably convince me to start one of my own.


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