Friday, July 30, 2010

Fierce Devotion

This is Part 7 of of the (re)Vision talk on leadership principles from the Life of Mary.

Fast forward to end of Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus was betrayed, falsely accused, beaten, stripped, and hung on a cross. In John 19:25 we read about the most gruesome scene a person could imagine, and yet we find, “standing near the cross was Jesus’ mother…”.

When so many of the men in Jesus’ life fled in fear, the women stood strong. These were the original steel magnolias. Jesus was hanging between heaven and earth, and Mary’s courage was once again expressed through her fierce devotion to her son. The scene before her was public, horrifying, and confusing. Had she misunderstood the angelic promise? Did she endure a lifetime of whispered judgments and pointed fingers for nothing? What had gone wrong? All hope was lost. But Mary stood at the cross devoted to Christ.

Women have the capacity for fierce devotion, and in this we reflect the image and glory of Christ. But sometimes our devotion becomes a source of frustration. We often feel like we pour ourselves out to others-- friends, children, husbands, etc-- and hope that somewhere and somehow someone will fill our emotional tanks in return. When that doesn't happen, we attempt to drain something out of others that only God can give.

It was at the cross that Mary found her reward for her devotion. Jesus told his disciple John to take care of his mother. As Jesus hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, in a moment where he could have cared about nothing except his own situation, he looked down in concern for his mother.

Women of influence fiercely devote themselves to their Savior, and in doing so, they find that he meets every need.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Creative Encouragement

This is Part 6 of of the (re)Vision talk on leadership principles from the Life of Mary.

The fifth characteristic of Mary’s that we see in Scripture is creative encouragement. Real influence is not nagging or begging or hounding or complaining. We said earlier that influence is not controlling. It comes through creative encouragement. . John 2:1-12 records Jesus’ first miracle:

John 2:1-11
The next day Jesus' mother was a guest at a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus' mother spoke to him about the problem. "They have no more wine," she told him. "How does that concern you and me?" Jesus asked. "My time has not yet come." But his mother told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." Six stone waterpots were standing there; they were used for Jewish ceremonial purposes and held twenty to thirty gallons each. Jesus told the servants, "Fill the jars with water." When the jars had been filled to the brim, he said, "Dip some out and take it to the master of ceremonies." So they followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. "Usually a host serves the best wine first," he said. "Then, when everyone is full and doesn't care, he brings out the less expensive wines. But you have kept the best until now!" This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was Jesus' first display of his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

This is so cool. This was Jesus’ first miracle, and it was his mother that set him up. Weddings were important social functions in Jewish life and running out of wine would have been a tremendous embarrassment to the hosts. Mary was the person who brought the problem to Jesus’ attention. Jesus kinda brushed her off, “How does that concern you and me?...My time is not yet come...”

She didn’t give up. Just knew her place, her role, and did what only she could do. Left the rest up to him.

She confidently told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Mary must have sensed that it was Jesus’ time, and she knew how to set him up for that. She knew what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. She didn’t push. She just encouraged Jesus, ensured resources were available, and left the rest up to her Son.

Sometimes the best way to lead is to follow. To sit on the sidelines and just encourage.

As women, it might be easier for us to see problems or potential in people and to know when certain steps should be taken or when certain things should happen. And we get impatient. Those are not the moments to jump out in front of people. We should use our intuition to encourage and give life—not to crush and take control.

I’m going to be blunt and address something that goes on in our culture and especially in the church. Women—we get frustrated when we perceive that men are not stepping up to the plate—whether in leadership in the church or in asking you out on a date or whatever. If we perceive men aren’t stepping up to the plate in some way, then I want to encourage us to follow Mary’s example. Encourage the gifts we see in men. Do whatever we can to ensure that opportunities are available. And then shut up, step back, get out of the way, and let them step up to the plate as God leads them.

Leadership happens when we find creative ways to encourage those around us and give them opportunities and platforms to succeed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Focused Reflection

This is Part 5 of of the (re)Vision talk on leadership principles from the Life of Mary.

The fourth thing we can learn from Mary is her capacity for deliberate, focused reflection. Our nativity scenes, which reflect a scene of peacefulness and serenity, are a farce. What a load of crap. Jesus was born in a barn—a cave where animals were kept. It was dark and dirty and smelly. And there was chaos. Joseph delivered the baby and angels were showing up and singing and smelly shepherds were traipsing into the cave in the middle of the night wanting to hold the baby.

Luke 2:19 says, “Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.” In the midst of Christmas chaos, Mary simply enjoyed the presence of Jesus.

Mary was not a busybee. She was not trying to clean the stable. She was not trying to keep up with the craziness. Most women I know are busy…and tired. And we don’t even have time to be before God. We run the risk of missing so much because we don’t allow space for God to dwell with us.

This was not a one-time phenomenon for Mary. We read the same reaction in Luke 3. Jesus was 12 years old, and Mary and Joseph lost him in the Temple. When she and Joseph found him talking to the religious teachers, Mary acted as any mother would. She said, “Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” But when Jesus said, “I am about my father’s business,” we see that she, once again, “stored all these things in her heart.” We need to be still before God, and allow our hearts to be open to and meditate on his work in our lives.

I’m re-reading a book right now with some of the NCC staff titled The Rest of God about the discipline of observing and celebrating the Sabbath. In a recent chapter, the author challenged us to pass through a day without it passing us by. We can often get so busy that we don’t pass through life; it just passes by us.

Women of influence find ways to store things in their hearts and allow those things to transform their hearts. We need to know our own stories and capture them and reflect on them. I don’t care how we do it—we can journal or blog or tweet or scrapbook or paint—but we’ve got to ponder the moments of life that are filled with the presence of God. They give us clarity about who he has called us to be, what he has called us to do and whom he has called us to influence. Our influence flows from those moments of abiding with him.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quiet Courage

This is Part 4 of of the (re)Vision talk on leadership principles from the Life of Mary.

We've been talking about the leadership lessons we can learn from the life of Mary. That she aggressively embraced the call of God on her life even though that call came at the expense of her comfort and reputation. And that she engaged in affirming friendships. Today, I want to look at her quiet courage.

When Mary left Elizabeth’s house after three months, she had to return to her village "obviously pregnant." This was not a culture known for sexual freedom. By law, Mary could have been killed. As far as anyone could tell, this was an illegitimate pregnancy. The angel appeared to Joseph, but as far as we know, the angel didn’t give the heads up to anyone else in the village. If I had been Mary, I would have been running around trying to defend myself, trying to explain, and trying to do damage control. And if not for myself, then in defense of my child to be. Scripture doesn’t speak directly to this issue, but we can infer from the angel’s interaction with Joseph, as recorded in Matthew, that this was a problem that Mary had to face with quiet courage.

Women of influence have a quiet courage about who they are called to be and what they are called to do.

How often do we find ourselves defending ourselves or explaining ourselves or our choices? We invest a lot of energy trying to “control” situations, people, and people’s opinions. But influence and control are two very different things. Influence is fueled by a trust in God. Control is fueled by a need to defend ourselves. If we are walking in he calling that that God has given us, then He can be our advocate.

Mary displays courage by following her husband to Bethlehem. Luke 2:5 says, “He (Joseph) took with him Mary, his fiance, who was obviously pregnant by this time.”

Bethlehem was 70 miles away from Nazareth. Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have been very excited about traipsing to Bethlehem while “obviously pregnant.” I don’t care what the government was asking. But Mary once again displayed courage in making that trek.

Real influence does not come through striving. It’s not about protecting an image or a reputation. It flows naturally from the person we are. It’s about letting the facts stand on their own and allowing God to be our defender.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Affirming Friendships

This is Part 3 of of the (re)Vision talk on leadership principles from the Life of Mary.

In Luke 1:38, Mary aggressively embraced the calling of God on her life, telling the angel, "May everything you have said come true." In the very next verse, she takes a road trip to see her cousin Elizabeth.

Background. Elizabeth was married to a priest named Zechariah. Though both were very old, God promised them a son. Because Zechariah had a difficult time swallowing that news, the angel told him he would become mute for the duration of Elizabeth's pregnancy.

So here we have Elizabeth, "advanced in years" and pregnant. And her young cousin Mary comes for a visit. Scripture says she immediately recognized the life of God inside of Mary and exclaimed, :You are blessed by God above all other women, and your child is blessed. What an honor this is, that the mother of my Lord should visit me!"

Women who influence are surrounded by affirming friendships. We need people who recognize the call of God on our lives, encourage us in it, and commit themselves to seeing it fulfilled in our lives.

I once heard Andy Stanley say, "Your friends will determine the quality and direction of your life." Whether we are looking at David and his Mighty Men or Paul and Barnabas or Daniel and his three friends, Scripture is full of friends on mission together. Mary needed Elizabeth, and Elizabeth needed Mary. From what we can tell, Mary left Nazareth without telling a soul. Elizabeth's husband had been rendered speechless. The needed each other for support, care, and encouragement.

I'm really impressed with the character of Elizabeth. She was older than Mary and an extremely wise and godly woman. She was a descendant of the priestly line and her husband was a priest. She had waited faithfully and prayerfully for years for a child. If I was choosing a great mother for Jesus, I might have chosen her. If I were Elizabeth, I might have looked at Mary's youth and inexperience and scoffed at her choice. But Elizabeth was not jealous. She did not question God's decision. In fact, she rejoiced in it.

Who is your Elizabeth? Who is recognizing the call of God on your life and encouraging you in it? Who is your Mary? Who are you encouraging and committing yourself to?

Every great woman of influence has an Elizabeth and is being an Elizabeth to someone else.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Aggressive Receiver

This is Part 2 of of the (re)Vision talk on leadership principles from the Life of Mary.

We don’t know much about Mary. There are only about 40 verses about her in the entire New Testament. We are introduced to her in Luke 2 when the angel Gabriel showed up to tell her that she was going to have a Son. And not just any Son—God’s son. Verse 29 describes her as being “confused and disturbed” by this information. I imagine that's gotta be one of the greatest understatements in all of Scripture.

The first principle from Mary's life that I want to focus on is the idea that Mary was not a passive bystander in the plan of God. She did not simply stand still while God worked in her midst. She actively and aggressively received the call and plans of God for her life.

In Luke 2:38, we read Mary’s response to Gabriel’s shocking news, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.”

Can we just pause for a moment and let this sink in? We read this story in hindsight, knowing that Mary will be heralded as a woman among women. A woman whose image will be preserved in stained glass and whose story will be told and retold through generations. But at this point in the story, Mary was a simple teenage girl in Nazareth.

I don’t know if Mary was one of those girls who dreamed what she would do with her life or dreamed about being a mom or (in my case) dreamed of being the first female major league baseball player, but I'm fairly certain that this encounter with the angel and the news she received did not fit into her plan. If Mary dreamed about her wedding as a young girl, I can guarantee this was not the way she dreamed it. This was a potential nightmare. And yet she received her calling with eagerness.

What an amazing example of actively receiving God’s will. I’m not sure that would have been my response; I would have had a lot more questions to go over. Like, "could you let Joseph know?...and my parents?" Mary undoubtedly could have imagined a thousand different preferred scenarios for her life, but she simply and aggressively embraced God's will for her life. She did not simply resign herself to the inevitable; she reached out and grabbed it. That’s what women of influence do- they actively receive the call of God on their lives no matter what it might be, how difficult it might seem, or how different it might be from their plans.

How aggressive are we to accept what God has offered us?

When you look at your season of life. Your career. Your family. Your friends. Your calling. Do you embrace what God has called you to in this season? Is there something God has offered that you have refused?

Here is a thought that has challenged me: I will never be offered anything as crazy as Mary. God will not ask any one of us to do anything more difficult than he asked Mary. So we don't have an excuse.

Being a woman of influence is not passive; it’s active. It’s risky. It’s courageous. And Mary steps up. God does not call us to easy things. He calls us to stuff that is risky and dangerous and sometimes kinda stupid. If we want to be women of influence, we’ve got to be the kind of women who dare to prophesy to kings like Huldah and drive tent pegs through the heads of enemy commanders like Jael and glean from the fields like Ruth and trust God with his promises even if it takes decades like Hannah. We must actively and aggressively receive and embrace the call of God on our lives no matter what.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When Women Lead

In the Story of God, women have played critical roles at pivotal times. They have influenced history as wives, as mothers, as queens, as prophets, as military leaders, as friends, as daughters, as sisters, as mentors…

And as the Story continues, it has fallen to us to influence our own generation. We all influence someone. The question is not whether we influence people but how we influence people.

We hear so many mixed messages today regarding the most appropriate or most impactful environment for our influence. Some say in the home. Others say in the marketplace. Others say somewhere in between. It's hard to cut through all the noise.

And when we look at the Story of Scripture, it’s not easy to see clear categories and descriptions of Biblical womanhood and leadership.

There’s Esther—who was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom and whose inner strength matched her outward beauty to save a nation. There’s Deborah- the warrior and political leader who saved her people on the battlefield. There’s Ruth—who was known for her faithfulness, loyalty, and ability to win a man through seduction. There’s Huldah—the prophetess that gave spiritual direction to King Josiah and the nation of Judah and led them to revival. There’s Hannah—who shows us how to deal with depression and how to be a good mother. There’s Mary of the Mary/Martha duo—who teaches us what it means to be at rest in the presence of Jesus. There’s the Proverbs 31 woman—how many of us are tired of living in her shadow?

God created us differently. We will express femininity differently. We will influence differently. We were created to reflect the image and glory of our Creator, and fitting into a rigid mold of personality traits or roles does not reflect or bring glory to the image of God. Nor does it follow the pattern of diversity established in Scripture.

So who do we look to? Who do we pattern our lives after? What personality traits or roles should we focus on?

I talked about these questions at our NCC (re)Vision women's event last weekend, and I focused on the life of Mary. If we are going to talk about what it means to be a woman of influence, I thought that looking to the woman God chose to be the mother of Jesus might be a good place to start. What were the characteristics of Mary's life that we can learn from? be continued...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

(re)Vision Recap

Last weekend, we held our first women's event at NCC- (re)Vision. The name carries with it numerous meanings. We all need to be in a process of revision as God shapes us and forms us. And we want to revise what women's ministry typically looks like. We want to cast a new vision for who and what God has created us and is calling us to be.

It was a huge success. With minimal marketing and announcements, about 140 women wrapped around Ebenezers Coffeehouse to get in. We highlighted five women at NCC who are leading creatively in their unique spheres of influence-- from business to politics to fashion to art to academia to family. We had an all girl worship band. And in the spirit of (re)Vision, we decided to take a risk and served BBQ for lunch.

Maegan Stout, our lead (re)Visioneer, asked me to speak on the topic of women and leadership. I'll post some of those notes over the next few days.

One Moment

Yesterday, we read the stories of David's Mighty Men in our From Garden to City reading plan. It's one of my favorite sections of Scripture. These men were incredibly gifted, yet they were completely loyal to David. They killed 800 men with a spear, and defended a lentil field against the Philistines, and broke through enemy lines to bring a glass of water back to David, and chased a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed it. Each one was a legend. But their mention in Scripture is boiled down to just a few verses.

As I was reading it yesterday, it occurred to be that the lives of most of these mighty men have been boiled down to one moment. One action. One event.

What if our lives were encapsulated by one moment? What would it be? What if that moment were to happen today?

Live as though the one moment of your life could happen at any moment.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Memorable Musicals

I made another theatre pilgrimage to NYC yesterday to see South Pacific at the Lincoln Center with my friends Juliet and Jill. At some point during the return trip, one of them asked me about my best musical theatre experience. It was hard to narrow it down to just one or two. Here are a few:

Les Miserable in New Orleans- around 1987. The blockbuster London import finally toured down South and the whole Sawyer family piled in the car to go see it. And yes, I paid $20 for a shirt with a starving pauper on it. And my jaw dropped at the turntable, the rotating barricade, and Javert's drop to his death.

Scarlet Pimpernel on Broadway- January 1, 1999. My first show on Broadway. Fell in love with Doug Sills and became addicted to the DC-NYC trek.

Mamma Mia at Kennedy Center with Ryan Zempel- June 2002. It's a silly show, really, and totally undeserving of any critical acclaim. But it's fun. And I decided that Ryan kid was a keeper.

Sunday in the Park With George on Broadway- 2008. One of my favorite musicals of all time. Perhaps the favorite. It's about the art of making art. And somehow, God spoke clearly through the experience to tell me to stop procrastinating and start creating.

Mary Poppins on Broadway- 2009. I saw my child hood theatre geek friend perform the role of Bert in Mary Poppins on Broadway. So proud of him.

Ragtime at the Kennedy Center- 2009. I saw the original in 1999. This version was even better. Honestly, it might have been the best musical performance I have ever seen.

Close runners up: Company. The Light in the Piazza. Wicked. In the Heights. Godspell.


Calling All Girls! This Saturday, we will be hosting our first (re)Vision gathering for women. We will talk about influence, community, and discipleship, but most importantly, it will be a time for connection.

Join us at Ebenezers Coffeehouse on Saturday July 17, 2010 from 10am-2pm. We will talk about leadership, highlight women who influence in a variety of areas, and introduce small groups that are set to launch Fall Semester. It's $10, which includes a light lunch.

Here is the line-up:

Heather Zempel - Leadership
Maegan Stout - Community

Panelists & Breakout Leaders
Kaarin Moore: Kaarin leads a wardrobe and fashion consulting business. Have you ever heard of What Not To Wear? That's Kaarin, but a lot nicer!
Beth McDonald: Beth is a gifted businesswoman and entrepreneur.
Kim Hill: Kim is an academic who has been through the CS Lewis Institute Fellows program, and is currently working on her PhD.
Heidi Scanlon: Heidi leads the Georgetown Women's Bible Study and owns Color Drenched Interiors design firm.
Angelyn Shapiro: Angelyn does it all! She is the deputy chief of staff to a congressman on the hill, and has an incredible heart for mentoring women.

Girls-- if there is anything you would like to hear me specifically address, let me know!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

He Knows Your Name

The Gospel is simple. We theologian types love to make it complex and then re-discover the greatest truths when we see it from a child's perspective.

Last week, I hung out for about an hour with my old children's pastor Jim Robinson. Not describing him as old...just myself. As he gave me a tour of the new kids wing at Cottage Hill Baptist Church, he paused at the mural of Zacchaeus and said, "This is my favorite story to share with pre-schoolers...because Jesus knew his name."

Luke records the event. "And when Jesus came to the the place he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus...'"

We have made the story about a little man in a tree, about a rich man turned philanthropist, and about a sinner transformed. But at its core, the story is about Jesus. The God of the Universe. Who knew the name of a small man in Jericho. They had never met. Jesus had not asked the town mayor about him. But Jesus knew his name.

Jesus knows your name. Doesn't matter who your parents are, what your family is like, where you live, or how many people like you. Jesus knows your name. When we listen to the Gospel from the perspective of a child, we rediscover some of its most profound truths. I guess Jesus was right when he talked about becoming like a little child to enter his kingdom.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Spiritual Discipline of Following Well

Following well is the first challenge of a leader.

In 1 Samuel 17, David was anointed the next king of Israel, and the "Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward." In the very next chapter, David found himself in the palace to serve King Saul. Day after day, he worked in the palace but not in the position to which he was called. And the man he served was a terrible boss. He made poor choices, was not respectable, and was known for trying to kill his employees.

And yet David served.

If we keep reading the story, we find that Saul hunted David, yet David refused to harm Saul even when presented with the opportunity twice. I might have thought the first time was a "test," but by the second time, I would have convinced myself that God was giving me a sign that it was time to get rid of this guy and step into my calling. Not David. He followed well. And mourned that he even cut off a corner of Saul's robe.

If we want to lead, we must first learn the discipline of following well. I'm convinced that God will not allow us to step fully into our giftedness and calling until we have first served another. He will not give us people to help us accomplish our vision until we have first worked to accomplish the vision of another. We must follow well. It may mean serving a leader that we do not like or respect. But if we truly believe in the faithfulness and sovereignty of God, we can trust that He will get us where we are supposed to go when we are supposed to get there.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


I recently finished reading the play Red. Focusing on the artistic process and personality of Mark Rothko, Red won the Tony Award for Best New Play in 2010. Similar to Sondheim's Sunday in the Park With George, it is a piece of art about the process of making art. The story of artists looking for meaning and longevity.

Why am I reading this and writing blog posts about it? Because I'm a firm believer that all who hope to improve their communication skills should read such books. If you are a preacher and do not incorporate good fiction and literature into your reading diet, you should. But I'll hold myself back and save that soapbox for another blog post. For now...I'm just seeing Red.

The play focused on the process, the conversations, and the relationships that are critical to the creative process. I should probably write an entire series of posts from my gleanings of this script, but I'll try to simply bullet point some thoughts as they relate to communication in ministry.
  • Art is never created in a vacuum. Neither are great sermons.
  • One of the most important challenges we face in both art and ministry is to accurately honor the past while aggressively creating the future.
  • We must pursue the calling-- not the consumer. I'll post more on that one later.
  • We have to reproduce ourselves through others. But we have to learn how to leave our imprint while also freeing them to create something new.
  • Cross-pollinating is a catalyst to the creative process.
I loved this statement: "Most of painting is thinking. Didn't they teach you that? Ten percent is putting paint onto the canvas. The rest is waiting." I've found that to be true of sermon prep. We've got to spend lots of time in prayer and listening and waiting. Only ten percent is actually writing and outlining and organizing.

There are many more thoughts swimming around chaotically in my brain right now. Perhaps I will post more later.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Story 2010

I love Ben Arment. Why? Because he does awesome stuff like the Story conference. Amazing.

STORY is a conference for the creative class in ministry on September 23-24, 2010 at Park Community Church in downtown Chicago. The purpose is to fuel the church's artists, writers and producers in communicating the greatest story ever told. You’ll hear from some of the best creative practitioners in both ministry and the marketplace, from filmmakers and authors to actors and musicians. Presenters include:
  • Dan Allender - best-selling author, professor at Mars Hill Graduate School
  • Charlie Todd - creator of Improv Everywhere in New York City
  • Princess Zulu - AIDS victim from infancy, advocate for the oppressed
  • Jason Fried - founder of 37Signals, creator of Basecamp, author of Rework
  • John Sowers - president of Donald Miller's The Mentoring Project
  • Shauna Niequist - former creative director at Mars Hill, author of Bittersweet
  • David Hodges - formerly of the band Evanescence, award-winning songwriter
  • Leonard Sweet - futurist, author of 40 books, professor at Drew University
  • David McFadzean - creator of Home Improvement, producer of Roseanne
  • Richard Walter - accomplished screenwriter and professor of film at UCLA
  • Sean Gladding - member of Communality, a new monastic community
  • Andrew Klavan - author of True Crime (Clint Eastwood) and numerous novels
  • Gary Dorsey - founder of Pixel Peach Studio in Austin, TX
  • Music by Vicky Beeching, Kari Jobe and Carlos Whittaker
Seating is limited to just 500 attendees, and the event is scheduled on a Thursday and Friday so you can enjoy the weekend in the city. Following its inaugural event in 2009, STORY is now a two-day, main-stage event with no breakouts or workshops; just an intimate audience with the top creative minds. You’ll be able to ask questions during the event and continue the conversation after it's over. Visit

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Praying and Playing

Each year, the NCC staff goes on two retreats. One is a planning retreat in the fall, where we brainstorm, scheme, and visioneer for the upcoming year. The other is Pray and Play in the summer.

Best. Time. Ever.

We prayed hard. And we played hard. We returned loving one another more and loving God more.

I'm convinced that more community is developed in 15 minutes of prayer or 15 minutes of play than in 15 minutes of book discussion. It's the kind of community that is developed when you are shoulder to shoulder with people and not simply face to face.

Ryan and I were in New York last weekend to pick up some new karaoke cds for the retreat, and we dropped an absurd and slightly embarrassing amount of cash on them. Ryan's response? "Think of all the community it will build."

He was right. We all understand and acknowledge the importance of prayer in our small groups (even if we don't always practice it well). But I don't know that we have a good grasp on the theology of fun. As silly as it sounds, a little karaoke, volleyball, cornhole, tennis, softball, spades, Settlers of Catan, kayaking, ping pong, and soccer might be the most spiritual thing you can do sometimes.

It's a good reminder for small group leaders. How much are you praying? How much are you playing?