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But are you really friends??

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Okay, so maybe we aren’t great listeners. We all know it’s true. When someone is talking to us, we hear them, but are simultaneously formulating what we’ll say next. And even when we do “listen,” are we really discerning what is underneath what they’re saying?

In past classes I’ve used a quick grid that grades how well we actually listen to friends. I argue that sometimes the beginning of being gospel fluent is simply listening better.

Picture a friend you have, maybe someone far from Jesus but someone you’re developing a friendship with. I want you to answer the following questions with a 1-4 rating. You’re more or less gauging how well you could write a report on them if you had to. For each of the 11 questions, simply place a number next to it.

(1) I have no understanding of who my friend really is. They’re more of an acquaintance.

(2) I have a slight understanding of who my friend really is. We hang out and know basics about each other.

(3) I have a pretty good grasp of who my friend really is. We’ve had several deep moments.

(4) I know them like a brother. I can’t know them any closer.

  • What are their functional heaven, hell, and savior(s)?  How do you know?
  • What is the community they feel most comfortable in? Why?                
  • What do they see as sin? Why?                           
  • What’s hit’s them the hardest and/or makes them grieve?  How do you know?
  • How and what do they celebrate most?  What’s your proof?
  • What part of the Gospel story would most resonate with them?    
  • Do they look forward to eating or meeting together regularly? Why?   
  • Where/how did they get their understanding of the Gospel story? How do you know?   
  • How do they view me and my view of Jesus and sin? How do you know?     
  • Have they introduced me to their own circle of friends and community?       
  • Who would they call if a tragedy hit them and they really needed someone?   

You’re not literally answering these questions, just gauging how well you know them. As an example, when I took this test, I realized I avoided tough areas with my friends because I didn’t want the tension. This also means I didn’t know my friends that well. I also wasn’t able to apply the gospel to their hearts very well. Those moments, as tough as they might be, are actually what stabilize and deepen friendships.

Consider how you can mature and advance your current relationships in such a way that you actually could develop a few paragraphs on what makes them who they are. You’re ability to put 4’s on these questions means you know them fairly well, which means you also can speak to their heart issues more accurately. Sometimes, being “gospel fluent” begins with simply listening.


Posted by Luke Thomas with

What is your city saying?

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If your city had a voice, what would it say to you?

In the companion blog to this, Do you know your friend? we looked at not only becoming better listeners, but how that shapes us to communicate and demonstrate the gospel in more understandable ways. The same thing is true for our beautiful city. Even for those for whom this city is “hometown,” you may actually know very little about it’s needs, hurts, sins, or even areas where God is easily seen.

Understanding what the city is “saying” to us is actually a huge key in how we leverage our rhythms as a community. What do we do? How do we know it will work? What if it doesn’t? Where do we start? All of these are good questions, and all of them assume a thorough understanding of the city.  Consider the following questions as a group…

  • What are the unique needs within a 5 minute drive? What about a 10 minute drive? How do you know?
  • What part of your chunk of the city is furthest from God’s most sanctified and ideal version of itself?
  • What would need to change the most to “sanctify” your part of the city?
  • Do local industries produce any unique missional opportunities or doors?
  • Does the city repeat specific events/celebrations? Does this provide any unique opportunities or insight?
  • What one change in the city can provide the most dramatic effect in lives?
  • Where can we get the biggest bang the easiest or cheapest?
  • What requires little investment for great gain?
  • What identity is being pursued both independently and corporately in the city?
  • What mission is everyone on?
  • What invokes everyone’s spirituality?
  • What constitutes righteousness in the city’s eyes?
  • Who is acceptable here and what is acceptable behavior?
  • What allows people here to have joy?
  • Where do people spend their time and money?
  • What do people do during their free time?
  • What do they fear? What do they dream about?
  • Where do they shop?
  • What cultural experiences do they value?
  • What are the most painful experiences they have had?
  • What music do they listen to?
  • What films and television do they watch?
  • In what ways are they self-righteous?
  • What is their spirituality?
  • Whom do they trust? Why?
  • What sins will the gospel first confront and heal for these people?
  • Where are the social centers in your community?
  • What is “church” for this group of people?
  • What would a Christ-centered community look like among this particular culture?

This is only a partial list, and some of these questions will render identical or overlapping answers, but you’ll be surprised how much focus and thought it will require to discern who your city is. By doing this exercise, you’ll discover your city better and also discern better as a group what resonates the most clearly. You may try a number of things as a group, but before you do, how well do you know your city’s pain, hope, needs, and overall story?

Posted by Luke Thomas with