A couple weeks ago, you couldn’t go on Facebook without seeing someone link to this plugin that calculated your most-used words. It runs through everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook to determine what words you say the most. The bigger the word appears on the “word cloud” and the more centrally it’s located, the more frequently that word shows up in the things you’ve posted.
Even pastors and their wives make mistakes in marriage. Not everyone can be vulnerable enough to admit their mistakes, but Matt and Lauren Chandler want to show you that every Christian couple has their own challenges to overcome—and as you’ll see in the video below, the mistakes they’ve made were rooted in some of their biggest problems as individuals.
Matt and Lauren Chandler are hosting an online marriage conference from February 19–20. Together, they’ll discuss God’s good design for love, marriage, sex, and redemption—sharing insights from their own struggles coupled with what Scripture reveals about romance.
Faithlife is your online Christian community. It goes where you go. Time, distance, and busy lives don’t have to separate you from your church or small group when you can take the conversation on the go.
Thanks to a few of our more recent updates to the Faithlife Groups mobile app, it’s even easier to keep up with the conversation in your church family. Any time you’re directly mentioned in a post, or you receive a message, you’ll feel the familiar buzz on your phone that tells you someone is talking to you.
If you’ve been waiting to join Faithlife Groups with your small group or church, now is the time. With the addition of push notifications, Faithlife Groups is even more equipped to be the ultimate church communication tool. With features like Community Notes and the discussions tab, Faithlife Groups helps you keep the conversation focused on what matters most to you. Share your thoughts about what you’re reading, and help each other stay on track with a shared Bible reading plan.
As always, if you ever think something could be better, just tell us! You can let us know on the forums, or in the Faithlife Beta group. Our mission is to serve the church, and if we can do that better, as part of the church, you get to tell us how.
There’s something you should know about Faithlife: we’re always improving. That’s why we have such a short feedback loop: we can hear what you have to say, and we respond directly to that feedback. Whether that happens on our forums, within Faithlife Groups, or through our award-winning customer service team.
Recently, we’ve made some significant changes to Faithlife Groups and your experience on Faithlife.com:
1. We made the site faster
Since its launch in 2012, Faithlife.com has been a massive undertaking—it’s connected to most of Faithlife’s ever-growing list of products. We’ve often called it “the glue” that links everything together. We hope that our products help you grow and learn with your church, and we’ve made Faithlife.com faster to help you do that. When inspiration hits, don’t wait to share it with the people you love.
2. We made it easier to see what’s new
Thanks to the new preview window, you can check your notifications and messages with a quick glance—so you don’t have to leave the page to see what’s new. Click on the message or notification icon to activate the preview, or click “see all” to access your entire inbox.
3. We made a new way to find your community
Faithlife Groups now has a geolocation button in the search bar. If you’re trying to find groups or people, the geolocation button lets you find the groups and people using Faithlife Groups near you.
A few months ago, I read Radically Normal by Josh Kelley, right after I read Radical by David Platt. The two books presented very different perspectives on a similar issue: how do we live out the gospel and devote our lives to Christ in this modern world? What does it look like to be “all in”? Platt advocated for radical abandonment of the American lifestyle and finding our place within the global mission of Christianity. Kelley suggested that a radical devotion to Christianity could be just as dangerous to the Christian as living a life of complacency, and urged that we invite God into every aspect of our life instead.
As a reader, the relationship between these two books was fascinating. I don’t normally reach out to authors, but at the end of Radically Normal, Josh’s invitation to continue the conversation seemed genuine, so I figured, “Why not?” and tweeted him. He responded right away, and we had a great conversation about his book over email (and eventually in an interview on Faithlife Today).
Radically Normal is too close to Josh’s heart for him to not be invested in what you think as a reader. The book shares what his family has shown him about enjoying life’s pleasures as a child of the creator. He discusses what he learned when he took a second job at Starbucks and became a bivocational pastor during one of the busiest, most stressful times of his life. Most importantly, he casts his vision for modern Christians called to live in this world but not of it. As a pastor, Josh wants to stir up meaningful conversations—and participate in them.
That’s why Josh is inviting you to join his Faithlife Group for Radically Normal. Once you get the book, you can ask Josh questions directly within the book using Community Notes, or you can start a discussion with Josh and other readers.
Josh has included two suggested reading plans to help you get started (note: you can’t join the reading plan until you own the book), as well as a small group planning guide and small group discussion questions—you can find it all in the documents tab.
Dr. Darrell Bock was recently asked about his endorsement of Dr. Michael Heiser’s new book, The Unseen Realm. His response offers insight into how he approaches new ideas in Bible scholarship. (You can read the entire exchange in Dr. Darrell Bock’s Faithlife Group).
Justin Daniel said that conversations with professors, teachers, pastors, and friends left him feeling conflicted about The Unseen Realm. He asked Dr. Bock how much of Dr. Heiser’s new book can be accepted as truth.
Bock says there are some core questions we need to ask when we encounter new ideas in biblical scholarship:
1. How careful is the writer in handling Scripture and addressing interpretive options?
2. Am I nervous simply because this is saying something different than what I have heard?
3. Is that nervousness justified given the biblical evidence the writer presents?
4. On this particular topic, is it possible that I’ve been exchanging part of the worldview Scripture presents for a more material, Western-modernist way of thinking?
5. Is there anything really problematic in the big scale of doctrinal truth that is at risk here?
“What these [five] questions are getting at,” Dr. Bock says, “is if, like a Berean, I am open to examining Scripture in the face of what might be church ‘tradition’ in a less than biblical sense.”
In Acts 17, Paul and Silas tell Jews living in Berea that Jesus was the Christ—the fulfillment of the Scriptures. The Bereans “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). That’s how Dr. Bock suggests we wrestle with ideas or interpretations that are foreign to us.
He went on to say, “One of the reasons I reviewed [The Unseen Realm] positively is because I do think it met that mark especially on questions one and [four] above. At the least it is worth seriously exploring. The existential-emotional element you raised is what question two [and three] probes. It is all too easy to get in a defensive mode in reading Scripture and not be open to learning something fresh from what it teaches.”
We also have to consider who the new ideas are coming from. Is this person considered an expert in their field? How did they arrive at these new conclusions?
Dr. Bock says, “Mike is thoroughly trained in Semitic languages and the background that goes into Old Testament study. His dissertation was also in this area. I am certain he has spent more time in these texts than anyone you asked about it.”
It isn’t good enough to dismiss new scholarship because it does not align with what you are familiar with. Bock says, “If you have questions about it, ask yourself what biblical evidence would you raise against it, or what question worth pondering do I legitimately have . . .”
How do you approach new ideas in Bible scholarship? Tell us in the comments!
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Want to know what everyone’s talking about? Get your copy of The Unseen Realm!
For some, not knowing the people in their church can be a significant barrier to church involvement. When it’s hard to find a familiar face in your church, it’s tough to see that Christian community as family. Unfortunately, this can become a self-perpetuating cycle—you don’t know people, so you don’t get involved, so you don’t meet people.
That may or may not be true for you, but I think we can all agree on this:
Weekly handshakes and hellos are not enough to get to know your church.
If your church desires to be a community that feels like family, your congregation needs opportunities to build relationships.
Create opportunities for community
Recently, Faithlife found itself experiencing a similar situation. With over 420 employees, Faithlife is larger than the average church (though certainly smaller than many churches). We’re big enough to know that people who have worked here for years still haven’t had a chance to meet everyone.
Eric Olson has been with Faithlife for over 10 years, and he says, “Many years ago I knew all 60 people in the company, but now that there are over 400 of us, there are many people I’ve never met.”
We have numerous departments and teams within those departments which build close friendships through daily interactions. But beyond that, how do you get to know all those people you have so much in common with, yet never see?
To solve this problem, Auresa Nyctea, a developer, created a special Faithlife Group open to all Faithlife employees. Its purpose? Facilitate opportunities for employees to meet people they’ve never met or worked with. Each week, employees who have joined the group are put into a group of four people from other departments. From there, it’s up to the individuals in the group to coordinate their schedules and settle on a time and place to meet and chat.
“I don’t get to interact with very many people outside of my department on a regular basis,” says Lynnea Fraser, an editor from the publications department. “I’ve been at Faithlife just over two years now, and I still don’t know a lot of my coworkers throughout the company.”
Lynnea was among the nearly 50 employees who were eager to meet new faces. Lynnea says, “I haven’t spent additional time with anyone I’ve met yet. But I do say ‘hi’ if I see them around campus now. And I actually know their names, which makes it less awkward.”
Having some context for meeting new people makes it easier to connect and share. “During the first meet up, we took turns giving a three-minute summary of our personal history—where we grew up, where we went to school, our families, and how we came to work at Faithlife. We took turns talking about our role at Faithlife—what projects we work on, what our typical day looks like, etc.”
These meetings have no structure. There is no curriculum. Just people. Every meeting looks a little different because they happen organically.
“Gathering together around food or coffee is my ideal way to get to know people better,” says Michael Schoonmaker, a developer at Faithlife. “That kind of fellowship runs deep in my family, my faith, and among my friends.”
Now imagine what this could look like for your church.
Start your church group now
Groups like this take little upkeep—people join because they want to get to know each other. By creating the group and pointing people to it as a church, you get to be the catalyst that helps people build community. If you’re staff is already stretched too thin, delegate the group to a member of your congregation—just don’t delegate the responsibility to tell people about your group.
If you want people to join your group, make it clear that the church is recommending it. Slip it into your announcements. Include it in your contact information. Send an invite in your newsletter, or share the link on social media. Show people that the Faithlife Group is a place the church suggests you go if you would like to get to know other members in another setting.
You’ll also want to adjust your group’s privacy settings so that anyone from your church can find the group and join.
Take your congregation further
If you or someone at your church has time to invest in the group, it’s easy to add curriculum, share church documents, or encourage further learning or serving opportunities. You can add official documents right to the group to keep all of your crucial information in one place.
If you want these group meetings to have more structure, create some sample questions designed to spark meaningful conversations and help people get to know one another.
Your Faithlife account is free.
All Faithlife Group features are free.
Join Faithlife Groups today, and get started with your church.
If you read Christian books, it’s not uncommon to find yourself looking at a list of questions at the end of each chapter. These questions encourage you to interact with the material on a personal level, and help you process what you’re learning. Sometimes they’re designed for groups. Sometimes they’re just for you.
What I want to know is, “Do people use them?”
Recently I’ve been reading When Helping Hurts, which utilizes questions like these at both the beginning and the end of each chapter. At the start of each chapter, these questions are intended to gauge your current understanding of the subject at hand (in this case, poverty alleviation). They also help you see how your current perceptions stack up against what you’re learning in the text. At the end of the chapter, follow-up questions ask you to reflect on your original thoughts and see how new insights may have changed your response. These questions help highlight specific areas that you’re growing.
While I understand the value of these questions, I never use them.
I’ve always seen these questions as “conversation starters” for reading groups. They’re touch points for creating a larger dialogue about the subject. That may not be accurate, but when I’m reading a book by myself, that perception makes it easier to skim over these questions without feeling like I’m missing something.
To find out if this was just me, I headed to Faithlife.com and posed the question to almost 400 Faithlife employees.
Fred Sprinkle from design said he never reads discussion questions. He says, “Maybe it’s because I already feel like I’m reading enough. Or, perhaps I shy away from anything that reminds me of a school test or assignment. I might feel different if I was trying to lead a book group though.”
Similarly, Matt Miller says, “The ones I’ve encountered are tailored more as devices for recall of the content rather than instruments to encourage critical thinking.”
Not everyone was opposed to discussion questions though. There were just as many people in support of them.
“I think discussion questions are always helpful because they can help you apply the material or draw your own conclusions based on the text,” says Abby Salinger from Lexham Press.
For those who reflect on what they read through writing in a journal, discussion questions are useful writing prompts.
“I’m reading Shauna Niequist’s new devotional, Savor, and I’m finding the short discussion questions to be great prompts for journal writing, reflection, and prayer,” says Erin Land from Vyrso. “Discussion questions are great in devotionals, but I don’t think I’ve used them much elsewhere in Christian books.”
When what you’re reading is designed to be a brief mediation or a segue into personal reflection and prayer, questions help you make a smooth transition from the author’s thoughts to your own. If each chapter is only a piece of the overall message though, or you read several chapters in a row, questions before and after each chapter can feel like an overwhelming interruption to your study.
The common thread I noticed through this conversation about discussion questions was that people like questions that make them think. That’s why we read—to expand our perspective and think about the material in new ways. Questions that ask you to recall information or that “test” your understanding of the subject matter aren’t as valuable when you aren’t preparing for an exam or an essay.
Justin Marr from Lexham Press put it this way: “I find them helpful as long as they’re open ended. Questions that demand specific answers aren’t as conducive for introspection and application.”
So what do you think?
Tell us why you use discussion questions (or why you don’t) in the comments!