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February 8, 2010

Dot Com(unity) Week Five: Stand with Christ

Christ is with us even in our worst trials.

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When you're studying a well-known story from the Bible, it can be hard to break through the connections and lessons that your group members were originally taught about it. With the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, for example, the lesson of the story almost always focuses on the importance of resisting idolatry.

But if we take the time to dig a bit deeper, we can see another element of the story that is truly wonderful: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had their most vivid encounter with God during their most difficult trial.

And that's the subject of John Ortberg's study for this week.

Continue reading Dot Com(unity) Week Five: Stand with Christ...

posted by Sam O'Neal at 10:05 AM on February 8, 2010 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

February 1, 2010

Dot Com(unity Week Four: Waiting on God

It's not fun, but it's a fundamental practice of our faith.

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The study material for this week correctly points out that nobody likes waiting. So let's get right to it for our this week's session of Dot Com(unity).

Getting Started
The opening section of this week's study contains a lot of valuable material. For example, if you've got some time on your hands, you could turn the mock "Waiting Quiz" into a pretty fun experience for your group.

And the Lewis Smedes quote is very, very cool: "Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait in fear for a happy ending that we cannot write. We wait for a 'not yet' that feels like a 'not ever.'"

But I would especially take the time to cover the first two Discussion Questions: 1) What are you currently waiting for, or have waited for in the past? 2) What about that wait is (or was) difficult? This is a great way for your group members to share a little more of their stories, and even to open up about current struggles and challenges.

Teaching Points
Just a few observations on this week's Teaching Points:

  1. The "Tour of Waiting" that Ortberg goes through in the first paragraphs of Teaching Point One is very interesting, and would probably make a fruitful discussion session all by itself.

  2. Ditto for the "Three requirements to waiting on the Lord" at the beginning of Teaching Point Two.

  3. In other words, don't try to cover both of those items in one night.

Icebreakers and Activities
Here are some icebreakers and other activities from SmallGroups.com that will fit well with this study:

A Real "Ice" Breaker
Use this object lesson to remind group members they don't have to hold onto their pain.

Happy Times
Each person reviews their lives in quarters

posted by Sam O'Neal at 11:31 AM on February 1, 2010 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

January 25, 2010

Dot Com(unity) Week 3: Testing

God tests us in order to teach us.

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The Big Idea
The central idea behind this study is pretty clear: Jesus tests those who choose to follow Him as disciples.

That means you as a group leader don't have to worry about building the discussion toward a point of climax or revelation where everyone learns something new or exciting. You can just get it out of the way right at the beginning: "Tonight we're going to be talking about how Jesus tests those who choose to follow Him as disciples."

That also means you can get into the meat of the discussion from the very beginning. The study recommends that you ask this as a Discussion Starter: "When have you felt that you were being tested? Why did you feel that way?"

I would prefer to start with a different question: "In what ways are you being tested now as a follower of Jesus?" This is a powerful question, and it has the potential to get your group members talking about their lives in a meaningful way. In fact, if you spent the whole gathering working through this one question, I think that would be more than profitable.

Although I would like to add at least one more question before things finished up: "If you are not being tested right now, and you are following Jesus, what does that mean?"

Continue reading Dot Com(unity) Week 3: Testing...

posted by Sam O'Neal at 11:35 AM on January 25, 2010 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

January 18, 2010

Dot Com(unity) Week 2: Grow in Faith

Faith can be a terrifying choice, but it brings big rewards.

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Just a reminder, we're on week 2 of our Dot Com(unity) co-learning experience studying John Ortberg on Understanding God. If you don't know what Dot Com(unity) is, click here.

Okay, let's get to it.

The Big Idea
Okay, after reading through the study, here's my take on the Big Idea that Ortberg is working to get across through the three teaching points: Faith is hard, but the results are worth it. (What do you think? Agree with that assessment? Disagree?)

As you read through the study, try to think about which of the three teaching points would be most applicable to your group members. That's the one you should probably focus your energy on in preparation, and that's the idea you should try to spend most of your time on during the actual study.

For me and my group, that would be Teaching Point Two: "Faith means choosing to follow Jesus." I have always thought that Peter gets a bum wrap from the whole walking-on-water story, and I love the way Ortberg approaches his decision as a "successful failure," for lack of a better term. This is where I would spend the bulk of my time with my group.

And just for fun, here are a few thoughts regarding the other teaching points:


  • If your group members will not be reading the study material on their own, you might have some success summarizing Orberg's story about the hot-air balloon. Especially the quotes about the pilot. And the story does make a good transition into a discussion about faith.

  • The last question in teaching point two has the potential to get your group members opening up about sin areas.

  • I wouldn't recommend re-reading the story at the beginning of teaching point three. That's a long one.

  • I really like the Optional Activity at the end of the study. That would be a great exercise for any group, I think.


Continue reading Dot Com(unity) Week 2: Grow in Faith...

posted by Sam O'Neal at 8:45 AM on January 18, 2010 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

January 11, 2010

Week 1: Partner with God

Sanctification involves a mysterious partnership with God.

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Hello to all of you, and welcome to our next session of Dot Com(unity)! We will spend the next five weeks exploring a great Bible study called John Ortberg on Understanding God, and I am excited to get started. So let's do just that.

As a quick review, we are studying this material together as leaders in order to get the best handle on it possible in order to teach it to our groups. This is a place where you can share great ideas regarding this material, ask questions, and get anything else you need from a community of people in your same situation.

And if you haven't got a copy of the Ortberg study yet, you can use the coupon code DotComOrtberg to receive a 50 percent discount.

The Big Question
One of the things I like about John Ortberg as a teacher is that he keeps things very focused, and this study is no different. He asks a Big Question right off the bat: "Whose job is spiritual growth?" And we'll spend the rest of the study finding an answer.

(As an aside, I would recommend asking this question of your group before you get into any of the teaching points. Get their opinions and let them talk about it before you all see what Scripture has to say.)

There are a lot of Teaching Points in this study, and it's unlikely that your group will be able to get through all of them. So you will need to set priorities ahead of time on which material will be most helpful to your group members. Here are a couple recommendations from me:


  • If your group members came to a consensus at the beginning of the study that God and us both have a stake in our spiritual growth, than you can probably skip the first Teaching Point.

  • The second Teaching Point ("Spiritual formation is normative, not optional") would be an important point for new Christians to understand. It also contains an optional activity.

  • The fourth Teaching Point ("Sanctification is empowered by God, not man") provides a great opportunity for confession.


Continue reading Week 1: Partner with God...

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:25 AM on January 11, 2010 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

January 5, 2010

Dot Com(unity) starts January 11

We're back after a week's delay.

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Okay, I had a bit of an emergency vacation over the week after Christmas, and so I've had to push the start of Dot Com(unity) back another week. So we'll be starting on Monday, January 11. If you had planned on using the John Ortberg study this week with your group, I do apologize for the delay. As a stop-gap solution, you may want to consider a single-session study from our sister website ChristianBibleStudies.com.

As a reminder, we will be studying John Ortberg on Understanding God. This will be a great resource for your group, and you can access it for a 50 percent discount when you use the coupon code DotComOrtberg.

If you're not familiar with Dot Com(unity), you can get a good education on what it is and how it works by looking at our original explanation from last year. Basically, the idea is to get several small groups from around the country studying the same material at the same time. Then, we provide a place on our blog for the leaders of those groups to come together and share their insights, questions, comments, and suggestions.

In other words, Dot Com(unity) is a place where small-group leaders can collaboratively engage a topic of study in order to provide the best environment for the spiritual formation of their group members. Pretty cool, huh?

posted by Sam O'Neal at 9:51 AM on January 5, 2010 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

December 21, 2009

We're Back!

Dot Com(unity) returns January 4 with a study series from John Ortberg

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We are getting close to January, which means it is almost time to start up Dot Com(unity) once again. Huzzah! We'll get things started January 4th, specifically.

If you're not familiar with Dot Com(unity), you can get a good education on what it is and how it works by looking at our original explanation from last year. Basically, the idea is to get several small groups from around the country studying the same material at the same time. Then, we provide a place on our blog for the leaders of those groups to come together and share their insights, questions, comments, and suggestions.

In other words, Dot Com(unity) is a place where small-group leaders can collaboratively engage a topic of study in order to provide the best environment for the spiritual formation of their group members. Pretty cool, huh?

Now you're probably thinking, So what material will we be studying together? Good question. The answer is: John Ortberg on Understanding God. I have admired John Ortberg as a teacher and writer for several years now, and I am not the only one. His books have sold gobs of copies not because they are slickly packaged, but because they dig deep into the important matters of the Christian life. John Ortberg's words help people understand God and our relationship with Him, in other words, and that's why I am very excited about the chance to work through his study with all of you.

Best of all, SmallGroups.com is providing a 50 percent discount on this study for Dot Com(unity) participants. Just use coupon code DotComOrtberg during the checkout process to receive the discount.

posted by Sam O'Neal at 3:45 PM on December 21, 2009 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)