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Why Projection?

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If you attended either congregation on Sunday you heard the announcement: beginning this Sunday, we will be phasing out our printed worship guide and will begin projecting song lyrics and prayers in our Sunday services.

We wanted to take a moment and explain why. If you’d like to download or share this information in PDF format, you may do so by clicking here.

When we opened our doors in June of 2008, we did something unusual for a new church plant in the 21st century—we decided to not put a screen in our Sanctuary.

At the time, our desire was to set apart an hour and a half every week where our people did not face a screen. Instead, we put a printed guide in their hands—complete with words to songs, prayers, places for sermon notes, and announcements.

Looking back nine years later, it is clear that the worship guide was a strategy that has served us really well.

However, while vision stays the same, strategies often change. Over the next several weeks we will phase out our printed worship guide and begin projecting lyrics and prayers onto screens at both congregations.

As you can imagine, the logistics of printing weekly worship guides are complex. At present, we print over 50,000 pages every week—a process that begins at least ten days before a Sunday service. But the reason we are changing our strategy is not driven by logistics.

We have always been committed to the strategy that best serves our mission, not the strategy that is the easiest or even the most efficient. There are numerous benefits we see coming from this transition, but there are really two that stand out, and have driven the decision to make this change.

WORSHIP LEADER DEVELOPMENT

We are committed to the truth that gathered worship plays a vital role in spiritual formation. One of the central ways that happens on a Sunday is by intentional, empowered leadership in our worship gatherings. Empowered leadership necessitates qualified and competent leaders who bring their own voice, their own presence, and their own gifting to their particular area of leadership (this is, consequently, true across the board). At present, our worship guide provides significant barriers to our different worship leaders fully leading in this way. During any given service, the worship leader is leading from songs and prayers that were chosen as the most accessible for three separate teams that Sunday. Projecting lyrics and prayers on screens will allow each leader to shape a service in preparation, as well as in execution, allowing us to better train leaders to thoughtfully and prayerfully plan and lead our people in the formative practices of worship.

PASTORAL PRESENCE & LEADERSHIP

Over the last several years, there have been many occasions where we felt unable to reshape our service in response to significant events or movements in the world (from our national conversation about race, to acts of terrorism or injustice around the world). Currently, we pick songs ten days out, and print our worship guides a week in advance. There have been several times when Sundays come around and the songs and prayers are not optimal to the tone needed for that day. While it is our commitment to not become tossed to and fro by every news cycle—sometimes the most prophetic thing we can do is not address something, and root our lives and our stories in the gospel of Christ’s kingdom—there are moments where silence is a missed opportunity to address an issue, practice lament, or celebrate as a body.

This transition is not something we have done quickly or rashly.

It is a conversation we have been having as a leadership team for nearly three years now. We understand that in changing our method here we do lose something—something that is beautiful and has served us well. However, we are convinced that the opportunities we lose by not changing this strategy are greater than what we lose by changing it.

We pray that this change will be experienced for what it is—a change in our strategy, not a change in our mission. As with any transition, there is a place for sadness. Yet, we also pray that in implementing this change, we will create spaces for us to encounter and experience the transformative power of the Spirit, that we would be shaped into the image of Christ as a people, and be empowered to live on mission together for the glory of God and the good of Kansas City.

Season of Prayer & Fasting

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Over the last couple of weeks, you have heard from our pastors about a burden from God to engage in a season of fasting and pursuit of God. There hasn’t been much by way of publicity or promotion because we don’t want this to be about a hashtag, but about hearts yearning for and pursuing God himself. And this isn’t some corporate fast where we are all doing the same thing. Instead, we want to extend an invitation to join us in a zealous pursuit of God, and give you the freedom to decide what you need to or want to abstain from in order to make room for that pursuit in your life.

For many of us, the idea of fasting is just that—an idea. It falls on the list of “good things that I should do, but will do when I get around to it,” like going to the gym, creating a budget, or cleaning the basement. For others, the idea of fasting is merely tied to the idea of abstinence, or a duty to perform by the spiritual elite.

But Jesus seemed to have other ideas about the necessity of fasting for his followers. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus discusses the discipline of fasting as a part of the normal rhythm of life for his disciples. He starts off in v. 16, saying, “And when you fast…” When, not if. When.

In the context, Jesus talks about fasting alongside giving and praying as practices that will mark his disciples’ lives. The goal of giving and praying seems pretty simple—taking care of the needs of the poor, and pouring out our hearts to our father for his provision, protection, and the glory of his name. But what is the goal of fasting?

THE Goal of Fasting

When we fast we deny ourselves the proximate pleasures of this world, and seek pleasure in the presence of God. We focus not on the meals that we miss, but on the one who is the true bread that comes down from heaven who promises “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). During a fast, we pursue God himself and declare our dependence on his sustaining power.

Fasting, then, is at its core about a focused pursuit of God and the goal is not simply abstaining from food (or other things), but to enjoy God and experience his presence and power in new ways. In his new book, Practicing the Power, Sam Storms says that “fasting is feasting on God, drawing deeply upon his presence, depending wholly on his power, enjoying his goodness, gazing on his beauty, and trusting him to do for us what we could never remotely expect to do on our own.”

Our Prayer for this Season

We have tons of things that we are praying for in this season. We are praying that God provides for a number of staff needs, alongside a growing number of invitations that our leaders are sensing from the Lord in this season. But our goal isn’t merely to cry out to God to meet our needs. We want to seek his face and experience his presence and power in new ways. Here’s how I’m praying for our church in this season:

  • I am praying that God deepens our affections for him and our walks with him.
  • I am praying that we press into the presence of God so much that we have the kind of relationship where he speaks to us “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
  • I am praying that we experience the power of the Spirit and the outpouring of the gifts he gives to build us up and advance the gospel.
  • I am praying that God renews our commitment to see the redemptive realities of the kingdom of Jesus spread into every corner of this city.
  • I am praying that our baptismal waters are filled with people who have come to faith as a result of our prayers and witness in this season.
  • I am praying that God opens our eyes to see the needs around us and gives us the courage to take big risks to increase flourishing in the lives our families, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of this city.
  • How you Can Participate

    A fast can take on a number of different forms. Some may choose to fast from food or drink. Others may choose to fast from social media or other activities. To consider what you need to abstain from during this season, it may be helpful to consider the question, “What do you feel a compulsion to run toward or reach for when you are bored and need comfort?” By the way, if it is sin, to lay that down isn’t a “fast.” That’s called repentance and obedience.

    Or maybe you could ask it another way: What in your life, if you abstained from it for a season would create a sense of hunger in you that God could use to draw you in to feast on him in new ways?

    And, it is critical to remember that where you create space in your life to feel your dependence through abstinence, be sure to fill that space with pursuit of God. Storms says, “Fasting is about spiritual indulgence! It is not a giving up of food (or some activity) for it’s own sake. It is about giving up food for Christ’s sake. We are always driven to fast because we hunger for something more than food. This means that fasting is motivated by the prospect of pleasure. The heart that fasts cries out, ‘This I want more than the pleasure of food.’”

    What is God inviting you to abstain from so that you can pursue him in this season? What might God produce in this church family in this season as we pursue him together? What might God do in our city and this world as we seek his face and pray for his kingdom to break into every corner where sin tries to resist it?

    Let’s seek God with restless abandon in this season and not just talk about being satisfied in him but actually find him to be as satisfying as he promises to be.

    Resources for Fasting

    Books

  • A Hunger for God by John Piper
  • Practicing the Power by Sam Storms – Not a book on fasting primarily, but on cultivating the work of the Spirit in your life. The chapter on fasting is phenomenal.
  • Habits of Grace by David Mathis – A great book on how to cultivate spiritual disciplines in your life in ways that focus more on the grace to be experienced through the discipline than the disciplines themselves.
  • Articles

  • Fasting for Beginners by David Mathis – Great steps and guidelines for you if this is your first time fasting.
  • Recommended Resources for Fasting from Desiring God
  • Worship Night with Redeemer Fellowship

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    I would love to invite you to our first ever worship night at Redeemer Fellowship—which is to take place in Morton Hall (3939 Main St), on Thursday, February 23, at 7:30 pm.

    Over the past several months, Redeemer’s collective of worship leaders and musicians have gathered to fellowship together and seek God’s face in worship. Each of those gatherings has been a powerful time of communion with God, and there is a growing desire in us to open the doors and invite others to share in what the Holy Spirit is stirring up in our community.

    Why gather together for a night of worship?

    For some time now, I’ve been dreaming of ways to create contexts for us to seek God together in a way that is slightly different than a Sunday morning. While the work of formation that happens each and every Sunday is essential to the life of the church, I also know that taking time once in a while in slightly different contexts will provide additional spaces for our congregation to grow in depth of communion with God.

    I also hope that this night provides an opportunity for other believers in our city (even from different churches and ministries) to worship together in one place—as an expression of what we will do for eternity as the family of God. I would love to see places where the church in Kansas City is unified in its efforts to see Christ exalted and our city changed.

    Toward these ends, we want to open the doors and invite as many as would desire to come and worship together with us.

    Please visit the link below and tell us that you are coming!

    https://www.facebook.com/events/107870983068604/

    Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. King by Responding to His Exhortation

    Today is a national celebration of the life, work, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For many people, today is just another day off, but let me encourage you to engage today prayerfully reflecting on the life of a man whose prophetic voice and presence still echo almost 50 years after his assassination.

    LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL

    Each year as I commemorate this holiday, I go back to reread Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I will do so later today and I invite you to do the same.

    King’s letter, written in April 1963, is a response to a letter from white clergymen in Birmingham urging him to slow down, calling the civil rights demonstrations there “unwise and untimely.”

    In King’s letter, he expresses that he longed to see white Christians calling for justice as loudly as people of color (many of whom were brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of whom are created in the image of God, with inherent dignity and worth, and therefore, deserving of righteousness and justice in their relationships with their fellow man).

    King says (in part):

    “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of the mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “Those are social issues with which the gospel has no concern.”


    “The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanctions of things as they are.”

    WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR US TO RESPOND?

    Sadly, the critique within this letter has a haunting timelessness and timeliness for the church in a world that still wonders what the church has to say to issues of racial injustice, and the fruits of racial injustice that have had broad sweeping effects.

    As a predominantly white church in the middle of a city that has a history of racial injustice, with whole sections of our city still reeling from the effects of the racialization in our city, we cannot be silent. We cannot stand on the sideline. We cannot be content with pious irrelevancies. As a church committed to seeing the gospel of the kingdom advance, we have to live in light of Jesus’ proclamation of his own mission and align ourselves accordingly:

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

    For us to flesh out our mission “to cultivate communities of transformed disciples who live for the glory of God and the good of the city” we have to be a people who are prompted by the word of God to live as agents of reconciliation and renewal, bearing fruit of the kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and inaugurate.

    Let me encourage you to read Dr. King’s letter today. Pray with me that God gives us eyes to see where and how he is inviting you individually, and our church family corporately to step toward the healing of racial injustice, as well as the long-standing effects of racial injustice in our city. Let’s commit together not just to let these thoughts affect our thinking today, but shape how we live out the mission that God has called us to for decades to come.

    I love all of you and am honored to serve with you as we seek to advance the gospel of the kingdom together in our city.

    All Morning Services Cancelled

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    UPDATE: All Redeemer Midtown evening services are still on! If you can make it safely, we would love to worship Jesus with you!

    Redeemer Family—

    Due to inclement weather headed into our area overnight, all Redeemer morning services are cancelled for Sunday, January 15, 2017. This includes both Redeemer Midtown and Redeemer Johnson County.

    While it’s uncertain how significantly the ice storm will affect the Kansas City area, we do know that every week, hundreds of volunteers travel from across the metro to help host our services, and we hope that canceling our morning services will allow everyone, attenders and volunteers alike, to enjoy a safe morning at home with their friends and families!

    As of now, Redeemer Midtown’s 5 & 7 pm services are scheduled to continue. We will evaluate the situation and communicate any evening cancellations by mid-day tomorrow!

    Best,

    Andy Bean
    Director of Operations & Communication

    Introducing Advent 2016

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    There is a common image in the Downing home when we are having someone over for dinner. The image itself is predicated by the act of preparation—getting the house ready, cooking a meal, and setting the table. But after the preparations are done, there is only one thing left to do.

    We wait.

    For the three Downing children, this waiting often becomes three faces pressed against the glass of our large front window that looks out on the road. This is the image that comes to my mind when I think of expectation—of the necessary preparations and the anticipation of waiting.

    I can’t help but think of Advent in such a way. The word Advent itself comes from the Latin word meaning “arrival”. Throughout most of church history, the season of Advent marks the beginning of the church’s calendar. It is a season when we look at the “arrival” of the Word made flesh, as he came to us cloaked in humility and lowliness—born of a virgin in obscurity, in a stable in Bethlehem. It is also a season when we remember that this lowly child was God’s Messiah—the one through whom he would fulfill his purpose of salvation and restoration in all the world.

    Yet, we also remember in this season that our world has not yet experienced the fullness of his saving grace. We see the brokenness and hurt of our world, the injustice and darkness that continue to prevail—and we look toward the day when he will again “arrive” to our world. Not as a lowly child, born in obscurity, but as the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords who will once and for all eradicate darkness from this world. This is what we train our hearts to expect at Advent.

    But expectation is not passive.

    Expectation demands preparation, and it also produces waiting. Like my sons, with faces pressed against the glass, we show that true waiting is not passive boredom, but rather an active anticipation. We await the arrival of our Lord leaned forward, preparing, and full of excited longing.

    This Advent season we will intentionally train our hearts to look for and love the day of Christ’s coming in our services. We will do this by looking back to how God promised to send a Savior to bring restoration to the world, and by looking forward to the coming day when he will restore all things.

    Whatever you choose to do this season, take the time to intentionally prepare and wait. Celebrate that God has fulfilled his promises in Christ Jesus, lament the darkness we still experience in this world, and take heart in the promise of Christ’s second arrival that is our blessed hope. Ask God to fill your heart with rapt expectation and longing—that we might look for and live in light of his coming.

    Until he comes,

    Ron

    Church Planting Sunday 2016

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    Since day one of Redeemer Fellowship we have shared a commitment to Church Planting. As a church plant ourselves, we’re committed to seeing communities of believers raised up all over the globe who work to see God glorified and their cities become better places to be.

    There are several expressions of this commitment we want to highlight today.

    First, 10% of our annual budget is allocated for church planting and kingdom partnerships. This year, that’s $350,000!

    Fellowship Associates

    One primary partnership is with Fellowship Associates. The Fellowship Associates residency was born in 1999 in Little Rock, AR, out of a commitment to develop and release church planters all over the world. Since then, dozens of leaders and dozens of churches have been planted, and Redeemer Fellowship is one of them.

    Each year, we give money to Fellowship Associates, as well as host their group of residents three times in Kansas City for training and development.

    In addition, we have growing networks of church planters from around the country that we are partnering with. This Sunday, our church will have the opportunity to hear from three of them. At both Redeemer JOCO and Redeemer Midtown, we will welcome church planters who will preach across all our services.

    2016 PARTNERSHIPS

    Here is a list of church planters and churches we are partnering with this year. Take a moment to get to know these guys, pray for them, and consider ways you can support them. Maybe you know someone in their city, or maybe God is calling you to pack bags and move to help support one of these churches!

  • Thomas Anderson | DC Metro Area | Email Thomas
  • Drew Cline | Little Rock, AR | Email Drew
  • Brad Edwards | The Table Church | Boulder, CO | Email Brad
  • Rechab Gray | Epiphany Fellowship | Philadelphia, PA | Email Rechab
  • Daniel Hood | Hill City Church | Springfield, MO | Email Daniel
  • Watson Jones | Restoration Church | Philadelphia, PA | Email Watson
  • Rob Maine | Renaissance Church | Pittsburgh, PA | Email Rob
  • Joe Marino | The Well | Hastings, NE | Email Joe
  • Samuel Oricco | Xalapa, Mexico | Email Samuel
  • Bryan Padgett | Redeemer Church | Stillwater, OK | Email Bryan
  • Clint Patronella | Seven Mile Road Church | Boston, MA | Email Clint
  • Chris Poblete | Los Angeles, CA | Email Chris
  • Derrick Puckett | Renewal Church of Chicago | Chicago, IL | Email Derrick
  • Trent Senske | Minneapolis, MN | Email Trent
  • Charles Shannon | Norfolk, VA | Email Charles
  • Introducing Our New Gallery Show

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    As we step into our series in the book of Psalms on Feelings, I wanted to make you aware of a supplementary way our church will be engaging these eight Psalms and the emotions in them. Starting this Sunday with HURT, Redeemer Midtown will be displaying paintings by local artist Kelly Kruse in the Gallery.

    Each week there will be a set of two paintings on display that seek to grapple with the Psalm itself and the nature of the emotion we are looking at that week. Our hope is to display all sixteen of the paintings together for several months after the end of the Feelings series throughout our gallery spaces at Redeemer.

    Each set of paintings has a “dark” and a “light” image—and is an attempt to grapple with the idea of how we respond to our emotions either in sin or as invitations to experience the redemptive power of Jesus. It is my hope that these paintings will provide another way for us to engage in this series, and that these representations would actually bring us into deeper places of grappling with our emotions in the midst of our fallen world, groaning in hope as we await the full redemption of all things in Christ Jesus.

    More than just making you aware of the pieces, and what is going on the next eight weeks, I wanted to offer a few suggestions of how to engage this material.

  • Take some time to take them in. Sometimes it is easy to pass by the pieces in our gallery, but I would invite you to take some time to intentionally stop and look at these pieces. There is an intentional corollary between the paintings and the Psalms/feelings we will be looking at in our service, so it may even prepare and engage your mind and heart as you enter worship on Sunday.
  • Don’t necessarily try to “figure them out”. Kelly paints in an abstract manner intentionally in a way that works well with a series on feelings. Her presupposition is that some things cannot be communicated only on concrete levels, and therefore must be communicated in abstract (or visceral) means. Spend some time thinking not “what do these mean”, but “how am I experiencing these”.
  • Return to the paintings after the service. It may be a profound practice to go and look at the paintings again once you have sat through our worship gathering—after you have sung, prayed, and heard from God’s word—to re-engage these paintings. You may be surprised at how you engage them differently.
  • I am praying that God would use these eight weeks to profoundly impact our lives, and that using different mediums in our Sunday gatherings would facilitate spaces for us to experience God’s truth, and become more fully alive before him.

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    Summer Sports Camp Recap

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    Well, we had yet another exciting Summer of Sports Camps! We had about 100 kids come and play basketball, football, baseball and soccer.

    There were a few highlights from this summer I wanted to share with you. It was so beautiful to watch these coaches learn kids names, encouraged them no matter what level of competency, and more than anything, show them and tell them about Jesus. It’s really fun to see so many of the same kids return year and year.

    There were small groups who prepared a meal together to bring to the kids, coaches and families. Many thanked us for the opportunity to serve as a group and we were blown away by the sacrifices these groups made for these families.

    It was amazing to watch parents who attend Redeemer to involve their kids in these camps and then meet other parents whose kids attended the same school. Some even had the same kids in their classes. I loved the friendships that formed at camp.

    Families told me stories of their kids counting down the days until camp and that it was the highlight of their summer. Other kids would shout, “I can’t wait until next year”. That is so encouraging for us to hear.

    Thank you to all of our volunteers who donated their time this summer to invest in the lives of families all over our city.

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    Practical Follow Up to Our Sex & Intimacy Series

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    If you’ve been with us on Sundays the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what God has to say about sex and intimacy. As we cap the series, I wanted to give you ten things to keep in mind as you think about how to foster intimacy in your relationships:

    1. Think about intimacy holistically. The idea that intimacy is being known and accepted expresses itself in emotional, spiritual and physical ways. Growth in one of these three areas will naturally encourage growth in the other areas. And at the same time, challenges in one area will spill over into others.

    2. Lean in and be honest about the places where intimacy is difficult. A profound relational reality to be aware of is that you are actually fostering intimacy when you talk about your struggle with intimacy. Those conversations, even if they’re messy, give space for you to be seen and accepted.

    3. Repentance and forgiveness are the height of intimacy. In those moments, you are seen as you are and welcomed with love. Be willing to humbly confess weaknesses or wrongs and respond to weakness in others with forgiveness and grace. A relational climate of grace will allow intimacy to grow.

    4. Move forward slowly when there are past wounds or distrust. Where you have been the offender, repent and recognize ways you have broken trust. Be careful not to minimize the pain of others, remembering that feeling safe is a primary component of intimacy. Pray for patience and compassion as you move toward someone who is hurting.

    5. Intimacy is fostered when we move beyond simply sharing information and begin to explore the hearts of others. When someone is sharing a story with you, ask questions that allow you to know who they are, not just what happened. Follow the facts with questions like, “How did that make you feel?” or “What has it been like for you since that happened?” Make a habit of asking your spouse or friend what makes them feel loved or ask them for specific ways you can bless or care for them. Asking these kinds of questions on a regular basis (not just once) will help both of you begin to be more aware of each other.

    6. Be sure expressing your desire for intimacy comes as an invitation and not an accusation. Shame and blame are the opposite of intimacy (remember the garden). Be mindful of adding to another’s sense of inadequacy. Let them know you want to be close to them, not that you are disappointed in them (think of the way Jesus responds to us). Model for others what you wish you were experiencing in the relationship. And when someone moves toward you, even if it’s clunky or they miss your expectations, take the time to acknowledge that you appreciate their effort and receive it as love toward you.

    7. Humbly and lovingly speak up when you see things getting off track or if you experience barriers to intimacy (remember to have an inviting posture, not an accusing one).

    8. Make a plan to foster intimacy. What grows naturally for us is often not helpful. You won’t accidentally become more self-aware or more present in your relationships. You won’t drift into intimacy with your spouse. You have to be intentional. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Block off focused time on your calendar to be with the significant people in your life (again, intimacy doesn’t happen accidentally).
  • Take advantage of mundane moments. Lean in at the dinner table on Tuesday or in the car on Saturday morning. Ask those follow up questions.
  • Husbands and wives, try praying together before going to sleep at night. This is one of the simplest and most meaningful ways to foster spiritual intimacy with each other as you together bring your hearts before God.
  • Take communion together.
  • Put your phone away! It sounds cliche, but begin to notice how often you are on your phone and not engaging the person in front of you. Schedule media free nights. Set ground rules for using phones while you are together.
  • Discuss the sermon together, going beyond opinions about the points or illustrations to how you are feeling or what God is calling you to do in response.
  • Get away together. Go camping with the guys or plan a girls weekend. If you have kids, plan a trip with just you and your spouse, even if it’s just one day.
  • Read passages of scripture out loud together and then talk about what jumps out to you. It’s ok if you need to read it more than once.
  • Read a book together, any kind of book, and talk about how each of you experience either the story (if fiction) or the challenge from the author (if non-fiction).
  • 9. If you know you are struggling, get help. It’s easy to give in to resentment or apathy and either close yourself off in relationships or just continue to limp along. Resist that temptation. Respond to what God is stirring in you. Allow yourself to be pruned and begin to grow again (John 15). Remember you are planting seeds all the time.

    10. Have hope! Remember intimacy is not an all or nothing kind of thing. Take the long view with the goal of gradually increasing your capacity to be intimate over time. Fostering intimacy in your relationships is not a six week project, but rather a lifetime of small steps in vulnerability and grace. Start by doing one thing today and set the trajectory for years to come.

    Finally, if you’re looking for further resources on the topic, we made this available at our Series Forum and want to share it here as well.